Thursday, December 30, 2010


Strange things happen - very strange sometimes.  In faith we may call them providence, or coincidence, or just weird.  Well, that happened me today, or did it?  I was surfing the net and discovered, thanks to the Anchoress, a site where you can receive a saint for the year.  Good idea, I said to myself, I can plug this on the blog and encourage devotion to the saints for the coming year. 

Well I decided to try the thing myself.  Apparently the programme automatically generates a saint for you. So I clicked the button...there now, <<CLICK>>....wait a minute...say a prayer to the Holy Spirit, who can indeed work through, prompted to clink on the link to find the saint...ok, right, now....<<CLICK>>  Oh Lord!  Who pops up???  St Genesius!!  Either this is providence, Genesius pulling another of his practical jokes or they have some cookie or something which investigates your internet background.  Not sure, I'm a little bit raw at the moment.  But that was interesting.

Anyway, here is the link, off you go, have fun, knock yourselves out and maybe let us know who popped up for you?  Was it your favourite saint? A fitting Saint?   Or have you had a providential moment like me?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Martyr Bishop

Fond memories of today's feast, St Thomas a Becket.  A few years ago myself and Fr Owen (he of EWTN fame) went to Canterbury Cathedral on this day to visit the site of St Thomas a Becket's martyrdom.  It would have been our second visit.  When we got to the cathedral Vespers were just finishing and the assembled congregation was dispersing for the warm comfort of their homes (it was a bitterly cold day).  We managed to get a few moments at the "martyrdom", as the spot is called, before being tossed out of the cathedral by a verger (first time I was ever thrown out of an Anglican church).   However, lest you think we had no where to go, we popped into the local hotel to partake of afternoon tea (there too, our second visit).

"The Martyrdom": site of St Thomas's martyrdom

Our first visit had been a year or two before.  On that first visit, as with the second, I brought a relic of St Thomas with me - I had been given a first class relic of the martyr when I was in Rome.  It was a wonderful moment of grace walking around his cathedral, relic in hand, praying and meditating on his life and death.  His body is missing, and has been since the Reformation - hidden by devout monks to save it from desecration by Henry VIII's henchmen.   The relic I had was taken from a piece which has been preserved in Rome since before the Reformation (blows your mind that).  

I have a fondness for St Thomas, he is a wonderful example of priesthood.  He was not always heroic - he was a pretty ambitious character.  He was a friend of King Henry II and the two were carousing buddies.  Henry wanted a pawn in Canterbury in order to control the Church, so when the Archbishop died he had his mate appointed.  However, the Holy Spirit had other plans.  No sooner did Thomas put his unworthy rear end on the throne of See of Canterbury but he changed, and rather dramatically at that.  He realised what God was putting into his care, and was determined to become a trustworthy and valiant shepherd - and he did.  Thomas defended the Church and her people even against the tyranny of his friend.  For his troubles he was exiled and eventually martyred - a heroic model for all priests and bishops.  May he intercede for our pastors in these times, and give them some of the courage he had in defending the Church and proclaiming Christ.
St Dunstan's Anglican church, Canterbury

Canterbury is also the city where the head of St Thomas More is buried.  His daughter, Meg, managed to get her father's head after his execution, and she preserved it until she died: it was buried with her in her husband's family vault which is situated in St Dunstan's Church, Canterbury.  The church, Anglican now, has a lovely shrine to St Thomas, which, to be honest, is a bit ironic and strange given that he was martyred because he refused to reject the Catholic Church and join the new Church of Henry VIII. 

The parallels between St Thomas More and St Thomas a Becket are uncanny: both born in London - both Thomas.  Both become Lord Chancellor of England, both friends of the monarcy - both called Henry.  Both defended the Church from the assault of the monarch and both martyred by the aforesaid king because they would not choose the king and state over God and Church.  Henry VIII was well aware of the parallels - in 1538 he destroyed the shrine of St Thomas a Becket in order to wipe out the memory of the saint's defence of the Church, and try as he could he could not do so, he may have also done so in an attempt to erase the memory of Thomas More- he failed there too.  Martyrs are never forgotten, but grow and become more loved for their heroism.  Secularists please take note.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fr John Harvey, Rest In Peace

I got news that Fr John Harvey, OSFS, the founder of Courage died yesterday - the feast of St John the Apostle.  Very sad to hear of his passing, he was a real inspiration to priests in this time.  Concerned about men and women with same sex attraction, with the Servant of God, Cardinal Terence Cooke he founded Courage to help them live chaste lives in communion with the teaching of the Church.  His contributions to psychological research in this area is immense, his charity pure, his dedication to his work and true Christ-like love of those he helped was unparalleled.  We pray God will reward him for his many years of service.

Here is his biography from his congregation's website:   
Reverend John F. Harvey, OSFS, 92, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales for 73 years, died on Monday, December 27, 2010, at Union Hospital in Elkton, Maryland.

Fr. Harvey, son of the late Patrick J. and Margaret (Harkins) Harvey was born in Philadelphia in 1918.  He attended St. Columba Parish School, and after graduating from Northeast Catholic High School for Boys in 1936, he entered the Oblate Novitiate, making his first profession of vows on September 8, 1937.  He was ordained to the priesthood on June 3, 1944 at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia by the Most. Rev. Hugh Lamb, D.D., Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia.

After earning his bachelor of arts degree in philosophy in 1941 from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Fr. Harvey continued his studies, earning graduate degrees in psychology and theology, and completed a doctorate in moral theology there 10 years later.

“Fr. Harvey’s commitment to pastoral care in the Church was tireless.  Even in his later years, his travel would take him all over the country and world to offer a voice of compassion,” Rev. James J. Greenfield, OSFS, Oblate provincial said.  “His work in helping to found both the DeSales School of Theology and Courage were examples of his commitment to the Church that he loved so much.”

Fr. Harvey’s ministerial assignments following ordination included serving as a teacher at his alma mater, Northeast Catholic High School (1945-1947); graduate student at Catholic University (1947-1951); professor of moral theology at Dunbarton College, Washington, DC (1948-1973); professor of moral theology at the DeSales Hall School of Theology, (1949-1987); president of DeSales Hall School of Theology (1965-1977); and professor of sexual and medical ethics at DeSales University, Center Valley, PA (1987-2009).  Father Harvey retired to Annecy Hall, Childs, Maryland in January, 2010.

Fr. Harvey was the founder and national director of Courage, which is a spiritual support group for homosexual women and men.  He had been director of Courage since its foundation in 1980 at the request of the late archbishop of New York, Terrence Cardinal Cooke.  Courage continues to reach out in the United States, in Canada, England, the Republic of Ireland, Poland, Mexico, Slovakia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, the Philippines, and New Zealand.  Today, there are more than 100 Chapters of Courage worldwide.

Since he began teaching in higher education in 1948, Fr. Harvey has written more than 45 articles in professional theological and psychological journals on questions of human sexuality and counseling.  He has addressed the full convention of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on ethics and psychology.  He has been interviewed by national media representatives and has lectured abroad in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Guam.

In addition to the members of his religious community, Fr. Harvey is survived by his sister, Margaret Smith, and many nieces and nephews and grand nieces and nephews.  He is predeceased by his siblings, Catherine Egan and James Harvey.

Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, December 31, at 11:15 AM, at Our Lady of Light Chapel, 1120 Blue Ball Road, Elkton, MD, 21921.  Preceding the Mass will be a wake from 9:30 – 11:00 AM, and the interment will follow the Mass.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Oblate Retirement Fund, P.O. box 87, Childs, MD, 21916.     

Memorial of the Holy Innocents

Given the age in which we live, today's feast resonates with the abortion industry which daily massacres the innocents in the name of choice (but more accurately in the name of money, and indeed, in the name of evil).  The little martyrs of Bethlehem are most interesting - they were babies and toddlers - all boys, put to death by Herod the Great's soldiers on his orders, as they frantically looked for the infant proclaimed a king by the magi.  These children had not reached the age of reason, they knew nothing of Christ, they did not make any decision to lay down their lives for him, yet in their tragic death the Church sees martyrdom and honours them for their sacrifice. 

Their feast is one we should take seriously each year and celebrate with prayer and reparation.  Providentially, it is a response to the evil of abortion and anti-life technologies, a call for Christians to take the pro-life cause to heart and a direct challenge to those supporters of abortion and technologies of death who claim to be Christians.  It is also a call to Christian politicians to get off the fence and fight against abortion and the culture of death rather than opine that they are personally opposed but.....  Sorry people, he or she who is not with us is against us, the "personally opposed" position is rubbish, nonsense, perhaps even a spineless attempt to support the greatest evil mankind has ever known, but, for convenient reasons, trying to play ball with the Church too - cynical in the extreme. 

An interesting suggestion arose a few years ago, that, following the recognition of the Holy Innocents, those children aborted might be declared martyrs, some prominent theologians have been engaged in relfection on this issue.  Personally, I am not sure.  But certainly the discussion focuses our attention on those killed in the womb.

Prayer to the Holy Innocents
for the Cause of Life
O Blessed Martyrs of Bethlehem,
you Holy Innocents,
who shed your blood for Christ,
intercede for the Cause of life in these difficult times. 
Before you could speak, you proclaimed the Messiah,
and welcomed him, not with ceremony, or rich gifts
or eloquent eulogy,
but with the generous offering of your lives
protecting him so he could live to lay down his life for you,
shedding his blood to redeem you and all mankind. 
Receive into your arms all those little ones
who have been sacrificed and killed
in the abortion clinics of the world
or destroyed in laboratories or clinics,
take them to the throne of our merciful God
so he may embrace them in the life and love
they were denied on earth.

Intercede for those responsible for their deaths:
for doctors, nurses and administrators,
for those who promote the culture of death,
for those enriched by the industry of death,
for those fooled by false compassion,
for those who, in igorance, offend the Gospel life:
by your prayers may they be converted.

Intercede, dear little Ones,
for the mothers of these children,
for their conversion and transformation,
for their consolation and healing,
so they may come to know the mercy of God;
by your prayers may they be reconciled
and become prophets of life.

Support the Church in her mission for life,
pray that all followers of Christ will proclaim the dignity of life
and seek to protect it
most particularly at its most vulnerable stages.
Pray for us, O Holy Innocents, martyrs for Christ,
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Here is a rendition of the beautiful Coventry Carol, written in memory of the Holy Innocents:

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Beloved Disciple

I love these feast days after Christmas - they are my patronal feasts - I'm called after John and Stephen.  St John is an interesting saint, renowned for his holiness and purity, the Beloved Disciple, who was entrusted with caring for Our Lady in the last years of her life - a wonderful privilege.  According to tradition John lived to a great age, dying of natural causes, although he was almost martyred a couple of times - once by boiling oil, another by a poisoned drink.  He survived both and went on to write the Gospel and New Testament letters attributed to him, and the Book of Revelation

Now, that is a controversial statement, and my former New Testament lecturer will be shaking his head in disbelief, but seeing as there is no definite evidence to contradict the ancient tradition of attributing the works to St John the Apostle, I will follow the tradition until it can proven beyond reasonable doubt the tradition is incorrect.  Call me old fashioned, a reactionary conservative or a festering barnacle, I don't care.  Tradition until proven otherwise.

Anyway, back to St John.  According to tradition (ahem), he is buried in Ephesus in the ruins of a former Christian basilica.  John is renowned for his devotion to the Lord and his gentleness, although one has to wonder how gentle he was given that the Lord nicknamed him and his brother James "sons of thunder".  He also had an ambitious streak, the Gospels recording how he wanted to sit on one side of Christ in the kingdom.   But, with age and holiness those faults were dealt with and by the end of his life he was deeply venerated for his profound sanctity.  There is hope for all of us. 

O Holy Saint John.
Beloved Disciple,
Friend of Christ,
Protector of the Virgin Mother of the Lord,
Joyful Evangelist,
Martyr in desire,
Visionary of Patmos,
Teacher in Love,

pray for us
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Holy Family

This year, St Stephen is trumped by the Holy Family - not that he's worried about it, I'm sure.  In celebration of the feast, a few words from the Holy Father on the Holy Family delivered on the feast in 2007.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this last Sunday of the year we are celebrating the Feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth. I address with joy all the families of the world, wishing them the peace and love that Jesus brought us in coming among us at Christmas.

In the Gospel we do not find discourses on the family but an event which is worth more than any words: God wanted to be born and to grow up in a human family. In this way he consecrated the family as the first and ordinary means of his encounter with humanity.

In his life spent at Nazareth, Jesus honoured the Virgin Mary and the righteous Joseph, remaining under their authority throughout the period of his childhood and his adolescence (cf. Lk 2:41-52). In this way he shed light on the primary value of the family in the education of the person.

Jesus was introduced by Mary and Joseph into the religious community and frequented the synagogue of Nazareth. With them, he learned to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as the Gospel passage offered for our meditation by today's liturgy tells us.

When he was 12 years old, he stayed behind in the Temple and it took his parents all of three days to find him. With this act he made them understand that he "had to see to his Father's affairs", in other words, to the mission that God had entrusted to him (cf. Lk 2:41-52).

This Gospel episode reveals the most authentic and profound vocation of the family: that is, to accompany each of its members on the path of the discovery of God and of the plan that he has prepared for him or her.
Mary and Joseph taught Jesus primarily by their example: in his parents he came to know the full beauty of faith, of love for God and for his Law, as well as the demands of justice, which is totally fulfilled in love (cf. Rom 13:10).

From them he learned that it is necessary first of all to do God's will, and that the spiritual bond is worth more than the bond of kinship.

The Holy Family of Nazareth is truly the "prototype" of every Christian family which, united in the Sacrament of Marriage and nourished by the Word and the Eucharist, is called to carry out the wonderful vocation and mission of being the living cell not only of society but also of the Church, a sign and instrument of unity for the entire human race.

Let us now invoke for every family, especially families in difficulty, the protection of Mary Most Holy and of St Joseph. May they sustain such families so that they can resist the disintegrating forces of a certain contemporary culture which undermines the very foundations of the family institution.

May they help Christian families to be, in every part of the world, living images of God's love.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Blessings

One of English literature's most beautiful poems is one written by a martyred priest, St Robert Southwell.  This poem, The Burning Babe is one which inspires me a great deal because it is a work of great hope.  We all need hope in these times, a hope not rooted in the world, or in individuals or great ideas; rather, a hope which is rooted in the Lord of hope himself, Christ our Saviour. 

Many have lost their faith, many in the last year as scandals have worn away the confidence of many, and yet not even the greatest scandal or the greatest tragedy can erase Christ, his message and his sacrifice.  Christ was a victim himself, but instead of abandoning the truth, he proclaimed it because he was the Truth, the Way and the Life.

This is true hope, and in this holy season, we can ask for an increase of this hope through an increase of the gift of faith.  In the poem St Robert, shivering in the cold, a man pursued for his faith, a holy priest tormented for his faithful ministry, a servant of Christ who would shed his blood for Christ, as Christ shed his blood for him, and for all of us.    Listening attentively to the Child of the vision, St Robert's heart is glowing, and he is encouraged by what he hears.  The Child laments that people have closed themselves to him, and yet he wishes to warm them with his divine fire, bring them back to life with his love.  This is the Lord's timeless message, and he calls on us to listen to him. If we do, we will discover true hope, and the fire he will enkindle within us will give us confidence, peace and joy - the very things our world needs in these times.

by St Robert Southwell

AS I in hoary winter’s night 
  Stood shivering in the snow, 
Surprised I was with sudden heat 
  Which made my heart to glow; 
And lifting up a fearful eye         
  To view what fire was near, 
A pretty babe all burning bright 
  Did in the air appear; 
Who, scorchèd with excessive heat, 
  Such floods of tears did shed,         
As though His floods should quench His flames, 
  Which with His tears were bred: 
‘Alas!’ quoth He, ‘but newly born 
  In fiery heats I fry, 
Yet none approach to warm their hearts         
  Or feel my fire but I! 
‘My faultless breast the furnace is; 
  The fuel, wounding thorns; 
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke; 
  The ashes, shames and scorns;         
The fuel Justice layeth on, 
  And Mercy blows the coals, 
The metal in this furnace wrought 
  Are men’s defilèd souls: 
For which, as now on fire I am         
  To work them to their good, 
So will I melt into a bath, 
  To wash them in my blood.’ 
With this He vanish’d out of sight 
  And swiftly shrunk away,         
And straight I callèd unto mind 
  That it was Christmas Day.

On behalf of the Council of the Fraternity, I would like to wish all our members and friends every blessing and grace this Christmas, and a peaceful New Year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Pope's Reflection

Busy here at the moment, as you would expect.  A few stolen moments to share with you, on this Christmas Eve, the reflection the Holy Father gave on BBC radio this morning.  It just sums it all up - so beautiful.

Recalling with great fondness my four-day visit to the United Kingdom last September, I am glad to have the opportunity to greet you once again, and indeed to greet listeners everywhere as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ. Our thoughts turn back to a moment in history when God's chosen people, the children of Israel, were living in intense expectation. They were waiting for the Messiah that God had promised to send, and they pictured him as a great leader who would rescue them from foreign domination and restore their freedom.

God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfils them. The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, but not only for the people of that time and place - he was to be the Saviour of all people throughout the world and throughout history. And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means: rather, Christ destroyed death for ever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross. And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centres of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God. Out of love for us he took upon himself our human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability, and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life, to a share in the life of God himself. As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us, and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from wwhatever weighs us down: he gives us hope, he brings us life.

Dear Friends from Scotland, England, Wales and indeed every part of the English-speaking world, I want you to know that I keep all of you very much in my prayers during this Holy Season. I pray for your families, for your children, for those who are sick, and for those who are going through any form of hardship at this time. I pray especially for the elderly and for those who are approaching the end of their days. I ask Christ, the light of the nations, to dispel whatever darkness there may be in your lives and to grant to every one of you the grace of a peaceful joyful Christmas. May God bless all of you!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

No Confusion Here

After seven long years of talks, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona, has formally stripped a hospital of its Catholic status.  No doubt many of you have been following the story since it broke publicly when a Sister of Mercy approved the abortion of a 11 week old unborn baby in St Joseph's Hospital and Medical Centre.  Since then the bishop has been trying to find out what has been going on it that hospital and its parent organisation Catholic Healthcare West (CHW).  The sister was excommunicated (by her own actions), I'm not sure if she has been reconciled.    It was revealed in the last few months that the hospital and other medical facilities in the CHW had a long history of dissent with regard to Catholic moral teaching, so in reality the abortion was the final step (see here for other violations).

Many blogs are dealing with the story, and some are very angry with the bishop, questioning his right to do what he said, his lack of compassion, his ignorance of medicine which, they insist, disqualifies him from speaking on medical matters, and, wait for it, his ignorance of theology and his intellectual limitations.  This last criticism comes from the Commonweal blog, which seeks to defend the hospital and the arguments of a theologian who was involved in the dialogue process defending the hospital's decision.  One of the most obnoxious comments on this site suggests that the bishop has committed a sin in stripping the hospital of its Catholic status, abused his authority and broke the First Commandment.  This contributor then calls on the sinner to repent.   Well, this bishop did not abuse his authority, nor broke the First Commandment, but rather did his duty as a bishop to stand for the teaching of Christ, the souls entrusted to his care, proclaiming the Gospel of Life and calling those who have violated the commandment to respect life to repent.   The hospital is no longer Catholic in its approach to medical ethics, so the bishop is merely confirming what is a reality.   We need more like him.  We must pray for him because the wrath of dissenting Catholics and the media will come down on his head. 

The Commonweal blog seems particular stung by the fact that the bishop rejected the "moral analysis" offered by a theologian on behalf of the hospital (do you notice how liberals hate to see their critiques critiqued and get all upset by it?).  This theologian, M. Therese Lysaught, is based in Marquette University as an associate professor of theology, she seems to specialise in medical ethics.  In her report she claims the baby was dying, but the bishop in his report contradicts her and maintains that the baby was healthy.   Here's her report.  It seems that the baby was healthy, it was the mother who was ill, so Lysaught then maintains that because the mother was ill, then the baby was ill too. 

A few interesting issues from this whole affair.  First, there is a need for bishops to inspect those hospitals which hold the title Catholic, to see if they are following Catholic moral teaching.  The fact that they may be governed by religious orders is no guarantee that they are faithful - in fact in some cases it may be a good indication that they are no longer faithful.   Secondly, it is sad to see members of once great religious congregations rejecting the faith and cooperating in evil acts like abortion.  The sister involved in this case was a Sister of Mercy, and it was a Daughter of Charity who signed up to Obama's pro-abortion health care plan.  I know many good sisters in these congregations, but there are others who are steering their congregations in a direction which is neither Catholic, Christian or healthy. We must pray for them. 

Thirdly, it seems the author Anne Rice has been involved in this saga, and has been supporting the hospital and Sister of Mercy, and indeed portraying the bishop as merciless.  Sad.  Rice had a conversion a few years back and wrote a memoir about it.  I was going to ask someone to review it for Fraternitas, but something stopped me.  Glad it did.  Rice has since left the Church because she disagrees with our moral teachings, particularly on homosexuality.  Fair enough, but why is she still hanging around complaining?  If she's gone by her own decision, she gone, why keep floating around and harping on?  (Mark Shea asks the same question).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Confusing Message

This is a most curious situation.  Archbishop Longley of Birmingham has slapped the hands of Catholics who were protesting at the Masses in Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Soho which are arranged on a regular basis for homosexuals, indeed called them "judgemental".  Now I know it was reported in The Tablet which has its own agenda, and so what the Archbishop said and what was written in the final article may not tally completely in some points - sometimes journalists can "mishear".

Now there would be no problem if these Masses were to help men and women with same-sex-attraction in their living of chaste lives - in fact it would be a great ministry, one much neglected in the Church today.  In fact there is a wonderful organisation founded by the Servant of God, Cardinal Cooke and Fr John Harvey which does terrific work, Courage.  But, as I know from friends who live in London, those who organise, celebrate and participate at these "Soho Masses" appear to promote the idea that an active homosexual lifestyle is compatible with Christian teaching and those who do so are welcome to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  This, of course, is contrary to Church teaching. 

So why should a good Archbishop be supporting this (and Archbishop Longley is a good Archbishop)?  I understand that he may not like the idea of protests outside a church, a sacred place, by people who claim to be faithful Catholics - I do not like the idea myself, there are better ways to getting the point across, and these must be used with regard to the issue.  But I am puzzled by the seemingly official diocesan support which the Archbishop seems to be reiterating.  Can my readers in London shed any light on the situation?


At Christmas, our film club in Dublin likes to put on something special.  This month we are showing Bella, the movie which has struck a chord for the pro-life movement.  We had been talking about showing it, and it seems quite appropriate as Ireland is, once again, facing the abortion question.   The movie helps us put faces on those involved in a crisis pregnancy, too often there is the tendency to ignore these faces, or at least one in particular - the face of the child. 


Due to extreme weather conditions, we have had to cancel the film club for this month - the snows are back with a vengence!   We will show the movie, however, at the January meeting - Tuesday January 18th at 7pm in the Knights of St Columbanus centre, Ely Place, Dublin.   Actually, it might end up being better - the anniversary of Roe v Wade is around then and we will have more light on the situation in Ireland then...we hope!

St Joseph, Father of Priests

The Holy Father, taking his cue from the Gospel, dedicated his Angelus talk yesterday to St Joseph, and in doing so, entrusted the pastors of the Church to the Saint's care.  

What a wonderful model for priests - the foster-father of Jesus who put aside all his hopes and dreams, to answer the call of God to become the legal father and protector of the Messiah.  Priests are asked to do the same: to leave everything to follow the Lord, even to diminish so Christ can increase.  Fulton Sheen once said that a priest is not his own, and that is true, and it is part of the struggle of being a priest - dying to oneself, giving of oneself, holding nothing back - as true fatherhood requires. 

But also, like St Joseph, the priest becomes the silent man of the Gospel ("hidden with Christ in God", as St Paul puts it) - not silent in the sense that he does not open his mouth and proclaim the Gospel - he does, but he is silent in the sense that he does not get in the way of the Word of God, but rather proclaims it as given by Christ.    Joseph was silent because he heard the Word of God and did what that Word asked of him, so too with the priest.  That is why it is sad to see and hear priests who teach their own opinions when they judge the Gospel to be "unliveable" or the teachings of the Church lacking in compassion, or old fashioned, or when they seek to curry favour with people or the fashions of an age.  Here the example of humble Joseph who was entrusted with the household of God becomes a model for us.

The Holy Father's talk is here.  And here is another talk the Pope gave on St Joseph in which he proposes him as a model for priests.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Something Seasonal...

As Christmas is coming, and we all need cheering up, a little something seasonal.  Of late I have come across Sufjan Stevens, a folk indie singer-songwriter.  He had a hit with a song "Chicago" a few years ago.  Well he has brought out a Christmas album, five CDs with his own version of many famous Advent and Christmas carols, together with a few of his own composition.  Apparently he writes a Christmas song for his friends every year and someone suggested he compile them into a record. 

Anyway, the song I have been listening to the last few days is his "Put The Lights On The Tree".  It's simple, but catchy, quirky, and I like it.  The message is not too bad either. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Abortion Compensation

The Irish media is covering the ECHR's judgement extensively, they are trying to be balanced.  The usual suspects have been wheeled out, and the overall "common sense" solution is to legislate, we're told.  Some pro-life representatives are calling for a new referendum to sort out the X-case mess which allowed the Court find for the woman known as "C".  To be honest, I will not hold my breath.  The government was quick to get us to the polling booths to get European treaties passed - the issue of abortion is one they will avoid at all costs: they will probably legislate.

Although, I see the two main parties in Ireland are holding their cards close to their chests.  While Labour is calling for abortion, both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael say they will look very closely at the judgement and reflect on it.  You see both parties would have a lot of pro-life voters on their books, and they will not want to alienate them come the election.   It's all up in the air.

A shocking dimension of this case is that the Lithuanian woman whose case was upheld by the court is going to receive €15,000 in compensation because she was not allowed to have an abortion in Ireland.  The government will have to pay her, and that money comes out of my taxes.   

We have to pray!  If for nothing else than the grace of charity and peace in these difficult times.  We must pray also for the women who took the case, they are pawns of a greater anti-life industry which enriches itself through the death of innocent children and the agony of women in crisis pregnancies.   May the Lord deliver us all from evil.

Defence of Life

In the light of the ECHR's ruling, from the US a supermodel gives a brilliant defence of life.  Once pro-choice, she did the research and was shocked with what she found out - now she's pro-life.  Watch this.  This is the best I've heard in a long time.

Abortion Ruling


William Binchy of the Pro Life Campaign:

Remarks by Professor William Binchy at the Pro Life Campaign Press Conference, Buswells Hotel, Dublin 2
12.30pm, 16th December 2010

Today’s judgment from the European Court of Human Rights will require detailed analysis over coming days but some clear points emerge immediately. The most important is that the judgment does not require Ireland to introduce legislation authorising abortion. On the contrary, it fully respects the entitlement of the Irish people to determine legal policy on protecting the lives of unborn children. The Irish people must now make a choice. If they were to choose to endorse the Supreme Court decision in X, this would involve legalising abortion contrary to existing medical practice and the best evidence of medical research. If on the other hand, the Irish people choose to endorse the current medical practice, they will be ensuring the continuation of Ireland’s world renowned safety record for mothers and babies during pregnancy.
The evidence over the past 18 years contradicts the medical assumptions of the X case decision. [1] [2] It is crucial to note that the judges in the X case heard no medical evidence. In the years since the ruling, the evidence has steadily built up confirming the opposite of what the judges had assumed - women who have abortions are more likely to commit suicide than women who continue with their pregnancy. [3]

Any revisiting of the X case decision would need to take on board the evidence from these new studies that abortion involves significant risks for some women.  Based on the current state of medical evidence alone, it would be irresponsible simply to introduce legislation along the lines of the X ruling as it would put at risk the mother’s life as well as taking the baby’s.

The suggestion that because of this country’s pro-life ethos pregnant women are denied necessary medical treatments is simply not true. In fact, Ireland is a world leader in safety for pregnant mothers. The latest UN report on the safety of mothers during pregnancy found, of all 172 countries for which estimates are given, Ireland leads the world when it comes to safety for pregnant women.[4]
Women are safer in Ireland when pregnant than in countries like Britain and Holland, which permit abortion on demand. Given our record in maternal care, the question has to be asked, why are some people proposing to blur the time-honoured distinction between necessary medical treatments in pregnancy and the deliberate targeting of the baby in the womb with the aim of ending its life?

The most recent opinion poll findings show that 70% of the public support constitutional protection for the unborn,13% oppose it and 16% don’t know or have no opinion.[5]
What marks this finding out from polls showing support for abortion is the distinction it makes between necessary medical treatments in pregnancy and induced abortion, where the aim of the procedure is to target the life of the unborn child.

By all means, let us debate the abortion issue openly, honestly and with all the facts in front of us. But equally, we cannot shy away from the implications of what legal abortion would involve and the brutal reality of abortion, legal up to birth, in countries like Britain.

What’s at stake in this debate is the value of life, and the sad experience is that once laws permitting abortion are introduced, they diminish the society’s respect for the inherent value of every human life, born or unborn.

What we need now is a calm, respectful national discussion, in which the latest medical and scientific evidence is fully considered leading to a solution at a Constitutional level, which will ensure the full protection of all human beings, mothers and unborn children, on the basis of respect for their equal dignity and worth.


Family and Life:
ECHR Demands that Ireland Permit Abortions
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that, by not legislating for the X Case, Ireland has breached the rights of a woman who claimed her pregnancy endangered her life. The court interpreted the ‘X Case’ ruling of the Irish Supreme Court in 1992 as establishing a Constitutional “right” to abortion where a pregnant woman’s life is at risk. The ruling will put pressure on the Irish Government to introduce legislation or official guidelines on access to abortion for women in similar situations. The ECHR cannot enforce its ruling, however, and the Irish Government could decide to ignore or reject it. Many other member states of the Council of Europe have, in the past, disregarded decisions of this court which they found to be unacceptable.   The ECHR unanimously ruled this morning that the rights of one of three women who took a case challenging Ireland’s abortion laws were breached because she had no “effective or accessible procedure” to establish her right to a “lawful abortion”. The woman—known only as “C”—had a rare form of cancer and feared it would relapse when she became pregnant. She claimed she was unable to find a doctor willing to make a determination as to whether her life would be at risk if she continued to term. In the absence of any medical evidence, the court concluded that neither the “medical consultation nor litigation options” relied on by the Government constituted “effective or accessible procedures”.   “Moreover, there was no explanation why the existing constitutional right had not been implemented to date,” the court ruled, referring to the X Case judgement. “Consequently, the court concluded that Ireland had breached the third applicant’s—C’s—right to respect for her private life given the failure to implement the existing Constitutional right to a lawful abortion in Ireland.”  “Today’s judgement represents a total disregard for either the right to life of the unborn or the practice of medicine in Ireland and can only be described as politically motivated interference in the sovereignty of the Republic of Ireland,” commented David Manly of Family & Life.  The court ruled that there had been no violation of the rights of the two other women involved in the case—A and B. All three women were supported in their litigation by the pro-abortion Irish Family Planning Association, an organisation which receives state funding. Its involvement in this case is part of a radical campaign to undermine the fundamental right to life of the unborn child.   The Irish Government robustly defended Ireland’s ban on abortion before the court and said Ireland’s abortion laws were based on “profound moral values deeply embedded in Irish society”. Today’s judgement makes a mockery of the very notion of human rights by ignoring the most fundamental right of all, the right to life. If the government believes what it argued in this case, then it must act to ensure that current medical practice which ensures that essential medical treatment is provided to all women in Ireland continues. Medical interventions necessary to save a mother’s life, even if the life of her unborn child is unintentionally lost, are legal and available, but the deliberate killing of the unborn must remain a crime.  The Supreme Court Judgement of 1992 was a bad judgement which attempted to circumvent the will of the people as expressed in the pro-life amendment to the Constitution. The state has rightly declined to legislate based on this bad judgement. Its primary obligation is to protect the vulnerable and vindicate the rights of the unborn child, either through legislation or by referendum. Ireland is the safest place in the world to be born or to give birth. Let’s keep it that way. 

Please :- 1) Contact the the following leaders today and tell them that the government must ensure that this ruling does not open the door to legalised abortion in Ireland. 2) Speak up for the right to life of the unborn in discussions on this issue—in the media; on social networks, blogs etc., and when talking to family and friends.
Lifesite News article here.

Bad Feelings Vindicated

Well, as expected, the European Court of Human Rights has upheld the right to abortion, and has found Ireland guilty of failing to provide abortion services for one of the three women who took the case to the Court.  This lady had a rare form of cancer, and so, unable to have an abortion in Ireland, she had to travel to England.  The court cites her privacy and family rights as the basis for their judgement. The media is full of news on the ruling. 

Apparently the ruling is based on Ireland's botched laws on abortion, thanks to a court case, the X case, where the Irish Supreme Court in a mystifyingly strange interpretation of a pro-life amendment to the Irish Constitution, ruled that a woman could have an abortion if her life was threatened.  Pro-life organisations had criticised that Supreme Court judgement, as we all scratched our heads and wonder how in the name of God they could allow a woman kill her child when the Constitution provide protection - but then it is not the first time courts plucked interpretations of legalisation out of the air to suit their needs.

Where do we go from here?  Well, the government is looking into it.  The pro-abortion groups will use this to push their agenda - already a representative for a group calling themselves Doctors for Choice has been on radio rejoicing.   Some media are reporting that Ireland has no choice but to legislate for abortion now.  It has been suggested that we need a referendum to sort out the problem. 

I await statements from pro-life organisations.  They are probably studying the judgement carefully.  How interesting that all this happens as we prepare to celebrate the conception and birth of God-made-Man.


 The full text of the Court's ruling here.  The Press Release here.

Love Has Let Himself Be Found!

Yesterday the Holy Father dedicated his weekly audience to one of my favourite saints - St Veronica Giuliani, Capuchin Poor Clare and mystic.  St Veronica was a remarkable woman, one who would remind you of St Teresa of Avila, who has left us volumes of profound and insightful works.  Her Diary is one of the most extraordinary Christian documents which gives us a real glimpse of the mystical life - a life we are all invited to enter. 

Like her brother Capuchin, St Pio, she bore the stigmata, and endured years of suspicion and investigation, growing in holiness and earning the deep respect and love of her sisters in the Monastery.  When all censures were lifted, as the Church, having completed an exhaustive investigation, recognised that her stigmata and mystical gifts came from God, she was elected Abbess at the first opportunity, an office she served with great wisdom, simplicity, love and practicality - she may have been a mystic, but her head was not in the clouds.  

St Veronica offers us so many wonderful insights, but my favourite quotation from her is in fact her last - her dying words.  As she looked into eternity, about to leap into the arms of God she said, "Love has let himself be found" - that sums up her whole life, her teaching and her lesson to us.

She was also a great devotee of Our Lady who dictated part of the Diary.  In fact, it was Our Lady who told her that her death was near and so said to the saint that now it was time to call a "Halt" to the writings, which Veronica did.   At the moment those writings are being examined by the Church with the view to possibly declaring her a Doctor of the Church.  Let us pray that she will be, soon.  Veronica is one of the Church's great treasures, but at the moment a hidden one.  Her elevation as the fourth woman Doctor will be a gift to the Church in these times, one who with the other Doctors, brings a unique teaching which will help us grow in knowledge and love of God.  I see in his talk the Holy Father sees her as a great devotee of Scripture, perhaps he is reflecting on a possible declaration, and sees her contribution to the understanding of Sacred Scripture as a possible reason to raise her.

The Holy Father's talk can be found here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bad Feelings

I think there is a sense of foreboding among pro-lifers in Ireland today.  Tomorrow the European Court of Human Rights rules on the case taken by two Irishwomen and a Lithuanian woman who say their human rights were violated by not being able to have an abortion in Ireland.  The court has not been a friend of the Christian faith and tends to lean towards the liberal and permissive.  That is bad enough, but the fact the judgment will be delivered in open court is ominous - is something revolutionary about to take place?

If the women win the case it will be a landmark judgement because it will not only effect Ireland, but all the countries which make up the Council of Europe - forty-seven countries in all.  If the women win then abortion may be considered a human right by the Court could be implemented as such in those countries. That is revolutionary enough for the Court to call an open session. 

Perhaps I am being too pessimistic, maybe the judges will reject the women's case but want the opportunity to chide Ireland's pro-life culture - after all there is nothing as anti-human and lacking in compassion as protecting the life of innocent babies in their mothers' wombs.   But I think the women will win, and the pressure will be on for Ireland to start opening the abortion clinics - I'm sure the people in Planned Parenthood already have their beady eyes on prime locations.  And of course, given the state of our finances some bright spark will suggest the government can put a tax on the abortion, conveniently forgetting that the one killed would have been  a tax-payer in twenty years or so.  If the Labour party wins the next election in Ireland, such a judgement would help them in their efforts to get abortion into Ireland.

But you know, if this does happen, it will amount to a satanic irony.  For the last number of years the liberals in Ireland have crucified the Catholic Church for the abuse of children, and rightly so in most cases.  But if abortion comes into Ireland, Ireland Inc. will be introducing the greatest abuse of children known to mankind - their violent murder in the place they ought to be safe. 

One day left and we will find out.  Time for prayer.

On this issue, see this article by Matt Archbald.  It seems that "post-natal abortion" (i.e. infanticide, infant homicide, child murder) is on the rise.  In France, where it is easier to get an abortion than a pint of milk, mothers are exercising their "right to choose" even after they have given birth.  This is the world our pro-choice friends have created for us.  Isn't it a lovely place????


 Statement by the Pro-Life Campaign on the upcoming judgement.  A little reassuring.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

When Is Narnia Narnia?

Michael Flaherty, co-founder of Walden Media

Still thinking about this one.  We went to see the latest Narnia movie last Sunday (snow receded, but due back towards the end of this week - think I'll just take up hibernation!).  The movie was ok.

Following on from two previous posts, I read a very good article on the National Catholic Register which I would recommed you read.  It includes an interview with Michael Flaherty, co-founder of Walden Media, the company responsible for bringing Narnia to the big screens. As is obvious from the interview he would not agree with what Liam Neeson said. In fact he has some hard things to say about Neeson's view:
“I go to my pastor for words on how to unpack the religious meaning of things.....I go to a literature professor to explain literature. I’ve never gone to an actor to interpret literature or religious meaning. We hired Liam not because he has a degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, but because he’s one of the best actors on the planet, and he would give Aslan the best possible voice. The most important thing is not what comes out of Liam’s mouth at a press conference — it’s what comes out of his mouth when he’s speaking as Aslan up on the screen.”
That should do it!  Read the whole interview here.

Juan de la Cruz

Today the Carmelite Order celebrates the Solemnity of St John the Cross, co-reformer with St Teresa, and Doctor of the Church.  St John is famous for his Dark Night of the Soul, and this has coloured many people's view of him.  I remember talking to a religious about him but the sister was not too keen to engage: "He's very dark", she said, "All Dark Night".   I suppose I could not blame her, when a theologian is taught as if he is a one trick pony, the richness of his theological teaching is not apparent or well known.  John is much more than the Dark Night: he is also the Living Flame of Love and the beautifully amorous Spiritual Canticle.  He has not been taught well.  If we look at his biggest fan, for example - St Therese of Lisieux, we realise there is more to him than misery.

If you are looking for a good introduction to St John, to ease you into his work, go to Ralph Martin.  He is the author of that wonderful synthesis of the Mystical way, The Fulfilment of All Desire.  Ralph gets St John, and sees the magnificence of his teaching.  During my retreat this year I used a series of Ralph's CDs on St John's theology as my talks and they were a revelation.  Having read St John, Ralph brought new insights and a freshness.  His basic understanding of St John - which is on the ball, is that he plots out the various steps of the spiritual life to help those who want to begin the journey to perfection here and now.  It is a journey, Ralph explains, which we will all have to do either here on earth or, if we are lucky enough to get there - in Purgatory.   The teaching on the two nights (Dark Night) - the night of the senses and the night of the spirit, are part of the journey where God purifies human desires and the soul, and so draw the person closer to union with him. 

Of course all the talk about St John centres on his mystical theology, but what was he like?  Many see him as a remote figure, very serious and distant: a man living on another plane, unable to identify with the ordinary person and their struggles, a mystic far above the ordinariness of life.  Well, nothing could be further from the truth.  Yes, John was quiet and serious, and St Teresa of Avila, who saw his qualities, also saw his faults, the strain of remoteness in his character.  In her inimitable way she worked on him to bring out that beautiful soul. John was sensitive, he loved deeply, and so, I think, he may have taken shelter in his quiet nature.  Gifted with many insights, he took life and faith seriously, and he was hard on himself.  Teresa brought out his humanity, and she was successful.  John was one of those people whom, when you met them, touch your soul and inspire love.  His gentleness and simplicity impress.

Throughout his life, he inspired great loyalty - the sisters of the reform loved him to bits, even if they found him a hard taskmaster at times.   When he was in prison, St Teresa's heart was breaking, and her sisters were praying day and night for his release.  When he finally escaped, it was Discalced sisters who took him in, hid him and nursed him back to health.  This experience would lead to his greatest works, which have allowed us a glimpse into his beautiful soul.

Reading St John, he is very different from St Teresa whose writing reveals her distinctive and lively voice: her work is all personality.  John's is more sedate, but just as powerful.  He is a great teacher, an understanding one and as he explains the mystical way, he does so using images to help us understand, repeating himself a great deal so we get the message. He is all heart as he tries to gently lead the soul on the path of holiness to union with God.  No wonder little St Therese fell in love with him: he was, in fact, the one writer she could identify with - it was his teaching which helped her understand where she was, and proved to be a great consolation in her trial of faith.  Another great saint who found St John's writings to be a great help in life was Pope John Paul II who wrote his doctoral thesis on St John of the Cross's teaching on faith.  In these days as many struggle faith, and many are looking for God, St John points us to the path which leads into the Heart of Christ to find therein, the invitation to a union of souls.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Catholic Priests Request Ordinariate

NOT a Catholic Ordinariate

What is that headline, I hear you say....Catholic priests requesting an Ordinariate? Yes indeed, dear readers: in conversation with some priests, the idea came up that priests who live in dioceses or metropolitan provinces where orthodoxy is thin on the ground may appeal to the Pope to be given parishes and churches in which they may establish Ordinariates for orthodox Catholicism.   Humorous I hear you say, yes it is, but ironically, for many of our faithful in some dioceses in the world the idea might be very appealing indeed!

Half in jest it was suggested that the aims of these Ordinariates would include being able to celebrate the Mass according to the Roman Rite, minus middle-aged women dancing in curtains and congregational consecration of the bread and wine;  to enable a restoration of Eucharistic adoration, Marian piety and reference to the Saints, and to allow priests the freedom to preach the Gospel and Church teaching rather than polticially correct public relations.  Other practices which could be incorporated into the spiritual life of these Ordinariates would be "traditional devotions" like the sacrament of confession, Benediction and the reordering of churches to allow congregrations concentrate on the liturgy rather than themselves (so out goes the kitchen table in the middle of the "worship space").  

As you can see, they are all getting jolly in anticipation of Christmas.  I suggested, though, that these priests need not bother the Holy Father for an Ordinariate, the restoration is already happening - a few funerals have to take place first, but time is on the side of orthodoxy.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Novena For Dracula

Ok, this post may seem unusual, but bear with me. As Father Director of an association dedicated to prayer, I do not believe anyone is beyond the power of intercession, and that that intercession may indeed bear fruit.  No one is beyond the mercy of God: there is always hope.  With that in mind I read with interest a blog posting from Frank Weathers on Vlad the Impaler.   

Weathers rejoices in his Catholic faith, and the fact that he prayed for the soul of Vlad Dracul III, Prince of Wallachia, is one reason he loves his faith.  Why pray for him, wasn't he a vampire?  Eh, well, no he wasn't - Bram Stoker from Dublin made him a vampire (through his imagination and pen, not by biting him).  But wasn't he a bloodthirsty maniac who like to take his soup while watching his victims die on stakes?  Yes, well, that is true actually, or at least that is what has been recorded by those who claim to be eye-witnesses.  I'm not going to contradict them because I do not know enough about him to challenge it.  I do know he was among the few monarchs to respond to the Church's plea to save Europe from Ottoman invasion.  That might not be something we Catholics should be declaring in public - we're in enough trouble already.  Could you imagine the headlines?  "Catholic Church Facilitated Dracula" - RTE, BBC and the New York Times would have a field day with that.  Ah, but did he sign the register in the sacristy?  If he did, he's alright!

Seriously, no one is beyond God's mercy, we must pray even for those who offend us, even the greatest tyrants, and we must forgive those who offend us, seek reconcilation and desire to be reunited in communion with each other in Christ.   Frank Weathers's piece is one of those which reminds us of the full extent of the Christian faith, how radical it actually is and how alien it is in the modern world.  Have a read yourself.

Hic Verbum Caro Factum Est

These days of Advent are truly Marian - marked particularly by Marian feasts, from the Immaculate Conception to Our Lady of Guadalupe.   Well, there is another day, one of my favourites: Our Lady of Loreto.  It is the title associated with Our Lady at the sanctuary of Loreto where the Holy House of Nazareth is preserved (La Santa Casa).

The home of the Our Lady in Nazareth was in two parts: one a grotto which remains in Nazareth and forms the heart of the Church of Our Lady there.  The other was a stone building which had been added to the grotto.  According to tradition, increasingly being supported by archaeological evidence, the house was an important centre of Christian worship in the Holy Land right from the early years.  When the Crusaders came they held the house in great veneration and built a great church over.  When the Muslims began to expel the Crusaders, in an effort to save as many relics as they could, the stone house was dismantled and taken to Europe. It was eventually reconstructed on a hill above the town of Ancona on the east coast of Italy, on a hill known for its laurels - hence the name of the sanctuary and city which grew up around the reconstructed house, Loreto.  The house is now preserved within a marble casing and is the heart of a great and beautiful basilica. 

For centuries it was believed that angels had taken the house up into the air and this feast day commemorates the house's arrival in Italy on the night of the 9th/10th December 1294.  According to the tradition the house was taken up miraculously in 1291 to save it from destruction.  It was brought by air to Tersatto, Dalmatia, in modern Croatia, where it remained for three years and became a pilgrimage site.  Then on the 9th December 1294 it was taken up again, to arrive in woods near Recanati, early on the 10th December.  The following year it was moved to the hill of laurels - Loreto.

There had been much debate over the story for centuries.  Modern historical and archaeological research has undermined the legend, but has confirmed the authenticity of the relic itself. While the story of the house's flight may not be true, this is the house of Mary, of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Spiritually there is so much to reflect on.  I had the joy of visiting the Holy House twice, and it is one of my favourite Marian shrines - it's a toss up between Fatima, Loreto and Medjugorje.   The Holy House resonates with the lives of Jesus and Mary: it can be said that those stones are silent witnesses to great events.  It is known as the House of the Annunication, and over the altar in the House are the words, taken from St John's Gospel and the Angelus (the prayer of Loreto): Hic Verbum Caro Factum Est - Here the Word Was Made Flesh - in prayer and meditation, that word "Here" is mindblowing when you realise you are actually there, within the actual walls.

Each time I have been in Loreto, Our Lady always had graces for me, and of course it is natural - you come as a guest into her home, and so she welcomes you - Our Lady is most hospitable.  I had the enjoy of offering Holy Mass twice on the altar in the House itself, and that was a tremendous privilege.  The Capuchins there are most welcoming.   

Loreto is a place I would like to bring pilgrims, though I haven't had an opportunity to do so......yet.  What do you think, Fraternity members, how about a pilgrimage to Loreto?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Our Lady of Good Help

Bishop Ricken proclaims the Church's approval of the apparitions of Our Lady of Good Help at the actual site of the apparitions.

Great news yesterday.  The Bishop of Green Bay (Wisconsin), Bishop David Ricken, has formally recognised as authentic and worthy of belief the apparitions of Our Lady to a young Belgian émigré in 1859. 

Beginning on October 9th of that year Our Lady appeared to Adele Brise on three occasions.  Here is an account of the apparitions:
“ She [Adele] was going to the grist mill about four miles from here [Champion] with a sack of wheat on her head […]. As Adele came near the place, she saw a lady all in white standing between two trees, one a maple, the other a hemlock. Adele was frightened and stood still. The vision slowly disappeared, leaving a white cloud after it. Adele continued on her errand and returned home without seeing anything more. She told her parents what had happened, and they wondered what it could be — maybe a poor soul who needed prayers?
“On the following Sunday, she had to pass here again on her way to Mass at Bay Settlement, about eleven miles from her home [...]. This time, she was not alone, but was accompanied by her sister Isabel and a neighbor woman [Mrs. Vander Niessen]. When they came near the trees, the same lady in white was at the place where Adele had seen her before. Adele was again frightened and said, almost in a tone of reproach, 'Oh, there is that lady again.'
“Adele had not the courage to go on. The other two did not see anything, but they could tell by Adele’s look that she was afraid. They thought, too, that it might be a poor soul that needed prayers. They waited a few minutes, and Adele told them it was gone. It had disappeared as the first time, and all she could see was a little mist or white cloud. After Mass, Adele went to confession and told her confessor how she had been frightened at the sight of a lady in white. He [Father William Verhoef] bade her not to fear, and to speak to him of this outside of the confessional. Father Verhoef told her that if it were a heavenly messenger, she would see it again, and it would not harm her, but to ask in God’s name who it was and what it desired of her. After that, Adele had more courage. She started home with her two companions, and a man who was clearing land for the Holy Cross Fathers at Bay Settlement accompanied them.
"As they approached the hallowed spot, Adele could see the beautiful lady, clothed in dazzling white, with a yellow sash around her waist. Her dress fell to her feet in graceful folds. She had a crown of stars around her head, and her long, golden, wavy hair fell loosely around her shoulders. Such a heavenly light shone around her that Adele could hardly look back at her sweet face. Overcome by this heavenly light and the beauty of her amiable visitor, Adele fell on her knees.
" 'In God’s name, who are you and what do you want of me?’ asked Adele, as she had been directed.
“ ‘I am the Queen of Heaven, who prays for the conversion of sinners, and I wish you to do the same. You received Holy Communion this morning, and that is well. But you must do more. Make a general confession, and offer Communion for the conversion of sinners. If they do not convert and do penance, my Son will be obliged to punish them’
“ 'Adele, who is it?'' said one of the women. 'O why can't we see her as you do?' said another weeping.
“ ‘Kneel,’ said Adele, ‘the Lady says she is the Queen of Heaven.’ Our Blessed Lady turned, looked kindly at them, and said, ‘Blessed are they that believe without seeing. What are you doing here in idleness…while your companions are working in the vineyard of my Son?’
“ ‘What more can I do, dear Lady?’ said Adele, weeping.
“ ‘Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation’
“ ‘But how shall I teach them who know so little myself?’ replied Adele.
“ ‘Teach them,’ replied her radiant visitor, ‘their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the sacraments; that is what I wish you to do. Go and fear nothing. I will help you.’ "
The manifestation of Our Lady then lifted her hands, as though beseeching a blessing for those at her feet, and slowly vanished, leaving Adele overwhelmed and prostrate on the ground.

The Bishop has also erected the site of the apparition as a diocesan shrine and has encouraged the faithful to go in pilgrimage and prayer to the church there. 

Sr Adele Brise

Adele lived a holy life, founded a congregation of Franciscan sisters and was faithful to the mission Our Lady gave her for the rest of her life.  While the Bishop has confirmed that there have been favours granted through her intercession, there are no plans to open a Cause for her canonisation.  Hopefully that will change.

The message is most interesting.  Our Lady asks Adele to "Gather the children in this wild country and teach them what they should know for salvation" - that is a mission for all ages and all countries.  Certainly it is most appropriate to the countries of the West and for the Church there - we must begin a real evangelisation in these times, to teach the children of these wild countries what they need to know for salvation.  Too many think salvation is automatic and easy - do nothing and because God loves you he will take you straight to heaven. 

So how should we teach the people of this age?  Again, Our Lady tells us: "Teach them their catechism, how to sign themselves with the sign of the Cross, and how to approach the sacraments; that is what I wish you to do."  Well, that's clear.  With the new catechism we have a marvellous document to help us in the new evangelisation.  Therein are the truths of the faith.  In the sign of the cross we see popular piety, but also the symbol of our redemption. In making the sign of the cross we make public profession of our faith and enter into the mystery of the cross - the mystery of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, and the mystery of the cross in our own lives.  How to approach the there's a controversial one.  Today many come to the sacraments with little thought.  Our Lady tells us here that there is an urgent need for proper preparation, and to be properly disposed and, as the Church teaches (and many ignore today), to the Eucharist, to be in a state of grace.  This was Adele's mission, it is the Church's mission - and our mission.

But things are difficult, we will hear.  Or, as a parishioner once said to me "You can't say things like that anymore, you will hurt people.  You have to let people be where they are and respect them"...i.e. - don't teach the Gospel, just tell us what we want to hear.  Too many have taken that message to heart because they are afraid to preach the truth - they will not be popular, you see, and if you want to get along with people, and in a way help them be good Christians, you have to be popular (that's called the new methodology for Pastoral theology).  Well, lest we be afraid, Our Lady says to Adele, and to all of us: "Go and fear nothing. I will help you."  

It is timely that the Bishop should approve the apparitions at this time.

When Is Narnia Not Narnia? 2

Well, more controversy over the upcoming Narnia movie (opening tonight).  Following on Liam Neeson's remarks, the producer of the movies Mark Johnson, responding to Neeson, said: “resurrection exists in so many different religions in one form or another, so it’s hardly exclusively Christian...We don’t want to favor one group over another … whether these books are Christian, I don’t know”.  One would have thought he would have looked to the author of the Narnia books to see if they are Christian or not: even the quickest of glances would have confirmed they are.  Sad to hear this because not only does this poor approach affect the movies and their interpretation of the books and their meaning, but also reveals that those involved seem not to have "got" Lewis at all, and if they have not "got" Lewis, then how can they understand the language of the books?

The Narnia books serve two purposes. One - they are good children's stories, entertaining, but also edifying.  The other purpose, which is the main one given Lewis' interests and his life's work, is catechetical.  He is exploring the faith through the genre of children's fiction, and using that medium to speak to children about Christ and the history of salvation which is presented in an ingenious way in the novels.  This was not unique for Lewis, he wrote other fictional works, science fiction included, in which he explored the depths of the Christian message. Lewis (an Irishman I am proud to say!!) was one of the 20th century's great apologists and popular theologians, and one of the greatest Christian writers of all time, it is strange that those working on the film adaption of his works should be so ignorant....or are they?  Is it simply a case of their not wanting to be seen to be "christian" since to be so is not cool in Hollywood?

Perhaps, anyway, all that said, they are still good movies and they can still be used to draw people's attention to what Lewis is teaching - that's our job, and I think we have the ability to do that.