Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Come To Visit Our Saint!

Following my earlier post today, if you read the comments in the combox you will see that Barbara from San Vitale, three kilometres from Assisi in Italy has contacted us to let us know that the skull of St Vitalis of Assisi is safe and well and jealously guarded in their local church.  Long may it continue.  It seems they love him dearly there, and thank God for it. 

So, a message to all you pilgrims, if you are going to Assisi ask your organisers to include San Vitale on the itinerary (it's only three kilometres from Assisi - you could walk it) to pay a visit to the venerated skull of the hermit Saint, another St Augustine, and yes, patron of genital diseases and STIs.  Remember all who suffer from these illnesses, pray for purity and chastity for all of us, and remember a poor auctioneer and an actor in Hollywood who think they have his head! 

I think I feel another Fraternity pilgrimage coming on .....  Pack the bags boys and girls, it will be a Rosary before the head, and coffee in the bars of San start with!

Guess what, just discovered, today is his feast day!!  Happy feast day!

The Case of St Vitalis: It Gets Worse

Further to my post yesterday on the sale of the skull of St Vitalis, more information is emerging, and I'm afraid it's not good.  This affair just gets seedier the more we go on.

In an interview on Irish radio yesterday the auctioneer said that the head had been bought by a Hollywood actor who wanted it for the "shock value".   This actor bought the head for €3,500, even though much higher bids were made - our bid was higher than this,  and there was another much higher again at €10,000.  The auctioneer admitted that these bids, from Irish bidders, were excluded from the auction because the owners wanted the head to go out of Ireland.  Now this is very odd given that they opted to put the head up for sale in an open auction in Ireland.  At the very least this is very strange and merits, perhaps, a more official investigation into how the auction was conducted. I am not an expert on codes of behaviour for auctioneers, but I do get a fishy smell here.

Apart from that I am deeply disturbed about the whole thing.   That the probable relic of a Saint was bought for its "shock value", the media interest, and even the auctioneer's own attitude on national radio, all of this is offensive not only to Catholics as we see the possible remains of one of our martyrs disparaged and traded as if mere consumer objects, but even on a human level that the earthly remains of a human being should become an object for such derision  is offensive.  That an actor should be the one to buy it for a lark is also sad - when I heard I was reminded why our Fraternity was founded - another actor that needs our prayers.

I suppose it must be prayers all round: the actor, the auctioneer, the family who sold it, the media leading the derision.  As a friend pointed out to me yesterday: "God will not be mocked" - and he won't.  So we will have to pray and leave things in the hands of God.

Reflecting on this whole affair, I suppose we should not be surprised that the secular world should be so callous when it comes to the most cherished treasures of the Church.  Following Vatican II thousands of relics were unceremoniously dumped, many rare ones being lost forever.  Some were buried, but others, unfortunately, were thrown into bins and rubbish skips.  I know of one situation where the sisters of a congregation had to relinquish their personal relics so they could all be disposed of.  If the Church and her representatives should treat relics with such contempt, why are we surprised when ignorant secularists do the same - at least they buy them to show them off to their friends - "shock value" is not as bad as pure contempt and embarrassment.

Thankfully in recent years, a new generation is rediscovering the significance of relics and the Church is trying to clamp down on the sale and abuse of them.  Relics, for us as Catholics, are cherished mementos of Our Lord and our saintly heroes.  They do not possess magical powers and we do not worship them: we venerate them as holy things.  We are not alone in this: the Buddhists preserve relics of Buddha and venerate them, and some Muslims honour the relics of their heroes - objects which belonged to Muhammad are held in great esteem by his followers (I wonder would the auctioneer have dealt with a relic of Muhammad in the same way as the head of St Vitalis - if he did he would now be in hiding).   Relics for us Catholics serve as reminders of the Saint or Blessed's presence.  If they are first class (pieces of the person's body or hair), we venerate the sacred remains as at their tomb, the remains of one who has become holy and who now stands in the presence of God.  They must always be treated with the utmost respect.

The sale of the skull of St Vitalis gives the impression that relics can be owned - they can't.  Those who have relics of a Saint or Blessed are no more than custodians for a time, and they have a duty to ensure that when they die, or if they give them as gifts, that they go to reliable people, or, even better, they go back to the Church, diocese or religious family from which they came.  So if you have relics you must be very careful and ensure they do not fall into the wrong hands.  By and large, to ensure this, the Church and many religious families will now only give first class relics to churches and members of the clergy.  This will also fulfil the requirement that they be used for the veneration of the faithful.  So if you have relics, make provision for them in your will.

If we learn anything from this sordid affair of the head of St Vitalis, is for us Catholics to be more protective of our holy things - how the Eucharist is treated is far worse than that dished out to relics.  We should use this situation as one which will lead us to a greater devotion, a deeper living of our faith.  And we must also learn to pray more, especially for those who make little of holy things. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Case of St Vitalis

Thank you for your prayers over the last few days.  It seems a number of you worked out what the situation was as some contacted me to ask if they could help.  It was all much appreciated.  We were trying to save the relic of St Vitalis which was coming up for auction in Duleek and which was sold yesterday.  Unfortunately, despite the prayers, we failed.  I do not know who bought the relic, but we can only hope it will be respected.  The modern trade in relics is positively medieval and shameful; it is also a big business and deeply offensive not only to the Church which cherishes the sacred remains of her Saints, but to every human being as human remains which should be respected are traded on the open market.  Ironic isn’t it: many reject the Church and her teachings and her Saints, but they still want her treasures, including the relics of her holy ones.

A number of us formed a consortium to see if we could save the relic.  We found ourselves in a tight spot because Canon Law forbids the sale of relics, but allows for an effort to buy them if they can be saved from desecration.   We contacted the auctioneer and made an offer, but he refused to entertain any offers – the head was going to auction regardless.  That led me, personally, to conclude that there were other issues at play here apart from selling the skull.  We could not contact the family who were selling it – their identity was protected – as it probably needed to be.   We then got some money together and tried to make some effort to buy it at auction.  With an eye to Canon Law we recognised that morally we could not fuel a frenzied competition, and so we limited the amount and left the rest in the hands of God.  We failed, but we still leave the matter in the hands of the Lord and his providence.

Were we justified in doing what we did?  Yes, we fulfilled the narrow condition laid down by Canon Law and we were trying to save it.  What really got us going, and fulfilled the criteria, was our discovering that it was being suggested on gay websites that a gay sauna buy the relic for exposition in the sauna, since this St Vitalis was being described as the patron saint of genital diseases.  I was appalled when I read this, as were others and we were determined to do something to prevent this.  If a gay group had attempted to buy the relic, I hope they failed in their bid.

All that said: who is this St Vitalis, an unknown saint who has now achieved fame, or notoriety, on the web?  There are a number of St Vitalises (?), and while we do not know which one the skull belongs to, he is not the one the auctioneer and news reports say he is.  According to the reports it was the skull of St Vitalis of Assisi (1295-1370), an Italian hermit.  He is the patron of genital diseases, but he is not a martyr – the skull, if you take a quick look is identified as being that of a martyr.  So we can take it that all the hype was for nothing.  Now how did they come to identify the skull as belonging to St Vitalis of Assisi?  Well it was either pure ignorance or by design and all possibly via an internet search and the wisdom of Wikipedia.  If by design, it might be suggested that the reference to a saint and genitals would have guaranteed a princely sum and increased interest.    Decide for yourselves.  St Vitalis of Assisi’s relics rested in the Cathedral of San Rufino in San Vitale, Italy, southeast of Assisi until 2001 when they were returned to their original resting place in Viole di Assisi. 

Viole di Assisi Transfer escursioni in umbria                                      — Assisi
Church of St Vitalis of Assisi, Viole di Assisi, where the relics of the hermit saint
are now preserved and venerated

So who was this St Vitalis?  It may be that of St Vitalis the martyr.  Now there are a number of known martyrs with this name.  The most famous is St Vitalis of Milan, husband of St Valeria and father of SS Gervase and Protase, he was put to death for his faith in the 1st or 2nd centuries by being buried alive with a pile of stones put on his head.  I notice some news reports try to merge this martyrdom with St Vitalis of Assisi.

Federico Barocci - The Martyrdom of San Vitale (Saint Vitalis of Milan)
The martyrdom of St Vitalis of Milan,  father of SS Gervase and Protase

St Felicity of Rome and her seven martyred sons, one of them being
St Vitalis

Another St Vitalis is the son of St Felicity of Rome who was martyred with his mother in 165 AD.  A third is St Vitalis of Hadrumetum in Africa, who was put to death with St Honoratus and ten companions during the persecution of Diocletian in 303: he was beheaded in Vellenaio on the 29 August 303. 

Tomb of St Vitalis of Bologna, and his master, St Agricola, who were martyred in 304,
preserved in the Church of  SS Vitale e Agricola, Bologna

A fourth is St Vitalis of Bologna, a Christian slave martyred with his master in Bologna, again during the persecution of Dioceltian, this time in 304: this St Vitalis was slain in the amphitheatre.   There is also mention of a St Vitalis who was martyred in the persecution of the Emperor Decius in 250 AD.  Or it may be the relic of another Vitalis who perished in one of the persecutions.  There are numerous martyrs, many of them unknown, and even many whose names were unknown but given a name to assist devotion – for example there is a clatter of St Victorias, Martyr: we do not know these women’s names, but they are venerated for their victory for Christ.  So this Vitalis could be an unknown martyr and just given the name or, indeed, the relic could just be a fake.

So how did an Anglo-Irish family come across this relic?  It has been proposed that an ancestor picked it up when on the Grand Tour.  For those of you who do not know about the Grand Tour, it was, simply, the rambles of rich young gentlemen around Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries to finish off their education.  It started as a means of completing a Classical education, bringing these young aristocrats to the ancient sites of antiquity: Greece, Italy, Turkey and Egypt.  That’s how it started.  By the middle or end of the 19th century it had become the upper crust boy’s prolonged booze-up across the flesh pots of Europe where a quick glimpse of the remains of ancient Rome led to an drink and drug fuelled evening in the arms of a lady (or lad) in a local brothel. 

On these trips the young gentlemen did pick up souvenirs, though, to be honest, the relics of a Catholic martyr would not be expected to be among the objects brought home, not for Anglo-Irish Protestants who were not too fond of things Catholic.  So how did it end up with this family?  Perhaps the ancestor was interested in things Catholic and managed to secure the skull.  Now the skull could be a fake, a quick visit to the local charnel house and a bit of DIY by a local artisan with a percentage coming his way, might have satisfied the desire. 

If it is authentic, however, there may a few explanations as to how it ended up in the luggage home to Ireland, although one may be disturbingly possible.  No Catholic church, priest or religious community would hand such a major relic over to a Protestant gentleman regardless of who he was.  The skull may have been either spirited away by a corrupt official or sacristan for a nice tidy sum, or the future owner took matters into his own hands either as part of a jape or out of avarice – either way it is possible that the relic, if authentic, was stolen from a Catholic church.  We will never know.  All we know is that it ended up in a Co. Louth house, then bunged out into a shed, and now has been sold on the open market.  Not a savoury story at all.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Prayers Needed Urgently

Dear readers, can I ask your prayers for a special intention, over the next few days?  A situation has developed and I have been asked to intercede to prevent a desecration - please join me in this.  I may not be able to tell you, for various reasons, but your intercession would be much appreciated and is needed.  Thank you for whatever you can do.  I am starting a Rosary Triduum for this intention, and will ask the Lord to bless all those who join their prayers in union with mine.  God bless you all.

St Philip and Vatican II

As we celebrate St Philip Neri's feast day, some thoughts.  His life and apostolate were revolutionary - indeed at the time he was held in deep suspicion, as are many innovators.  He was thought to hold unorthodox ideas, as was his spiritual son Blessed John Henry Newman.  He was, of course, strictly kosher and orthodox in faith, he was just a little unorthodox when it came to evangelisation.  You might say novel, but that implies novelty, and though he was always good for a laugh and quirky, St Philip could never be described as a novelty.  Indeed, while he loved good humour, he had no time for buffoonery.

Was St Philip a man ahead of his time?  He was a gift to the Church in his time, helping the reform of the Church following the Protestant Reformation, and a major figure in the Counter-Reformation.  His Oratory was ingenious - gathering the faithful to pray and study doctrine, Church history, the lives and writings of the Saints and other catechetical material.  It is an idea which still holds wonderful evangelical possibilities and one which could be taken up again in these days of the New Evangelisation. 

Indeed St Philip would be most at home in this period of time as a priest of the Church following Vatican II.  Knowing him, he would have been a fan of Blessed John XXIII - he would have understood what the Pontiff was trying to do.  If he was alive today he would have been a great help to Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.  Like all of these Pontiffs, he realised that the Gospel may need to be preached in different ways to attract the attention of modern men and women.

Interestingly, despite his innovative approach, St Philip seems always associated with a more Traditionalist view of the Church which, to my mind, is not really what he was all about.  Ironically it was the Traditionalists of the 16th century who most disliked him and tried to undermine his work, even going as far as making accusations against him to the Pope himself.   

Yet, as I think about it, given the devotion Traditionalists have for him, and his Oratories are centres for the celebration of the Extraordinary Form, St Philip could be a figure of reconciliation and harmony in the Church in these times.   He would make a good patron of liturgical reform as he would be of the New Evangelisation.  St Philip does indeed have much to say to us today.

This Joyful Feast

Today is the feast of St Philip Neri, the apostle of Rome and apostle of joy.  Founder of the Congregation of the Oratory, he was filled with an evangelical spirit which led him to assist the Church in the process of reform in the 16th century.  He recognised that true reform began in the individual soul, and so his life was dedicated to the renewal of men and women, bringing them back to Christ and enkindling a spirit of devotion, intellectual pursuits and Christian cultural activities. 

He reminded the people of his time of the importance of the sacraments, especially confession which had fallen into disuse following the Renaissance and the divinisation of man.  His celebration of the Mass was, literally, mystical, reminding those who participated in it, that it is no mere service, but the sacred sacrifice of Christ. 

We need St Philip back again, especially in Ireland, so my prayer today is that God may raise up for us in Ireland another Philip Neri to help us in the process of renewal.  Please join me in that prayer today.

As today is one of my favourite feasts in the whole year, I intend to celebrate big time, so as you join me in prayer, join me in the feast.  No fasting today, but raise a toast to the great apostle of joy, Good St Philip!

Buona festa a tutti!!

The Incorrupt Body of St Philip

Litany of St Philip Neri
(Composed by Blessed John Henry Newman)

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,
Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary,                                       pray for us
Holy Mother of God,                          
Holy Virgin of Virgins, 
St. Philip,
Vessel of the Holy Ghost,
Child of Mary,
Apostle of Rome,
Counsellor of Popes,
Voice of Prophecy,
Man of primitive times,
Winning Saint,
Hidden hero,
Sweetest of Fathers,
Flower of purity,
Martyr of charity,
Heart of fire,
Discerner of spirits,
Choicest of priests,
Mirror of the divine life,
Pattern of humility,
Example of simplicity,
Light of holy joy,
Image of childhood,
Picture of old age,
Director of souls,
Gentle guide of youth,
Patron of thy own,

Who didst observe chastity in thy youth,
Who didst seek Rome by divine guidance,
Who didst hide so long in the Catacombs,
Who didst receive the Holy Ghost into thy heart,
Who didst experience such wonderful ecstasies,
Who didst so lovingly serve the little ones,
Who didst wash the feet of pilgrims,
Who didst ardently thirst after martyrdom,
Who didst distribute the daily word of God,
Who didst turn so many hearts to God,
Who didst converse so sweetly with Mary,
Who didst raise the dead,
Who didst set up thy houses in all lands,

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

V. Remember thy Congregation.
R. Which thou hast possessed from the beginning.

Let us pray
O God, who hast exalted blessed Philip, Thy Confessor, in the glory of Thy saints, grant that, as we rejoice in his commemoration, so we may profit by the example of his virtues, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A New Saint?

Anyone who has read the history of the Reformation in England would be mightily impressed by Katherine of Aragon, the wife cast off by Henry VIII.  In the midst of all her troubles and sufferings, she maintained a serenity and resourcefulness which most obviously emerged from her Catholic faith.  Sometimes depicted as a religious fanatic, even a quick survey of the reality of her life and personality reveals such depictions to be biased and lacking foundation.  The question which emerges is: was Katherine of Aragon a Saint?

With an interest in the English Reformation, I have discussed that with many people down the years, and just last Saturday a friend and I were talking about it on the way to Belfast.  Most agree that there is a good chance that she was, and it seems one man, Gregory Nassif St John, is determined to do something about it ( Read this article for more information). 

As I read this, while I see some Church figures are open, I sense hesitation: there must be devotion to her, they say.  Yes, that is true, and there is some evidence. But should there be overwhelming, universal devotion to a figure before a Cause can be started?  No.  First of all there must be the fama - a reputation for holiness: that is vital.  With that you can start.  The advice Mr Nassif St John was given is sound: start making her known: bring her to people's attention and then see if devotion begins. 

I hope a Cause begins for Katherine - many people in the Church and the world today would benefit from the example she offers us.  In particular I think of those who, though they devoted themselves to their marriages, were abandoned by a spouse who sought pastures new.  Katherine's holiness, I believe, came as the fruit of her fidelity to her marriage vows and her heroic prayer for the conversion of her husband.  If Henry VIII made it to Purgatory it was because of Katherine's prayers.

In the Anglo-Irish world we seem very cautious of Saints and Causes, indeed, without being negative, I sometimes think there is an aversion.  I certainly know that in the minds of some bishops and priests saint-making is an unnecessary distraction from real pastoral concerns.  Whenever I have spoken to bishops/priests about opening the Cause for a particular person I have been told that the "Irish Church"(sic) has more important things to be doing.  I find that interesting since the glorification of holy people from a particular local church is always the best sign of how healthy that local church happens to be.  No candidates for beatification/canonisation, or at the least if there are a few but not making any progress, may reveal a local church in spiritual stagnation or crisis.

I am always heartened by the Italians, the Poles, the Spanish, French and now the Americans and their attitude to saint-making (I note Mr Nassif St John is an American) - they see the value of it - both spiritually and pastorally.  Saints bring life to a local church, and a progressing Cause can bring people along with it, touch the lukewarm and help people rediscover faith.  A local Beatus or Saint, or someone on the way to being one, reminds people that holiness can be found in the here and the now, even in the midst of ordinary life.  Isn't that what we as priests and bishops ought to be teaching the faithful (and trying to live ourselves)?

One problem we have in Ireland, one of our national vices, is our begrudgery.  One of Ireland's great virtues is informality and hospitality - we treat everyone the same, and all receive the same warmth and kindness - we saw this with the royal visit last week.  But the downside of that is that sometimes we do not like to see other people exalted.  We have no honours system in Ireland - there have been attempts to introduce one, but all have failed.  When those proposing it reminded us that other Republics have honours systems, that argument got nowhere.  I think it is the same with saint-making - we cannot single out a certain person and seek to raise them above everyone else - that might offend people and, God help us, if there is one rigid pastoral law in Ireland it is "Do not offend anyone".  

But if we are Catholic we have to participate in the full life of the Catholic Church, including the saint-making process.  We have many holy men and women in Ireland and in the UK - we just need to start taking them seriously and making advances.  In Ireland we await the beatification of 42 martyrs, including the first Irish Carmelite (well born in England, but lived and died in Ireland), but no move - we need only a declaration of martyrdom - the work is already done: but not a dickie bird.  If every time an Irish bishop went to Rome, or a representative, they popped into the CSS HQ with the same annoying question: "Well Head, how are the martyrs getting on?" you would find some frustrated official would eventually send the messenger boy up to the Pope: "Get Benedict to sign that Decree, the Irish are driving me crazy".  That's how it works.  If all is in order you have to torment them to get a move on.  You see, with so many Causes to deal with, if there is no pressure being applied, individual cases slip further and further down the line.  Now if there is a miracle its another story, but then again if it is perceived there is no interest, CSS has enough to be getting on with...  

This group of Irish martyrs, our second, should be beatified by now, indeed, all our martyrs should well be on the way to canonisation.    And we have others: Matt Talbot, Edel Quinn, and Fr John Sullivan - amazing people - all in a state of stasis.  We should be pushing, knocking doors and dropping prayer cards all over the world in the hunt for miracles.  I think it is time to get the finger out.  Anyway, rant over.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Lighter Side

I heard all about some of the photoshop images of the Queen of England which some geniuses came up with during her visit here last week.  With all due respect to Her Majesty, it's a lighter side of the visit.  I love this one - the Queen arriving with a Lidl bag!! 

Those of you who have been to Dublin will know and perhaps have seen the Viking Splash Tour: seems Her Majesty had it included on the itinerary - she even got the souvenir postcard:


The Ash Novena

Well, here we go again.  Another Icelandic volcano has decided to heap woe on Europe.  Flights to and from Scotland have been grounded, Ryanair is up in arms saying the IAA is being too strict: are we in for a repeat of last year? 

I was just thinking, apart from last year and today, I do not remember disruptions to flights from Icelandic volcanoes - was it the case that there were no eruptions - but I would imagine there would have been.  Or is is a case, as Ryanair suggests, aviation authorities are being too strict - health and safety gone mad.  Though, to be honest with you, when it comes to flying, I have no problem with a lunatic caution - it eases the nerves to know that not even a smidgen of risk is taken.

So we're back to the dynamic duo, St Januarius and St Agatha, the patrons of volcanoes and volcanic eruptions.  In the good old Catholic tradition we can to pray to the Saints for assistance.  With one eye on our pilgrimage to Fatima in a few weeks, I am offering you a little prayer to the two martyrs for help in this time of volcanic eruptions (came to me during my Holy Hour this morning).  Call it the Ash Novena, spread it wherever you want, so all may be safe, our travel plans may go ahead, but in all things that we may accept the will of God and grow in the virtues  of abandonment and patience.

Novena to St Januarius and St Agatha
Patrons of Volcanoes
(Ash Novena!)

Blessed Martyrs, Januarius and Agatha,
you who offered your lives in witness to Christ,
into your hands we entrust all who are in danger.
Take into your special care those threatened by volcanoes
and the hazards of the natural world,
that the Lord may preserve them,
their homes and their livelihoods.
Guide all who travel and those who seek refuge,
may they find shelter in the Heart of Christ
and in the charity of their brothers and sisters in faith.

O holy Saints Januarius and Agatha,
courageous bishop and devoted virgin and bride of Christ,
commend us to the intercession of the Mother of God
so that we, like her,
may abandon ourselves to the will of the Father,
for the sake of the Son
with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, May 23, 2011

We Are Still Alive...For Now

The fact that I am writing this, and you, dear reader, are reading it, means the world did not end on Saturday last at 6pm.  Now we do have strong winds and torrential rain here in Ireland, and another Icelandic volcano is erupting but, as one wit said to me, that is probably because Obama is coming. Quite.  Anyway, apparently the prophet who predicted the end, Harold Camping, is very confused these days and is at a loss for words.  But I suppose he'll come up with something: you can't keep these evangelical preachers down, nor do their minions lose faith.

While the media people were laughing, I always get the sense they feel a little nervous because, though they do not believe, they are not quite sure either and there is always a chance something might happen.  G.K. Chesterton once wrote than when you stop believing in something you end up believing in anything.  How true that is: modern man rejects God, but then runs around worshiping nature, feeling the power of crystals (aka bright stones) and reverently consulting their horoscopes or tarot cards.

For us Christians, we are reminded of a few things.  First, we will not be able to predict the coming of the Lord - the end of the world.  There will be signs, as Jesus said, but his coming will be sudden.  It will take many by surprise, but it should not take us by surprise: following Jesus' words, we have to be ready at a moment's notice.  The end, the Second Coming, will be our moment of triumph when we look up and see Our Lord and Saviour.

Second thing: we must be aware that death can take us at any moment, and that our lives must be in order so as to go as Christians, faithful servants of the Gospel.   There should be no leaving things until tomorrow for, as Garth Brooks once reminded us, what "if tomorrow never comes"?    And we shall die as we live now:  sudden death bed conversions are rare. 

Thirdly, while Mr Camping was wide off the mark, he does remind us that we need to think about the Last Things.  At one time Catholics were aware of the Last Things, priests preached on them, retreat directors included them in their talks and pious spiritual exercises led us to meditate on them.  But no longer, a presumptious people do not like to be reminded of such negative things, nor do they accept the reality of purgatory and hell.   When I was teaching, just up last year, my students (Secondary/High School students) knew nothing about the Last Things.  Despite having had years of Catholic formation, been prepared for and recieved the sacraments, they knew nothing about basic Christian doctrine. 

In my years with them I tried to remedy that, and they were interested.  They loved the Last Things.  Brought up believing that there is only heaven and everyone goes there the second they die, they were challenged by the concept of Judgement - they had signed up to the modern Catholic concept that no one, not even God, is allowed judge you or your actions.  Purgatory was problematic - though they could see the logic of it.  As for hell - they did not believe it existed and did believe.  This is the interesting contradiction which we find in contemporary Christians - they do not believe hell exists because of a loving God, but then evil people do not go to heaven, they go to....hell.

Of course all of this betrays a dismal failure in catechesis, and the resolution of this requires solutions far beyond the classroom.   So time to address that.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Crucible

Arthur Miller is one of my favourite playwrights.  He had an deep insight into the human person - our nobility, but also our vulnerability and weakness, and, dare we even say it, our sinfulness. He was a gifted writer who could write like Shakespeare modulated for the time and place in which his dramas were set: be it the husky New York longshoreman in A View From The Bridge to the almost poetic expressions of the residents of Salem in The Crucible

This latter play is my favourite work by Miller, though it is not an easy play to watch. As you watch the innocent fall victim to vengeance and the law become a pawn in the hands of a lustful young woman, your sense of justice cries out.  The development of characters is remarkable as hidden frailties and even strengths gradually emerge as the play tumbles towards its tragic climax. 

I went to see the play recently with some friends, and reflecting on the subject matter live, you are led to see how applicable it is to many situations.  Miller wrote the play in the context of the McCarthy witch hunt of socialists and communists in 1950's America.  Now no friend of communism here, Miller's play is still a powerful exposition of hysteria and the willingness of gullible people to believe the most unbelievable.  It is also an interesting tale warning us how easy it is for some to manipulate the law for their own purposes.

Themes: the willingness of some to believe the accusers without question is problematic - surely they would not lie?  They do not need to meet the usual rigors of evidence.  No one is safe, all are suspect.    Those accused are assumed to be guilty - if they confess, there is mercy, if they maintain their innocence, then they must be guilty and are to be condemned.   Freedom and rights can be suspended in order to get to the truth - those who criticise the new process may be suspect themselves.   This last point is particularly disturbing.  In the third act as Proctor and others seek to defend the accused and question the way the trials are going, they are immediately accused by the judge of contempt: this is the process, you are not allowed to question it otherwise you are suspected of covering something up.  Unquestioning cooperation is the only option regardless of misgivings or even justice.

Miller is also anxious to reveal that there are people who are willing to make hay of difficult situations.  As Abigail Williams seeks revenge on Goody Proctor because she cannot have John Proctor, Thomas Putnam uses the situation to grab his neighbours' land.  The accusations are not only false, they are the means through which some seek to settle scores, intimidate, undermine, destroy and benefit financially.

Yes indeed, there is much to think about thanks to this play.  If you have not read or seen the play, do so.  Recommend it to your friends, and yes, your bishop and priests as well.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Zombies And The End Of The World: It's All Happening This Weekend

No sooner had we waved off Her Majesty with an invitation to please come back ringing in her ears, than we have a packed weekend to look forward to.  No I am not talking about the visit of Barack Obama to Ireland - but close!  The world is going to end on Saturday, and the American Centre for Disease Control and Prevention have decided to give us tips on what to do in the case of zombie attack.  I love whacky weekends! 

It seems an American pastor has predicted that the world is going to end on Saturday at 6pm.  This prediction is the fruit of Harold Camping's fevered research into the Book of Revelation.  Now I know Jesus said we will not know the day or the hour, and that he will come when we do not expect, that that hour will overtake us like a thief, but it seems Mr Camping has one up on Jesus and we all for it tomorrow.  So now people, time to get the rosaries out, light the blessed candles - seems the three days of darkness won't be happening, but just in case.  Proclaim a fast, lock the doors and assume a humble aspect for the Lord he doth cometh on Saturday at 6pm - just in time for his tea.   

Now, just one question for Fr Z (peace be upon him) - as a priest, seeing as the end of the world is coming at teatime Saturday, am I bound to First Vespers for Sunday????  Is it too early for the Sunday, or just in time???

As Fr Z is munching over that, the rest of us can be swotting up on what to do when the zombies come knocking on the door - which it seems, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, is a distinct possibility. Now, to be honest, I am a little disturbed, because it fails to advise on combat techniques should we get caught.  According to the news reader in the cult movie Shaun of the Dead we aim for the head, but what do we do in the real world?  So now we'll have to ask Fr Z again (PBUH):  "Father, do we aim for the head of the zombie when being attacked, and where do we stand morally?"  The Church of the Third Millennium does indeed face some new challenges and moral dilemmas.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Blessed Lucy of Narnia

Not her....

Thanks to Fr Finigan, I have just discovered that there is a Blessed Lucy of Narnia!  This is for all you Narnia fans out there!

She is, more correctly, Blessed Lucia Brocadelli of Narni, in Italy, here is the wikipedia biography.  She was a Dominican and had a fairly troubled life. 

Did C. S. Lewis base his Lucy on her? Possibly, though one would have to wonder if an Anglican Oxford don would be aware of an obscure Italian Beata.  But then again, the Holy Spirit can do all things.   That said, I believe the Lucy figure in the Narnia books represents Our Lady - she who was pure and so open to believe. 

Do you notice, the Dominicans tend to have some of the most interesting Saints? 

Celibacy In The Clear

Karen Terry of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice releases their report
on the causes of clerical abuse of children

A major study into the causes of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church has just been released. Entitled The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States and commissioned by the US Bishops, an objective party, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice conducted the research.   The report is to the Bishops to inform them and so is not a release from the Bishops.

The study, which took five years to complete at the cost of $1.8 million, has yielded some very interesting conclusions, one of which is that neither celibacy nor homosexuality were the cause of the abuse committed by some priests.  This will confound the arguments of those who want to get rid of celibacy and have been using the scandals as their trump card, and it will also confound the argument of those who maintain that homosexuality was the cause - this was too simplistic.

There are a number of causes, the report says, among them various vulnerabilities in individual priests, poor monitoring and stress. The report also points out that to refer to abusing priests as "paedophile priests" is inaccurate since less than 5% of abusers exhibited behaviour consistent with paedophila.   

Interestingly the report finds that the majority of abuse cases occurred in the period from the 1960's to the 1980's - a era when there was a loosening of sexuality morality and efforts to undermine the Church's traditional teachings on sexuality and sin.   It also corresponds with a certain generation of priests, religious and laity who have had numerous difficulties with regard to many areas of the Church's moral and doctrinal teachings.  I am not saying the crisis was caused by this generation - sexual abuse has always been with us and will always be with us - it is an evil which burrows itself into the fallen nature of man and woman.  But it is interesting to note that the worst period of the crisis was in the years a certain approach to faith and morals was in the ascendent.    The report suggests that perhaps some priests were caught up in the forces of the sexual revolution and that may have contributed to the crisis.

The report is a major contribution to our understanding of what has happened in the Church over the past twenty years or so.  Because it has been conducted by an objected party using up to date critical research methods, it carries weight.  Of course the usual suspects will regard it as a cover-up sponsored by the Church - such a position undermines the integrity of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, so we'll see how far those allegations will go (Lesson 1: don't mess with lawyers!).   I say the proponents of the sexual revolution won't be happy either, those that are still alive that is.

Here is the text of the Report.

Some reactions.  Archbishop Dolan of New York, always a sane voice, has issued an official statement.  The New York Times is frantic and trying to undermine the report.   The ever "reliable" Guardian is on the warpath, the sting is hurting it seems.  The Irish Times is struggling to be objective.  And as one would expect, the National Catholic Reporter is trying to distort the findings to blame an "autocratic papacy".  And the Boston Globe is delirious.   As you can see, most of the secular press are not happy - the conclusions were not what they wanted. 

The US Bishops have the done the Church a service in commissioning this report, we can all learn from it.  I hope our Bishops will sit down and read it and digest its contents - with everything else, it will also prove a valuable document in the reform of our seminaries. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Irish Identity

Queen Elizabeth II, President Mary McAleese and GAA President Christy Cooney walk out the tunnel towards the pitch at Croke Park. (Pic: Maxwells)
The Queen of England's visit is raising a number of issues: issues, it seems, we may need to reflect on.  One of them seems to be: what does it mean to be Irish?  If we look at the events of the last couple of days we see two different aspects of Irish life and history being acknowledged - the Celtic nationalist/republican one and the one which emerged in the years of our occupation by Britain.  Both aspects are being dealt with a view to recognising the positive dimensions of each and perhaps asking us to consider that being Irish is not exclusiving adhering to one or the other, but to both. 

Yesterday, the Queen honoured Irish nationalists, today she honoured the Irishmen and women who gave their lives in the World Wars, many of whom fought in the British army.  It has brought me to think about my own family.  My great-grandfather on my mother's side fought in the First World War in the British Army, thankfully he survived.  My grandfather on my father's side fought for Irish freedom in the War of Independence.  He was involved in the struggle against the Treaty and saw the inside of a prison cell and was excommunicated by the local bishop for his stance.  He was eventually freed, and the excommunication was lifted without any need for a sign of repentance - it was politically motivated I think, so Rome would not have upheld it.

While the Ireland of the 20th century acknowledged one identity, it did not recognise the other - those who fought in the Wars were ignored at best and treated as traitors at worst.  Yet most of the Irish who joined the British army saw themselves as fighting for Ireland.  The threat they saw in Europe was one which would, if not defeated, turn itself to our little country, and so they wanted to do their part in stopping it.  That is true. 

Our neutrality during World War II, for example, would not have saved us (it didn't save Sweden).  If Britain had fallen we would have had the Nazis landing on our shores the next day.  Our Jewish citizens, who have made vital contributions to the life of our state, would have been shipped off to the gas chambers (Nazi documents show they knew how many Jewish Irishmen and women there were).  If we thought the British were oppressive colonisers, they would have seemed like a laugh a minute in comparison with Hitler and co.   Personally, the more I reflect on the Second World War, I think Ireland should not have been neutral, but rather fighting with the Allies; as a small country we might not have been able to do much, but we would have taken a stand against the evil of the Nazi regime.

The question which may need to be asked now is: is it not time to remedy this?  Is it not time to look at our Irish identity and finally acknowledge that being Irish is not just being Celtic (whatever that means), Irish-speaker and Catholic (nominal rather than actual)?   In recent years we have rethought Irishness by including the new Irish - emigrants who are integrating into Irish life and call themselves Irish, many taking citizenship.  Thankfully, with some small hiccups, that process is happening successfully.  But what about those who acknowledge a relationship with Britain and with the Crown?  Here we come to the whole issue of Northern Ireland and the Unionist/Loyalist tradition.  With relations improving there, we may need to see adjustments down here. 

These are just thoughts prompted by the visit of the Queen.  Are we starting a new era when Ireland and the UK will finally be good neighbours and friends, sharing resources, events,and perhaps, in some way, an identity?  We in Ireland should have nothing to fear, this visit has shown that we have taken our place among the nations of the world (even if the world is bailing us out of our economic woes - note: Britain was the first to offer financial assistance).  Personally I believe there should be a vibrant relationship.  At various events and celebrations, for example, invitations should be issued to each other - friends including friends in important moments.  The Queen should not be a rare visitor to Ireland, nor the President to the UK, but frequent visitors, not surrounded by draconian security, but made welcome as friends and neighbours.  A relationship like that would yield many blessings and much fruit in the North of Ireland, and indeed here in the Republic. 

Time to learn from the past, but not allow it haunt our future.  After all, if I may bring religion into the issue - we are all Christians - we are two Christian nations - is it not time to act like Christians? 


I am conscious that my non-Irish readers may not be aware of the background: Ireland's struggle for independence and grievances.  William Oddie of the Catholic Herald has a good article here.  He talks about the last few years of British occupation, but the seven hundred years before also presented problems for Anglo-Irish relations.  Alot of ghosts over a long period of time are being exorcised this week.

The Queen's speech was excellent.  She opened speaking in Irish, "A hUachtarain agus a chairde" (trans. President and friends).  She then expressed sympathy and, it seems to me, regret for the events of history:
"It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss. These events have touched us all, many of us personally, and are a painful legacy. We can never forget those who have died or been injured or their families.  To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy.  With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all."

The Story So Far...

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is pictured after laying a wreath in the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, on May 17, 2011, on the first day of her four-day visit to Ireland. Queen Elizabeth II arrived in Dublin Tuesday for the first trip by a British monarch to the Irish Republic as the discovery of a bomb near the capital underscored the threat from republican hardliners.
The moment of reconciliation

Last night we had our Film Club in Dublin,  a small crowd turned up, probably because of the state of the city - it is very difficult to get around at times with the security which has been put in place for the Queen of England's state visit.  Thankfully I got my car to my usual parking lot - opposite the Pro-Cathedral (where else!). 

As I was driving gingerly through the city I could see some of those protesting against the visit and the hundreds of gardai who were, successfully thank God, keeping them under control.  To be honest, many of these protestors, from what I saw, did not look like they would be the type to be politically motivated, if you get my drift.  Talking with a friend I met on O'Connell Street, she said it was as if someone had gathered up a busload of ne'er do wells and brought them in to create a bit of trouble.

That said, the state visit is going very well.  I got to see some of it on TV and I was impressed, most particularly with the way the government have organised the whole affair. The state ceremonies were conducted with great nobility and expertise.  They say that when it come to such things the Vatican and Britain outshine everyone else, that is true, but Ireland was just as good yesterday.

For us Irish the most poignant event yesterday was the Queen's laying a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance.  For those who do not know Irish history this ceremony may seem pedestrian, but not so - it was an historic moment, one which should be of great healing between our two countries. 

The Garden of Remembrance is the national monument in memory of all those who died for Irish freedom - those who perished at the hands of the British.  For a British monarch to lay a wreath and bow her head to honour these people was a courageous act.  This, as one commenter said yesterday, is even greater than an apology.  Unfortunately the meaning was lost on many protestors who, it seems, are not willing to give any ground, or even seek reconciliation.   While our history is complex, we in Ireland should not forget that here are British people who themselves hold legitimate grievances against us - we do not hold the high moral ground no more than Britain does: there were wrongs on both sides.  This is something Irish Republicanism needs to acknowledge.

The first word Christ uttered from the cross was "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do".  As his followers we are to understand from this that not only do we forgive, but we seek to do so at the earliest opportunity - immediately even, if possible, while we are being offended.  Forgiveness must become second nature to us.  Forgiveness brings true healing and a new beginning.  As we forgive, we are aware that we too need forgiveness for the wrongs we have done, and so the Lord's Prayer acts serves to remind us of that, making the forgiveness we need conditional on that we extend to others: "Forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us".  If Ireland is a Christian country, that should colour the events of these days.  But of course Ireland is losing its Christianity, and as it does so, it will lose its nobility.  There was little nobility in the protesting I witnessed yesterday on the streets and on the TV.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

St Genesius Film Club Tonight

At our film club tonight we are showing a documentary on Blessed John Paul II to celebrate his beatification.  if you are in Dublin and you can make it through the maze of barriers constructed for the royal visit, come along.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Evangelising Imagination

This is what the Fraternity is all about.  RomeReports has a good report on a recent symposium in which participants reflected on art, Christianity and secular culture.  I love Joseph Pearce's idea of evangelising imaginations.

Movers and Shakers...

Anne Arco of the Catholic Herald online has a good article surveying the recent meeting of the Bishops of England and Wales, the meeting which saw them restore the traditional Friday penance of abstaining from meat.

She also points out that the Bishops are now looking again at the decision they made to move certain feast days to the nearest Sunday - Ascension Thursday and Corpus Christi in particular.  The Bishops of Ireland made a similar decision not long after their England and Welsh brothers.  Like Arco I am glad that they are looking again at the issue.  The issue centres around choosing between making it more convenient for people to get to Mass for the feast day versus the rhythm of the Church's life and liturgical year.

To be honest I do not think there is a contest here at all.  First of all when the Vigil Mass was introduced it was for those who, through work or other unavoidable commitments, could not make Mass on Sunday morning, and so they could fulfil their Sunday obligation on Saturday evening.  I underline unavoidable because, as with lots of things in the Church, the original purpose of the Vigil Mass has been lost and now it is just another Mass of convenience.    So really, taking the spirit of the Vigil Mass, that should allow people to fulfil the obligation of the Holy Day. 

Secondly, the movement of the feast days has broken the liturgical rhythm of the Church's life.  Now I know the liturgy allows for this - the Office, for example splits into two when it comes to Epiphany or Ascension Thursday.  But in reality our common celebration of the Lord's life is no longer universal.  Ascension Thursday, sorry Ascension Sunday, or...Ascension Thursday on Sunday (Ascension Day?), apart from being the day the Lord ascended, also begins the great novena in preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  That novena was the original novena, the model of all others, nine days of prayer, and it has been lost because of the move.  Call me old fashioned, but I think such devotions are vital for the life of the Church.  What better way to remind the faithful of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church that those nine liturgical days awaiting with Mary and the disciples the coming of the Advocate. 

Let's commend the Bishops to the help and influence of the Holy Spirit, and indeed pray the same issue may arise at a meeting of the Irish Bishops sometime very soon.

Arco also points out that the Ordinary of the new Personal Ordinariate, Mgr Keith Newton, also attended the meeting - his first.  He has a place on the Episcopal Conference.  I hope his presence and participation will help the Bishops.  I see the Ordinariate has no home as of yet, they are still looking for a church and HQ, so we should keep them in our prayers.  I pray they get one soon.  Next time I am in London I would be keen to attend Mass there to see how they offer it: I imagine it would be a liturgically rich celebration.  I might even pick up a few ideas - I think that's what Pope Benedict may have in mind - cross pollination.

Thou Art Simon

Today, in the Carmelite Order, we celebrate the feast of St Simon Stock, renowned in Catholic spirituality as the one who is believed to have received the Scapular vision.  Now you have heard me whine on before about the antics of some in the Church during the Sixties and Seventies who tried to convince us he never existed, so I will not rant on about it on his feast day: suffice to say that Simon did indeed exist.  As for the Scapular vision, well, they are still fighting that one out.  In reality the Scapular vision is as controversial as Medjugorje, though in reverse, ironically: many traditionalists believe it happened, many moderates and liberals do not and say that the Church has not formally approved the vision (non constant de supernaturalitate????).  Personally I believe.

Anyway, St Simon was a remarkable man. He was an Englishman who was elected superior of the Order at a most difficult and challenging time.  Having been forced to leave Mount Carmel as Muslims conquered the Holy Land, he had the task of helping a community of hermits not only readjust, but to find their place in the Church and the world.  He and others steered the Order in the right direction and today we have two religious Orders (Discalced and Ancient Observance) in the Carmelite family. He is said to have written the Flos Carmeli, the Carmelite antiphon to Our Lady, and despite his great age when he was elected (he was in his eighties, according to tradition), he travelled a great deal and founded new communities in the great university cities of Europe.  He died in 1265 at the age of a hundred. 

St Simon is most often associated with Aylesford in Kent in England, the site of one of the first Carmelite communities outside the Holy Land and today his skull rests in a shrine there.   Regardless of what we may think about the Scapular vision, St Simon remains a fine example of holiness and devotion to Our Lady, whom he served with all his heart.  Even as an old man, the youth of the Holy Virgin kept him strong, and he was able to fulfil the duties of his office with great energy and dedication. 

The Skull of St Simon Stock in Aylesford, England.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"And A Child Shall Lead Us"

First Holy Communion Day in the parish here - this and next Sunday, to cater for the two primary schools.  In the visits to the children I have been introducing them to various aspects of the Eucharist and who the Eucharist is - not easy when the official catechetical programme is so bad.  Luckily I have two good teachers who have been preparing the children well. 

Among those we discussed was Little Nellie of Holy God, known throughout the world for her precocious faith and love of the Eucharist.  She died at the age of four renowned for her sanctity.  The children were fascinated by the story of her life and her love of Jesus.  Since our talk they have asked me about her a number of times. 

Little Nellie, more formally Ellen Organ, was a marvellous child.  Fr Owen Gorman and myself devoted a programme to her in our first series of Forgotten Heritage.  She was a wonderful example of how develop a relationship with the Lord through the Eucharist.  Despite huge devotion to her, first in Ireland, and now throughout the world (thanks to Tan Books' little biography), a Cause has not been opened for her and may not. 

It has been said that after her death the Pope, St Pius X, was asked if a Cause could be opened, but he said that she was an angel in heaven and so seemed to dismiss the idea of a Cause.  I do not think this quite correct - Pius did initiate a preliminary investigation, but died before he could do anything further.  Since then nothing has happened.  One of the obstacles was her age - could the Church proclaim a four year old as a Saint?  Well, we now have a number of Causes for children, including a seven year old, the Venerable Antonietta Meo.  I think the time is ripe for a Cause to be opened for this four year old.

A Cause for Nellie would bring many blessings to Ireland.  First of all her Eucharistic faith would inspire many in an age when Adoration is growing as a spiritual exercise among the faithful.  Given that Dublin is hosting next year's Eucharistic Congress this would be a most appropriate time to open a Cause.  The glorification of Nellie could serve to bring healing to the Church in Ireland.  Nellie was in a orphanage and her experience was positive.  That would bring out the other side of what happened in these care homes.  As an intercessor and an orphan raised to the altars, she could also serve as a model of healing for those who were abused.  

All that said, it seems the Church in Ireland is not really that keen to pursue Causes - we have very few and those Causes are not moving.  Our martyrs, for example, who need only a decree of martyrdom to achieve beatification, seem to be languishing.  If no one is pushing them and not popping in to the Congregation every now and again, Rome will process those Causes where interest is being shown.   If Rome thinks there is no interest, they won't speed up, after all they have enough work to do: many other countries are producing Saints and they are interested.

So, pray for Nellie's glorification.  She has much to teach us we need only stop and listen and realise what great blessings this holy child could bring to the Church through her beatification and canonisation.  A priest once said to me, "When a Cause for Little Nellie is opened, then we will know that the Church in Ireland is beginning to reform".  Good point there.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Technical Difficulties

My silence over the last few days was due to technical difficulties on Blogger.  After a hectic week I had a few minutes to blog, but I could not access my account.  So I'm back, God help you all!

So much to talk about.  I see the Bishops of England and Wales are restoring the Friday fast from meat - great news, and yet the abstention from meat on Fridays was never abolished - Vatican II did not do away with it, though many Catholics are under the impression that it did. 

Here in Ireland the Bishops gave greater freedom with regard to a Friday penance.  While abstaining from meat was traditional, people were invited to do another form of penance if they decided to eat meat on Fridays.  Of course, as with lots of things in the Church, when you do this people just start eating meat and don't replace it with another penance.  I remember when Pope Benedict issued his Letter to the Irish he told us (not asked, or suggested - told us) to offer our Friday penances for a year in reparation for the abuse of children.  Many of those that read the Letter (very few I fear) did not understand what he meant - "What's this Friday penances thing?" I was asked.   I hope the Bishops here will considering following their English and Welsh brothers.

I also see that the long awaited Instruction on the Extrarordinary Form has been released: Universae Ecclesiae.  I'm sure the hearts of the Traditionalists have finally stopped beating madly.  There has been wild speculation and almost fanatic fears on the blogs that the freedoms granted by Pope Benedict would be taken back or restricted.  They were not.  So the online rosaries to protect the Pope from the evil machinations of the Curia were not needed, though I suppose you'll find some people claiming the Rosaries worked.  I just think the Curia did what Benedict told them to do.

Speaking of Rosaries, I got an email today from a group planning a Rosary Procession in Dublin to stop the visit of the Queen of England to our country.  Apparently Ireland should not welcome the Queen because we already have one - Our Lady is the only Queen of Ireland.  If the media get hold of this they will use it to bash the Church again.  I can see the headlines; Catholics Protest Queen's Visit (minus clarifications).  You know sometimes your own worst enemies are are your own people!  At a time when reconciliation and peace have finally come to our country, and we are gradually developing a mature relationship with the neighbours, there are some, be they terrorists or right wing Catholic republicans, who have to make the process of peace difficult.  

The Queen will visit some nationalist hotspots in our country - the Garden of Remembrance and Croke Park where the British murdered fourteen innocent people as they attended a football match - one of them was a player called Hogan (no relation).  I think these visits may prove to be vital and I think we should listen carefully to what she has to say - I think there will be a gesture of reconciliation coming.  That said, we should have enough confidence in our people and nation not to be threatened by the Queen's visit.

Of course all of this is ironic given most Irish people follow and support English football teams, eat English produced foods, speak the language and watch English TV - many being addicted to English soaps.  And whenever we face financial crisis, many have taken the boat to England to find work.  Irony of ironies.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Blessed John Paul's II Hymn A Running Success

Do you remember that moment when Pope John Paul was declared Blessed and his image was unveiled from the balcony of St Peter's, and when the two sisters brought the relics to the Pope?  Those very emotional moments were accompanied by the official hymn to the new Blessed which definitely heightened the atmosphere. 

Well according to RomeReports the hymn is turning out to be a big success and bringing its composer, Mgr Marco Frisina to the world's attention.  Very nice.  I hope it will feature on a CD soon.  The music is catchy yet solemn, and pulls on the emotions.   Here's the report.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

There Is No Forgiveness For Them

Related to a post I wrote last week on the feast of Blessed Edmund Rice,  I see an article in the Catholic Herald on the future of the Christian Brothers.  The Superior, Br Philip Pinto says the future looks bleak, and financially they are broke.    Some of the comments in the combox are interesting. I presume they are written by Christians, though by the attitude there seems to be little Christianity in any of them.  One commenter puts it well -
By what I see from the comments, that this order has done nothing good at all. Then this order should be put down/disbanded because it seem that the sin of some is the sin of all. Yes, there is no forgiveness for them. They have betrayed the trust of the people and the faith, we never sinned at all, that's why we should hurl rocks at them... Remember... Jesus came down, much for the sinner than for the just.
That hits the nail on the head.  There is so much self-righteousness out there, there is no mercy.  I see the same with the reaction to the Mass for Osama bin Laden - it appears we must all consign him to hell.  Yet, if we remember what the Lord teaches us in the Gospel, and even in the prayer he taught us:  "Forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us."  God's mercy is conditional  - it will be given on the condition we forgive others "from the heart".  Many of us seem to forget that.  But we need to take that seriously, our salvation, literally, depends on it.

That said, with regard to the Christian Brothers and the abuse crisis in general, I agree with Baroness Nuala O'Loan.  The Catholic Church is a scapegoat for a greater problem in Irish society, and in the world in general.  The vast amount of abuse is committed by the non-celibate, by the laity, yet to point that out is to bring condemnation on your head.  At the moment society is not willing to hear that fact, perhaps because, among other things, there are many in society who want to distract attention from their crimes and concentrating on the Church takes the heat off them.  But it also means that their victims are forced into silence: they are the silent majority who suffer abuse and neither governement nor media are interested because it is too dangerous for either party to try and scratch the surface of that problem.  There are a number of reasons for that, and I suspect one of them may be that when you start looking you never know who you will find among the guilty. 

No doubt you have read it already, but Archbishop Timothy Dolan's airport encounter is worth reading with regard to this.