Saturday, July 23, 2011

Time For Prayer?

Saint John of Nepomuk

This will be a short post (famous last words).  Still on holiday in Europe, I was admiring some beautiful statues of St John Nepomuk, patron saint of the confessional Seal, and thinking that we priests should really be saying a few prayers to this martyr of the confessional, most especially if Enda, Alan and Frances have their way and "require" us to reveal what we have heard in confession.  As someone said to me, they will seek only a breach of the Seal for cases of chilld abuse, but then, later, it will be broadened to encompass any crime - anything for which one could be convicted in a court of law.  Perhaps.  I think at this stage saner people than the Taoiseach and his ministers realise this law would be unworkable, so I do not think it will happen.  But then again recent Irish governments have been full of surprises.

So, a thought hit me.  Pope Benedict has asked us to pray and make reparation for the sins and crimes of child abuse - our Friday Penances are being offered for that, and rightly so.  But perhaps we need to pray more intently for our priests - as I indicated in a previous post, but why not for courage for our priests that should the new law come into being they will be able to stand against it as did St John Nepomuk.  As I was praying to him the idea of promoting devotion to him came to mind, perhaps even a national novena?  A prayer could be easily composed and printed if offerings were forthcoming, and then sent to all the priests in Ireland, again offerings permitting, and also disseminated among the laity.  What do you think? I see the Church in Australia is now facing the same threat to the Seal - the Catholics there might row in too.  Perhaps we might all think about it, and pray about it, and I could do something when I get back to Ireland. If you have any ideas you know where to contact me - suggestions from brother priests would be most welcome.

I am going silent for a few days - need to take a break from blogging and the internet connection on the hotel computer is slow, very slow - if I am to keep working on it I might even lose my religion or my life!!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Feast Of The Witness

Today, as you know, is the feast of St Mary Magdalen, the disciple of the Lord who was chosen to be the first official witness to the Resurrection. 

Often identified as the repentant prostitute, there is no evidence that she was the fallen woman who washed the Lord's feet.  She was, however, possessed by seven devils which is hardly a better position to be in to be honest.  Unlike the first bishops of the Church (with the exception of one) she did not run away, but joined Our Lady, the Holy Women and St John at the foot of the cross. 

St Mary has much to teach us, and today, in our time of prayer, we may sit and listen to what she has to say.  We can be sure she will bring us to the feet of Christ.  She is also a powerful intercessor, so let us commend our intentions and needs to her.  This morning I will offer Mass in the presence of her relic (ex ossibus) given to me when in Rome, I will remember your intentions.   

Happy feast day to you all, and to Mary Magdalen's biggest fan - you know who you are!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Be Prepared!

Even though I am away on holiday, news from Ireland is coming through at a quick pace and I am starting to wonder whether I will get away psychologically for even a few hours.  Yesterday's astonishing attack by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has come as somewhat of a shock and I am afraid Kenny has created a serious problem with regard to relations with the Holy See.  I have been asked to comment.  A few brief thoughts.

First of all we need to understand that the letter from the Vatican to the Irish Nuncio and Irish bishops, which the Murphy and Cloyne Reports refer to and which Kenny and the media have picked up, has been misinterpreted.  Judge Murphy, who wrote the reports, has misrepresented what that letter said - I will not judge whether that was by mistake or on purpose, I do not know what is going on in Judge Murphy's heart - I leave her to the judgement of God who can separate truth from lies.  See Fr Lombardi's statement on this letter confirming this.

Secondly, Enda Kenny is no statesman, so he cannot be expected to respond in a statesmanlike way to any political difficulties: his intemperate words against another sovereign State reveal that. Interestingly he has never used the same language when speaking of China, one of the most oppressive and abusive regimes in history.

Thirdly, Kenny as a local Irish politician, is using this situation to save his political career.  Following his being "found out" in the Roscommon Hospital Affair, he needed something to distract. For those of you not familiar with the Roscommon Hospital Affair - in brief.   During the last election campaign Kenny gave an assurance to the people of Roscommon that their Hospital services would not be cut.  When he won the election, gaining two members of parliament from Roscommon, his government abolished the A&E department of the hospital in question.  The leader of the opposition, in open session of parliament, reminded him of the promise he made to the people of Roscommon, but Kenny, in our parliament, denied he ever made such assurances and called the leader of the opposition "pathetic".  Thanks to a national newspaper a recording of Kenny's promise to the people of Roscommon popped up and lo and behold, contrary to what he said in open session in the parliament, he did give the assurance.   It seems the leader of the opposition is not pathetic at all - not on this issue.   The English language has many words to describe what Kenny did to the people of Roscommon, and then what he did in the chamber of our national parliament - I'll let you choose the one that fits.

Kenny is picking up on an attitude which has existed in the Church in Ireland for a long time.  In reality many Irish Catholics do not really see themselves as members of a universal Church.  Like everything else in Ireland, and most particularly politics, everything is local.   Our political system operates on the level of local issues - how things affect ME.  During election campaigns it is not national/international policies which matter, it is who can get us what we want that gets elected.  This system is in many countries, the problem in Ireland is that it mitigates against a universal outlook.  The Church in Ireland is, for the most part, the parish - not the parish as one in a union, but the parish on its own.  Part of this is thanks to local sporting interests.  Parochial rivalries on the sports field reflect, even fuel a rivalry in other things and so basic Church unity is not high on the agenda.  Even within parishes there is a fragmentation. If a parish, for example, has more than one church - a parish church and chapels of ease, those living in the area of a chapel of ease consider themselves a parish onto themselves.  In some cases parishes are completely split and bitter rivalries exist - think of the Italian Republics of the Middle Ages minus the unifying efforts of the Papacy/Holy Roman Empire.

All of this really makes the Church in Ireland ready for formal schism and Kenny in his attack yesterday is fuelling that.  As he attacks the Pope and the "Vatican", he tries to smoose the local priests and congregations - he wants to drive a wedge between Irish Catholics and their Church, a wedge, to be honest, that doesn't have too far to go.  People have often said that a schism is on the cards in Ireland, and I tend to agree.  In fact I believe it is already there, it just has not been recognised officially.  Many Catholics in Ireland despise Rome - I have seen it frequently among the Church elite here in Ireland, even among bishops and priests. 

So how do we respond to Kenny's ridiculous outburst?  Well, we'll leave it to the Vatican to respond.  What we do need to do is to start getting our act together and seek to tighten our relationship with the Holy See. If schism comes and a "national church" emerges (Irish Catholic Church), and I think that is a real possibility, we need to start establishing boundaries which will reveal in no uncertain terms that we are Catholics in full communion with the See of Rome: we follow Peter and his successors.  If a national church emerges do not be surprised to see bishops, priests and religious and many laity forming it and labouring under the lie that they are the true Catholic Church in Ireland.   The true faithful may even suffer, so be ready for martyrdom - not in the usual manner, but there are more invidious modern forms.  Let's hope it doesn't come to that.  but as the Boy Scouts/Girl Guides taught us: Be Prepared!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Arise, Great Prophet!

Today, in Carmel, we celebrate the feast of St Elijah the Prophet - the model for our way of life: contemplative, dedicated to the Word of God and the mystery of His divine life, and zeal in his service.  Oh that we may be as prophetic as this great father of Carmel!  If we are called to be may we also arise with zeal.

The Zeal of the Prophet: the false prophets of Baal get their comeuppance

A little celebratory music, from Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah, the beautiful aria, "Lord God of Abraham":

Time To Reassess!

Being out of the country is really good for allowing you think about what is happening in Ireland, a bit of space.  Many of our best writers had to get out of Ireland to write and think - there is something claustrophobic about Ireland.   Another good thing about getting out of Ireland, and the experience of the Church in Ireland, is that you see the Church in other countries and while there may be problems there, you can see where we are going wrong in Ireland, the areas in which we are blinkered and have cut ourselves off from the universal nature of the Church - where we have become "too local".  You can also see where we need to change.  Such an exercise is necessary in these times.  

Reflecting on the fallout of the most recent report and the government's insane plans to strike at religious freedom, you see that, as Catholics in Ireland - practicing Catholics that is, not the nominal and the lapsed, we no longer have a political party which can represent our views and can be relied upon to seek to uphold our freedom to believe and practice the Christian faith in its orthodoxy. 

At one time both mainstream parties Fine Gael and Fianna Fail were, for the most part "Catholic" parties reflecting the fact that the majority of citizens are Catholic.  However in recent years this is no longer the case.  Our last government, led by Fianna Fail, introduced legislation which forces Catholic registrars and providers of wedding services to violate their consciences with regard to solemnising gay partnerships.   Now Fine Gael are trying to force priests to break their solemn oath of preserving the Seal of the Confessional. 

These two parties can no longer be relied upon to preserve the ancient freedom of Christian citizens in Ireland.  While there may be sincere Christians among the members of parliament in both parties, for the most part they will follow the party line, few if any will oppose anti-Christian legislation if the party whip demands it, so in reality they are no good to us.  So we are now left with a question: where do we Christians go from here?

For one thing I think we Catholics need to reassess our place in Irish society.  While Catholics make up the majority of the population, in reality the faithful are now a minority.  Perhaps now the Catholic Church in Ireland needs to start thinking like a minority, and like other religious minorities start figuring out how we can work within society to safeguard our faith and practices. That may sound silly to some in the Church today and I can already hear bishops and priests saying that we are not a minority and Hogan must cop himself on.  Well, look around.  Irish society is no longer a Catholic society - our values are no longer those adhered to by the majority of people in the state.  Some of our bishops and priests may know politicians and presidents, they think they may have influence - well they don't. The failure of the Church in Ireland to persuade the last Fianna Fail government to modify the Civil Partnership Bill to include a conscience clause reveals the reality - and this is the party most bishops and priests traditionally support.  Time to stop believing we can subtly get a word in here, a wink in there and so save Catholic Ireland.  Not so anymore: the crosier has no power.  Politicians will smile and seem friendly when required, but ultimately use the Church to get a few votes.

When we realise that, we must begin to form alliances with other religious groups - something which will seem alien to the Church in Ireland - indeed something which may hurt its pride.  During the weeks in which the Civil Partnership Bill was going through parliament I asked a number of figures in the Church to contact the leaders of other Christian denominations, the Jews and Muslims, to discuss a joint submission to the government seeking a conscience clause.  Since our credibility is gone, a partnership with the leaders of other faiths may have produced results. My suggestion fell on deaf ears and all we got was a mild pastoral letter that had as much clout with the government as a soap bubble on a bull.  

In other countries the Catholic Church works with other faith groups and denominations - the Vatican does so very successfully in the UN: why can't we learn from this?  Again for this to be a reality we need to start thinking like a minority.  This does not mean we give up on the mass who consider themselves "ethnically" Catholic, but we need to lay foundations for the future, for another evangelisation and how hard that will be will depend on how we act now.   But we must also be careful not to think the majority of the lapsed will support the Church - as in Spain in the 1930's the lapsed may become our greatest persecutors.  We need to look to the lessons of history.

After that we, as Catholics, with other faith groups, may need to start looking at the political landscape and see what we can do to increase our representation in parliament.  That may mean working within one political party to turn it around, or it may mean forming a new one which could pick up support from believers.  Such a party would need to be a real party and not a one trick pony - believers must take positions in secular society in order to influence it for the good, so such a party would need to develop credible positions in all areas, but positions influenced by sound values which respect human freedom and dignity.  If members of such a party even got a dozen seats that may be enough to start a change - given that coalition governments have now become the norm in Ireland, the mainstream parties look to smaller parties to become partners in government - and so there may be opportunities.

There is, however, one glaring problem in Ireland: Irish voters, particularly conservative voters, tend to vote according to civil war politics.  Fervent Catholics do not support Christian parties but continue to vote as they always have because of tribal loyalty even if their traditional party is undermining and attacking their faith.  We have seen Christian parties and Christian candidates fail in the polls because concerned Christians decided to give their vote to the usual party candidates who do not share their voters' faith or hopes.  There needs to be a change in the way believers vote, and that means looking beyond local politics, getting this or that fixed in the local area, and looking to the bigger picture.  Politicians know that if they get a few things for voters they can distract them from the bigger picture, from the policies. 

These are just a few thoughts and I offer them to the lay faithful for their reflection.  The world and government is the area in which the laity must exercise their ministry and proclamation of the Gospel, and so it is for them to figure out how we proceed.   In the meantime Church leadership has to have a good think and look at new ways of leading the flock - and let's face it letting the liberals run riot and weeping is not the way forward.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Come What May...

The controversy over the Irish government's plan to force priests break the Seal of the Confessional has been bringing people together. As I noted in my post yesterday, members of the Association of Catholic Priests have said that they will go to prison rather than violate the Seal. In this they are at one with the rest of us. 

Speaking with some brother priests all of them are ready to go to prison, and indeed some are speaking of the advantages. Of course the media will brand these priests as abusers themselves for not breaking the Seal, but, suffering such punishment for remaining faithful to Christ's sacrament may bring many blessings, and perhaps offer a sacrifice of reparation for our unfaithful brothers.  It will also give us an opportunity to share in Christ's condemnation, and also provide us with a means to live with those in prison, those who may need to come to know Christ and his message through the presence of his priests in their place of confinement.  Sometimes sharing the fate of the condemned wins souls.  

I was looking at some examples of holy priests who, unjustly accused and in prison brought many souls back to God.  The late Cardinal, now Servant of God, Francis Van Thuan, when in prison, converted his prison guards, a whole host of them.   Who knows what pastoral opportunities await those innocent priests condemned under the unjust law.  

So that can only be good.  I hope, for Ireland's sake, things do not come to that, but I sense, and I have said it before, persecution is coming in one form or another.  There is an air of 1930's Spain about in Ireland today, a people once Catholic have lapsed and are now angry and seeking vengeance on the Church, usually for her teachings.  Yes, members of the Church in Ireland have contributed to that anger, and those priests and bishops who have failed us will, in time, bring on the heads of innocent priests and future bishops an ungodly rage with demonic consequences, a rage they may not even see: others will bear the punishment for their sins - and many of them still do not know it, perhaps don't even care, they are too busy justifying their inaction or plotting how they can keep their quiet life intact. 

But there are other things stirring the pot too, and we must be ready.  Prayer and sacrifice, greater love of the Holy Mass, Our Lady, devotion to the passion of the Lord and to the holy priests who have suffered for him: these will prepare us for whatever comes.  And of course, hope.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Knee Jerk Reactions

Well it seems I can't leave for a few days but all hell breaks loose. In the midst of my retreat the Cloyne Report comes out and more of the unsavoury doings of members of the Church in Ireland are revealed. This time, coupled with stories of abuse, we hear more accounts of the dreadful failure of Church figures to deal with it. This time there is no excuse: the guidelines are already in place and being stringently implemented in most dioceses, some to a draconian degree.  But it seems there are some who are still ignoring them and when they do the rest of us have to bear the brunt of anger and criticism.

And, as ever, the media are making hay, and the government is promising to implement mandatory reporting, and in the process remove the protection usually given to the Seal of Confession - and this is the subject of the furore which greeted me as I emerged from the peace of prayer and silence.

Talking with some friends, lawyers among them, if the government tries to put this into law it will have an uphill battle, constitutionally as much as anything else. It seems the clauses in our Constitution dealing with religious freedom protect, in some way, the Seal of Confession. Other groups are also affected - social workers among them, and they are creating a rumpus.  Now the media is treating them with respect, but when priests object to the violation of one of our most sacrosanct beliefs, the media and "concerned citizens" are in uproar.   It is obvious that these objectors do not frequent the sacrament of reconciliation - they probably don't need to, unlike us sinners.

One has to wonder why the government, or at least ministers Alan Shatter, Frances Fitzgerald and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny, should make such foolhardy promises. Perhaps, I said to myself reflecting on such stupidity from those who are supposed to be running the country, it was a knee-jerk reaction, or maybe they mean it so as to get revenge on the Church - deprive the Church of her rights as a punishment for not dealing with child abuse in a better way.   Either way, they have revealed an appalling lack of wisdom, legal knowledge and common sense.  They also reveal that they have little or no respect for religious freedom and, like many before them, they are prepared to solve a serious problem by acts of religious persecution, because that is what they are, in reality, proposing in trying to force Catholic priests to break the Seal of the Confessional.

That aside, the government will be hard set to find priests who will break the Seal knowing that to do so will mean automatic suspension and excommunication. I was heartened to hear that members of the Association of Catholic Priests, an organisation you know I have little time for, are prepared to go to jail rather than break the Seal: God bless them for saying that because they express the view of most of us priests - I say "most" because I note, with deep sadness, that at least one priest, whose name I will not record, has said that he will comply with the new law.  It seems his bishop or superior needs to have a chat with him and, perhaps, if he is not prepared to protect the sacrament, he may need to reassess his position and perhaps make a vocational choice.

Church history records that many, many times the Seal has been threatened - and always by tyrants and persecutors. If the Irish government goes ahead with the law and then tried to implement it, it will join some of the most evil and bloodthirsty regimes in history, and all, they say, in an effort to protect children.

Ironically, mandatory reporting will not protect children or victims - in reality it will take away their rights and make them pariahs in society.  How so? 

Well, first of all it removes the victim's right to confide in someone.  Some victims do not want to report their abuse, they want closure and healing, and for some going to court will not bring that - they decide to leave it.  However they need a listening ear, someone who will confirm that they are not to blame. That confidentiality is no longer possible.  Now you may point out that the legislation will allow victims this freedom, and if a victim tells the person they have come to that they do not want the information passed on, the new law will respect that.  So everything is okay: not on your nellie!  Given the consequences for non reporting no victim can be guaranteed that the person they go to will not report it - they will in order to cover themselves.  What if the victim changes their mind later?  they might say - cover yourself, go to the police: better breach of confidentiality than five years in jail!

This leads to the second outcome of this legislation: it will make pariahs of victims.  Given the draconian penalties no one will want a victim coming to reveal that they are being abused - no one will want to get involved.   The message may be sent out loud and clear from relations and friends "I don't want to hear from anyone who is abused; I don't want the responsibility."  And so the victims are reduced to silence.......again.  Congratulations government of Ireland!   Strangely some victims' groups are full square behind this legislation which I cannot understand - surely they do not mean to diminish victims' rights, or maybe are they, at the end of the day really interested in victims - is it possible they have another agenda?  It is not for me to comment - I will try and take them at face value, albeit with great puzzlement as to their stance on this one.

No one wants child abusers to get away.  Contrary to media/public opinion the Church does not want child abusers to get away.  The Vatican, in reminding the Irish bishops of abusers' rights under Canon Law, did so in order to urge the bishops to be careful in how they carry out their investigations so as not to compromise them and play into the hands of abusers who will appeal to Rome knowing a technicality will have their condemnation reversed.  The media have put a different spin on this showing Rome in a negative light - truth tends not to matter to some in the media.  The Vatican also has problems with mandatory reporting for a number of reasons, as do other organisations, yet while these other organisations are given the benefit of the doubt, not so the Church.  We know why.

Time to get some sensible people together to think this one out, and not a government crawling to an anti-Catholic media and trying the quick fix as the best answer to a serious problem.  In the end this will be a bad law and as we all know bad laws tend to do more damage than good and people suffer.  I think we have had enough suffering as it is. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On Retreat

This evening I head off on retreat, so I will not be blogging.  After that I am taking my holidays - I have a priest in covering for me. I will try to write a few posts. 

In the meantime we keep each other in prayer.  I have a number of intentions, so I would be grateful if you could remember them.  I have a special one - a sick person whom we are giving into the hands of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta for a miracle, so if you have devotion to her, you might remember him.  

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Call To Endure

That violent movie Gangs of New York is on TV this evening.  It is a hard one to watch and it questionable whether faint hearts should look at it - there are better things to be doing.  That said, it reveals an ugly side of American history where, in what was called "the land of the free", a minority group were persecuted for their religious faith and ethnic background - the so-called natives and the Catholic immigrants.  The violent fiction of the movie tries to portray the battles between the two groups in the Five Points area of New York.

Catholics in the US were discriminated against.  A reading of the life of St Elizabeth Anne Seton reveals that all too well - her conversion brought her many enemies, though she eventually won hearts by her heroic charity and deep love for the poor and sick whom she served without any regard for distinction: they were all the children of God in need.

That love of St Elizabeth Anne is present in many Catholics who serve the common good in New York and the US, but will these examples of pure charity touch the hearts of those intent on persecuting the Catholic faith and its teachings?  The new motivation for persecution of Catholics in New York and the US will be, as it is becoming in many other countries notably Canada, Spain, the UK and soon, Ireland, is homosexualism.  I note with particular interest the sermon delivered by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York (see here). 

The Archbishop seems to be rallying Catholics and Christians in general, to the defence of the faith and to prepare for the worst.  If he is right, then the "land of the free" will, in historical terms, have guaranteed Catholics a very short period of freedom, respect and toleration given that Catholics were only accepted as real citizens in the early decades of the 20th century.  The "land of the free"?  Sometimes it is dangerous to proclaim such titles, they may prove ironic (and untrue) in the long run.

Of course the same could be said for Europe.  The EU, or the organisation which became the EU, was founded by good Catholics, one of whom is being considered for sainthood, and yet now the powers that be in the EU are radically secular and determined to diminish the freedoms of the Catholics. 

How do we respond?  With fidelity and charity, and with the resolution to carry whatever cross comes for Christ's sake.  I am impressed by the Archbishop's final words: they remind me of what Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko would have said, indeed Oscar Romero, Shahbaz Bhatti and St John Fisher.
“Like St. Thomas More, we’re willing to take the heat and even lose our head from following a conscience properly formed by God’s revelation and the teaching of His Church, even if it is politically incorrect, and clashes with the King’s demands to re-define marriage,”
Time to stick together, to support each other, to rally around those bishops who are being faithful and speaking out, and time for prayer and sacrifice.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Modest Proposal

Over the last few months people have asked me if I know Fr John Corapi, and what my thoughts on his whole situation is.  I do not know Fr Corapi - though we both work for EWTN, our paths never crossed when I was over recording, and I presume when we are next over in Alabama we will not bump into him now.  I have not blogged on the situation, nor do I intend to say anything because I do not know the full facts, though it seems from the statement issued by his superior things are not good.

What I am going to say, though, is that we need to pray for him and for all priests.  As a priest I know too well that I am a weak human being entrusted with great privileges and graces and like any priest, I could be a sitting duck for any fall.  We need grace, and perhaps we need it more than lay people because if the devil wants to attack the flock he will go first for the shepherds.  I was told when in seminary that the devil walked the corridors, and it is true - the roaring lion is wandering around looking for someone to devour.  That helps me understand, for example, why things were so bad in seminary.  Those priests who were not as faithful to the Church as they should have been, needed a lot of prayer because they were appointed to form the clergy of the future so they were definitely in the firing line.

Many good people pray for priests, and I hope they continue to do so.  If you, dear reader, do not pray for priests, please start now and remember us every day.  Of late I have started to pray more intensely for priests, and I would like to share with you what I do so if you are not praying already for priests, you might join me.  I call it my "Daily Mite" for my brother priests, and I offer it twice a day, once after Morning Prayer and after Evening Prayer, that way I won't forget it. Its very simple: an Our Father, three Hail Marys and the Glory Be, like this:

For priests in trouble and in need....
                    Our Father

For deceased priests, especially those who have no one to pray for them...
                    Hail Mary

For our bishops, that they may be faithful...
                   Hail Mary

For priestly vocations and the protection of our seminarians...
                   Hail Mary

In thanksgiving for the priesthood, and in honour of the holy priests in heaven...
                  Glory be

Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of Priests, pray for them
St Jean-Marie Vianney, Patron of All Priests, pray for them

"Thar She Blows...?"

The Gateway to Hell: Hekla volcano, preparing to erupt?

It seems the volcano of all volcanoes is getting ready to blow.  Last year when the Ejako-what's-its-face* blew and created mayhem all over Europe, the experts were speaking in low voices about Hekla, the next door neighbour to Ejuko-yoke*, which tended to follow suit.  By far a more powerful volcano, Hekla (locals call it "The Gateway to Hell"), seems to have caused ecological and climate disasters all over Europe and beyond in the past.  God help us if that starts again, it may be more than the inconvenience of grounded planes.

Well, according to news reports, there is unusual activity in Hekla and the experts say it is ready to erupt.  So, people, time to invoke the dynamic duo again - SS Januarius and Agatha.   And as we keep this intention in our prayers, we might just remember all those who may be affected by a serious eruption, those in danger, those who may lose their livelihoods.

The Ash Novena

Novena to St Januarius and St Agatha
Patrons of Volcanoes

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.
* Father is just being silly, he knows it's called Eyjafjoell, although he can't pronounce it first thing in the morning or last thing at night, or even not at all.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Who Do You Think You Are?

Today's feast is important for many reasons. St Maria Goretti offers to the Church and the world a striking example of goodness, purity and forgiveness.  Today's Gospel introduced us to the twelve apostles, how appropriate it was given that Maria merits to be numbered among them for her fidelity to Christ. 

Sadly devotion to St Maria has waned in recent years, I think the sexual revolution of the 1960's and the dissent in the Church are to blame for the most part.  The sexual revolution tells us that it is OK to have sex whenever you want with whoever you want as long as you're being "responsible".  Maria's message of purity and integrity does not go down too well in a promiscuous society.  The dissent in the Church has also alienated Maria and her message - modern Catholics who want to engage with the world and be mature/sophisticated/real (delete as appropriate) see the young martyr as an embarrassment - the whole notion of purity is just too pious.

But all said, Maria is indeed an important teacher for our times - a teacher of the nations, if you like.  She defended her chastity not only because she did not want to be violated, but also because it was morally wrong.  She asked her attacker to stop so as not to endanger his soul.  There was certainly something different about this young girl. 

Purity is a necessary part of being human - it is intimately related to our integrity - of who we think we are.  As we seek to be men and woman of integrity, our sexual behaviour contributes to that.  Now that is great in theory, but all of us struggle in this area, and some fall, some falling very badly.  Confession is there to deal with that, and unless the fall includes criminal behaviour, after absolution we get up and start again with confidence in God's grace - and we, as Christians, must always allow people the space for this recovery: after all, Maria forgave and sought heaven for her killer.  If the fall constitutes a crime that is another matter - but forgiveness and the hope of turning one's life around cannot be excluded, though there is a serious debt which must be paid and justice must take its course. 

Another reason why purity and sexual integrity is important concerns relationships.  The sexual chaos of the last few decades has led to all sorts of problems, including widespread confusion around who we think we are, who we are related to.  Here is an interesting article on this confusion of relationships.    There is a very good programme on TV called Who Do You Think You Are? In the programme various personalities do some research into their family tree and make interesting discoveries. Imagine an episode of that in the future.  God help us the family tree will end up looking like a Monkey Puzzle:

"Now Maisie, your grandfather was the son and uncle of your great aunt Lucy, who in turn was married to your fifth cousin twice removed who was also your nephew.  Now he is now a she and he/she is also your great uncle/aunt and was married to both your ninth cousin four times removed - Cedric, and your granddaughter Lizzie, and before that to the daughter of the milkman down the road who, incidentally is not related to you at all even though she is your mother's daughter and your uncle's fiance.  Now, when it comes to the milkman........"  You get the idea!

St Maria Goretti, please, pray for us, for as the song's a mad world.  Here is a wonderful documentary with reference to original witnesses:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

End Of An Era

As you know I have a devotion to a number of saints, among them Blessed Charles of Austria - a peacemaker, who sought to end World War I and was rewarded for it by being exiled by the Allies.  News has reached me that his son, Otto von Habsburg has died at the age of 98.  He was an outstanding European statesman who, instead of lamenting the loss of his right to become Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, pushed up his sleeves and got down to work in the hope of bringing peace to a war torn continent.  May the Lord have mercy on him, and may his parents, Blessed Charles and the Servant of God, Zita, pray for him and all of us.

The young Otto von Habusburg at with his parents Blessed Charles and the Servant of God, Zita, at their coronation as King and Queen of Hungary in 1916.

Catholics And Their Faith

In pastoral ministry when teaching the truths of the faith, most often the moral teachings of Christ and the Church, the ones who emerge as most opposed to it and most vocal in their opposition are not non-Catholics who, though they may disagree can for the most part shrug their shoulders and move on, but Catholics themselves.

A growing problem here in Ireland, for example, is the issue of noise in church. Before, and most particularly after Mass, as soon as the priest leaves the sanctuary, an awful din starts and grows in intensity as people chat, call out to each other, laugh and joke in the church itself - dreadfully disrespectful, and to be honest, in my eyes, a real indication of poor or no faith as the Blessed Sacrament is ignored and the church is treated as if it was just another community hall.  It is also intensely selfish as the chatterers do not allow the church to be what it should be, "a house of prayer" for the community and so in their noisy talking deny those who wish to pray their right to the silence which should reign in a church building.  Personally speaking it is a difficult challenge which we orthodox priests are trying to meet, though we are making enemies not only within our parishes, but also within the presbyterate: "Chill out, Father, get real" or as someone said to me: "You're making too much of this - God can look after himself he doesn't need you to do it!"  Again a real indication that there is need of a very serious reform here in Ireland.

Anyway, a friend of mine wrote an article on the issue in a Catholic newspaper and it was taken up by a couple of radio stations who interviewed him.  The responses to the intervews were interesting: Protestants who rang in or texted were in favour of what he had to say: a church is supposed to be a place of silence, prayer and reflection - a place apart, to get away from the din of the world and enter into the Lord's peace.  Beautiful.  But it was Catholics who were most scathing - they attacked him for what he had to say: "How dare he! He won't tell us what to do.

I say this to preface this video which is most remarkable.  Perhaps you have seen it already, I have just discovered it thanks to Fr Z (peace be upon him).  It is an American priest, Fr Michael Rodriguez making a submission to El Paso City Council who were considering extending health benefits to the homosexual "partners" of employees.  It seemed the Council had been told that the Church supported the granting of these benefits and Fr Rodriguez asked to speak to the Council to inform them of the truth: the Church did not support it, even if some Catholics within the local diocese said it did.  His main thesis: the ultimate authority on Church teaching is the Pope in Rome, if local church officials be they bishops or priests disagree with the Pope, then they are not being true Church teaching.  His submission is excellent.  He is a true priest, God bless him!

However one councillor rejects the priest's submission and tries to rubbish the priest's submission by an  attack on the Church citing the usual objections: condoms and AIDS and child abuse.  And guess what - that councillor is a Catholic and.....with the surname O'Rourke, he's Irish!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Thank You, My Lord!

Bishop Seamus Hegarty of Derry (right) marching for life at last Saturday's Pro-Life Rally in Dublin

Christopher McCamley has an interesting post today on the Pro-Life Rally which was held in Dublin on Saturday.  To my joy I see that the Bishop of Derry, Dr Seamus Hegarty, was among those marching for life: congratulations to him for his witness, it will inspire many working for the cause of life in Ireland.  There may have been other bishops there, if so congratulations to them also.

In Ireland we not used to seeing bishops walking the streets in protest marches, not since the Civil Rights movement when the then Fr Edward Daly, future Bishop of Derry, was marching with oppressed Catholics.  Dr Daly was actually present at Bloody Sunday when British soldiers indiscriminately opened fire on innocent people killing thirteen of them.  Perhaps the reason we have not seen bishops out protesting is simpy because they were really part of the establishment in Ireland.  That is no longer the case and this is one of the things the Church in Ireland has now to realise and accept; when we do we will find the freedom to be prophetic, as Christ intended. 

In the US Catholics are used to their bishops standing side by side with them not only in marches, but also outside abortion clinics leading peaceful prayer vigils.  Indeed some American bishops have "criminal records" having been arrested for their peaceful activities.  They often remind me of those heroic bishops, many who became martyrs, suffering with their people for Christ.  

The prophetic witness of a bishop can much to increase the faith and trust of their flock.  With things are they are in Ireland at the moment, a lot of PR work has to be done, and we need to see our bishops taking a more prophetic role.  The advance of the abortion and gay marriage agendas will provide plenty of opportunity for bishops, priests and religious to stand side by side with their fellow Catholics in defence of life, marriage and now our right to religious freedom, which is being eroded  bit by bit.

Given recent history, it may fall to the new generation of bishops due to take over within the next five to ten years to take up this prophetic mantle.  I believe between twelve and sixteen bishops are due to retire in that time frame.  But we must support our present bishops for the times they have proved prophetic, and today we must thank Bishop Hegarty for his stance for life.  If there were other bishops there, please let me know and I will update this post: credit must be given where it is due.  Let's hope more will follow in these footsteps. 

Who knows, but perhaps in the next ten years many of us will have the privilege of sharing a cell at Store Street Garda station with a few bishops, all of us saying the Rosary and singing hymns having been arrested for peacefully praying outside an abortion clinic.  I hope we never see abortion, but if it comes, may we all, bishops, priests, religious and laity, have the courage to take a stand.

American Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville praying the rosary on his knees in a peaceful prayer vigil outside an abortion clinic in Louisville.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Miracle For Pope Pius?

A few months ago word leaked out that there was a possible miracle for the Venerable Pope Pius XII - many of us rejoiced because we saw that at last his Cause was proceeding.  Pope Benedict finally declared him Venerable in 2009 after holding off signing the Decree of Heroic Virtue for two years to allow an internal investigation into the controversy over the late Pope's record during World War II.  Thanks to the work of numerous scholars, not least among them the ever faithful Sr Margherita Marchione, and Gary Krupp and the Pave The Way Foundation, there was enough evidence to convince the Holy Father that he could safely proceed with the Decree of Heroic Virtue.

Now details of the alleged miracle are emerging, USA Today has an article with details.  If the article is to be believed, it seems a lady, identified as Maria Esposita was suffering from an aggressive form of cancer.  Praying to Pope Pius XII, the cancer disappeared after one course of chemotherapy leaving no secondaries and no traces.  This is remarkable and may indeed be the result of divine intervention.  However, according to the article, some doctors are not convinced, and though the cancer was aggressive and her doctor, a non believer, recommended prayer for the treatment to be successful, it seems the professional opinion being offered maintains that this cancer could have be treated successfully with one course of chemo. Her bishop, having listened to this opinion, has decided it might not be safe to proceed with this case.

While I love Pope Pius and I look forward to the day of his beatification, I believe the bishop's decision is correct.  With Pius I think we need an iron tight miracle, one that will gobsmack atheists and critics alike.  We cannot allow any doubts to linger over the favour which will be used to raise the Pontiff to the altars. 

We hear too often of the "questionable" miracles surrounding certain saints.  A friend of mine often teases me about the miracle accepted for Blessed Mother Teresa, and of course I always rise to the bait, fool that I am.  But the critics say that the immediate disappearance of an incurable malignant tumour the size of an orange in the stomach of the lady healed could have been due to a pill.  If that is the case we all want that pill because it can do the impossible.  Yet many still question it.  So too with the miracle for the beatification of Blessed John Paul.   The critics in all these cases will never be convinced:  never; they have too much to lose in accepting the veracity of the favour.

Given that Pius has so many critics, among them people who are not interested in the truth, and even those whose organisations and countries did not lift a finger to help the Jewish people during the Holocaust, indeed some even discouraged Pius from speaking out, we should not be giving them any more ammunition.  We should proceed with the Cause and pray fervently for a miracle and when it comes process it without any delay, but there must be prudence.  Those who say "why can't we just wait?" (reminiscent of another recent campaign!) are just trying to buy time in the hope this Pope drops and the glorious liberal revolution begins under a "progressive" pope.   The last thing the Church should do is give them any excuse to preen what's left of their aging feathers.

I do not think the Congregation for the Causes of Saints will accept the favour, I will be surprised if they do.  From what I know, despite the insidious complaints, the CCS is very particular and if there is any doubt they will throw out a miracle - better to be safe than sorry.  I know of a Cause where an almost water-tight favour was submitted, but almost was not enough - there might be a question - it was a slight "might", but it was enough for the favour to be sent back "Return to Sender".  And we should expect nothing less. Yes it is disappointing after all the prayer and the work, but a miracle will come - one which will be enough and the good people in CCS will recognise it when they see it.

So keep praying, good people, and commend the sick to all those Servants of God so the Lord may, through their intercession, pour out his healing grace upon them and give us, the Church on earth, the joy of new Blesseds and Saints.  

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Heart Of The Mother

Lots of wonderful feasts this weather, and today's is truly fine, and indeed most important for the Fraternity of St Genesius.  Today we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  In the Fraternity the memoria of the Immaculate Heart was raised by our Protector Bishop to the dignity of a Feast: the Immaculate Heart is the patroness of our family of prayer.  So, to all our members, a very happy feast day!

Our Fraternity is at the service of the Immaculate Heart, we see our mission to be part of her mission of bringing her children to her Son.  Our aim is to pray for souls and to work towards the triumph of the Immaculate Heart - hence the importance of Fatima in the spirituality of the Fraternity.  It was there in June 2006 that the idea was consecrated to her. 

As her children, it is only right to seek to assist her in her mission.  Jesus tells us to love God and love our neighbour, the psalms speak of how good it is for brothers to live in unity - in helping Mary win souls for Christ we fulfil both of these teachings - loving our neighbour by seeking to bring them to God and seeking unity with them in faith and love.  

One of our members in the US, Kevin O'Brien, has come up with an interesting idea - a period of prayer and penance for those we pray for and the mission of the Fraternity in the days which link the two feasts of the Fraternity - the Immaculate Heart and St Genesius on the 25th August.  That's an idea - a spiritual rope linking our two celebrations. 

Some prayers for our celebration today:

Fraternity Consecration
to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

O you, Immaculate Heart of Mary
we consecrate ourselves,
our hearts, minds, wills and lives
and all those works we undertake,
so they may be for the glory of God,
the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of souls.
Holy Mother, our Queen and our Joy
give to our hearts the dimensions of yours
and form us in the image of your Beloved Son

Litany of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
composed by Blessed John Henry Newman

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, 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 Spirit,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,
Have mercy on us.
Heart of Mary, Pray for us.
Heart of Mary, after God’s own Heart, 
Heart of Mary, in union with the Heart of Jesus, 
Heart of Mary, the vessel of the Holy Spirit, .
Heart of Mary, shrine of the Trinity, 
Heart of Mary, home of the Word, 
Heart of Mary, immaculate in your creation, 
Heart of Mary, flooded with grace, 
Heart of Mary, blessed of all hearts, 
Heart of Mary, Throne of glory,
Heart of Mary, Abyss of humbleness,
Heart of Mary, Victim of love, 
Heart of Mary, nailed to the cross,
Heart of Mary, comfort of the sad, 
Heart of Mary, refuge of the sinner,
Heart of Mary, hope of the dying,
Heart of Mary, seat of mercy, 

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

Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

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

Immaculate Mary, meek and humble of heart.
Conform our hearts to the heart of Jesus.

Let us pray:
O most Merciful God, Who for the Salvation of Sinners and the Refuge of the Wretched, has made the Immaculate Heart of Mary most like in Tenderness and Pity to the Heart of Jesus, grant that we, who now commemorate her most Sweet and Loving Heart, may by her Merits and Intercession, ever live in the Fellowship of the Hearts of both Mother and Son, through the same Christ Our Lord.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sweet Heart of Jesus

There is a wonderful article by Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith in the Catholic Herald Online about today's great Solemnity, well worth a read.    He reminds us that today's feast is truly rich: a celebration of the Incarnation - a "feast of flesh" he calls it, but also a deeply intimate feast, one in which we are called to enter into the Heart of Jesus Christ - the Heart that was opened on the cross for us - opened to release grace out upon us, but opened also to be a door for us to enter into the life of God. 

St Veronica Giuliani

I think of the great Italian mystic, St Veronica Giuliani: when her mother was dying she confided each of her little children to a wound of the Lord - little Ursula, as she was then, was entrusted to the wound in the Lord's side.  It would prove providential - she entered into that wound and into the Heart of Christ to discover and, at the Lord's command, to reveal its secrets for all who seek to come to know and love Christ.

Badge of the Catholic rebellion in the Vendee (1793-1796)

Fr Lucie-Smith also reminds us of the place devotion to the Heart of Jesus has in history.  The martyrs of the French Revolution found strength in the devotion to face their deaths.  The uprising in Vendee (or counterrevolution I suppose) took the devotion as the rallying cry against the strident atheism of the revolutionaries.  The Sacred Heart was depicted on the flags of the Catholic insurgents - in fact the flag and arms of the region still depict the crowned Hearts of Jesus and Mary. 

In these troubled times the Heart of Christ must also be an inspiration, a strength and indeed a rallying call for us - a call to faith, hope and love - to heroic living.  There is a need for a new counterrevolution - a new order to undo the regime imposed by secularism and the promiscuity of the sexual revolution.  Of course that new order is very ancient - it is the way of the Gospel, but it is ever new since it has a relevance for all people in all ages.  The Heart of Jesus puts flesh on the Gospel and reminds us that ultimately the Gospel is Christ's - his word, his teaching, the path which can lead us to his life: the way to his Heart: the way of love.