Monday, October 31, 2011

Soft Target

Following on from the last post, I see Jerry Springer: The Opera, opens in Dublin this evening - they picked the right evening - Halloween.   I do not need, I think, to tell you about the show, the protests and the response from the producers - you have probably heard it all before as this production made its way around the world. 

There is always a tension between art and faith - healthy most of the time - I suppose some would say creative.  But when does art (or that which claims to be art) become truly offensive?  We Christians are used to seeing our faith pilloried and made fun of, and then it all being justified by those who see nothing wrong with desecrating our most cherished beliefs.   Now to be honest I am not offended by this show - I saw a bit of it on TV and let's just say it doesn't quite hit the mark - I think the poor unfortunates who wrote it need the controversy, it has little else going for it.

But here's an idea.  As I sat listening to the defenders of Jerry Springer: The Opera on the news this evening, I came up with an idea - a sequel, one which holds to the rules of equality and fairness: Jerry Springer: The Opera II, featuring Mohammad.   I will accept all their justifications and excuses when they do to other religions what they have done to ours.  So there you have it, a challenge: I dare you producers!  Let's see how brave you are.

I think I know what they would say to that. Christianity is a soft target, they get away with insulting Christians - they know they would not get away with insulting other faiths.  In the meantime we Christians should pray for those who persecute us, even those who take part in third rate productions.

UPDATEInteresting article here from the Iona Institute blog on freedom of speech and the Jerry Springer production.

Our Modern Day Saints

As we prepare to celebrate the great Solemnity of All Saints, we are reminded that every day new Saints are being added to the number of those in heaven.  Most of them are ordinary people, but today, many of them are martyrs who shed their blood for Christ and the Church.

In many places Christians are jaded and bored.  One of the problems we have in Ireland, for example, is that people like short, quick Masses - they do not want to hear homilies, they like their priest to crack a few jokes, fly through the Eucharistic Prayer, give them Communion, and send them out to their planned activities all within half an hour on a Sunday morning.  

And then I think of fellow Catholics in Pakistan, China, Iraq and many other places who cherish that hour on a Sunday when they can attend Mass, hear the Word of God, learn from the homily and then enter into the great miracle of the Eucharist which reaches a personal climax in the reception of the Body and Blood of the Lord in Holy Communion.  Today Catholics are literally dying in defence of that.  Each Sunday as they pray at Mass they are aware that this could be their last Mass and that during the days to come they may be put to death for their Catholic faith.  How I wish more people in the West could see things as our suffering brothers and sisters see them.  How I wish so many of us, myself included, did not take the faith for granted, but see it as a gift to be cherished: to see the Holy Mass for what it really is. 

That said, as we prepare for tomorrow's celebration, an article on one of Christianity's latest martyrs - a Coptic teenager beaten to death for wearing his crucifix.  From Catholic World News: 
Ayman Nabil Labib, a 17-year-old Coptic Christian student, was murdered by Muslim classmates after refusing to remove a crucifix he was wearing, the Assyrian International News Agency is reporting.

The murder, which took place on October 16 in the central Egyptian town of Mallawi, took place after a teacher asked Labib to cover up a tattooed cross on his wrist. Labib refused, instead uncovering a cross necklace.

“The teacher nearly choked my son, and some Muslim students joined in the beating,” said Labib’s father.

“They beat my son so much in the classroom that he fled to the lavatory on the ground floor, but they followed him and continued their assault,” the victim’s mother added. “When one of the supervisors took him to his room, Ayman was still breathing. The ambulance transported him from there dead, one hour later.”
Let us also remember the forty-two Catholics martyred in their cathedral in Iraq last year.  We also remember Asia Bibi still on death row, and the Christian pastor, Youcef Nadarkhani who faces a similar sentence for converting to Christianity from Islam.  There are many more, all of them voiceless as the governments of the world who never stop speaking about human rights and equality, wilfully ignore their plight.  

Indeed as Anne Widdecome correctly points out, these governments even support the regimes which are presecuting Christianity.  Our own government is among them: our Prime Minister gave succor to the Chinese government in their persecution of the Church through his ill-tempered rant in the Dail last July.

May these news martyrs pray for the renewal of the Church in the West, and through their intercession, may God touch the hearts of their persecutors and the governments who support them either actively or through wilful silence.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

New Opportunities For Catholics

"RCIA on Thursday nights....yes.....I might be able to make that.."

It seems the neighbours are making changes to the monarchy.  The Queen of England and her various realms have assented to Britain's abolishing the law that excludes a Catholic from marrying an heir to the throne. Up until now if an heir married a member of our Church they were excluded from the succession.  The heir could marry anyone else - Jew, Hindu, Muslim etc, but not a Catholic.  So that is good news. 

I presume the line of succession will now be revised to bring back those who married Catholics - Prince Michael of Kent, for example, (he's so far down it won't make a difference, but it reverses discrimination). 

The law will still require the monarch to be a member of the Church of England - that's fair enough, for now, given that he or she is the head of that ecclesial community.  It would require a reorganisation of the Church of England, perhaps even disestablishment, to allow the monarch be a Catholic.  That might come in the future if a monarch renounced his or her position as head of the communion and transferred it to a bishop. All things are possible. 

In the meantime, I wonder if those who converted to Anglicanism to marry an heir will now think better of their decision and come home?  I hope so, the door is always open.

Jim'll Fix It - Rest In Peace

For those who grew up in the eighties on this side of the pond, Jimmy Savile would be well known.  He was a disc jockey and presenter of the BBC's top music programme, Top of the Pops.  Jim, however, is more famous for his programme Jim'll Fix It where he fulfilled the dreams of many young people.  Today, sad news, Jimmy Savile was found dead in his home in Leeds - his death appears to be natural.   The end of an era of a whole generation of children - now we know we are getting old!

Jimmy Savile had an unusual style when it came to clothing, and he was renowned for his funny glasses and big cigar - all part of the image I suppose.  But he was good man who did a great deal of work, a lot of it hidden, for those in need.  For his charitable work the Queen of England knighted him in 1990.   Jimmy was also a Catholic, and for his work, Blessed John Paul also knighted him, making him a Knight Commander of St Gregory.

For all his good work, may the Lord be kind to him.

In Memory Of The Lost

You may have seen this article on Zenit, if not, read it - it is very important.  For years IVF has been hailed as a great move forward in treating infertility - thousands of children have been born to childless couples, bringing them great joy and easing the burden and stigma of childlessness. 

The Church, however, has its difficulties with the procedure, and rightly so - it fulfills the prophecy Pope Paul VI uttered in Humane Vitae.  This article shows why the Church has her issues with the procedure.

Some interesting facts:  since 1991 100,000 children have been born of the procedure, out of 3 million children conceived.  Of these children 1.5 million have be discarded during treatment - think about that - 1.5 million children have been thrown out, destroyed by doctors and scientists.  The abuse crisis pales in comparison with that!   And many, many more remain frozen in IVF centres, most of them destined to be destroyed also.  These are human beings we are talking about.

Other interesting facts: one man has fathered 150 children so far through the process.  There are cases of other men fathering 50 or more children.   This means incest is going become an issue in the years ahead, and when siblings marry there are genetic consequences.    As regards those born of so called "sperm donors", while there is no definite figures, there are estimates that there could be as many as 60,000. 

And all of this costs money - people are getting rich through these processes, and that, my friends, seems to make children a commodity - a "product" which is desired and then "made.  As we see now, if the "product" does not fit the bill, then it can be discarded (aka abortion) and another made. 

I have no desire to offend anyone, and certainly not those burdened with infertility, but life is precious, it is a gift, it cannot be made and discarded, subject to the will and whim of another human being.  IVF might seem to solve problems, but it creates even more, and while it may seek to bring the joy of a new life into the lives of loving couples, it does so by killing hundreds of thousands of other lives. 

Here is a very disturbing fact - when you see a child born of IVF, 30 other children were "created" in the procedure that brought this one to birth: where are they?  Dead?  Discarded?  Experimented on?  Frozen?  Do not forget that they too are children. 

If we are supposed to be putting children first, and as the great mantra "Best Practice" is repeated over and over again like a Eastern chant, is it not time to really put children first -  not just install and sign register books in sacristies and hoard forms filled by everything that moves within a mile of a church property??   For years the Church has been silent about IVF for fear of offending those who avail of it - God forbid we catechise!    Time to stop being selective - time to think of children - all children, particularly those who fall victim to the culture of death.

Friday, October 28, 2011

All Over Now

Well, the campaign is over!   The count is on.  After a couple of months of one scandal after another spewing out of the media as they try to dig all the skeletons out from the closets of the presidential candidates (with the interesting exception of Michael D Higgins, funnily enough), I think we are all fit for the asylum!  

It felt like Tudor England as one head fell after another just like Henry VIII uncovering one treasonable plot after another.  Actually, it got very predictable after a while - as soon as one candidate hit the top of the polls (with the notable exception of Michael D Higgins, interestingly enough), the media jumped out of the closet like that guy in the mask in the Scream movies, and "WHAM!" another head falls.  I have to say, this campaign has been the filthiest we have ever endured. 

So who is going to win?  I'd say Michael D Higgins (did I mention that, for some strange reason the media did not seem to put him through the same rigorous questioning as the others?  Funny that).  I'd say, though, we will have an interesting day ahead. 

When everything has died down, it would be a good idea to take a long, hard look at this campaign, and particularly at the way the media has behaved - in particular RTE.  There is little doubt that this election has been the media's - they set the agenda.  Have the people been manipulated by the media?   Seeing as Higgins got such an easy ride and no grilling from the media (the question of his age could be seen as a diversion to give the impression of balance - people might react - no one wants to be seen to be ageist), could we say that Higgins was their candidate?  It would be interesting to compare the many positive images of Higgins in the media in comparison with the negative images of the others. 

Ironically, if Higgins wins, we will have reverted to the former practice of putting a retired politician in the Aras.

There is a fine line at times between journalism and propaganda.  We know from recent history in Ireland that the Irish media leans towards propaganda in a number of areas, and it is a left wing media.  In reality Ireland does not really have a centre-right media, which is a problem.  The media have swung elections and referenda before - the last divorce referendum was one.  Marc Coleman on Newstalk a few evenings ago reminded us of the media's bias there and their role in persuading the people - the referendum was passed by a tiny margin.   So the questions we need to ask now: has the media become too powerful in Ireland?  Are they undermining democracy?  What can be do to curb the power of the media to restore balance in public debate?

Think about all this I ask myself how the media came to have such power?  I think the Church has had a role in that.  The scandals - exposed by the media, seems to have sharpened the media's teeth, and perhaps allowed them to become less of an organisation reporting what is going on in society, to actually becoming a player, indeed the prime player in society.  While still claiming objectivity, they have become partisan, leaders.  Ironically, they have now usurped the Catholic Church's role in influencing the people. 

Just a few thoughts.  But I think we need an objective investigation.

UPDATE:  I see that the tallies are indicating that the referendum on judge's pay will be passed - the first step taken towards bringing the courts under government control.  The referendum seeking to give the Dail more power in investigations seems to be lost: if it is I presume we will have to go to the polls again - as with recent referenda, when we give the "wrong answer", we tend to find ourselves send back to polls with a flea in our ear. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Trust Us..."

Worrying developments here in Ireland.  As the Presidential election is capturing most of our attention, voters in Ireland will also vote on two referendums which seek to give parliament/government more control over the Judiciary.  One seeks the citizens' permission to reduce judges' pay - thereby undermining the mechanism within the Constitution preventing a sitting government from holding the judiciary to ransom. 

The second referendum wants to give the parliament more powers to hold enquiries into matters of "public concern".  The politicians will decide what is of public concern, they will appoint an investigator with almost "super powers" to seize materials, the politicians will judge the case, and the politicians themselves will oversee whether or not they are working within the parameters of the new legislation.  Consoling, isn't it?

Well, today eight former Attorneys General have come out against these referendums describing them as going too far and seriously weakens the rights of citizens.  The minister in charge of the referendums has dismissed the criticisms calling them "nonsense" and then engaged in an "ad hominum" attack on the individual former Attorneys General.   That in itself reveals a great deal. 

The main arguments the government is making in support of the changes are, first, they will reduce the cost of lengthy enquiries and tribunals; they will be able to get offenders who have so far escaped justice, ie bankers; the legislation will not be abused.  So they are asking us to trust them - they will not misuse the powers that have been given them. 

The Irish Constitution, while not perfect, is a finely balanced document written in the 1930's as tyranny and fascism was growing in Europe.  Hitler has siezed power in Germany and was on his way to creating an empire.   Communism was controlling every aspect of people's lives in Russia, and there were many other threats to democracy.  Eamon de Valera who wrote the Constitution did not want the same to happen in Ireland, and so he divided power, and ensured that the judiciary could not be controlled by the government.  This was a wise move on his part, and it is for this reason our Constitution is much admired among democrats - indeed India adopted our Consttitution, with some minor changes, as their own following independence.  

What these two referendums are doing is diluting those safeguards which prevent anyone from taking total control of the Republic.  Of course politicians tend not to like such finely balanced safeguards and I believe that even de Valera would later find the restrictions he had put into the Constitution troublesome.  

I think we Irish need to think very carefully about how we vote on this one.  While times are financially hard, we must be careful not to sign away our freedom in order to save money - see what happened Esau when he was hungry - he sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup.   According to the polls it seems these referendums will be passed - is it possible that this generation will take the soup and with the stroke of pen wipe away the liberty our fathers and mothers fought hard to win for us? 

PS:  Lest anyone accuse me, a priest, of interferring in State matters, I draw their attention to the present criticisms of the Catholic Church which, it is said, remained silent in Germany as the Nazis diluted the rights of its citizens and the Jews.  Should this be one of the first steps towards a tyranny in Ireland, well then let history record that some in the Church were not silent when human rights were being threatened. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

St Vitalis Again

You may remember the St Vitalis affair a few months ago.  In one post I said that God would not be mocked, well I am not proportioning any blame to divine intervention, but in today's Sunday Independent we discover that the man who bought the relic of St Vitalis, a Billy Jamieson, a Canadian TV personality (pictured above), actually died on the day the deal for the relic was closed.  Interesting.  Regardless of it all, Lord have mercy on him. 

My posts on the affair:  The Case of St Vitalis, It Gets Worse, The Whole Truth.  The head does not belong to St Vitalis of Assisi - his remains are safe in Italy. If it is authentic it is probably the skull of a martyr.

UPDATE: I see from an article in the Meath Chronicle that the auctioneer, Damien Matthews is suggesting there may be a curse on the skull - hinting that the previous owners also died in mysterious circumstances.  Is this sensationalism a prelude to another publicity stunt masquerading as an auction?  What a tangled web.....

New Saints To Inspire Us

Our new Saints: St Bonifacia, St Guido and St Luigi

In contrast to my last post, and indeed offering an antidote to some of the issues I looked at, some good news: today the Holy Father canonised three new saints in St Peter's Square in Rome.   Raised to the altars are: St Bonifacia Rodriguez Castro, St Guido Maria Conforti and St Luigi Guanella. 

St Bonifacia was born in Salamanca, Spain, on the 6th June 1837. Working first as a ropemaker, she met the Servant of God, Fr Francesc Xavier Butinya who had had a vision calling for people to dedictate themselves to evangelising the working class.  Bonifacia responded with great zeal, first as a laywoman, but then founding, with Fr Butinya, the Servants of St Joseph, a congregation of sisters.  She died on the 8th August 1905.  She suffered the plight of many founders, at her death she was virtually excluded from her congregation, and her sisters did not rediscover her as their foundress until 1936.

St Guido was born on the 30th March 1865 in Parma, Italy. He entered the seminary when 17 and was ordained a priest for the diocese of Parma in 1888.  Feeling the call to offer himself for the missions, he founded the Xaverian Missionaries in 1895.   He was appointed bishop of Ravenna in 1902, and then of Parma in 1906, where he served for twenty-five years.  He died 5th November 1931.  St Guido suffered from epilepsy, and though he was limited in what he could do, it did not stop his missionary spirit.

St Luigi was born in Fraciscio, Italy, on the 19th December 1842.  He was ordained priest in 1866, but heard an intense call to serve the poor, and so founded two congregations to serve them: the Daughters of Saint Mary of Providence and the Servants of Charity.  He was a friend of St John Bosco.  His life was a busy one of service, prayer and writing; he died 24th October 1912 worn out from his labours.  St Luigi joins the ranks of the pro-life Saints - those who through their work proclaim the dignity of the human person, regardless of their age, race, physical or mental capacity. 

Three holy founders who heard the call of God to assist in the renewal of the Church in their time, reaching out to those most in need.  They offer us wonderful examples of faith, dedication to God and his people, and of real humanity. As you read their life stories, and I would recommend you do - there is plenty of stuff online, you'll how that they did not have it easy, but trusting in God, with great faith and love of neighbour, they transcended their difficulties and trials, and with great serenity, revealed what humanity is called to become.  
Almighty Father,
who inspires Your Church through the dedicated service,
profound love and humble service
of St Bonifacia, St Guido and St Luigi;
as they offered themselves for the sake of Christ,
hidden in the most vulnerable,
help us to seek His Face in the lonely and unloved
and to make of our lives a lasting oblation for their sake,
and the glory of YourName.
Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


I will probably be most unpopular with many for this post.  I was very shocked by recent events in Libya, with the lynching of former dictator, Colonel Gaddafi.  Now lest anyone accuse me of condoning the man's regime or actions, I do not. He has brought much violence, horror and suffering to many, including the people of my own country - he supplied arms to terrorists in Ireland, and so cooperated in the evils which waged on our island for thirty years.

That said, I cannot condone the manner of his death which was nothing short of horrific.  I cannot condone the coverage of his last moments which goes beyond sensationalist, I find it difficult to justify it even when considering in its broadest, most liberal sense the excuse that the people have a right to the whole truth.  I don't buy it. I believe I am not the only one deeply disturbed.  Images of the man's final moments were beamed right across the world on news channels and so people, not only in their homes, but in shops, restaurants and other commercial outlets were exposed to the most violent scenes I have ever witnessed on television.  Friends of mine were with their daughter in a waiting room yesterday when the scenes were aired: they were desperately trying to get the little girl away from the television.

The scenes were disturbing for many reasons, and one of them is how mob rage seems to have suddenly become the litmus test for democracy.  Revolution was never an attractive thing - that is why the Church has her misgivings about it - hence the Church's rejection of the more radical teachings of liberation theology which sees merit in Marxist revolution.   But this mob rage is not confined to political revolutions which are breaking out all over the place, admitted in response to some dreadful tyrants, and yes, the Church does teach that it is legitimate to rise up against a tyrant. 

But we see this mob rage manifest itself every day in various situations.  We are all aware of road rage, but I think radio rage is even more common.  Some prime time radio programmes feed this rage and give it an opportunity to break out over the airwaves.  How often have you listened to a debate on radio, typically one regarding the Church, when all logic, sense, decorum, respect and even basic humanity have been thrown out the window and people are in full attack mode?    I have heard it many times - one particular radio programme thrives on it - in fact it is the only thing, I think, which keeps the show on the air.   Where has humanity gone?  Some will say that people are angry over something, so they need to let off steam: fair enough - do it out in the back yard, or in a field or in the gym when you can beat the living daylights out of a punch bag.

What is the cause of this rage?   I suppose different excuses will be offered - injustice, abuse, poverty, lack of liberty, social inequality, politicians.   There is another though - original sin gone mad as modern men and women cut themselves off from God and from basic moral principles.  I notice in Ireland that as we grow more secular, we get angrier.  Some may say that we were oppressed before, and now we are just releasing the anger which has been buried within the national psyche for generations.  Not sure about that, to be honest.  That excuse relies on a particular reading of history which says that people were not really happy in the past, perhaps living an illusion of happiness.  I think there were may people who were happy in the past - much happier than we are now.    I think when faith is gone and hard times hit, we are easy prey for those two great enemies of humanity: despair and rage.   I think that is where many people are at this time.

In the meantime, the images of the brutal death of Colonel Gaddafi stand as a testament to where we are.  The questions we need to ask are: can we learn anything from this?  Where do we go from here?  Or will we just find more excuses to justify the way things are?   Where has our humanity gone?

Happy Feast Day, Blessed John Paul II

Today is the first celebration of the feast of Blessed John Paul II.  At the moment there are few places where it can be celebrated officially, but we can all do so privately.   This day marks the inauguration of his pontificate in 1978 - what a day!   In the days following his election it gradually began to dawn on the Church and the world that this pope would not be like the others - something big was about to happen.  Indeed the late Cardinal Cooke of New York, now Servant of God, said that the death of Pope John Paul I was a huge shock, and when the Cardinals arrived for a second conclave in just over a month they were aware that God was saying something important to Church - in their midst there was one chosen for an important mission. How right he was.

The Fraternity has submitted a request to the Congregation of Divine Worship for permission to celebrate the feast, but no word yet.  We wait with hope - please pray. Although the way things are going, he may well be canonised before long.

In the meantime, as we mark this wonderful day, a couple of videos - the first to remind us of that moment we all prayed for - still brings tears to my eyes. 

O God, who are rich in mercy
and who willed that the Blessed John Paul II
should preside as Pope over your universal Church,
grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching,
we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ,
the sole Redeemer of mankind.
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Possible Miracle For Blessed John Paul II

You may have seen this interview with Cardinal Amato, Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, concerning Blessed John Paul II.  He tells the interviewer that a possible miracle, worked since his beatification in May, is now being examined and may be the one to see Blessed Pontiff canonised.  Of course the Cardinal is cautious and reminds us that they will not be rushing it, but will take their time, as they should. 

Depending on the nature of the healing, of which there are no details yet, and will probably be kept under wraps for some time, it could see Blessed John Paul, now co-patron of the Fraternity, raised to the altars as a Saint within a decade of his death, which will be a record.  We pray that all will go well.

For your devotion, the Fraternity's Litany to Blessed John Paul:

Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy

Mary, Mother of God,                pray for us
Mother of the Church,
Queen of all Saints, 

Blessed John Paul II,                 pray for us
Heroic Pastor, 
Witness to Hope, 
Mystical Pontiff, 
Teacher in Holiness, 
Defender of Life, 
Prophet of True Freedom, 
Father of the Young, 
Apostle of Mercy, 

V. Pray for us, Holy Pontiff, Blessed John Paul:
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Into Your Hands, O Lord, We Commend Our Sister, Eucharia

At long last the line has been restored to Rathkenny - a week without internet - call it a retreat, call it frustrating, call it a relief - anyway, I'm back online.    The last week has been very eventful in Ireland and abroad - I am not going to do a broad sweep of what has happened - I don't have the energy, but for us in the Fraternity it has been a sad few days - one of our founding Councillors passed away on Friday:  Sr Eucharia Kenny, RSM.

Sr Eucharia was there on the first night when a group of people gathered to help a mad priest decipher the ideas which had been coming to him for three years.  She was a bastion of common sense and prayer. 

Sr Eucharia was born Bea Kenny in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, on the 19th January 1927 - we have only found out that she shares the same birthday as the Fraternity which was founded on that day 80 years after her coming into the world!   She never sought to draw attention to herself, so she kept her birthday to herself.  She discerned a vocation to nursing, and so trained as a General Nurse.  It was during this time that she heard the Lord call her, and so she entered the Sisters of Mercy to offer her life to God in the service of the sick in imitation of the Venerable Catherine McAuley.

After spending a number of years in a hospital, her superiors decided to send her to the US, to a new foundation in New Jersey.  She was sent with no money in her pocket. She often told us of how she got from Ireland to the US by air with not even a few dollars for tea and a sandwich!  When she arrived she discovered that the community did not need a nurse but a teacher.  So, as enthusiastic as ever, she launched into a training course to prepare her to teach, and so began a new "career" within the congregation.  She was well loved by her students and she enjoyed her time in the States.

With much good work done, she was reappointed to Ireland, and she was sent to the community in Drogheda where she embarked on a ministry among the sick and elderly as a pastoral sister.  She spent a great deal of time in the Cottage Hospital, helping the staff there to look after the patients and those who came for day care.  She was always at the centre of things, and I remember many great Christmas parties with her in the Day Care Centre.

With her work in the service of the sick, Sr Eucharia heard a call to another area of service: that of artistic endeavour.  She was gifted with artistic ability, which led her to the art of the Icon.  Learning from a master, she wrote a number of beautiful Icons, entering into the spirituality of the sacred art, praying and fasting as she worked.   As a woman of deep prayer, she brought her spirituality into the writing of these "windows of the light of heaven".   When we were looking for an Icon of St Genesius I had asked her to write it, but in her humility she felt that it was a task which was beyond her, and so asked her master to do it.  She did, however, paint a painting of the martyr.

Sr Eucharia was, as her name suggests, a woman of the Eucharist. She spent a great deal of time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament each day, never missed Holy Mass, and was devoted to the Rosary.  We often spoke about the Scriptures, and she shared her insights: she led a Lectio Divina group in Drogheda for many years.  Sr Eucharia was a faithful religious, though many in her congregation, sadly, abandoned the habit and veil, she continued to wear them as the outward symbol of her interior consecration to Christ.  She was sister of simple life, embracing poverty and cherishing obedience.  

She has been a great blessing to the Fraternity: she was in charge of the apostolate for epilepsy, and she was forever using her skills and contacts to reach out to those with epilepsy to make them aware of their patron St Genesius.  Frequently she was on the phone looking for more Blessed Oil of St Genesius or prayer cards for the sick or Blessed Linen.  She brought sick people for a blessing with the Relics of St Genesius, and noticed that our saint was working hard among those who suffered from the condition.  Her advice, support and prayer were invaluable to the Fraternity.  She was forever coming up with new ideas.

Despite the strength of her spirit, Sr Eucharia's body was in decline, and her health was failing. Just over a year ago she had to leave her community to enter a nursing home, there her health declined even more.   In the last few months she was in and out of hospital: her death on Friday last was a shock, but not totally unexpected.  Her last moments confirmed her life lived in the mystery of the Eucharist.  She received the Last Rites, and then Viaticum.  A few moments later, with the Lord still sacramentally present within her, she died peacefully. 

May the Lord grant this faithful servant everlasting sight of his Face, and reward her for labours.  As we thank her for her generous service to the Fraternity, we pray that the Immaculate Heart of Mary and St Genesius may receive her.  May she intercede for our family of prayer, and guide us, and watch over all our members and those we serve, especially her beloved sick. 

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord,
and may perpetual light shine upon her,
may she rest in peace.  Amen.

Thank you, dear Sr Eucharia, for all you have done for us.  May God grant us the joy of seeing you again in his eternal kingdom.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Communications Down

I am afraid that communications in Rathkenny have broken down!  On Sunday my telephone line and internet went down and despite my efforts to get help from our telecommunications company, there is no sign of anyone coming to fix the problem.  So this is why I have not been online.  I hope it will be fixed soon.  I am posting from an internet cafe! 

Just a reminder to all our members and friends in the London area - the St Genesius Eucharistic Holy Hour starts tonight in Corpus Christi Church, Maiden Lane, at 8pm - come one, come all, and spend time with the Lord in adoration, and join Genesius in offering prayer for those in theatre, cinema and the arts, and of course the sick.    Tuesday of next week - Dublin Film Club - we are watching Hitchcock's I Confess - that should get a discussion going.

Normal posting will resume when I catch the man in the white van.  In the meantime, may I do the Father Z (peace be upon him) and ask your prayers for a number of intentions?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

RTE Apologises

RTE has issued a grovelling apology to Fr Kevin Reynolds just before this evening's Primetime programme.  The text of the apology can be found here.  I presume there will be a substantial settlement to accompany it.  The media coverage of this priest's unjust treatment has been paltry to say the least.  The media are very quick to get the accusations out, and they devote hours of television and radio time to following up on them, demonising the accused and dragging in every critic they can find.  But when the priest has been cleared, it rarely merits any better coverage than a short paragraph hidden away in the bowels of a newspaper. 

Reading some threads on this in the last few moments, one commenter said that despite this RTE would do the same again to someone else.  I am afraid I have to agree.  The media in Ireland today will not learn the lesson because most of the Catholics they liable tend not to sue - Fr Reynolds did

Perhaps if the Church decided to start taking legal action against journalists, then their attitude might change. Of course the Church would then be accused of hypocrisy for not turning the other cheek - our critics tend to like to get off by holding the Church to her teaching.  But you see, Jesus said forgive, turn the other cheek, but we also understand that making reparation for sin is a necessary part of forgiveness and reconciliation.   Interesting thoughts. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

At The Table Of Bitterness, Where Poor Sinners Eat

Here's an interesting idea for you, posed by a friend of mine in conversation today: why not ask the Holy Father to declare one of the saints a patron saint of atheists and non believers?  And to suggest that one of the best candidates for the job is none other that the sister herself, St Therese of the Child Jesus?

Now that struck me as interesting for a number of reasons, one of them being personal.  Only last week I met a man who is a professed atheist, but yet shared a number of ideas in common with the Church.  In my prayer I gave him into the hands of St Therese and asked her to look after him and guide him to the faith.  My friend's suggestion seems like a confirmation of that act of entrustment.

For those who know St Therese's real life, as opposed to the sentimental image, such a proposition would make sense.  If ever there was one who understood the darkness of non belief it was Therese.  Yes, there have been saints who started out as atheists and then came to faith, but as you read Therese's writings you see very clearly that God was leading her through this dark night of unbelief for a reason.  It was to prefect her love of course: if she was to be love at the heart of the Church, then she only had love - even her faith was to pass away - as it will for all of us, as St Paul teaches us: love remains.

Have a quick read of these extracts from Therese's writings.  The first details that profound darkness into which her soul entered:
[Jesus] permitted my soul to be invaded by the thickest darkness, and that the thought of heaven, up until then so sweet to me, be no longer anything but the cause of struggle and torment.  This trial was to last not a few days or a few weeks, it was not to be extinguished until the hour set by God Himself and this hour has not yet come.  I would like to be able to express what I feel, but alas!  I believe this is impossible.  One would have to travel through this dark tunnel to understand this darkness.
Then suddenly the fog that surrounds me becomes more dense; it penetrates my soul and envelops it in such a way that it is impossible to discover within it the sweet image of my Fatherland; everything has disappeared!  When I want to rest my heart fatigued by the darkness that surrounds it by the memory of the luminous country after which I aspire, my torment redoubles; it seems to me that the darkness, borrowing the voice of sinners, says mockingly to me: “You are dreaming about the light, about a fatherland embalmed in the sweetest perfumes; you are dreaming about the eternal possession of the Creator of all these marvels; you believe that one day you will walk out of this fog that surrounds you!  Advance, advance; rejoice in death which will give you not what you hope for but a night still more profound, the night of nothingness.”
This third extract is more familiar, it brings to mind Therese's sitting at the table of unbelievers (she speaks of herself in the third person):
She is resigned to eat the bread of sorrow as long as You desire it; she does not wish to rise up from this table filled with bitterness at which poor sinners are eating until the day set by You.  Can she not say in her name and in the name of her brothers, “Have pity on us, O Lord, for we are poor sinners!”  Oh! Lord, send us away justified.  May all those who were not enlightened by the bright flame of faith one day see it shine.  O Jesus! if it is needful that the table soiled by them be purified by a soul who loves You, then I desire to eat this bread of trial at this table until it pleases You to bring me into Your bright Kingdom.
See also Michael Gallagher's article on her trial of faith here.

In these we are given a glimpse of her trial of faith, one which makes her truly a woman of the modern age, or to take Pope Pius XI's description of her, as the greatest saint of modern times.  She endured what modern man and modern women endures even today - the reality of doubt, the absence of faith, the night of uncertainity - but in her love was her anchor and so her trial purified her love.

There is no official patron saint of atheists and non believers, St Otteran has been described as the patron, but that is based on a silly, untrue story about him.  The granting of a patronage must be based on a reality, and St Therese's experience is reality enough for her to be proclaimed.

So, there's something for you to think about and comment on.  If any Carmelites are reading this, especially Discalced, we might get our heads together and see if there is anything that could be done.  I presume a few bishops will come in handy here.
Therese's "first child": Henri Pranzini, converted on the scaffold before his execution for murder, thanks to her prayers

Day For Life

Christopher McCamley over at Catholicus blog has an interesting post on the recent Day for Life, which we marked last Sunday.

Personally I am inclined to agree with his point - that a too broad understanding of the commemoration has been taken, and that this approach has led to a perceived ambiguity on the issue of life and, as been said by some who work in the Pro-Life cause, a falling into the temptation to avoid the contentious matters in favour of a more acceptable canon of concerns. 

Last Sunday's theme was about solidarity and hope, and the document released by the Episcopal Conference was not great.  Given the threats to life that are growing, we may need to return to Blessed John Paul II's encyclical Evangelium Vitae to recover what the commemoration was supposed to be about - promoting the culture of life in the face of a culture of death, defending the unborn and vulnerable.  That can be a broad canvas, but the difficulty that may be arising now is that the canvas has been stretched so far holes are starting to appear.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Quick Scan

It has been a hectic weekend!  And it looks like a very hectic week, so if I disappear without trace from the blog, don't be surprised!  I'll do my best to get a few rants in over the week.

But there have been a number of developments in various areas over the last few days.  First of all we beat Italy in the Rugby World Cup down under, so Ireland is through to the quarter finals!!   That's good news for us here in Ireland - we like our rugby!

I see the Austrian priests who are revolting against the Church and her teaching, have been reminded that they do not represent the views of ordinary Catholics.   How true this is.  When our self-styled progressives get on their high horses and demand what they call reform, which is in reality a reinventing of Christian teaching, they think they speak for the people.  In reality they don't - they speak for themselves and perhaps a small constituency within the Church. 

This is also true of the ACP in Ireland. As they too revolt against the Church and the Holy Father, they think they represent the majority of Irish priests.  They don't.  They represent a small group of disaffected liberals who are still caught up in a distorted understanding of the Second Vatican Council, one which has failed and has now been cast aside for the authentic teachings of the Council. 

In reality, back in the Sixties, a number of priests, religious and laity did not like what was coming out of the Council, so they issued their own doctrines and statements, offered these to the media and the waiting world as the teachings and decisions Council, and then when the truth came out, they called those presenting the truth as reactionaries who were trying to dismantle the reforms of the Council.  It was all about spin, and these guys and gals started spinning stories and the Church has been trying to deal with their web of deceit which has caught countless Catholics since the Sixties.  Weak and confused hierarchies and Rome's naivety, and at times incompetence, with regard to the media, made space for this web to grow. 

But things are getting back on track, thank God, though Rome and local ordinaries, still need to come to grips with the secular media.  An interesting observation from a friend of mine who is a journalist.  He attended the monster meeting of ACP in Portlaoise last year and counted the number of priests there; the figure given was somewhere between 400 and 500.  He said he counted 250 and most of them seemed to be of a certain generation.

I see Ryan Tubridy is making an ass of himself again.  In his show on Friday night he had the seven presidential candidates on talking about their campaigns and culminating in a debate.  Tubridy laid into Dana and quizzed her on the Church's position on the Seal of the Confession.  He treated her very badly and soon found that Dana is not the pushover our secular media like to think she is - this lady has teeth!  She rightly asked him why he was putting her into a box as the "Catholic candidate".  He tried to get back at her.  Later in the show Dana was the one who elicited a round of applause from the audience, which Tubridy resented and asked the audience to stop. 

It seems to me RTE and the media's tactic is clear with regard to Dana.  It can be summed up as follows:
Dana is the Catholic candidate
Catholic Church evil and bad, abuses children
A vote for Dana is a vote for the evil and bad Catholic Church which abuses children
          Don't vote for Dana
or, we might express it in another way (if he read this, my former logic professor will be tearing his hair out):
Dana is a Christian singer
Christian singers are stupid
Therefore Dana is stupid
          Don't vote for Dana    QED
Now we might also consider the following syllogism (I can see my degree in philosophy coming up for review!):
Dana is capable, warm, intelligent, patriotic, fair and grounded
A good President of Ireland must be capable, warm, intelligent, patriotic, fair and grounded
Therefore Dana would be a good President of Ireland
Like RTE and the other media outlets, I am not taking sides nor pushing any candidates - indeed like those venerable institutions I would never think of being partisan when it comes to politics, just reflecting....

Meanwhile more scandals are being unearthed about David Norris.  Interestingly the print media are carrying the stories, but RTE is doing its best to ignore them.  There seems to be a pattern emerging here - RTE may be pushing its own candidate.

To end, it seems good old Irish hypocrisy is alive and well on the political front.  In The Irish Catholic this weekend is a letter from an M. O'Brien in Castletroy, Co. Limerick, who tells us that Fine Gael were outside the Catholic church there on their annual Church Gate Collection.  This person was rightly angry - after all Enda Kenny said about the Church they have the nerve to turn up and look for our money.  I also believe one Fine Gael TD said that they would be canvasing outside the churches for their presidential candidate.  Ah yes, and you know we Catholics are worse fools if we let them.  As I told you before I had to run political candidates from Church property during the last election.  Seems I may have to do so again. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Sister's Birthday!

Last night and this morning I am at the annual OCDS National Retreat, so I do not have much time to blog.  However it would be remiss of me not to mark this day - the feast of St Therese, one of the world's most popular Saints. 

I think it is safe to say that many of us have a deep love for Therese, and she has proved a very good friend and confidante, indeed a real sister to her devotees.   Today we thank her for her prayers and help, and for all those roses and little petals that just pop up in the most unusual of places and at the most necessary time reminding us of her presence and her constant intercession. 

So today, perhaps, instead of asking for favours - and we know she always intercedes for them, let's just say thanks and happy feast day!

Thanks Therese,
Happy Feast Day
In your honour and in thanksgiving
we say three Glory be's

Glory be     Glory be    Glory be