Friday, June 29, 2012

Solemnity Of SS Peter And Paul: A Spiritual Pilgrimage

A happy feast day to you all - the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles, SS Peter and Paul.  I love these days at the end of the June, they bring us right of the heart the Church in Rome as we reflect on the first beginnings and the persecution of the first martyrs there, among them SS Peter and Paul.   This is the "Quo Vadis" week really, when we immerse ourselves in the heroism of our brothers and sisters who shed their blood for Christ and sanctified the city we now look to as the See of our Holy Father, the successor of St Peter.

It is a time when we can do a spiritual pilgrimage to those holy places.  Starting at the Mamertine prison, beside the Roman Forum, down in the lower cell, dank and damp, where Peter and Paul were held in chains together awaiting their fate. 

The Mamertine Prison

Then the journey out the Via Appia (the Appian Way) to the Quo Vadis Church, stopping off at the Circus Maximus where many of the first martyrs died. 

The Circus Maximus

The Via Appia Antica

The "Quo Vadis" Church

The "footprints of Jesus"

After a prayer in the church, and having looked at the "footpints of Jesus", back into Rome with Peter renewed, to visit his tomb in St Peter's Basilica on the Vatican hill where he was crucified upside down and then buried in the cemetery nearby.

The Crucifixion of St Peter

St Peter's Tomb

Then on out to Tre Fontane, to the site of St Paul's beheading, taking a moment to reflect on the three fountains which may well indeed symbolise the waters of baptism being poured out all over the world on countless converts redeemed by the blood of Christ and won by the intercession of the blood of the Apostles.

The beheading of St Paul

Pillar on which St Paul was beheaded at the Monastery of Tre Fontane

Then the walk into the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls to spend some time praying at his tomb, and perhaps some moments reading from his epistles.

The Tomb of St Paul

And finally back in to the city to the Basilica of St John Lateran, the Pope's cathedral, to pray for the Holy Father, and to venerate the heads of the two Apostles which are enshrined above the Papal Altar.

Reliquary busts containing the heads of SS Peter and Paul
above the Papal Altar in the Lateran Basilica

In news today: the US Catholic bishops have rejected the US Supreme Court's judgement on Obamacare.  An interesting analysis of the judgement on Fr Frank Pavone from Phil Lawlor.  And Scripture scholar, Fr Jerome Murphy-O'Connor believes Jesus had a nervous breakdown in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

Fr Murphy-O'Connor has many interesting and insightful things to say on the Scriptures, but sometimes he just loses the run of himself, and I think he has done it again with this particular theory.  Another of his strange notions concerns St Paul's marital status.  Even though there is not a shred of evidence to suggest St Paul was married, Murphy-O'Connor maintains that he was but his wife and children probably died in a dreadful accident and so he could not bring himself to even refer to it when he gives his biography and lists his sufferings in his epistles.  It's one thing having a theory, but theories must be backed up with evidence, or at least a tradition however vague, but Murphy O'Connor offers no evidence, just fanciful notions. 

And finally Cardinal Dolan's reflections on the Venerable Fulton Sheen and the Venerable Angeline McCrory following the Holy Father's decrees yesterday.  You know something, the Saints keep us sane.  In the midst of the craziness of the world we can look to them and see that at every point in history there were people who "got it", who convince us that we are walking the right path to Christ and urge us to keep walking, and to get up when we fall.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Archbishop Sheen Declared Venerable

Great news today - Archbishop Fulton Sheen has been declared Venerable by Pope Benedict XVI.  With the work on the miracle being processed at the moment, I think we will see his beatification in the next few years.   This is wonderful for the Church, for priests who preach the truth and for those involved in the media.  As one who fearlessly preached the Gospel over the airwaves, and suffered for it, his glorification will be a great sign of hope as we move forward in the New Evangelisation. 

I think the Venerable Fulton has friends in Rome: his positio was presented thirteen months ago - this is fast according to CCS standards.  I presume the powers that be want him beatified quickly. I know of other Causes with accompanying miracles presented long before Sheen's which are still awaiting the decree. 

I see Mother Angeline McCrory has also been declared Venerable.  I knew her sisters in the New York -one of them, Sr Aloysius McBride, was a dear friend - she died a few years ago.  It's a pity she did not live to see today, she would have been thrilled.  She knew Mother Angeline and her stories about the foundress were always entertaining and beautiful.  Hopefully her Cause will proceed quickly to beatification.  The Venerable Angeline has a lot to say about the dignity of old age and the importance of respecting life. She would be a great patron to invoke against euthanasia.  Mother Angeline was Irish!  She was born in Co. Tyrone and emigrated to Scotland, her family's native country, when she was seven, and then to the US when she joined the Little Sisters of the Poor.  She founded the Carmelites of the Aged and Infirm.

Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, companion of St Josemaria Escriva and second leader and first Prelate of Opus Dei has also been declared Venerable.  So it's a bumper lot today.

I'm not sure if you saw this article. Gary Krupp of the Pave The Way Foundation says that the fight against the "black legend" constructed about the Venerable Pius XII is almost over.  Meticulous research has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the accusations made against him are untrue. Of course everyone knows that, even those who are propagating the accusations.  Krupp is well aware of this and he takes the unusual step of referring to those who perpetuate the accusations not as scholars but as liars.  At this stage I think few who know the truth will disagree with him there.

And it seems the Supreme Court of the US is upholding Obamacare.  We will have to see what it thinks of the HHS Mandate.  The guys over at Creative Minority Report are not happy: they tell us that the only way to get rid of this attack on religious freedom is to get rid of Obama in the November elections.  We shall see how things go there.  Is it possible that the Archbald brothers are plotting rebellion?? 

Fr Pavone Vindicated

It seems Fr Frank Pavone of Priests for Life has been vindicated by the Vatican.  Fr Pavone had been "suspended" by his Ordinary, Bishop Patrick Zurek of Amarillo, and not allowed to continue his work with Priests for Life, and sent to an isolated monastery in Texas to work as chaplain.

The Bishop alleged that there were financial irregularities in the charity and that the accounts had not been submitted to him.    The charity had responded, with evidence, proving that there were no financial irregularities and that the accounts had always been available and financial reports had been submitted.  The board of Priests for Life include a few bishops who were aware of the charity's financial situation.  In a letter to his fellow bishops, Bishop Zurek asked them to encourage their people not to support Priests for Life financially. It seems the bishops followed this advice and the pro-life charity has suffered.   Bishop Zurek also alleged that Fr Pavone had not shown him the proper respect and deference due to him as bishop.

Fr Pavone appealed to the Holy See, and on the 12 May 2012 a decision was made in the priest's favour: Priests for Life have issued a statement.  In its decision the Holy See recognised that a bishop has the right to assign a priest to whatever appointment he chooses. 

Bishop Zurek has also issued a statement confirming the Vatican decision and indicating that Fr Pavone will remain in the monastery as chaplain for the time being.  He has indicated that he will consider, on a case by case basis, any request Fr Pavone may make to participate in certain pro-life activities, providing he (the bishop) decides on what Fr Pavone's role and function in those activities may be.  NCR has an interesting article on the decision here.

On one level this is all very strange, and there may be more going on beneath the surface.  We do know that the Holy See rarely makes a decision against a bishop, even innocent priests tend to lose out so the Vatican may not be seen to be undermining a bishop - priests must accept the sacrifice in a Christ-like way.  Whenever the Vatican does make a decision against a bishop it will do so very carefully and I think that is what is going on here.   My reading of this decision is that the Holy See has said that Fr Pavone was right and unjustly treated, but it is being careful not to hang Bishop Zurek out to dry and so confirmed that as the priest's superior he may reassign him whenever he likes.

Perhaps there has also been a word in the bishop's ear, and perhaps a move might be on the cards in the near future, who knows.  At the moment Fr Pavone, now vindicated, must be obedient to his bishop, and wait on the Lord.  If God wants him for the service of the pro-life cause, then things will happen to ensure that.  In the meantime we must keep Fr Pavone, Bishop Zurek, Priests for Life and the pro-life cause in our prayers. 

This debacle has seriously damaged the cause for life in the US and given fuel to the pro-abortion lobby as they have danced on Fr Pavone's reputation, and the good work of Priests for Life has been damaged and hampered.  Let's hope things will get back on track for them and donations will come in once again for the fine work the charity is engaged in.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Time To Forgive

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so they say.  In terms of Irish and British history this photograph is of momentous importance.  The former IRA man, now Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, shakes hands and greets Queen Elizabeth II.  Ten, twenty, thirty years ago this would have been impossible.  The Queen of England was seen as the enemy by many in Northern Ireland, and Martin McGuinness and his colleagues were regarded as terrorists in the UK, their voices banned from the airwaves. 

Many in Northern Ireland are delighted: without renouncing their hopes for the future of Northern Ireland, whatever they may be, they see this moment as one in which the peace and reconciliation they seek may well become a lasting reality for them.  Others are furious - a small group of extreme Republicans who still set their hearts on bombing the British off the island of Ireland.  And no doubt there are people who are hurt (Nationalists, Republicans, Loyalists) whose relations have been killed in the dreadful conflict which cast a shadow over our two countries.  

Queen Elizabeth has cause to among those who were hurt - her cousin Lord Mountbatten was killed in the conflict, blown up on his boat off the coast of Sligo.  Lord Mountbatten regularly visited the Republic - he loved the country and our people.  In this photograph note Mountbatten's nephew, Prince Philip, stands behind his wife - he adored his uncle, and yet here he is smiling and waiting his turn to shake Martin McGuinness's hand. 

I think there is a lesson in forgiveness here for all of us.  I realise that no one community can claim superiority in terms of loss and victims in the conflict in Northern Ireland - they have all suffered. Too much blood has been spilled: there are other ways to resolve differences and as Christians we should all look to Jesus Christ and follow him and his teachings as we look for a way forward.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Prophet Of Holiness

Today is the feast of St Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, so happy feast day to all the members of the Prelature and devotees of the Saint.  

One of the great benefits of the Internet is that you can see many of our holy people in the flesh so to speak, and this is true of St Josemaria.  There are a number of YouTube videos of him giving talks and engaging with people.  Contrary to the "black legend" which has been constructed around him, St Josemaria can be seen to be a humble, holy, funny, intelligent and engaging person.  I am posting one of the videos at the end of this post, so if you have time watch it. I love the joke about the Andalusian gypsies. 

Opus Dei have had a lot of bad press over the years.  About twenty years ago RTE did a hatchet job on the association and that has poisoned Opus Dei in the eyes of many Irish people ever since. I had an interesting conversation with a parishioner a few weeks ago and Josemaria came up in the conversation - the reaction was not good.  

Here is another situation where, thanks to the media, the truth about the Church and a Church organisation has been distorted so as to turn people against it.  I  think, looking back at what happened, I see the media in Ireland sharpening its teeth on Opus Dei so as to begin its assault on the Church.  The success it had in demonising the organisation gave it confidence to go for the "mother ship".  In a sense Opus Dei has become the modern Jesuits.  In history whenever a government or monarch was going to persecute the Church, they threw out the Jesuits or killed them - whichever was quicker.  It seems the modern secularist demonises Opus Dei and then starts on the Church.  I suppose that is a compliment to the Prelature - a sign that they may well be a leaven and a powerful witness to the Church.

St Josemaria was indeed a dangerous man - hence many feel the need to demonise him.  He had a very dangerous message - a revolutionary message: one he found as he spent hidden hours reading a dangerous book.  His organisation continues to spread this dangerous idea, and his sons and daughters dedicate their lives to it, are totally committed to it, put everything else in the service of it.  That idea is.....that all people are called to be holy, and that that holiness can be achieved, not just in a convent or monastery, or as a priest or hermit, but in the ordinary events of ordinary lives and through the ordinary work of one's day. 

To a world immersed in mediocrity and pleasure, that idea is very dangerous.  It is dangerous because it blows out of the water once and for all the accusation that the standards set by Christ and upheld by his Church are unreachable.  They are reachable, so none of us have the excuse of lying back on our laurels and saying "It is impossible, just stay as you are, sure God loves you anyway".  St Josemaria tells us that we have to jump out of bed in the morning, on to our knees and to spend that day in humble service of God and our neighbour, open to the work of the Holy Spirit who seeks to sanctify us and prepare us for heaven.  The dangerous book, by the way was the Bible - in its original integrity and not reinterpreted for our comfortable times.

One of the accusations made against Opus Dei was that they are secretive. I have two responses to that: the first is indignation.  These accusations are coming from people and organisations which can be deeply secretive themselves.  Is there any other organisation more secretive than the media?  When you start looking at what goes on behind closed doors in secular newspapers and media networks you get an eye opener - as we saw in the case of Fr Kevin Reynolds.  And as for infiltration - the connections between media and government and various other influential organisations here in Ireland are astounding.  There is small, tight circle in Ireland and you are either in or out, and if you are in, then you're "in".   There are also other interesting connections and relationships which are kept fairly quiet: one concerns certain political people and the former Soviet Union.  And as for the Freemasons, well we don't hear much about them in modern Ireland: is this for a reason?  Has anyone noticed that their HQ is beside our parliament building? 

My second response concerns the reality of the "secretiveness" of Opus Dei: they are ordinary people living and working in the world, living out their spirituality and striving for holiness in a hidden way ("hidden with Christ in God" as St Paul describes it).  They do not trumpet their good works for all to see - they just want to be left alone to love God and serve their neighbour.  They do not proclaim that they are members for a number of reasons, one I'm sure is because they have been demonised so much by the media it's best not to draw attention to themselves.  After all, any group that has been unjustly demonised tends to be careful.  If the media turned on stamp collectors as they did on Opus Dei, I think many of them would go underground.

That said, people have had negative experiences, and that happens even in the best organisations and with the holiest people.  No one and no organisation is perfect - we strive for perfection, but that doesn't mean we have it yet.  It is also true that every organisation has people who take things to extremes, can be tough, too zealous, and yes, can be uncharitable and unChristian: welcome to the sinners's club (aka the Catholic Church).  An important part of the spiritual life is enduring difficult and demanding people: they are called "saint-makers" and Opus Dei has its share of them too!

St Josemaria took Christ's message to heart: "Be holy as your heavenly Father is holy", and he took Jesus at his word when, in his Priestly Prayer in St John's Gospel, he prayed that we would achieve that holiness.  Christ will help us, and so in him we truly become children of our Eternal Father: saints.  St Josemaria was called to proclaim that message long before Vatican II would reiterate it in its teaching.  We don't have to be members of Opus Dei to live that message - it is presumed by the Church that we are striving to do so since the way of holiness is, as our Gospel tells us today, the narrow path to heaven. 

St Josemaria was sent to wake us up to this.  He often saw himself only as a little donkey, but I think he is more like an alarm clock which goes off on a fine and sunny morning, urging us out of bed to embrace the heroic minute - the heroic life.  To those who see the joy of a new day, he is a welcome witness; to those who want to turn over in the bed, pull the covers over their heads and pretend the world does not exist because they are too tired to be bothered with it, then he is an nuisance.  Thank God for that Nuisance!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Worthy Patrons Of These Times

What a wonderful feast today:  St John Fisher and St Thomas More, two holy men who died rather than renounce Christ, his Church and the moral law of God.   They are worthy examples and intercessors for us in these times.  A happy feast day to you all, most especially to all our Fraternity members and my blog readers in the UK, and to those in the US as they begin Fortnight for Freedom: may these holy martyrs be with you all and obtain from the Lord the grace and courage we all need to face the challenges of these times.

St John and St Thomas were martyred by Henry VIII because they would not support his divorce, his remarriage and his founding of the Church of England.  But there was another reason too, I believe: both were renowned for their holiness - Henry needed their consent in order to assuage his conscience.  When they refused to give it, then they had to be killed - Henry had to get holiness out of the way because it pricked his conscience.  And as he beheaded them, and murdered the other holy men of England, he managed to silence his conscience.  Our enemies in these times will try to do the same with us.  Stand firm!

Let us remember the lessons of these holy men: no king, president, prime minister, taoiseach or parliament can make right what is wrong in the moral law of God.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Here We Go...

Well we all knew it was just a matter of time.  Two lesbians in the US are suing a Catholic institution for discrimination because the institution will not recognise their "marriage".   

One of the women is employed by Catholic St Joseph's Medical Centre in Yonkers in New York and she wants her same sex lover to be covered in her medical insurance as her spouse.  The Centre has a policy of not covering same sex partners in their insurance policies, so these ladies are suing the Centre and its insurance company.  Both women will not allow themselves be identified, so they are suing under the names "Jane Roe" and "Jane Doe". 

We all knew that the assurances given to protect religious freedom and beliefs were not worth the paper they were written on.  We will see how this case goes - it will probably go all the way to the US Supreme Court and its ruling will be important in the battle between religious freedom and the homosexual agenda.

We in Europe will need to keep an eye on this - it will be coming to us very soon as various state legislatures are considering changing civil partnerships into marriage.   According to EU law if a state allows gay marriage, then there can be no discrimination, so the Church may find herself in a situation where she will be compelled by law to conduct marriage ceremonies for same sex couples.

So it could be the case that if we priests are not doing time for refusing to break the Seal of Confession, we could be behind bars for refusing to marry homosexual couples.  Marantha!  Come, Lord Jesus! 

Creeping Vengeance

Last night I watched James Watkins’s The Woman in Black with a friend.  It was our second viewing of the movie as we both saw it first in the cinema: it has just been released on DVD.   That first viewing was an ordeal because, hats off to Watkins and his team, it is a scary movie, and it certainly holds the tension and scares with the second viewing. 

If you do not know the movie: it is an adaptation of Susan Hill’s Gothic novel about a vengeful ghost haunting a community.  It is also a successful stage play in the West End and apparently an evening out at that play is not good for the nerves – the stage directors have managed to keep the tension.  The movie stars Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe, who is quite good, and our own Ciaran Hinds who is excellent.  Jane Goldman, wife of Jonathan Ross adapted the screenplay from the novel and she did a marvellous job.

If you like scary movies then get this one and watch it in the dark!  If you find saying the Rosary hard, you’ll overcome any difficulties by the time the night is out.  What is really good about this movie is that it works – it does not fall flat at the end as many horror movies do.  It is also a traditional Gothic horror, it’s not a slasher movie, a genre which has come to dominate since the 1960s or so: it’s a good old ghost story.  And it lingers long after you have turned off the DVD player.   That is the sign of a good ghost story.

Why am I writing about a ghostly movie?  Well, the theme is interesting – it is all about vengeance.  Now it is not The Grudge, a Japanese flick that left me cold when I saw it, although The Woman in Black does have that oriental ghost story feel to it.  I’ll try not to spoil it for you, but I need to tell you something about the plot in order to reflect on the lesson the movie teaches.  If you want to see the movie without any idea of the plot then stop reading, come back later when you’ve watched it.

The story concerns a young solicitor, Arthur Kipps, widowed and raising a four year old son.  He cannot get over the death of his wife and his work is being affected.  He is on his last chance and so is sent to an eerie coastal village to sort out the will and papers of a recently deceased client.  Arriving in the village he is shunned.  When he arrives at the deceased woman's house, Eel Marsh House, he finds a creepy pile with lots of dark corridors and spectral secrets – you know the score.  While there he sees a woman dressed in black and she starts appearing in the shadows scaring the living daylights out of you!  Soon children in the village start dying in dreadful circumstances.  Her story is simple: her son has died tragically and she took her own life, now she is wrecking vengeance on all and sundry by luring their children to their deaths.

Now it’s not exactly Alice in Wonderland, although to be honest there some dark characters in that story too, but it is an interesting reflection on vengeance.  Here we have a woman who is so possessed by a vengeful spirit she haunts her home and local village, she cannot rest but must bring destruction and misfortune on others.  At the end of the movie you realise that the one who suffers the most and has been completely destroyed by this vengeance is the woman in black herself.

In our Gospel today we had Our Lord’s teaching on prayer, and he gives us the Our Father.  In that prayer we pray “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”.  Forgiveness is a vital part of Christianity – the first word from the Cross was Jesus’ forgiving those who were responsible for his death (i.e. all of us!).  It can be difficult to forgive, but we must do everything we can to do so because if we don’t we will end up seeking vengeance and that will destroy us. 

I remember listening to a woman whose child was killed by another. She refused to forgive and so twenty years later she was still in the first flush of grief and bitter, very bitter.  Her whole life had stopped, she could move on nor look to those around her: her anger had become hatred and though the killers were doing life, it was not enough for her: she demanded a greater retribution.  She had no peace and she thought that in “making them pay” she would find it.  But she wouldn’t.  That peace could only be found in forgiveness.

Forgiveness does not deny justice, it enhances it.  Forgiveness proceeds from mercy, mercy we all need, and only mercy can bring peace to our souls when we have been offended. To be able to let go (which does not deny what happened, nor let people off the hook) is a must if we want to be healed of the wounds others have inflicted on us.  In letting go, in forgiving, we give ourselves a chance of life, of being set free of a chain which could drag us down into the depths of despair.  Forgiveness also paves the way for reconciliation and while that might be difficult, perhaps unheard of to a soul that has been hurt, it is the path Our Lord asks us to walk with him.  The example of Assunta Goretti, the mother of St Maria Goretti, is one we should reflect on. 

The woman in black was a ghost, but she need not have been: her spectral wandering and desire for vengeance can happen to any one of us if we refuse to forgive from our heart.  We will need God’s grace to do, but it is there for the asking.

And in case any of you are wondering: do ghosts exist?  Does Fr John believe in ghosts?  Yes, I do: as a priest I have seen and heard of too many things not to.  As to what they are, I’m not sure.  The demonic presences and figures are easily explained, and they can afflict people and places.  As to the non-demonic – well they could be souls doing their purgatory here on earth, or the souls of the damned or, perhaps in some way, souls of the deceased who have resisted God’s call to leave this life and are hanging on – perhaps God permits it for a reason.  I don’t know.  But what I do know is that we pray for such souls.

So next time you see a ghost pray for them, have Mass offered for them – they could have appeared to you so you would remember them in prayer.  In the meantime, don’t be fixated it can become unhealthy.  Enjoy the movie, and then turn it off and say a Rosary – you might need it……

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Helping Women In Situations

One of the reasons the Catholic Church opposes the use of artificial contraception is that it offends against the dignity of women, ultimately reducing them, in the eyes of some men, to objects for pleasure: once the consequences of the sexual act are erased, then the risk is reduced and motivations may not be so pure. 

As Pope Paul VI understood, when he wrote Humanae Vitae, artificial contraception will lead to other evils, abortion among them.  Radical feminists reject the late Pope's teaching, saying that women are liberated by contraception and abortion.  Well, experience and reality have proved the Pope right, and here is one of the awful examples of how women suffer and their dignity is offended by such practices: sex selective abortion: gendercide.

It is well known that many baby girls are being aborted for no other reason than that they are female. The demographics of China, for example, show how true this is as the male population is far higher than the female: the one child policy makes couples abort their daughters so as to have a son to carry on the family name. 

We might say that here in the "enlightened west" we would never stoop so low - equality and respecting the dignity of women is a vital part of modern secular culture.  Well actually, no it's not.  There is evidence that reveals that baby girls in the west are being aborted to make way for a boy.  And the feminists are ignoring it, and as we can see from this video, those carrying out abortions are permitting and facilitating it:

I note that when asked if she will be allowed to have a sex selective abortion, the lady in the abortion clinic says they do not consider reasons - they are just helping women in situations.  I'm not sure the future women being aborted would agree with that.

Irish State Fails Children

If there is one issue which reveals the double standard which is at the heart of modern Irish secular society it is the area of child abuse.  For the last number of years the Catholic Church has been torn to shreds in the media over her appalling recording on the care of children by some in the Church. Much of this was deserved, though at this stage the continued attacks are more of an ideological nature than righteous indignation. 

But compare this with the treatment the media give the state and its institutions when their record of appalling failures in the care of children is exposed.  Yes, a front page article, but where is the hysteria?  Where is the righteous indignation?  Where are the politicians demanding retribution?  Where are the resignations?   It is a very different affair.  We have people speaking calmly on television and radio, politicians in government wringing their hands and promises of implementing recommendations.  The item may be given first billing in news reports, but we then move on to something else, unlike news bulletins following the release of the Ryan and Murphy reports which dominated the bulletins and had teams of journalists on the job. 

For readers who do not know the Irish state's history of child care read this report in The Irish Times which details the publication of a report on the issue, a report which has been due out for a long time. Children have died in state care - over a hundred dying various unnatural deaths in recent times.  Children have disappeared without a trace - still missing, and yet self-righteous Ireland picking over the corpse of the Catholic Church barely raises an eyebrow.  Why?    As priests and religious sisters are named and shamed (legitimately if they are offenders), those in the HSE and other government departments hide behind anonymity, keep their jobs and no one is any the wiser.  Why?

A number of years ago we had a high profile case in which a young girl sued the state to allowed go to England to have an abortion.  She won and with the help of the then Health Board went on her merry way to an abortion clinic.  Only it was not as merry as we had been led to believe: we learned only recently that the girl did not want an abortion; that her parents did not consent to it - the girl was underage; yet officials in the then Health Board took it upon themselves to decide that an abortion was needed.  The girl was devastated when she realised what had happened her: "Where is my baby?"  she pleaded after the abortion.  And where are those state employees?  Why have they not been called to account and put behind bars not only for the murder of an innocent baby, but the abuse of young pregnant girl who did not know what they were doing to her.

And yet self-righteous secular Ireland - modern, "mature" Ireland, picking over the corpse of the "evil Catholic Church" barely raises an eyebrow.  But there is much more.  As the Church is condemned for her failures in area of child care, the state's part in this is airbrushed.  Yes, we had token expressions of regret, but if you examine the situation you see that more than such expressions are necessary.  In many cases the state dumped children on the religious orders and told them to look after them. Yes they provided funding, but it was paltry, not enough to feed a canary never mind look after growing children.

A number of sisters involved in the work told me that state officials would arrive at the door with a child, or a family in tow and basically tell the nuns or brothers that they had to look after them.  The children were abandoned by the state, put out of the way and burden fell on the Church to look after them.  These congregations, contrary to secular accusations, did not have a lot of money - they struggled to make ends meet.  Yes, unlike the state, the congregation had lots of dedicated staff who worked for nothing - religious who did not get a salary.  Let's remember the innocent, hard working religious who never harmed a child but devoted every waking moment trying to provide food, clothes, heat, education and some affection with inadequate resources. It was not always successful, and some of these religious were not naturally affectionate and some were struggling with "mother's vocations", so there were difficulties.  I think we can say that the Church has taken a beating for the state in recent years, it is a pity that politicians do not realise this: as priests and religious are made pariahs, the state slips out of the equation quite conveniently.

What is most interesting in all of this is that we have a Children's Rights referendum coming up in the Autumn. In this referendum the citizens of this mighty Republic will be asked to give the state more powers to protect children, to take them into care and leave parents with lesser rights.  The media and secular groups are all in favour of this.  Now, will we hear much bashing of the state over this recent report?  Will the media take the risk of even planting in people's minds a doubt: that this referendum may need to be defeated because the state has an appalling record of child care?  Well, I think we can all work that one out for ourselves.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Obedience And Holiness

If you haven't read this, I would recommend it: John Allen's interview with Cardinal Levada of CDF concerning the ongoing controversy with the American LCWR.   The Cardinal is very direct in his answers and he even goes so far as to suggest what might happen if the leaders of the LCWR do not cooperate. 

I also note that he stresses the need for obedience: these ladies are consecrated religious with a vow of obedience - a vow which is ultimately made to the Pope.  Some sisters might dispute this.  I remember discussing this with an Irish sister who insisted that her vow of obedience was to her community and congregation, not to the Pope - he had no authority over them.  Well, he does. 

Interestingly Cardinal Ouellet said something similar in his homily at the Statio Orbis: he spoke of the Pope as our spiritual father and reminded us that we must be obedient to him.  Obedience is seen as a negative by many in the Church today, and yet when we look to Jesus we see One who was utterly obedient to his Eternal Father - obedient to the point of giving up his life on the cross.  If Jesus was prepared to lay down his life in obedience, then consecrated religious, who are supposed to modelling their lives on Christ's, must be prepared to do the same, although the most they will be asked to do is to die to self.  

And in other news: as we were celebrating the Statio Orbis, in Nepi in Italy a new Beata was being raised to the altars, the young Blessed Cecilia Eusepi, an extraordinary young woman who was a member of Catholic Action and died at the age of 18.   She was a Third Order Servite.

Cecilia was born in Monte Romano on the 17th February 1910: just over a month after her birth her father died.  A paternal uncle assisted her mother Paolina in raising the little girl.  When she was five they moved to Nepi where she began her schooling under Cistercian nuns.   In 1922 she joined Catholic Action and discerned a vocation to the Servite Third Order, being clothed in the Order's scapular on the 14th February 1922 and taking the name Sr Maria Angela. 

In 1923 she entered the Mantellate Sisters Servants of Mary, but due to bad health she had to leave after three years.  In 1926 peritonitis and inflammation of the lungs were diagnosed and Cecilia began her vocation of suffering.  At this time she meta Servite priest, Fr Gabriele Roschini who, recognising her holiness, became her spiritual director and guided her in the last years of her life.  In obedience to him she wrote her autobiography which she titled The Story of a Clown.

Developing intestinal TB, Cecilia succumbed to it on the 1st October 1928.  Her remains were interred in the burial chapel of the Gregori family and her tomb soon became a place of pilgrimage where many graces were granted through her intercession.  She was declared Venerable by Blessed John Paul II on the 1st June 1987 and beatified last Sunday.

Like St Therese, Blessed Cecilia's life was short, hidden and yet extraordinary.  She grew in virtue and impressed all who knew her.  Like Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, Blessed Cecilia prove that holiness can be attained by all, even the young.  May she intercede for all of us and we pray that the Lord will soon grant a miracle through her intercession so she may be enrolled among the Saints soon.

Given the subject of the first part of this post, I would suggest that Blessed Cecilia offers the sisters of LCWR a wonderful example of dedication to God, dying to self, obedience to Christ and his Church, and that humility which opens one's heart to God's grace making one a shining example of holiness for all to see.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Non-Irish Irish Bishops?

St Patrick, Bishop to the Irish: not Irish but British

David Quinn always has something interesting to say.  Here are his views on the appointment of non-Irish priests to Sees in Ireland.  I have heard that Rome may be considering appointing priests from overseas as bishops in Irish dioceses, and that may cause problems here.  The Church has been quite insular here for some time - we tend to be very local, so to see how non-Irish bishops would go down with Irish Catholics would be interesting.

Personally I have no problem with it, in fact I would be in favour of it - we are a universal Church after all.  Our national apostle, St Patrick was not Irish and some of our bishops in the past were not Irish - some of the former Archbishops of Dublin were not Irish born for example, including Archbishop Hugh Inge who was Bishop of Meath before being appointed Archbishop of Dublin.  Archbishop Inge was born in Somerset, educated at Oxford and was a favourite of Cardinal Wolsey who was influentual in having him appointed Bishop of Meath.  Inge died in 1528, just before the English Reformation and the downfall of Wolsey.

Great care will have to be taken, but I think David has a few valid suggestions as to how it could be done.  And let's face it, Irish priests have been appointed as bishops to various overseas dioceses for years, in Africa for example, so we should be willing to accept bishops from other countries.

Eucharistic Congress 2012: Some Thoughts

Well, the 50th International Eucharistic Congress is over and the Church is preparing for the next one in Cebu in the Philippines.   We had a large contingent from the Philippines over and, as always, their faith was most impressive.

I spent the week going up and down to the Congress doing some continuity work for the television broadcasts on EWTN, some vox pops and interviews, some of which were for EWTN radio.  One of the most impressive interviews was with Pat Kenny who runs the Fr Willie Doyle blog.  He gave a talk on the Irish Jesuit on Monday evening in St Kevin's Church hall which was packed.  I interviewed him on Tuesday afternoon and I think it will be a very interesting programme.  Fr Willie is one of the Irish figures who should be put forward for canonisation - if he were Italian, Polish, French or Spanish, he would probably be canonised by now.

Anyway, the Congress.  I must say I was very impressed by the organisation and it was obvious that a lot of hard work went into it, so congratulations to those who pushed the sleeves up and tackled what was a mammoth task.  The RDS had a real festival atmosphere and I was delighted to see that many of the new congregations and communities had come and their presence would have encouraged the Irish, many of whom are unaware that religious life is more vibrant in the Church today than it ever was.   Despite what the secularist media say, the Church is alive and kicking!

The liturgies were, for the most part, done very well, although there are a number of issues - some abuses crept in, but then given that these abuses have become part and parcel of the Irish liturgical scene they were to be expected.  But Rome was watching (and the Holy Father referred to abuses in his message yesterday), so I presume over time a gentle but firm hand will deal with them.  But there was a prayerful atmosphere as well as a jubilant one: the Congress gave Irish Catholics an opportunity to celebrate their faith and be exposed to the universal nature of the Church and the many ministries, associations and congregations which are part of our faith.  So well done to the organisers for facilitating that and facilitating it so well.

There were many wonderful speakers, and a number who should not have been asked, and that had been one of my concerns earlier.  That said I was delighted to have the opportunity to see and hear some world class speakers, including the new bishop of Shewsbury, Bishop Mark Davies who is a most remarkable man: a holy man, a good bishop and one with an evangelical soul.

While I thought the ecumenical dimension was a good idea, I think they have should have been more careful.  Ruth Patterson, a Presbyterian minister, was one of those involved, and after having a podium to speak at the Congress she came on to RTE radio and basically said that the Catholic Church will have no credibility or effectiveness until it ordains married men and women.  She also said that orthodoxy was a subtle form of idolatry.  She is entitled to her opinion, but I would imagine having been given a platform to speak at a major Catholic event, she would have the graciousness not to attack the Church as she did.  Inviting her was a  mistake, though the organisers cannot be held responsible for what this lady says after the event.  However given her reputation, prudence would have suggested they should not have taken the chance.

One group who was not invited, and I think should have been, were the members of the Personal Ordinariates.  Given that this was the first Congress following the Holy Father's establishing the Ordinariates, I think an invitation should have been forwarded to the leaders of the various Ordinariates.  I'm sure Mgr Newton from the UK Ordinariate would have been delighted to come, and he could have been a keynote speaker.  It would have been most appropriate given that the theme of the Congress was communion with Christ and with one another, seeing that they have just entered full communion with the Church.  Perhaps the organisers in Cebu will invite them for 2016.

I also think the Eucharistic Procession was really lovely, though I believe we should have had it in O'Connell street.  There seems to be a fear of having such processions in the city now, I presume some do not want to appear triumphalist given recent history, but I think we need to start regaining confidence in our faith again. Let's face it if the gays and lesbians can parade down O'Connell street proudly in their hundreds in their upcoming Gay Pride March, we have every right to do so in our tens of thousands.  Interestingly this Congress may have brought confidence back to the Catholics of Ireland.

The Statio Orbis yesterday was very well prepared for.  Contrary to the reports in The Irish Times which says only 50,000 turned up, the figure was much more obviously about 70,000-75,000.  Strange that, Patsy McGarry, the religious affairs correspondent was sitting a few seats away from me and saw the same crowd as I did: perhaps he needs to go to Specsavers and have his eyes checked - obviously his glasses are not up to scratch.   In fact Patsy was pretty obsessed with figures all week: at the press conferences the one question he always asked concerned attendance figures.  Indeed the secular media have been quite boorish in its coverage, and all the work of Fr Kevin Doran and his committee overshadowed by their obsession with apologies.  

I was disappointed to see Joe Duffy of Liveline involved in the presentation of the Statio Orbis - given his attitude to the Church and his bashing of priests and Church doctrine on his radio show he should not have been invited.  Nor, in my opinion, should have an invitation been extended to Enda Kenny (unless, of course, he gatecrashed).  I noticed though when he arrived there was booing and very little clapping - it was very subdued. I'll say one thing for him though, he has nerve.  That said, the Statio Orbis was a wonderful celebration of faith, the highlight being the Holy Father's message.

So all in all, congratulations to the organisers for facilitating what became a great festival of faith.  It would be great to have such gatherings and festivals more often: perhaps the Church in Ireland may consider a national Congress every few years.  I know we have the Divine Mercy Conference each year, but I think the faithful Catholics of Ireland would like other events to help nourish their faith. Perhaps some national gathering for the Year of Faith???  So Fr Kevin Doran deserves a lie-in this morning and a few weeks holiday. 

Lest some critics take a shot at me in the combox, I do admit that the Congress was not perfect, but all in all it was a success: it made us Catholics feel proud of our faith and reminded us of what is important. It may not sort out the Church in Ireland, but it gives us a boost to start working on reform realising that there are a lot of good, solid, orthodox and prayerful people and organisations out there quietly working away to proclaim the Gospel.  It also brought Cardinal Ouellet to our shores, the one who will be responsible for appointing our new bishops (indeed the majority of them as many of the present bishops are due to retire in the next few years): he needed to see the Church in Ireland, virtues, vices and flaws, to help him in his decision making, and I think he got a good start on that. 

Now I'm exhausted, and no doubt many others, so we might all just take a few weeks to recover and get going again for October: the Year of Faith.  Any suggestions anyone?  Anyway, given our positive experience, I think we'll have to start saving: next stop - Cebu in the Philippines 2016.  I wonder if Ryanair will put on a few flights?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Irish Government Goes Ahead With Attack On Religious Freedom

A quick post, breaking my silence during this very busy week.  All going well at the Congress, but we are kept going - my producer is working us hard!    Continuity, interviews, vox pop!  I'm doing introductions in my sleep!   

I see Minister for Justice Alan Shatter is going ahead with his Bill - officially The Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offenses Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act, which will make it a criminal offence for a priest not to break the Seal of Confession.  Well, we shall see how things turn out.  For one thing we priests will not break the Seal, end of story: orthodox and dissident priests will be united on that one.  Put us in jail, drag us through the media, we won't do it.  We abhor the abuse of children, but we cannot break the Seal, to do so would violate the sacrament. 

This move is a direct attack on the Catholic faith - it goes against the Constitutional protection to freedom of religion, so if Mr Shatter wants to make a move against a priest he will find himself facing a Constitutional challenge and, listening to some of my friends in legal circles, he will most likely lose.  I personally think the Minister knows this is non runner from the start, I believe he is posing and wants to be seen to be getting back at the Church for her failures.  But to revert to religious persecution: well, Mr Shatter should know better.

One interesting question arises: will the President be able to sign it?  If it offends the Constitution's protection of religious freedom, President Higgins will have to refer it to the Supreme Court to be tested, and it may well be thrown out.  Given that the President is Labour, however, he may not refer it since Labour is pushing this legislation, so it may come down to a challenge should a priest be prosecuted.

William Oddie has an interesting take on it: he welcomes the legislation, believing that it might help in the renewal of the Church.  One commentor in the combox of Oddie's article points out that a priest may be set up - that is true.  Would our government stoop so low?  Probably not.  Would our media?  Well, I'm not so sure there.  Having observed some reporters from the mainstream media (and one in particular), I'm not impressed with them and would expect anything.

Well, time for that novena to St John Nepomuk.  I knew the statue I bought a few years ago would come in handy. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

On EWTN Duty

I will be on duty for EWTN at the Eucharistic Congress for the next week, juggling parish work and recording down at the RDS.  I will not have much time to myself, so I will not be blogging for a week.  Please keep our work in your prayers.   Thank you.

You can follow our coverage on EWTN at the following sites:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Host Of Witnesses

Many religious Orders and Congregations in Spain number many martyrs.  One of the Orders which suffered the most was the Augustinian.    Ninety-nine friars, one of them a bishop, were martyred for the faith.

Blessed Anselm Polanco

The bishop was Blessed Anselm Polanco.  He was born in Buenavista de Valdavia, near Palencia on the 16th April 1881.   While still a teenager he joined the Augustinians, making his first profession in 1897.  He was ordained priest in 1904.  Recognising his abilities, his superiors appointed him as a teacher and formator for the friars.  He excelled in the post.  In 1922 he was appointed Prior of the community in Valladolid, and in 1932 appointed Provincial of a province in the Philippines.  This post required a lot of travel, yet in the midst of it all he maintained a simple and prayerful life.  It was while he was provincial that he was appointed the Bishop of Teruel in Spain in 1935, and so he moved back to take up his position.

His time as bishop was destined to be short: the Civil War broke out the following year and Teruel, despite being a small city, was a centre of violence and persecution.  Bishop Anselm made up his mind not to flee, but to stay with his people and try to protect them as the anti-Catholic fury threatened to destroy them.   He managed to do so for a about a year and a half, but he knew that he was living on borrowed time.  On the 8th January 1938 the hour arrived for him. With some of his priests he was arrested by the militia – he left his residence dressed in his Augustinian habit.

Interrogated, the militia tried to force the bishop renounce a letter the bishops of Spain had written denouncing the religious persecution by the Republicans: he refused.  He was imprisoned with his Vicar General and as the war progressed it seemed that they might survive.  However their captors realising that they would soon have to flee themselves, took the bishop out on the 7th February 1939 and shot him at Pont de Molins near Gerona, not far from the border with France.  His Vicar General was martyred with him.  His remains were recovered and laid to rest in his cathedral.  He was beatified on the 1st October 1995.

Blessed Anselm leads a host of Augustinian martyrs – men and women.  Of these the largest group of martyrs come from the community of the Escorial, the royal monastery outside Madrid.  The Escorial was founded both as royal palace with a monastery by King Philip II of Spain.  Dedicated to St Laurence, the deacon and martyr who was born in Spain, the complex was designed to resemble the ancient Temple of Solomon.  The Augustinians took up residence in the monastery section and they ministered in the palace/monastery chapel, the Basilica of St Laurence.

In 1936 the community number 111 friars, some of whom lived outside the monastery in a community in Madrid to facilitate a ministry to university students.    The prior was Fr Angel Custodia Vega (who survived), and it fell to him to protect the community when the Civil War broke out.  Living in such an important symbol of Catholic Spain, the community were quickly garrisoned in July 1936 and lived as virtual prisoners until the 5th August when, as they were praying the chapel, local officials arrived to tell them that they would all be transported to Madrid the following morning. 

Fr Angel suspected what was coming, so he ordered a great feast for the community meal that evening.  The former prior, Fr Juan Monedero spoke during the meal and told the community to be prepared for whatever was to come – things were bad, he said.  The next morning, the community rose early, all the members went to confession and celebrated the Conventual Mass.  Four buses arrived and the friars were taken to a school in Madrid which had been converted into a prison.  The extern friars joined them later, having been arrested in their community house.  Among these was the Provincial himself, Fr Avelino Rodriguez, and the Assistant Superior General of the Order, Fr Mariano Revilla. 

The community tried to maintain a semblance of their religious life, though they were subject to dreadful abuse and blasphemies.  They were offered freedom in exchange for abandoning their faith: not one of them succumbed.

On the 28th and 30th November, the friars were put on trial and found guilty of the crime of being Catholics and friars.  They condemned to death, and the sentence was carried out on Blessed Avelino and Mariano and sixty-five of the El Escorial community.  Among them was a Cuban friar, Blessed Jose Lopez Piteira who was only twenty-three: he was the first native Cuban to be beatified.

These friars were beatified on the 29th October 2007, and with them a number of other Augustinian martyrs.  Ten friars from the community in Udes near Cuenca were martyred: eight on the 24th June 1936 before the Civil War even started, and the last two on the 21st September 1936.  Six friars from Santander were martyred; the friars were running two schools.  From the community in Gijon in Asturias three friars were martyred.  Four friars from the community in Malaga – two priests and two brothers.  And ten elderly and infirm friars who were living in an infirmary in Caudete in Albacete: one of them was executed on the 23rd July 1936, the other nine on the 5th August 1936.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Of The Eucharist, Theology And The Urge For An iPad

Pope Benedict leads the Corpus Christi procession in Rome (AP)

A few interesting pieces of news, this Friday morning.  

As we prepare for the Eucharist Congress next week, a theological symposium has been taking place in Maynooth with a number of excellent speakers.  The Papal Legate, Cardinal Ouellet gave an impressive talk on "The Ecclesiology of Communion, 50 Years after the Opening of Vatican II" (see a Zenit report here).

Among the things he spoke about, one concerned devotion to the Eucharist which "must not be belittled as a pious but now outdated custom" but rather, it is "a development of the living tradition, which felt the need to express faith in Christ's real presence in the sacrament in this way".  A wonderful reaffirmation of the faith of the Church in the Holy Eucharist.   There are some in the Church here in Ireland who should take careful note of these words. 

In Ireland there is a growing movement for adoration and many churches now have adoration chapels, and some even have perpetual adoration.  Our own bishop here in Meath, Bishop Michael Smith, has made it a priority of his episcopal ministry to promote Eucharistic Adoration within the diocese and he has been very successful.  I hope and pray the Eucharistic Congress will revitalise the faith of many in the Holy Eucharist.

The Holy Father addressed similar issues yesterday in his celebration of Corpus Christi in Rome.  Here's an interesting article on his homily.

I see the fall out from the CDF's Notification on Sr Margaret Farley's book Just Love is continuing.  Now the Catholic Theological Society of America have come out in her defence and are rebuking the Vatican for such a narrow-minded approach to theology.  It said in a statement that the Vatican's move "risks giving the impression that there can be no constructive role in the life of the Church for works of theology". 

One has to wonder where these people are coming from - can one really say that dissent and rejection of the core moral teachings of the Church, taken from the Gospel, is constructive and building up the life of the Church?  In reality it breaks down the life of the Church as it introduces a moral anarchy into the communion of the faithful and makes sinful practices a valid alternative to the life of virtue or even the norm.  Theological investigation does have a part to play in the life of the Church, assisting the Magisterium in proclaiming the Gospel and exploring in ever greater depth the faith which Christ has given to us. 

Theologians, however, are not the Magisterium.  They do not define the faith nor how it is to be lived.  And when they propose to validate a manner of life or lifestyle which is in direct contradiction to the teaching of Christ and the Commandments and then promote themselves as a teaching authority in the Church they commit the sin of simulation - posing as authentic teachers of the faith when they are not.  One would think that having had so many years of study behind them these theologians would realise that.  But then again, ideology is a powerful thing and can blind even the most brilliant of thinkers. 

This is where humility comes in.  The Servant of God, Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said that theology must be studied on one's knees - he was right.  The first attitude one must have when it comes to studying theology is humility - not curiosity, not creativity, not the desire for fame, but humility because one must always remember that when it comes to theological investigation we are exploring the mystery of God (read today's Office of Readings - the first reading is from the Book of Job and humility before God: Job 40:1-14; 42:1-6).   However it seems some of our contemporary theologians think they are doing theology from their own little cathedras. 

And here's an interesting snippet.  The bishops of New Zealand have outlawed the use of the iPad for the celebration of Mass (their statement).  It seems some of their priests were using their iPads instead of the Missal for the liturgy.  I know that there is enthuasiastic discussion among some priests of how the iPad has all the texts you need and is very handy when travelling - no need to bring a Missal or breviary.  I would not be keen on it to be honest - call me a Luddite, but I prefer the book - there is something more reverent.  Of course I'm hopeless when it comes to Kindle and iPads - some friends are urging me to get one of each, but I am resisting.  I admit an iPad would be handy for work and internet when travelling, but the Kindle does not entice me at all: I love the feel of a good book. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A True Son Of St Teresa

St. Pedro Poveda Castroverde.jpg

Among the many Catholics who perished in the Spanish Civil War were a number of notable Catholics, one of whom was the renowned Fr Pedro Poveda, the founder of the Teresian Association, shot on the 28th July 1936 in Madrid.  He is also one of the few Civil War martyrs canonised so far.

Fr Pedro was born in Linares on the 3rd December 1874.  Like many other families, the Povedas were devout and Pedro received a profoundly Catholic upbringing.  It came as no surprise to his parents when he expressed a desire to become a priest.  In 1889 he entered the seminary in nearby Jaen, and later transferred to Guadix in Grenada where he completed his studies.  He was ordained on the 17th April 1897.  He continued his studies and graduated with a Licentiate in Theology in 1900.

Fr Pedro began his pastoral ministry in Guadix where he found some of the poorest people in Spain trying to eke out a living.  In the caves outside the town the poorest of the poor made their homes and it was to them that he was drawn.  Helping with their material needs, he also initiated catechism classes, and then founded a school for the children.  Aware of the importance of education for all, he also organised evening classes for the adults.  To help his people he travelled around the province and even went to Madrid seeking alms.   This led to greater attention for his mission, but it was not all positive.

Jealousy raised its ugly head – Fr Pedro selfless work was bearing fruit and some resented this success, and so they began to spread rumours about him.   These rumours and the gossip which resulted reached the ears of his bishop and he began to doubt the priest and his work.  Aware of what was going on, Fr Pedro did not seek to defend himself – he trusted that the truth would emerge eventually: it did not come soon enough and he was forced to leave his beloved poor.

The Dark Night descended on the young priest, but he endured it in faith.  In 1906 the clouds lifted when he was appointed a canon of the Shrine of Our Lady of Covadonga in the north of Spain.  There Our Lady took him under her care as he fulfilled his pastoral duties, got time to study and of course had the space to pray.  This time proved to be providential for it was during the seven years he served at the shrine that he began to develop his system of Christian education as a means of challenging the secularists ideas which were being adopted in the Spanish educational system.  He saw that men and women of faith must play an important role in education and to do so they need to be properly formed and prepared to meet the challenges they might face. 

Publishing articles he shared his ideas with the Catholic world: some understood what he was trying to do, others did not.  In 1911 he founded an academy in Oviedo to provide further education for young women who wanted to be teachers.  Two other academies followed in Linares in 1912 and Jaen in 1913.  In 1914 he took his ideas to Madrid when he founded a university residence for women – the first in Spain.

In 1913 he moved to Jaen where he sought approval from the Church and the civil authorities for his organisation, naming it in honour of St Teresa of Avila, the saint who had inspired him most.  The Teresian Association, under her protection, was to be an organisation inspired by this great woman of letters and faith, and she was presented as model for the members of the Association to imitate.  For the next ten years he worked at building up this new educational family in the Church so that by 1923 it had spread all over Spain. 

Moving to Madrid in 1921, Fr Pedro took up an appointment as Chaplain to the Royal Household – this allowed him to stay in the Archdiocese – the Archbishop had problems with Spanish priests from all over Spain looking to stay in the capital with little to do, so he would not allow priests take up residence and faculties unless they had a decent appointment.  There was no fear of Fr Pedro having too much time on his hands.  He had to deal with a lot of criticism – he was seen as a revolutionary in that his work as he was working with laywomen and forming them to take up their place in the Church.  Nevertheless, sustained by the idea, or indeed the vision, he continued.  In 1924 his Association received approval from Rome – in a symbolic gesture it was the laity of the Association who petitioned the Pope.  The Association was also affiliated with the Order of Discalced Carmelites, a necessary link with St Teresa and a formal recognition that Fr Pedro and the Association are members of that spiritual family.

During these years in Madrid he met St Josemaria Escriva who himself was struggling to get Opus Dei up on its feet.  The two priests understood each other perfectly – both wanted to help the laity to take their place in the Church mission and to realise that they too were called to holiness.  Fr Josemaria found in Fr Pedro the wisdom and experience which helped him understand his own vision. 

By this time Fr Pedro was not only respected as an important educationalist in Spain and founder, but his reputation for holiness was also known.   It also made him a target for the Republicans.  His Association was considered a dangerous organisation by those in the socialist/anarchist movements who sought to use education as a means of bringing the next generation around to their way of thinking.  Like many priests in Madrid, he tried to lie low as the militias were hunting down priests and religious.  On the 28th July he was captured, when asked who he was, he admitted that he was a priest, and he was shot.  He said in the days before his capture and martyrdom: “If we have to die, we have to die, but we die with Christ, in the name of Christ and for the glory of Christ”.

St Pedro was beatified on the 10th October 1993 and canonised by Blessed Pope John Paul II during his Apostolic Visit to Spain, on the 4th May 2003.  St Pedro would be a wonderful intercessor for those who struggle to maintain Catholic schools in the face of the secularising tendencies of governments and various lobby groups.  We will commend our Catholic schools here in Ireland to his prayers, care and protection.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Shooting Themselves In The Foot (Feet?)

Two related stories.  First the Vatican's recent report on its Apostolic Visitation of the LCWR in the US.  The report, as you know by now, identified serious theological problems and, in a nutshell, rampant dissent among the sisterhood in that organisation.  As expected, the sisters are appalled, hurt, feel rejected, misunderstood (etc, etc).  They claim that the accusations made against them are unsubstantiated.  "What?" I hear you say as you choke on your midnight corn flakes snack.  Indeed - "unsubstantiated".  These ladies have been voicing their dissent for years, and they offer this as their defence.  The only thing I can say, in charity, is that old age is getting to them and they have become rather "forgetful".

Second story: the issuing of a Notification by the CDF concerning Mercy Sister, Sr Margaret Farley's book Just Love.  Published in 2006, the CDF has spent the last couple of years in dialogue with Sr Margaret concerning her views.  Even a quick dash through the book will reveal very quickly that this lady does not think with the mind of the Church - she dissents against the Church's teaching in the usual areas of morality.  So the CDF point this out.  Sr Margaret responds in a way, which seems to me, to be purely arrogant, accusing the CDF of missing the point of her book.  I think not.  She rejects the Church's teaching on sexual ethics and yet tries to wrap her opinions in a mantle of Catholic respectability.

Meanwhile her superior rushes to her defence.  Sr Patricia McDermott expresses regret at the CDF's decision, saying, "[Sr Margaret Farley] assiduously attempts to present the Catholic tradition as formative of her own rich experience while recognizing the ecumenical audience she often engages. While being faithful to her own faith tradition and commitments, her sensitivity to the varied circumstances, realities and needs of her students is the context she consistently honors."  With all due respect, her position cannot be regarded as being faithful to the faith tradition of Catholicism, it is not even within an ass's roar of it.

However these two statements are like gifts fallen into the lap of the Vatican - proof that the LCWR's complaint that the findings of the Apostolic Visitation were "unsubstantiated allegations" is false and I might even say disingenuous.  These poor women are certainly deluded, they cannot see that what they do is obvious to the world and to the Church, and while they may engage in denial wrapped up in their cocoons, the rest of us are not so stupid.

Here's an interesting article by Jeff Mirus on the Farley affair.

Rendering Unto God

Our Gospel for today is the Lord's teaching on rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's - we all know it well, and we can all see the relevance of that teaching in age when governments and states seek more devotion and adherence from their citizens than they have a right to.

Related to this Gospel passage, Magnificat offers us a meditation from the writings of Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko which is very apt.  As regular readers of this blog know I have a great love for Blessed Jerzy and see his life, example and experience to be of great importance for us in these times - hence the reason, I believe, God should glorify him so quickly.

Anyway, I would like to share these words of Blessed Jerzy with you:
"To serve God is to seek a way to human hearts, to serve God is to speak out about evil as a sickness which should be brought to light so it can be cured.  To serve God is to condemn evil in all its manifestations...

Government means service.  The first love of the authorities should be for those whom they govern.  And if this really were the case, if this basic Christian truth became part of real life, if the authorities were moral, if Christian ethics dominated the principles of government, how different our lives would be...

The whole activity of Jesus Christ was aimed at making people realise that they were created for the freedom of the children of God.  God created man in his image, so he is free; indeed man can accept or reject his Creator...

Let us be strong through love, praying for our brothers who have been misled, without condemning anybody but condemning and unmasking evil.  Let us pray with the words Christ spoke from the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Lk 23:34).  And give us, O Christ, an ever greater awareness that love is stronger than violence or hatred...

The yearning for freedom cannot be stopped by violence, as violence is the weapon of those who do not possess the truth.  Man can be crushed by violence, but not enslaved...

A Christian fulfils his duty only when he is stalwart, when he professes his principles courageously, when h is neither ashamed of them nor renounces them because of fear or material needs.  Woe betide a society whose citizens do not live by fortitude.  They cease to be citizens and become more like slaves.  It is fortitude which creates citizens, for only a courageous man is conscious of all his rights and duties.  If a citizen lacks fortitude, he becomes a slave and causes immeasurable harm not only to himself but to his family, his country and the Church...Fortitude is an essantial part of one's life as a citizen.  That is why fortitude is, for a Christian, the most important duty after love.

In order to remain spiritually free men, we must live in truth.  To live in truth means to bear witness to it to the outside world at all times and in all situations.  The truth is unchangeable.  It cannot be destroyed by any decree or law...Courageous witnessing to the truth leads directly to freedom.  A man who witnesses to the truth can be free even though he might be in prison...We can overcome fear only if we accept suffering in the name of a greater value.  If the truth becomes for us a value, worthy of suffering and risk, then we shall overcome fear - the direct reason for our enslavement."