Friday, August 31, 2012

Praise The Heroes

The Paralympics are well underway in London - I'm not getting much of a chance to follow the events, but by all accounts the performances of the athletes are wonderful.  I caught a quick glimpse of the opening ceremony - bright and colourful, although the emphasis on science and technology was a bit one sided.  Anyway, the Paralympic movement is a marvellous one, as is the Special Olympics movement, because they bring us face to face with the fact that disability is not always a barrier to men and women pursuing active lives.  Indeed these two movements are very much pro-life movements.

In relation to this Madeleine Teahan has an interesting argument in an article on the Catholic Herald website.  She asks : "How can you cheer for our Paralympians and support Britain's abortion laws?"  In response, you can't without being a hypocrite.  Many of those who will clothe themselves in glory in these couple of weeks would have been prime candidates for "termination" in the UK, and here in Ireland people with similar disabilities are used as the hard cases by the pro-abortion lobby to lobby for the legalisation of the procedure here.   It is enough to turn your stomach as you listen to pro-abortion advocates, politicians among them, waxing lyrical about these athletes's heroism and shining example.  But then I suppose we have to realise that they are so blinded by their inhuman ideology they actually cannot see their hypocrisy.

But let us celebrate the achievements of these wonderful athletes - they are a credit to the human race and remind us of the ineffable dignity of the human person who can overcome even the greatest obstacles.  Every life is precious and good, and every person conceived has a vocation and a part to play in the building up of humanity. As we see in the labours of each of these individuals, if one life is destroyed, humanity and the world are impoverished.

John Waters has an excellent article on abortion in his column in The Irish Times today - he reflects on how the pro-abortion brigade have tried to scupper debate and demonise the pro-life lobby.

Another interesting article to bring to your attention: an animal rights group are accusing a priest of "murdering" a stray cat - indeed they went as far as coming into the middle of Mass to protest.  The protesters say that he refused to allow the rescue of a cat which was supposedly trapped on his roof.  Apparently there was no sign of a cat on the roof, and as anyone who has ever had a cat knows if they end up on a roof, most tend to be able to get down again.  The protesters remained outside the priest's house protesting until the early hours of the morning.  Crazy people.

And here is an insightful argument on how contraception has become so prevalent in our society, one doctor seemed to be pushing it on a patient as if she were recommending vitamin tablets.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


We all have a fascination with the supernatural, and, for some strange reason, many of us like being scared - hence the popularity of the horror/chiller genre in literature and cinema.  My friends will tell you that I am no different - I love horror movies - decent ones (there is an awful lot of rubbish out there).  That may be a fault, but it is a genetic one: my mother loves horror too - not that I'm blaming her!   Why do we like such a genre?  Perhaps we watch such things to remind ourselves that they are fiction and that we are safe, or maybe it just for the thrill.

That said horror can have some important lessons to teach us.  Vampire stories remind us that it is the power of the cross that saves us and garlic is good for our health.  And yes, always have a little bottle of Holy Water on hand.  The exorcist movies remind us of the reality of the devil and the existence of hell and, despite all the negative publicity, the ministry of the Catholic Church and her priests is noble, important and necessary.  Even the most anti-Catholic of people associate relief from the power of the devil in exorcism with Catholic priests - not a bad start.  And then of course there are ghosts who remind us that we are not flesh machines but a union of body and spirit and there is a life beyond this one.  Again, it is basic stuff, but good evangelisers can build on this.

And speaking of flesh machines, or flesh-eating machines, where do zombies come in?  What is their meaning?  In fact that is a question I have asked myself as I watched various zombie movies with friends, and I think the image of the zombie is perhaps the most meaningful of all.  Another person is thinking the same way as myself: Rachel Mann in the Guardian: in fact she goes all the way in her reflection and sees in the reality of the contemporary "zombification" of humanity, hope for us all in the Church!  Not what you expect to read in the Guardian!

Mann sees zombies as the symbol of an unthinking commercialism.  She points out that in George Romero's sequel to his groundbreaking, Night of the Living Dead,  Dawn of the Dead, we see zombies shuffling around a shopping mall pushing trolleys - doing the most basic unthinking thing they do: shop.  Now that is a sight I often see when I go shopping; but Mann sees the emptiness of modern life symbolised in it - the power of "rapacious consumerism" reducing our humanity to unthinking objects who consume.  Interesting.

I think the image is a good one.  There has been a kind of zombification in last number of years.  We have been caught in the trap of commericalism, we are referred to as "consumers", tempted from one fad to another, hoodwinked and conned.  We are told, subtly, that we can be someone else or be more successful if we consume a particular product.  The cult of celebrity has become so important we all want shares in it, to be famous, and commercial interests have siezed on this.

Indeed many of us are treated like unthinking zombies, even if we are told we are living in democracies or told to worship the god of choice and rejoice in our individualism.  At the end of the day it is a facade - often we are told how to think.  One of the things that was most offensive about Pat Rabbitte's recent remarks was the implication that though we are all told we are entitled to believe what we want, in reality we must believe and do what the government wants us to - anyone who opposes the government is not allowed to engage in public discourse.  Come a referendum we are to become zombies capable of only ticking the "Yes" box - recent re-runs of referenda in Ireland is proof positive of this.

In spiritual terms, the zombie is an excellent image of the state of modern man - an empty shell, ugly to behold, with no mind of its own, only capable of tottering along in packs and eating.  A mere physicality that is always in the clutches of death and can only find solace in the material and in satisfying the senses, or, the most base needs - hunger and sex. There is no awareness of the higher things.

Mann suggests that the Church is the one bastion against this zombification of modern men and women.  She speaks of the life which Christ gives, and the hope and promise of new life the Church offers.  Christianity challenges and it does make us think.  Part of the reason many reject the Catholic Church's teachings is because they do not think.  Oh yes, they say they are thinking, but delve deep enough and many are just following the zeitgeist of any particular moment (like zombies?) and choose not to examine the reasons why the Church teaches what she does.

For example, how many people who are contracepting actually know what is in Humanae Vitae?  How many of its critics have actually read it and sought to understand it?  How many have sough to walk in the shoes of the Church for a while and understand, for her viewpoint, what she is saying?  Few I'd say.  Most just think of sex, the Church interfering in their right to choose and so dismiss the Church as an irrelevant, authoritarian monolith.  The fact that things have turned out as Pope Paul warned is ignored. 

Often in debate, I rarely meet people who actually think - and when I do I am delighted.  They may still disagree with me, but they are able to engage in dialogue and they listen and weigh up what you say.  Too often people just say the same things, the meaningless platitudes that have been emanating from dissenters for years which they have accepted mindlessly. 

And yet today we see a terrifying spiritual hunger, a hunger people try and fill with material things or by dappling in the occult, and neither of this will ultimately satisfy.  I know people who move from one craze to the next to "fill their spirits", never considering the Church, and like nomads they wander endlessly with nowhere to call their home. 

But there is a home for us all: the Church; and there is a lover for us: Christ.   In that home we find solace and grace, but our eyes are also opened.  I think the Scriptures were being ironic when we are told in Genesis that the eyes of Adam and Eve were opened - in reality they were closed, their minds darkened.  Faith revives us and opens the eyes of our souls - this is what the Church teaches.  When our eyes are open we see the truth and we embrace it even if the world and her governments tell us not to. 

In his Audience yesterday the Holy Father spoke about this.  Drawing on the witness of St John the Baptist, whose martyrdom we commemorated yesterday, the Pope reminded us that the truth is the truth, there can be no compromise.  Here is an extract:
Dear brothers and sisters, the martyrdom of St. John the Baptist reminds us, Christians of our time, that we can not stoop to compromises with the love of Christ, his Word, the Truth. The Truth is the Truth and there is no compromise. Christian life requires, so to speak, the daily "martyrdom" of fidelity to the Gospel, that is the courage to let Christ grow in us and direct our thinking and our actions. But this can only happen in our lives if there is a solid relationship with God. Prayer is not a waste of time, it does not rob much space from our activities, not even apostolic activities, it does the exact opposite: only if we are able to have a life of faithful, constant, confident prayer will God Himself give us the strength and capacity to live in a happy and peaceful way, to overcome difficulties and to bear witness with courage.
No zombies there!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rabbitte In The Headlights

Well, well, it seems there is life in the old dog yet.   Fianna Fail, the main opposition party in Ireland, and the one which was decimated in the last election, has taken exception to Labour Minister Pat Rabbitte's remarks on excluding the Church from the upcoming debate on abortion.  FF Health spokesman Billy Kelleher has accused Rabbitte of disrespect towards the Cardinal, trying to suppress discussion and "intimidate" the Church from being involved in the public arena.  All of which is true.

Some backbenchers in Fine Gael have also reacted and have stated that they will not support legislation which will introduce abortion.  Two have come out in defence of life: Tom Barry and John O'Mahoney.  Time to put a tick after their names.  Indeed it is time to have a list of all our TDs and to find out how they would vote - if they would vote against abortion, put a tick, as you would, say in the poll booth; and if they say they would vote for abortion or get all squirmy and vague, cross out their names and remember to ignore them at the next election. 

But let us hear from other backbenchers.  A good revolt in the ranks could sort this issue out.  Backbenchers sometimes forget that the future of a party leader is, ultimately, in their hands - it is their gift.  Party leaders like to strut around as if they were in charge, sometimes they need to be reminded that their position is a precarious one.

I see Labour chairman, Colm Keaveney, is as entrenched as his comrades.  He said that while the Catholic Church was entitled to be listened to, the Cardinal's comments were "in excess of the Church's current standing".   As per usual some believe the moral law is decided by popularity and numbers.  And let us not forget, abortion is not a Catholic issue - it is a human issue.  People of all faiths and none stand united in the defence of life because we all recognise that life is sacred and precious.

And that brings me back to another old chestnut of mine: when are the churches and religious communities of Ireland going to unite in protest?   May I suggest that His Eminence and their Lordships make contact with the Anglican bishops, moderators and leaders of other Christian communities, the Chief Rabbi, the Chief Imam and leaders of other religious traditions, to sit down and plan a strategy to oppose the introduction of abortion.  As I said before, we need to work with others and present a strong united front.  So far the secularists in Ireland have divided and conquered: they have used the Catholic Church's self delusion that we can act alone and use the influence we once had - the quiet word with the local TDs, to promote their agenda.  That way of lobbying may not work anymore - if the TD is sincere he/she may not have the character to go against the whip, or he/she may well be preening a bishop's feathers to get votes but will betray confidence when convenient. 

"New wine, new wineskins" - while not rejecting the "quiet word", a new world order in Ireland, may also require a new response and new tactics.  We are not looking for a fight, but a strong united front from all religious traditions on this island will make the government realise that they will not legalise the killing of our children without forceful opposition - an opposition that will not go away even if parliament should shuffle abortion in. 

Of course all of this is very ironic when you remember that the government and her secular friends are anxious to get a children's rights referendum passed!  There can be no rights without life. 

Time to pray and fast.  So now, people, bread and water on Fridays - for the little children.

Holy Zealots

Yesterday was the feast of St Monica, the patron saint of mothers and alcoholics (not that the two related in any sense).  Today we celebrate the feast of the son she converted through her prayers, Augustine who became a priest, a bishop and one of the Church's greatest theologians and Doctors.  So these days are most definitely Augustinian - so happy feast day to our Augustinian brothers and sisters.

One of the events from the lives of these two great saints which has intrigued me is the experience they had at Ostia, the port of Rome.  Converted, Augustine was heading back to North Africa accompanied by his mother, son and brother.  Monica was ill, yet the weeks were grace filled for her as she and Augustine had conversed and prayed together, her son discovering the depth of sanctity in her.  On one day as they looked out into a garden something happened - it is not clear exactly what, but it seems to have been a vision.  Both experienced it together, a sign that their hearts were finally one in love with each other, and in love with God.

St Monica, I think, would make a wonderful patron for the mothers of priests, since she was the one who, I think, proved to be the greatest influence on her son and through her prayers and sufferings won him for the service of the Lord.  Augustine is, in a sense, Monica's gift to the Church.  And what a gift he proved to be.
Augustine took on the pagan world and could argue with its greatest apologists.  He spoke about purity and chastity, and he taught them about God's grace.  He was not afraid of his critics, nor did he feel he should remain silent when the secular authorities thought what he had to say inconvenient.  There is a lesson here for all our pastors, particularly our bishops: they have a responsibility to preach the Gospel, protect the flock and hold the civil authorities to account.  Anyone who doubts that need only read Augustine's sermon on the shepherds - not easy reading for any priest!

Today is also the anniversary of the martyrdom of the English martyr, St Edmund Arrowsmith.  As you may know I have great devotion to St Edmund - he was a larger than life character who quietly and heroically served the Catholics in the north of England until his execution in 1628.   See his biography here.

St Edmund's hand is  preserved in the Church of SS Oswald and Edmund Arrowsmith in Ashton-in-Makerfield near Haydock in Lancashire.  Now called the Holy Hand, it has been instrumental in the working of many miracles over the years.  Edmund was canonised in 1970 among the Forty Martyrs of England Wales.  His local feast day is the 30th August, and his feast with the Forty Martyrs is the 25th October.  St Edmund is a Saint worth coming to know, particularly in these days when we face persecution for our faith.  As I have found myself, he is a good friend.  And one grace he can obtain for you is that of increased zeal - he has a way of tutoring you in the John the Baptist school of pastoral theology!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Gulags In Connemara?

Once again it seems the Labour Party here in Ireland is reminding us Catholics that we are only second class citizens and we are not allowed to engage in the political (democratic??) process here in Ireland.   Minister for Comunications, Pat Rabbitte (Labour)  has now said that while he will allow the Church to "state its position" with regard to abortion in the upcoming debate, he is "surprised" at Cardinal Brady's reference to lobbying.  Indeed he believes the Church's intention to lobby and do what she can to prevent the legalisation of the killing of the unborn to be a "retrograde step" - he sees it as the Church dictating to politicians.

How ironic!  Here is a man who claims to be a democrat, but wants to prevent allowing those who disagree with him having an opportunity to influence the legislature in a manner which is permissable to every citizen of this republic and every organisation.   On every issue that comes before the government numerous agencies, think tanks, associations, human rights groups, lobby the government to try and get their particular viewpoint not just heard but included in the various acts and laws which are being formulated.  It seems the only group that is not allowed to do this now is the Catholic Church - she alone is excluded.  That, my friends, is not democracy and any politician that would even hint at such an exclusion is not a democrat and not even within an ass's roar of being one. 

Now Mr Rabbitte says that it is the Catholic Church dictating to politicians - that is a very negative and ideologically biased view - but I believe he sees it that way because he profoundly disagrees with Church teaching - well, that's his problem.  But if he wants to talk about dictating, well we have had plenty of examples since his party took power.  Members of his party, and the party they are in bed with, have used every opportunity to dictate policy to Catholics.  They have insulted our Holy Father the Pope, hiding behind Dail privilege to do so.  They have tried to force our Cardinal out of office for a mistake that many politicians and others have made at some point in their career - so much for separation of Church and State.  In that incident they decided to speak "personally" so to present a veneer to let us think they respect the divide - but it was a thin veneer - a speaking with forked tongues.  They have even suggested that Catholic civil servants who take their faith seriously be excluded from the promotion process within the service for fear they would take over.  This is not only offensive but totally cracked. 

We Catholics are being dictated to by pro-abortion groups, gay groups, so-called humanitarian groups and most journalists all because we will not disregard the teachings of Christ and make the state our lord and master.  If a retrograde step is being taken it is being taken by the left-wing establishment in this country as they construct social gulags for those who oppose their ideological and permissive agenda.  I wonder, are the powers that be checking out isolated locations somewhere in Ireland to begin constructing real gulags for us?  

I hope and pray our beloved Bishops will not stand back in the face of this remark from Mr Rabbitte.  We are citizens of this republic and we have a right to have our voice heard and we have a right to lobby the government.  And we should.  It is time to stand behind our Cardinal and back him up and encourage him to lead the campaign for life in the assault that is coming.  What a legacy that would be - he has been villified for his mistakes, and he made mistakes as he has admitted, but as he comes to retirement what better way to go than having led the people of this country, those who recognise the value of innocent human life, in opposing the most serious threat to human life this country has ever known.

And now here's a question, what do our backbench TDs think on the matter?  What are our pro-life politicians doing?  Do they support Mr Rabbitte and the coalition politburo in their decision to crack the whip and push forward?  Will they stay silent, or, as democrats, those WE elected, will they stand up and take on the party leadership?  Will pro-life politicans choose life or the party diktat?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Happy Feast Day

To all our members, our friends, and those who work in theatre, cinema and the arts,
I wish you all a happy feast day.

May St Genesius the Martyr watch over you and protect you.

Holy Mass for the feast will be offered in St Mary's Church, Drogheda at 3pm (GMT) for our members, their intentions and all those intentions submitted for the novena.

Novena To St Genesius: Day 9

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!’….Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence they come?’  I said to him, ‘Sir, you know’.  And he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’”

Rev. 7:9-10, 13-14

Love is humble.  This vision of glory in heaven reassures the martyrs that their sacrifice is not in vain, and yet if asked if this glory is the reason they laid down their lives, they would say no: they did so out of love of Christ.  In embracing their suffering and death, true martyrs do not think of themselves, but look to the Lord.  In these days as many in the Church face trials, challenges and even persecution, their eyes must be on the Master and on him alone.  Not even the taste of glory can make martyrdom palatable, but love can.   We must always be humble, and even more so when we suffer lest we fall prey to arrogance and self-aggrandisement, and lose the blessing.  We must remain servants.

Among our intentions, let us remember today, on St Genesius’s feast day, the men and women of the theatrical and cinematic arts.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Reform Anniversary

Today is a special day for us in Carmel - today we celebrate the 450th anniversary of the reform of the Order by St Teresa of Avila. On this day, the 24th August 1562 the first Discalced Community was formed as the Monastery of St Joseph was opened in Avila.   At the time St Teresa was unable to join the sisters, she was still in the Monastery of the Incarnation and was trying to find a way to leave without breaking her vow of obedience.  In faith she left it all to the Lord and before long, Madre was walking through the doors of St Joseph's.  There is a lesson for us there.

The Holy Father sent a message to the Bishop of Avila to mark the anniversary, it is a beautiful meditation on our Holy Mother Teresa and the legacy she has left us.  Here is the Pope's message in full:

To my Venerable Brother
Bishop Jesús García Burillo of Avila

1. Resplendens stella: “a star shining in great splendour” (Libro de la Vida, [The Book of My Life] 32, 11). With these words the Lord encouraged St Teresa of Jesús to found the Monastery of San José in Avila. This was the beginning of the Reform of Carmel which will be celebrating its 450th anniversary next 24 August. On this happy occasion I would like to join in the rejoicing of the beloved Diocese of Avila, of the Order of Discalced Carmelites and of the People of God on pilgrimage in Spain, as well as of all those in the universal Church who have found in Teresian spirituality a sure light for men and women to attain a true renewal of their life through Christ. In love with the Lord, this illustrious woman did not want anything other than to please him in all things. Indeed, it is not those who do great things based on the excellence of their human qualities who are holy; on the contrary, holy people are those who humbly let Christ penetrate their soul and act through them, who truly allow him to play the lead in all their actions and aspirations, inspiring every project and sustaining every silence.

2. Only those who have an intense prayer life are able to let Christ lead them in this manner. The Saint of Avila says that a life of prayer consists in “being on terms of friendship with God, frequently conversing in secret with him who, we know, loves us” (Libro de la Vida 8, 5). The reform of Carmel whose anniversary fills us with inner joy was born from prayer and is inclined to prayer. By distancing herself from the Mitigated Rule in order to further a radical return to the primitive Rule, St Teresa de Jesús wished to encourage a form of life that would favour the personal encounter with the Lord, for which “we have only to find a place where we can be alone and look upon him present within us. Nor need we feel strange in the presence of so kind a Guest” (Camino de perfección [the Way of Perfection] 28, 2). The Monastery of San José came into being precisely in order that all its daughters might have the best possible conditions for speaking to God and establishing a profound and intimate relationship with him.

3. St Teresa proposed a new way of being a Carmelite in a world that was also new. The “times were dangerous” (Libro de la Vida 33, 5) and in these times, as this spiritual teacher said, “the friends of God should be strong, in order that they may support the weak” (ibid., 15, 5). And she eloquently insists: “the world is on fire. Men try to condemn Christ once again, as it were, for they bring a thousand false witnesses against him. They would raze his Church to the ground.... No, my sisters, this is no time to treat with God for things of little importance" (Camino de perfección, 1, 5). Does not this most luminous and challenging reflection made by the holy mystic more than four centuries ago seem familiar to us in the situation in which we are living?

The ultimate aim of the Teresian Reform and of the creation of new monasteries in the midst of a world devoid of spiritual values was to strengthen apostolic work with prayer; and to propose an evangelical lifestyle that might serve as a model to those in quest of a way of perfection, based on the conviction that every authentic personal and ecclesial reform passes through reproducing, ever more faithfully, the “form” of Christ (cf. Gal 4:19) within us. The Saint and her daughters strove to do exactly this and this was the exact commitment of her Carmelite sons who endeavoured solely to “advance in virtue” (Libro de la vida, 31, 18). In this regard Teresa writes: “He [Our Lord] prizes one soul which of his mercy we have gained for him by our prayer and labour more than all the service we may render him” (Libro de las Fundaciones [The Book of the Foundations] 1, 7). In the face of forgetfulness of God the Holy Doctor encourages prayerful communities that protect with their fervour those who proclaim Christ’s name everywhere, so that they may pray for the Church’s needs and bring the cry of all the peoples to the Saviour’s heart.

4. Today too, as in the 16th century and also among rapid changes, trusting prayer must be the soul of the apostolate so that the redemptive message of Jesus Christ rings out with deep clarity and vigorous dynamism. It is urgently necessary that the Word of life be harmoniously vibrant in souls, with resonant and attractive tones.

Teresa of Avila’s example is a great help to us in this exciting task. We can say that in her time the Saint evangelized without mincing her words, with unfailing ardour, with methods foreign to inertia and with expressions haloed with light. Her example keeps all its freshness at the crossroads of our time. It is here that we feel the urgent need for the baptized to renew their hearts through personal prayer which, in accordance with the dictates of the Mystic of Avila, is also centred on contemplation of the Most Holy Humanity of Christ as the only way on which to find God’s glory (cf. Libro de la Vida, 22, 1; Las Moradas [Interior Castle] 6, 7). Thus they will be able to form authentic families which discover in the Gospel the fire of their hearths; lively and united Christian communities, cemented on Christ as their corner-stone and which thirst after a life of generous and brotherly service. It should also be hoped that ceaseless prayer will foster priority attention to the vocations ministry, emphasizing in particular the beauty of the consecrated life which, as a treasure of the Church and an outpouring of graces, must be duly accompanied in both its active and contemplative dimensions.

The power of Christ will likewise lead to the multiplication of projects to enable the People of God to recover its strength in the only possible way: by making room within us for the sentiments of the Lord Jesus (cf. Phil 2:5), seeking in every circumstance a radical experience of his Gospel. This means, first of all, allowing the Holy Spirit to make us friends of the Teacher and to conform us to him. It also means accepting his mandates in all things and adopting such criteria as humility in behaviour, the renunciation of the superfluous and giving no offence to others or proceeding with simplicity and a docile heart. Those who surround us will thus perceive the joy that is born from our adherence to the Lord and see that we put nothing before his love, being ever ready to account for our hope (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) and, like Teresa of Jesus, living in filial obedience to our Holy Mother, the Church.

5. Today, this most illustrious daughter of the Diocese of Avila invites us to this radicalism and faithfulness. Accepting her beautiful legacy at this moment in history, the Pope asks all the members of this particular Church, and especially youth, to take seriously the common vocation to holiness. Following in the footsteps of Teresa of Jesus, allow me to say to all who have their future before them: may you too, aspire to belong totally to Jesus, only to Jesus and always to Jesus. Do not be afraid to say to Our Lord, as she did, “I am yours; I was born for you, what do you want to do with me?” (Poem 2). And I ask him to obtain that you may also be able to respond to his call, illuminated by divine grace with “determined resolve” in order to offer “that little” which is in you, trusting in the fact that God never abandons those who leave everything for his glory (cf. Camino di perfección 21, 2; 1, 2).

6. St Teresa knew how to honour with deep devotion the Most Holy Virgin, whom she invoked with the sweet name of Carmel. I place under her motherly protection the apostolic aspiration of the Church of Avila so that rejuvenated by the Holy Spirit she may find appropriate ways for proclaiming the Gospel with enthusiasm and courage. May Mary, Star of Evangelization, and her chaste spouse, St Joseph, intercede so that this “star” which the Lord set alight in the universe of the Church with the Teresian Reform, may continue to shine with the great splendour of the love and truth of Christ for all humankind. With this wish, Venerable Brother in the Episcopate, I send you this message. I ask you to make it known to the flock entrusted to your pastoral care and, especially, to the beloved Discalced Carmelites of the Convent of San José in Avila so that they may perpetuate in time the spirit of their Foundress. I am ever grateful to them for their fervent prayers for the Successor of Peter. To them, to you and to all the faithful of Avila I impart the Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of abundant heavenly favours.

From the Vatican, 16 July 2012


Our Father General has also issued a message which is very inspiring: you can read it here.  Fr Saverio has a deep love for Secular Carmelites and is trying to remind the Order that we are not only members of the Order, but an important part of it (he wrote a letter on the issue).  Following Vatican II, while there was great emphasis on the vocation of the laity, Third Orders were a problem - some even said that they were not part of their Orders, but associations of laity.  This is an issue that still needs to be addressed.  At the moment our Secular and Third Order fall under the Council for the Laity, but we are consecrated people - consecrated by profession of the evangelical counsels and we are members of Orders.  I personally believe Third and Secular Orders should come under the Congregation for Institues of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

That said, today is a great feast day!  As you probably know by now we Carmelites love our feast days!  So we'll raise a toast - we're 450 today!  I think some of us look good for our age.

Novena To St Genesius: Day 8

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy.  As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls.”

1 Peter 3-9

Love transforms.  When we come to love another, truly love them, we become humble and put ourselves at the service of the other.  In human relationships this can lead people to come to know their faults and work to overcome them for the sake of the other – out of love.  So too in our relationship with God: the more we come to love him the more we want to be like him, and so we begin to take the virtues more seriously.  At that point, we grab every opportunity to grow in virtue, and we see that suffering has a part to play.  We suffer because we love, and we are transformed.   Facing challenges to our faith, even persecution, we do so with fidelity to God, out of love for him, and in that we will be transformed – not because our bodies or minds can bear pain, but because we bear it for love of Christ, and it brings us closer to him, and in him we are changed.

Among our intentions today, we pray that all followers of Christ will strive to grow in virtue and holiness for his sake.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Reality Of Salvation

Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown has delivered a wonderful homily at the closing Mass of the Novena to Our Lady of Knock yesterday.  Entitled "The Future of the Church in Ireland" he pointed out some of the wonderful things that are happening now, from the Eucharistic Congress to the new priests being ordained, the presence of a number of faithful priests working away in Ireland, to the many ordinary people, many of them men, making the annual pilgrimage up Croagh Patrick or the young attending the annual Youth 2000 conference in Clonmacnoise.  The Church in Ireland may have many difficulties, but there are good things happening.

I am particularly taken with one paragraph in the Nuncio's homily:
"So what is this future going to be like?  Before all else, I would say that the future needs to be authentically Catholic if there is to be a future.  We need to propose the Catholic faith in its fullness, in its beauty and in its radicality, with compassion and with conviction.  We need to be unafraid to affirm the elements of the Catholic way which secular society rejects and ridicules."
As the Holy Father has pointed out, the Church will not be renewed or reformed by dissent, by denying Catholic teaching or by changing it so it fits in with the mores and fetishes of the age.  As has often been said, if the Church marries herself to the spirit of an age, she is soon widowed.  Indeed what the Church offers is so much more wonderful and beautiful than what the spirit of an age offers. It is time for us to take courage and begin to show this to the people of Ireland.  At the end of the day, our mission is about salvation - the "reality of salvation" as the Nuncio calls it. 

I must say I am impressed with the new Nuncio - he is a remarkable man.  We are used to  Nuncios being remote figures who mix with the bishops and rarely appear at events, and when they did they were well protected and, to be honest, isolated.  Archbishop Brown is out there meeting the people as they are without any "filter" and this is good.  He takes an interest in what is happening at grass roots level and sees the new groups which are helping strike small sparks of renewal in Ireland - his encouragement can help fan those little flames into a temendous fire.  In a sense, Archbishop Brown reminds me of St Patrick, the bishop sent to the Irish to proclaim the Gospel again.  His presence reminds us that to be Christian is also to be Roman - we are children of Rome, as Patrick told us, and we must maintain unity with Rome.   I think he will be a great support in these difficult years. Thank God!

Other news: good article on the LCWR issue, see  Dan Burke's piece in the NCR.    Our own John Waters is extolling the religious aspect of rock music.  And Pat Archbald has an excellent piece on those who use the Church to back up their own magisterium.

Novena To St Genesius: Day 7

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honour.  Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer…..Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”

Romans 12:9-12, 14

Love is joyful.  Filled with hope, we Christians should be able to face any situation or trial with joyfulness.  Though the cup may be bitter, we should aim to knock it back like a sweet liqueur.  This is what the Saints teach us.  St Teresa of Avila prayed that God should save us from sullen saints – the pious miseries.  St Thomas More joked on his way to martyrdom and St Lawrence was making witty comments even as he burned.   Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati was well known for his sense of humour, gregarious personality and practical jokes.  We need to learn from these examples to help us rise above the gloom these difficult times produce to see the rising Sun, Christ himself, working in us.  We must take great care not to fall into the trap of despair or even groundless optimism, but to be a people grounded firmly on hope and the true joy it brings.    We know that life, at the end of the day, is not a tragedy, it is a comedy, a divine comedy as Dante suggests, a comedy wherein meaning, fruitfulness and salvation overcome all trials, difficulties and sufferings.  And if there is one thing that confounds the persecutor, it is the joyfulness of his victims. 

Among our intentions today, let us also pray for those who suffering from depression, hopelessness or are tempted to despair.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Novena To St Genesius: Day 6

“Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that made us whole,
and with his stripes we are healed.”
Isaiah 53:4-5

Love is sacrificial.  We are redeemed by love in that it was out of love for us that the Father sent his only Son to be the price of our salvation.  We are redeemed by love because Jesus embraced the cross for love of us.   On his body were inflicted the wounds of love as he bore our sins, the wounds of our transgressions, so as to purify us and restore our human nature to its original beauty, innocence and holiness.  As we embrace suffering and persecution, we must not forget the example our Lord has given us – in suffering we find healing.   There are many sins which must be atoned for, and though they are already atoned for in the death of Christ, as his followers he offers us a part in this drama of redemption.  As members of the Body of Christ, we too must carry the wounds so reconciliation may occur and souls saved, not through our efforts, but through a real union with Christ, sharing even in his pain for love of him.  St Genesius and the martyrs understood this.  They offered their deaths for those who persecuted them, we must also offer our sufferings for those who persecute us and our faith.

Among our intentions today, let us also pray for those who persecute us.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Gospel Is Controversial

The Holy Father has given us another wonderful catechesis in his Sunday Angelus talk at Castel Gandolfo a couple of days ago.  He reminded us that Jesus was not seeking popularity, he just wanted to preach the truth, and as we saw in last Sunday's Gospel, taken from chapter six of St John's Gospel, some people cannot handle the truth and so walked away.

I am reminded of a conversation that took place in a presbytery some time ago.  A lay member of staff was complaining to a priest about another priest's sermon which he thought too direct - "He's too controversial", he said.  "Well", responded the priest, "the Gospel is controversial."

And it is.  Jesus was unapologetic about what he taught, he did not subject his teachings to the opinions of his followers, nor take a poll to see what the reaction might be.  It was a simple case of "take them or leave them" - stay or go.  Now I know many bishops and priests would not agree with that approach to preaching the Gospel, they would say it lacks pastoral sensitivity, well then we'll just have to say that Jesus was not a very pastoral person and, judged by the standards of some of those who teach pastoral ministry skills today, Jesus would flunk the course and would not be allowed go forward to ordination.  Funny that, and him being God.  It is a pity that God tends not to conform to our standards, isn't it?   I suppose that is the reason so many Christians today feel the need to reinvent God.

As we continue our novena to St Genesius, we have to bear in mind that one of the main reasons why we are persecuted is because our Church teaches the Gospel of Christ without diluting it.  She is committing to transmitting what Christ taught on his term.  Now she doesn't always live up to it, and for that she must repent and those sins bring misfortunes on her head too.  But even though our members are sinful, the Church never lets go of the ideal.  In the modern world there is a pessimistic approach to ideals - if they are hard to reach, then they are scrapped.  If we follow that way of life we will end up with little or no ideals, and then we find ourselves back in the caves, beating our heads with bones and enslaved to every passion. The Gospel will keep us human, it will enhance our dignity and remind us that we are destined for a greater life - life with God in whose image and likeness we are made. 

I see Amnesty International are fighting hard on behalf of the jailed Pussy Riot members.  Listening to the news this morning on my way to a funeral I heard the newscasters say that AI acknowledged that the protest may have been offensive to some, but that was not a good enough reason to jail them.  Interesting, ironic.  I wonder if AI realises that death is not a good enough reason for an innocent child just because its conception is inconvenient for the mother.  When AI stands up again for the innocent victims of abortion, then I'll take them seriously. 

We knew it was only a matter of time: Catholic priests officiating and assisting at "gay marriages".  It has happened in New York.  Say a prayer for Cardinal Dolan, he'll have to deal with it.  And say a prayer people will lay off him re the Obama invitation.  I was not too pleased to hear the President was invited to the dinner, but I trust the Cardinal and I think Obama is in for a very hot evening - I doubt if he wants to go because he'll be literally surrounded and pestered.  Let's just hope the place is full of zealous pro-life pensioners - they have a wonderful way of breaking a man with fatal persistence!  I can see the Cardinal telling them "He's all yours!" and the Secret Service will be powerless to stop them.

Novena To St Genesius: Day 5

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.  Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles.  When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

Matthew 10:16-20

Love is creative.  As followers of Jesus we are not be simpletons or pushovers, though many expect us to be so – being a Christian for some means being kind and tolerating everything.  Jesus advises us to be wise and clever – to be creative in our response to situations using the Gospel and the moral law as our guides; to use our wits, as St Thomas More says.  Though innocent and good, we weigh up situations and turn them to our advantage and to the proclamation of the Gospel.  We are to rely on the Holy Spirit to lead us through the challenges that face us, but also on reason, which is God’s gift.  Though never dishonest, we make use of what is put before us guided by the virtue of prudence, holy daring and fervent prayer.

Among our intentions today, let us also pray for our brothers and sisters working to counteract the culture of death.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Novena To St Genesius: Day 4

“Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Loves bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient.  When we as followers of Christ find ourselves in the midst of difficulties, sufferings, persecution, we are to respond with great patience and endurance, looking beyond that which challenges and hurts us, to the victory that lies ahead.  We are confident, not arrogantly so, but quietly and serenely, always seeking to reach out in friendship even to those who persecute us.   This seems to contradict the urges which we as humans feel when wronged – is it possible to be so good?  When we believe in the grace and help of God, yes, it is possible – we need only surrender to him.  In the persecution we face in these times we must try to separate what others do to us from those who do them so we may come to love them with the love of Christ.  St Genesius and all the martyrs struggled to do this, and their victory in this regard was seen in their generous forgiveness and prayer for those who killed them.  We must never let tribulation overcome our desire to live like Christ, to endure like Christ and forgive like Christ.  There is no greater victory over our persecutors than reconciliation.

Among our intentions today, we pray also for the grace to endure all things with the love and grace of Christ.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Crucifixions In Egypt

Shocking news coming through from Egypt: from what I see members of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, or their supporters, have started crucifying their opponents - and I do not mean in a metaphorical sense.  A number of those who oppose the new president of Egypt were stripped naked and crucified in front of the presidential palace.  It seems the so-called "Arab Spring" is turning sour as the push for democracy seems to be turning into a persecution for those who do not support the new administration. 

Concerns are growing for Christians in Egypt - the Copts, but also Catholics and other Christians, is it possible that the Muslim Brotherhood will start a persecution against them: will our Christian brothers and sisters be crucified alongside the new administration's political opponents.  Time for prayer. 

So far I see only Christian news channels are reporting this, the mainstream media have not given any indication that this is happening, so we need to have these stories confirmed. 

Novena To St Genesius: Day 3

“My beloved is mine, and I am his,
he pastures his flock among the lilies.
Until the day breathes
and the shadows flees,
turn my beloved, be like a gazelle
or a young stag upon the rugged mountains”
Song of Songs 2: 16-17

Love is true.  When we fall in love with God – and that is the correct term- falling in love, we become like the beloved in the Song of Songs: we are in a relationship.  There is to be no distance, but like St John we feel free to lie upon the breast of our Lord, indeed we feel we must, for there in the Heart of Jesus we find our refuge, our peace, our very life.  That love is to be the motivation of all that we do.  Through prayer, those hours we spend in silence in the presence of God, we are drawn deeper into that relationship of love – we and God become lovers.  As Christians called to bear witness, we will find it very difficult, perhaps even impossible, to bear witness to him in the world if we do not pray, if we do not have that loving relationship with Christ.  As a people who face persecution, our first response to it is to draw closer to Christ and seek to love him more. 

Among our intentions today, we pray also for Christians who have yet to experience the loving presence of Christ.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Kitties In The Can

The reaction to the guilty verdict handed down by a Russian court with regard to the Pussy Riot group's protest in an Orthodox Church was interesting.   First of all the three women's reaction was the most interesting of all: as they were found guilty they were smirking - that says a lot, I think, and reveals a lot about them.

The reaction of the usual celebrities was as predicted - talk of free speech, valid protest etc etc.  Yet the same celebrities are not too keen on free speech when it comes to issues and people who disagree with them. How often have we in the pro-life movement been condemned by celebrities who toe the Planned Parenthood line and proclaim it is a woman's right to choose and there is no room for discussion?

The Orthodox Church's reaction was also as expected - decrying what was an act of deep offense against the Christian faith, yet calling for mercy following sentencing. 

And as for Putin, well he's tough anyway: I have no doubt these ladies knew that if they were caught he would not be inclined to be conciliatory - and I think they factored that into the equation, at least my interpretation of their haughty smirking in the dock leads me to that conclusion.  I think they want to be martyrs for the cause - the protest was to continue in the courtroom.  For that reason I think a public trial might have been a bad idea - it just gave them publicity.  Ladies like these need to be treated like naughty toddlers - ignored and sidelined.

And then there is the media's reaction, falling in line with the celebrities.  Watching the coverage I see the media up to their old tricks, ignoring some facts and exaggerating others.  First of all the accepted version of the story is that these ladies were engaged in a political protest, they are bona fide dissenters courageously defending freedom of expression and seeking political freedom.  Yet the media have ignored what the women were actually doing.  They were dancing in the sanctuary of a Christian church - a sacred place, mocking Christian worship with a song whose chorus is anything but fitting.  Is that a protest against Putin? 

But the media are also hiding a lot of facts about these women.  Pussy Riot are not as noble a group as we are led to believe: LifeSiteNews has a comprehensive piece,  and here is another interesting article with some background on the group. Some have compared the woman with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, I don't think so.  Protest is fine, the day will come, I'm sure, and not too far away either I think, when we Christians may be protesting against our governments and engaging in civil disobedience, but protest must always respect others and the faith of others.  As some have asked, would these ladies do the same in a mosque?  They would not for two reasons - it would not be politically incorrect and they might end up being stoned to death before they had a chance to get out of the building.  Is it legitimate to mock faith and descecrate places held sacred by people in order to protest against a political regime? 

Some will say these ladies did so because the Orthodox Church is too close to the Russian government. Okay, well Judaism is considered by many to be too close to Zionism and the State of Israel - well, where are the lewd feminists dancing in the synagogues mocking Abraham and Moses?  They are not there because they know it is inappropriate and wrong - just as it is inappropriate and wrong to desecrate a place of Christian worship.  As the homosexuals are always saying: all we want is to be treated equally, but as we all know, when it comes to Christianity equality goes out the window and double standards are all the rage.

As regards the verdict, as a Christian I would side with the Orthodox Church and look for mercy since we must forgive, but in doing so I would recognise that they got what they deserved.  Perhaps they, and the secularists need to understand that Christians, while they will forgive, will also demand justice.

Novena To St Genesius: Day 2

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but he who denies me before me will be denied before the angels of God.”

Luke 12:8-9

Love is faithful.  The one who loves Christ will be faithful to him, not only in their private lives, but in their public lives – in the sight of men and women.   Christ expects this of all of us: we are to acknowledge him in the world, explain his teachings to the people of our time, and, most importantly, live those teachings so as to be his witnesses in the world.  Living this way has eternal consequences, as the Lord tells us in this passage from St Luke’s Gospel.  For Christians this is a sacred duty, particularly for those who are well known or hold public office since their lives and choices will be influential.  If any man or woman professes to be Christian, then they must strive to be faithful.  There is no fidelity in twisting the teachings of Christ to please the mob or to be politically correct, for that is, ultimately, a rejection of Christ.

Among our intentions today, we pray also for Christians who hold public office: that they may remain true to Christ and his law.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Novena To St Genesius: Day 1

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendents may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them”

Deut. 30:  19-20.

Love is a choice.  St Genesius understood that as he stood upon the stage finally acknowledging Christ as his Saviour.   It was a choice which would mean martyrdom for him, for as he declared his love for the Lord, the emperor and the government of Rome would see it as a rejection of their beliefs and the state’s power.   There are many who will not understand a Christian’s choice for Christ, other Christians among them.  For a follower of Christ to say, “I am the King’s good servant, but God’s first” is a puzzle for many.  It is a puzzle for governments today as we see in many places in the world, including the country which calls itself the land of the free.  We may need courage to make that choice, but grace will be given, and so too the vision, for as we choose Christ, we choose Life himself, the One who has prepared a place for us in the land he promised to Abraham and his descendents forever.

Among our intentions today, let us also pray for Christians suffering for their faith.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Online Novena Begins Tomorrow

The annual Online Novena to St Genesius begins tomorrow - I will be hosting it on my blog.  It will consist of a brief meditation and the novena prayers to St Genesius.  The novena will take as its theme our current situation in the west where Christians are suffering for their fidelity to Christ's teaching.   Given developments here in Ireland and in the US, we all need to reflect more on how the love of Christ can sustain us.  Please join in the novena and spread the word.

The annual feast day Mass will take place in St Mary's Church, Drogheda, Co. Louth, on Saturday the 25th August at 3pm - all are welcome to attend. I would encourage members around the world to mark the feast day - if you can get a priest to offer Mass for a gathering of members do so - texts for the Mass are to be found in the Common of Martyrs in the Missal.  I would also encourage non Catholic members of the Fraternity to unite with us through a service of prayer, remembering the intentions of the Fraternity and those we pray for in a particular way. 

Today is the anniversary of the death of Fr Willie Doyle on the battlefield: there is a wonderful piece on him on the blog dedicated to him.  Fr Willie was a wonderful priest - a man of God, who was both a mystic and a man of action.  His heroic death was the crown on a life of dedicated service.  Why he has not yet been beatified I do not know - there isn't even a Cause!  How I wish he was Italian, French, Spanish, American of Polish for if he was he would probably be canonised by now.  We priests need holy models of priesthood to encourage us - a "St William Doyle" would be one.  Let us pray that someone will open his Cause: perhaps in the new batch of Irish bishops one of them will take the initiative.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Feasts And Honours

Well, back in harness, and trawling through the work that has built up since I left, and some events to prepare for, including St Genesius’s feast day which falls on the 25th August.  We will have our usual feast day Mass in Drogheda, and of course the annual Online Novena.  More about that later. 

I have received the official letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments detailing the Indult regarding the celebration of Blessed John Paul II’s memoria.   Here are the details.

Cardinal Canizares Llovera signed two decrees for the Fraternity. The first Prot. n. 394/12/L permits the following:

1. A gathering of members of the Fraternity may celebrate the memorial of Blessed John Paul II on the 22nd October.  This means our priest-members may offer the Mass with our members on that day.  Also granted: if no priest-member is available for our members, any priest in good standing may offer the Mass of the memorial for Fraternity members on that day.  This is even more generous, we had not asked for this, but we are delighted to be granted the faculty.  So, members around the world, you may gather for the Mass of Blessed John Paul and if a priest-member is not available, you can ask a priest to offer the Mass for you.

2. A gathering of members may celebrate the Mass of Blessed John Paul II (a votive Mass) on any day of the year as long as the day is free to do so in accordance with the order of precedence in the Table of Liturgical Days. 

3. The Office of Blessed John Paul II may also be celebrated by members of the Fraternity either in common, or individually, on the memorial day 22nd October, and also as a votive Office on other days of the year, in accordance with the order of precedence.

4. Sacred Images of Blessed John Paul II may be displayed during these celebrations.

A second decree, Prot. n. 395/12/L, approves the liturgical texts to be used for the celebrations, both in English and in Latin.  A collect and Second Reading for the Office are included.

In short, this Indult has made the memorial of Blessed John Paul II, Pope and Co-Patron of the Fraternity, proper to the Fraternity.  As soon as we can, we will make the texts available to members, hopefully before the feast in October.

Other news.  Well the Olympics have ended in London – what a wonderful couple of weeks.  There were some remarkable performances.  Ireland won five medals – one gold, one silver and three bronze.  Katie Taylor, a woman boxer, won the gold.  With the exception of one bronze for horse jumping, our other medals were also won by boxers.   It is our best sport when it comes to the Olympics.  The neighbours, Great Britain, won a right haul of medals and were placed third on the medals chart – well done to them.  A number of knighthoods, damehoods and other honours are expected for the British Olympians.

That raises an issue for us in Ireland: an honours system.  Our Olympians will come home to a party, a reception by the president, perhaps some civil receptions and of course, most importantly, the adulation of the people: we are very proud of them all.   But should there not be some system of honours here in Ireland for those citizens who have brought great prestige to our country? 

The question of an honours systems is a vexed one in Ireland – some do not like the idea because it reminds them of the days when we are part of the United Kingdom.  And after all, are we not a republic?  Well other republics have honours systems, like the US and Austria for example.  And France still confers knighthoods.  Even the Vatican has an honours system, which, by and large, functions well, although I think greater prudence is needed in conferring knighthoods and damehoods – they should not be given just because someone has made large donations to the Church or because they occupy certain positions.

Dame Katie Taylor?  In Britain, an honour; in Ireland, nothing.

If Katie Taylor was British she would probably be given an OBE at least, and perhaps even made a dame given the historic nature of her win.  I think it is time for the government to consider an honours system.  As we have an ancient history with a nobility of its own, we could even establish an order of knights and dames.  We already do something like this for our artists, the Order of Saoi: those writers and artists who have brought honour to Ireland through their work are initiated into the Order by the conferral of a torc – in fact Saoi is a title.  The number of members is limited to seven, so it is like the British Order of Merit but for artists.  Why not something similar for others?  There was talk of reviving the Order of St Patrick, but it came to nothing.  A gong for Irish living abroad is on the cards – the Presidential Distinguished Service Award for the Irish Abroad: that’s a step, but what about the people here in Ireland? 

Now I realise great caution is needed: we wouldn’t want every gangster politician, businessman and ideologue receiving such honours – we have had enough with brown envelops.  But there are honourable Irish men and women deserving of honour, and some of them are honoured abroad, many by Britain for their work. As Bertie Ahern once said, referring to Ireland’s hang-up in this area: “Irish people who achieve something significant in their walk of life must go to other jurisdictions to get their awards.  That is wrong.  An awards system should not be based on a system of monarchy or anything else.  It is only an awards system.”   Bertie could have brought such a system in when he was in power but didn’t, but whatever you think about him, here he has a point.

Monday, August 6, 2012

On The Path To Schism.....Or Worse?

The LCWR in the US is getting ready for their conference to discuss their response to the Holy See's investigation.  Various articles over the past few days have reported on the discussion that will take place.  Though an offer has been made, the ladies of the LCWR do not want a representative from the Holy See present.   Listening to what the leader of the LCWR has to say I would not hold out too much hope for progress.  Although, given that the superiors of the various  congregations will be present, there may be some common sense somewhere and that may prevail.  

What the leaders of the LWCR do not seem to understand (or maybe they do), is they want to negotiate away the very teaching of Christ to replace it with their political agenda.  The Church will not engage in that, and even though the sisters speak of founding a new organisation, if they do so in rebellion, they will be breaking communion with the Church and may well be on the way to formal excommunication.  If they are trying to push Benedict into a corner they had better be careful, as we have seen in recent years, when theologians and dissidents seek to play chicken with the Pope, they end up far worse: though he is patient, generous,  he listens and is charitable, at the end of the day he will not blink.

In other news I see Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen is at the centre of a minor storm as homosexuals react to his statement on marriage equality.  The bishop, responding to the Scottish administration's determination to legislate for same sex marriage, pointed out that if they want marriage equality, why discriminate against those to wish to have more than one wife, and those who want to marry close relatives?    Homosexuals have declared the bishop's words to be insulting.

But the bishop's words are not insulting at all: he is absolutely correct.  If a government has decided to go against nature and enshrine the fiction of same sex marriage in its legislation in the name of marriage equality, then why discriminate against other forms of marriage?  Why tell muslims and mormons that they cannot practice polygamy - after all their religions permit it?  Why is it insulting to homosexuals that heterosexual polygamous marriages be permitted?  And why put laws in force to prevent close relatives marrying - it they truly love each other, then why not?  After all, as the gay lobby insist - if two people love each other, then they should not be prevented from living out that love?  In reality if a government says that people of the same sex can form a marital alliance, why discriminate against others?

Now I do not agree with polygamy nor close relations marrying no more than I do with same sex "marriage", all are contrary to the law of Christ.  But let's face it, if all the talk is about marriage equality, why stop with the homosexuals?   

The well loved Irish writer Maeve Binchy has died.  She is a loss to Ireland, not only as a writer of popular fiction, but as one of those people who was genuinely nice and humble.  I always enjoyed listening to Maeve in conversation, she always had something good to say and was very entertaining.  

However I see she was given a full Catholic funeral, and  I find that disappointing.  Maeve, on her own admission, was an atheist, and although she was generous to her local parish, I'm not quite sure a full Catholic funeral was a good idea.  In Ireland the Church tends to give full honours to atheists and even enemies of the Church, even introducing elements foreign to the Catholic liturgy in order to make their ceremonies more relevant and meaningful.   Indeed some of these ceremonies become full blown canonisation ceremonies as one who refused to believe in God, or lived in a way which rejected Christ's teaching, and may even have spent their lives publicly attacking the Church and the Catholic faith, are held up as examples of how we should all live.  I think this is something we have to look it.

That said, I do see a place in the Church for funerals of non-believers - pastoral care would suggest that for relatives a funeral liturgy in a church may well be consoling, and of course the deceased needs prayer after death, as we all will.  The current Requiem Mass texts, however, are unsuitable, as they speak of a believer.  Perhaps it is time for the Church to devise a funeral rite for non-believers, or a Mass for the Burial of Non-Believers, one which emphasises God's mercy and, perhaps the natural virtues which many believers demonstrate in their lives.

Maeve Binchy was certainly a woman who had many natural virtues, so we commend her to the mercy of God.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Always The "Aggressor"

In a WiFi zone, I am just putting a few thoughts down - I haven't access to a computer, just iPad, so this will look messy thanks to the incompatibility problems I mentioned a few days ago.  (I have since got to a computer to format this).

No doubt you have been following the Chick-fil-A story. Here is the perfect example of secularist intolerance and their constant quest to be everlasting victims.   Reading the reactions to the opinion of the man in Chick-Fil-A one would think that those who hold true to traditional Judeo-Christian morality are the dominant force in western society persecuting those who have no choice but to live alternative lifetstyles.  

We all know that's not true anymore - we are no longer the aggressor - it is the secular, sexually permissive, homosexualist lobby who are now the establishment and using their new found power to annihilate those who disagree with them, even when those who disagree do so only in private.   I use annihilation intentionally - there is a rage in many of those who persecute us - I have seen it many times.  

How do we respond to this in a Christian way?  How do we engage in "battle", if I may use that image, by being true to virtue, Christ-like patience and holding to the truth without compromise? That is the challenge for us today.  We cannot become enraged like our enemies, if we do we hand ourselves over to the devil.  I think we can find the answer to this in the Gospel, and then see it at work in those who are "the Gospel in flesh" - the saints.       

On another topic, Fr Longenecker has an interesting post today - concerning the dictatorship of sentimentality.  That is one of the weapons the secularists use to defeat truth.   We priests have met this dictatorship many times.  Indeed I remember dealing with one person who constantly turned on the tears when caught out.  It worked the first time, but not after that: when the fountains began to flow I just stood back and waited.  "Whenever you're ready", I said to her.   I am heartless: but I think she is starting to get the message.