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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Saintly Master, Master of Saints


Oh to be in Turin today!   The festivities at the Basilica of Mary, Help of Christians will, no doubt, be wonderful as the Salesians celebrate the feast of St John Bosco.  I remember with fondness the Fraternity pilgrimage to Turin for the Exposition of the Holy Shroud a few years ago when we also had the joy of visiting the Basilica and venerating the sacred remains of Don Bosco and of celebrating Holy Mass in the crypt - it was wonderful.  Anyone who has visited the Basilica can testify to its air of prayerfulness and beauty. 

Don Bosco was a most remarkable man as you all know.  He was a fervent apostolic figure, founding the Salesians, writing and serving the young, but he was also a mystic, experiencing various visions and dreams many of which proved to be prophetic and of great assistance to many, particularly today.   He must be one of the first saints to be photographed so much - we have lots of photos and these appear to reveal a hearty soul in love with life. 

There was something extraordinary about him and many who knew him acknowledged it.  But are we surprised?  He was surrounded by Saints and he helped produce Saints.  His mother is on the path to beatification, priest friends who formed him have already been canonised - St Joseph Cafasso being one.  His next door neighbour in Turin is a Saint - St Joseph Cottolengo.  Two of his students have been canonised: St Dominic Savio and St Luigi Orione.  His co-foundress is also canonised, St Mary Mazzarello, and some of his companions in the Society are on the way to canonisation, Blessed Michael Rua being one. So Don Bosco and sanctity seem to go hand in hand: he lived in a community of holiness - surely that is the best example for all of us since we are all called to live in a community of holiness where each is to be sanctified.

There is a wonderful story about Don Bosco and St Joseph Cottolengo which shows the holy trust in God of the latter and the holy resourcefulness of the former.  St Joseph founded the Little House of Divine Providence where he cared for the poor of Turin.  In his deep trust, he resolved to end the day penniless and allow divine providence provide for the next.  So each night before he went to bed he took what was left of the finances, put them in a bag and threw it out the window for some poor soul who might be passing.  Of course there was a poor soul passing, and he passed every evening at that particular time waiting for the bag of money to be tossed out - Don Bosco!   St Joseph's "excess" was put to good use for the boys, and each morning the Little House of Divine Providence found enough money to get it through the day with a little left over for its holy founder to toss out the window later that night.

At the moment relics of Don Bosco are circling the globe as part of the preparations for the bicentenary of his birth which will take place in 2015.  That will be some year as it is also the 500th anniversary of our foundress's birth.    The relics will visit our diocese in March, so we look forward to that.

In other news.  Mary O'Regan has an excellent article on the struggle for life here in Ireland: she reflects on Enda Kenny and the difficulties he is creating not only within Irish society, but also within his party.  Yet, he has done the pro-life movement a service in uniting them.  For years there were tensions between the groups which was sad because there are wonderful, committed and gifted people in each of the pro-life organisations.  Now they see we have a common enemy and they have decided to work together and, I hope, they are reconciled and their differences will be overcome.   The fruit of their reconciliation is the powerful campaign which is emerging from their working together. 

We have a long, hard struggle ahead of us so strong bonds must be formed between the various groups to create a powerful pro-life movement in Ireland, one which is so strong that it will be able to face any challenge that comes.  There is another important thing - they also need to listen to each other - they all have something to learn from each other.  Between them they have huge experience be it legal, social, medical, in terms of lobbying and indeed in terms of dealing with persecution as some pro-life people have been arrested.  Public order Acts have been used against pro-life protesters in the past and we can be sure they may well be used again - pro-abortion Taoiseachs, ministers, TDs and senators may well try to quash opposition as they attempt to impose an "Elizabethan settlement" following the passing of legislation. 

Here is a very good article on how the Archbishop of Trieste coped when he was confined to his house when it was surrounded by pro-gay marriage supporters - he took the opportunity to sit back, relax and read a good book!   There is a lesson for all of us there.  The protesters accused him of homophobia and racism because he upholds the universal truth that marriage is between a man and woman.  Now could someone please tell me where the racism comes in.  How is it racist?  I thought we defined maleness and femaleness in terms of gender/sex not race.  But it all just goes to show you that logic and common sense have been eradicated in these gender wars.  In related news, it seems as things get hotter in the US Bishops have said that they are prepared to go to prison rather than accept Obama's Mandate.   It's like the early days of the Church again as Christians are being persecuted by secular authorities because they will not violate their consciences. 

And finally, in these days Germany is reflecting on Hitler's rise to power which took place eighty years ago this year with his appointment as Chancellor in 1933.  The present Chancellor, Angela Merkel spoke of how the ordinary German people permitted this rise if not by actual support, certainly by their tolerance.  Of course not all remained silent: many voices rose in opposition to Hitler and a number of them were Catholic.  The great Lion of Munster, Blessed Clemens von Galen preached against the Nazis and suffered for it.  Many Catholic priests and religious were interned in concentration camps and murdered because they would not cooperate with the regime and defied it.  Simple actions like hanging a crucifix was enough to raise the wrath of the Nazis and bring a death sentence on your head as Blessed Restituta Kafka found out.  There are many lessons to be learned from this period of history and unfortunately we see history repeating itself now in our modern society and few take any notice.  I sometimes wonder if human beings are not just a little bit thick - it seems so difficult for us, and particularly those in power, to learn from the mistakes of the past.  I suppose we can put that down to Original Sin. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The "Problem" Of Catholic Education


As many of my Irish readers are aware the patronage of schools in Ireland is being discussed at the moment.  Ireland, unlike many other countries, has a very liberal approach to patronage of schools.  According to our Constitution parents are the first educators of their children and they are entitled to school their children according to their ethos and the State must support that.  In practice this means a group of parents who share a common ethos or religion can set up a school and as long as it adheres to the general curriculum and standards laid down by the Department of Education, the State must finance that school.  It is very liberal, tolerant and open; it allows Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and yes, atheists, to have their own schools so their children can be educated in their chosen ethos.  It even acknowledges the rights of parents to homeschool, something which is coming under threat in some countries.

Here is the article in the Irish Constitution which acknowledges and guarantees this right:
42: The State acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the Family and guarantees to respect the inalienable right and duty of parents to provide, according to their means, for the religious and moral, intellectual, physical and social education of their children.

42.2: Parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes or in private schools or in schools recognised or established by the State.

The State shall not oblige parents in violation of their conscience and lawful preference to send their children to schools established by the State, or to any particular type of school designated by the State.

The State shall, however, as guardian of the common good, require in view of actual conditions that the children receive a certain minimum education, moral, intellectual and social.

The State shall provide for free primary education and shall endeavour to supplement and give reasonable aid to private and corporate educational initiative, and, when the public good requires it, provide other educational facilities or institutions with due regard, however, for the rights of parents, especially in the matter of religious and moral formation.
However it seems this liberal approach to education is too much for our liberals – they want to impose a “one size fits all” model: secular state schools in which all the children of Ireland will be educated. Or at least that’s what I understand Senator Ivana Bacik and her friends are looking for.   For my non-Irish readers, Senator Bacik is a Labour senator and one of the most prominent members of the pro-abortion and radical secularist movements in Ireland. 
 
At the moment the vast majority of schools are under the patronage of the Catholic Church, simply reflecting the fact that, up until now, the vast majority of Irish citizens were Catholic and wanted a Catholic education for their children.   As religious affiliation is changing, naturally schools become an issue.  Atheist or secular parents now want an atheist or secular ethos in their children’s schools; that is fair enough and our Constitution supports them.  However, while some have formed new schools which the State is financing, in some parts of the country there are not enough of them, so they must send their children to Catholic schools.  Those schools accept the children, they are excused from religion classes and their parents wishes are respected.

For some, however, that is not acceptable.  Some atheist/secularist parents try to get the school to change its ethos, and on national level, many secularists want to get the Church out of schools altogether: instead of setting up their own they want to take the Catholic schools and make them secular and non-denominational.   In some cases that might be possible – where secular parents are a majority in a locality then I think the Church should relinquish the local school.  However, if the majority of parents in an area want a Catholic education, then under the Constitution they are perfectly entitled to have it and the State must support it.    Senator Bacik wants to see the end of the Church in education and wants to create system of schools with no religious ethos at all. If people want RE for their children, it can take place after school or on Saturdays or Sundays, she says.  There are a number of problems with this.  

First of all it is inadequate and narrow, not the diversity liberals talk about so much.  Indeed the proposition is illiberal and monolithic. 

Secondly it takes education out of the hands of parents and puts it into the hands of the State.  Unfortunately this is happening in practice in many areas of education, yet the Constitution sees education as the preserve of parents, the state is only there to support it.  This proposal seems to be another step in the State’s growing power over its citizens. 

Thirdly, it is na├»ve to think that a school will not have an ethos – every school has an ethos.  When these state schools are established an ethos will have to be chosen and there is little doubt that if there is no room for religion that ethos will be secular and perhaps even atheistic; and let’s call a spade a spade – secularism is not neutral as its defenders try to maintain, it is highly ideological.  Supporters of these schools say they will respect religion but not favour one, but we know from experience this approach becomes very judgemental of faith, and of one faith in particular (guess which one!).  This will of course contravene article 42.2  as it may violate the consciences of Catholic parents. 

Finally, the proposal is unconstitutional as it deprives parents of their constitutional right to educate their children in schools of their choice.

I support the provision of schools for the children of secular and atheist parents, as I support the provision of schools for Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims.  Given the change in demographics the Church may well relinquish schools where there are not enough Catholics in an area.  If a parish had two Catholic schools and only one was required, then the second could well be relinquished.   This may also benefit Catholic schools and allow us, in this secular age, to deepen our ethos and our identity as Catholics.  Ironically, as we see in other countries, even when lots of secular schools are available, a Catholic education is in great demand and you even find that secularists are desperate to get their children into the Catholic schools.  That may well happen in Ireland, but if it does, the seculars should be directed to the state schools: Catholic schools will have to tighten up their admissions policy.

Of course the way the government can change the educational landscape is by a Constitutional referendum, but I think the parents of Ireland, once they understand the liberal nature of the Constitution on this issue, will not pass it: I think the government knows this and this is why, it seems to be, they are trying to slither their way around the Constitution and put a secular state schools system in place.  But if they try to make those schools the only ones permitted in the State surely that would be unconstitutional and open to challenge.

At the moment the Church is in dialogue with the government over this issue.  Great care must be taken by our negotiators, they must be aware of our constitutional rights and not sign them away no matter how sweet the agreement may seem.  Ultimately until the constitution is changed, the government’s hands are tied.  If we have to relinquish schools, we must negotiate a tightening of our constitutional rights and ensure government interference is kept to a minimum, particularly in the area of admissions policy and ethos.  Not exactly a time for horse trading, but the time to squeeze as much as we can out of the government in order to protect ourselves and our freedom.  The Lord's advice comes to mind: "as innocent as doves and as shrewd as serpents".  An important thing to remember is that we are no longer dealing with friends and not to presume we can trust them.

However, reflecting on what I am hearing from Senator Bacik and her friends it seems to me that here we may have another example of government trying to dilute the rights and freedom of its citizens at the behest of the secular liberal agenda.  And of course the illiberal intolerance of the liberals is once again exposed.

Monday, January 28, 2013

"One Of Them Could Easily Have Been You"


I must draw your attention to a wonderful article by Cardinal Dolan of New York on the issue of abortion.  He is speaking to the young, to those he calls the “Ultrasound generation”, those who, thanks to technology, know that what is in the womb is not a clump of cells but a child – as they have seen it for themselves from ultrasound photographs.

Ultrasound has been a blessing to the medical care of pregnant mothers and their children – doctors can keep an eye on the baby and make sure all is going well, and the mother can look at the little one who is growing inside her.  The development of this technology has not been welcomed by all: those who promote an abortion culture are appalled by the widespread use of ultrasound and they want it curtailed: to be used only for those women who have decided to have their babies.  In their view those women contemplating an abortion should not be allowed to have one; why?  Because it might put them off when they see that what is in them is not a clump of cells, nor merely the “products of conception” but rather a child, a human being.  

Ultrasound exposes the lies of the pro-abortion lobby groups and now it is only the uninformed and those most blinded by ideology who now believe the nonsense that comes out of mouths of pro-choice campaigners. Younger generations are not so easily fooled.  Yes, there are young people who support abortion – we met them at the rally last Saturday week.  They are idealistic young people who believe in the tenets of the sexual revolution but have not actually sat down and really thought out the consequences of the revolution for their generation.  In conversation with them they speak but do not listen – they are so convinced they are right they will not tolerate an opposing position.  Anyone who has conversed with passionate teenagers will know all about this.

One of the things these young pro-choicers have not realised is that they could have been victims of the abortion culture they believe in so passionately.  That fact, however, has not been lost on all the young people of that generation – many of them are keenly aware that they could have been deprived of life. In his article Cardinal Dolan reminds them that “one of them [aborted babies] could easily have been you”.  That makes the issue of abortion a very personal one indeed. One need only ask the questions: “Do I have a right to life?  Or can another take my life for their own purposes?”  Whenever I have asked those questions of pro-choicers their response was most dismissive and they returned to the usual mantra of women’s rights and choice.   In one conversation with a young woman on the issue she responded: “I wouldn’t have known because I wouldn’t have existed, so the questions are stupid”.   She was, of course, wrong on all accounts: she would have existed, but never would have lived here on earth; she would have known that she was aborted; and no, the questions are not stupid: they are the most fundamental questions, ones which should be asked when we discuss the issue of abortion, and they are questions the pro-abortion lobby do not want anyone to ask.

But of course for those born of crisis pregnancies they are real questions.  As one born of such a pregnancy they are questions I myself asked a long time ago.  I too could have been aborted – I was conceived after the UK legalised abortion and young Irish women were taking the boat to abort their children in English clinics.  Did my birth mother contemplate abortion?  I do not know, but if she did, in the end she chose life and for that I am deeply grateful (and relieved).   I was adopted to wonderful parents and have had a wonderful life thanks to God, to my parents and to the woman who let me live.  Yet I am acutely aware that it could have been me.  

Life is a gift, a gift that must be nurtured and respected and, if endangered, defended and cared for.  Women with crisis pregnancies have life within them and they too must be nurtured, respected, defended and cared for: they must be loved, and believe me, there is no love in an abortion clinic, only death and profits.    Abortion for me, and for many others, is a personal issue.  We see it from the child’s side – the little one in the womb – the one who is defenceless and voiceless.  It might be no harm for those who are calling for abortion in Ireland now to come and see it from the child’s perspective.  As I can personally attest, the issue of abortion looks very different from inside the womb.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Listening to St Paul


A happy feast day to you all.  And what a wonderful feast!  I always had an interest in St Paul, an interest that was deepened by one of our Scripture lecturers in seminary, Fr Michael Mullins.  In this courses on St Paul his approach was one which combined Biblical scholarship with basic common sense (a powerful if rare combination in academia today).  In his classes St Paul came alive: no more an unapproachable theologian and figure of controversy, he emerged as a man of flesh and blood, deeply in love with Jesus Christ, a man so in love he was pushed out to proclaim the Gospel regardless of the challenges and trials which met him along the way.  Rather than denying the traditions about Paul, Fr Mullins explored them and found them to be worthy of belief.  I always used to urge him to write a book about Paul and he said he would when he got a chance - we're still waiting.

Following on from these courses, the recent Pauline Year was another opportunity to immerse myself in St Paul and what refreshment I found!  Pope Benedict's General Audience talks were wonderful and well worth reading - short but rich, they give us the essence of St Paul and his theology and, yes, his deep love of Jesus.  I would recommend you read them if you have not done so yet.

St Paul has been a figure of controversy, and his writings have inspired and angered down the centuries. Martin Luther used them to break from the communion of the Church, radical feminists use them to support their view of the Church's hatred of women.  Positively, these writings have inspired and formed Saints.  Blessed James Alberione, the 20th century's apostle of the media, found his call in Paulinism: he sought to emulate the Apostle's mission to the gentiles in his ministry through the media.  And even our Fraternity finds its theological base in St Paul's writings - in his reflections on the Mystical Body of Christ which remind us of our union in Christ and inspires us within that union to be a family of prayer for those in the arts and media.

At the heart of the feast today is St Paul's conversion.  Caravaggio and others put him on a horse as he journeyed to Damascus - the Scriptures do not mention a horse, but the light which shone down on him knocked him to the ground - such was his first encounter with Jesus Christ.  It was a different Paul that stood up, a broken man, but one about to be born anew.  As we follow him and listen to him in his preaching, we learn that at that moment, on the ground, all was revealed to him: all was revealed in the vision of Jesus Christ - no wonder he came to love the Lord with such passion.

This is the way of all conversions: an encounter with Christ and a growing in love for him.  In embracing Christ as he truly is, we embrace the truth and seek to live it; we may even be prepared to die for it, as did Paul.   Conversion is not a once off event either.  Some conversions are dramatic, like Paul's; others take a little more time like Augustine's or Edith Steins or John Henry Newman.  But most take longer, perhaps even a lifetime.  And though we may hold to the truths of the faith, we ourselves are always in need of conversion, because each day we are called to turn more and more to God; to let the things of this world diminish in our sight so God and the things of the next world may increase in our sight and in our way of life.  Such is the way of the Saints, the way of perfection - it is the way of daily conversion.

So today is an opportunity for all of us to listen again to St Paul and to learn from him - he is a wonderful guide on the way of holiness.  May this great Apostle bless all of you and be with you all the days of your life.  In these days, I pray that he will be with our pro-life brothers and sisters in the US as they participate in the March for Life in Washington and in other places around America.  May the courage, fidelity and love of St Paul inspire them as they stand in solidarity with the millions of children whose lives are considered by many to be unworthy of life.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Disturbing Story


Some deeply disturbing news today - a church in County Dublin has been set on fire, but worst of all, the Blessed Sacrament has been stolen from the Tabernacle.

The Irish Catholic has the story.  The Church of St Maur in Rush, just a few miles down the motorway from my parish, was set alight last night by thieves in the early hours of Monday morning who entered, it seemed, to steal the tabernacle.   The tabernacle was pulled out and its broken pieces found later in the church grounds.  However the ciboria with the Blessed Sacrament was missing.

Our hearts and prayers go out to Fr Coughlan, the parish priest, and the parishioners.  This is very unsettling.  Just a few months ago another church not far from our parish was also broken into and the ciboria with the Blessed Sacrament stolen.  At first we thought the thieves wanted the metal - however the vessels were later found...empty.  Was the Blessed Sacrament what they wanted?  We could well ask the same question about this latest burglary. 

Time for prayer of reparation.

Pray For Journalists


Our Saint today has a special significance for our Fraternity – St Francis de Sales, the gentle Bishop of Geneva, is the patron of writers and journalists.  Throughout his ministry St Francis taught the faith with great love and earnestness converting many who had left the Church for Protestantism.  He was so successful the Calvinists of Geneva deeply resented him and he could not live in the city.

Francis wrote a great deal, and his writings are mainly concerned with holiness.  In his book Introduction to the Devout Life, he offers spiritual advice to a laywoman, reminding her that she is called to become a Saint by living a life of virtue where she is.  For his writings and their influence, he was declared a Doctor of the Church.    

As patron of journalists, we can commend to his intercession those who work in the media, and let’s face it, they need our prayers.  Their patron was dedicated to the truth and taught others how to live the truth; unfortunately there are those in the media who are not really interested in truth, but rather work according to a political agenda and chose their stories in order to promote that agenda.  Yet the profession of the journalist is one of testimony to the truth, so we must pray that those who struggling to remain true to that may have the courage to do so, and those who have wandered off that path may return to it. 

To celebrate the saint’s feast day, the Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto in Italy, Archbishop Bruno Forte, has composed a new prayer for journalists.  Here is my translation of the prayer.   
Lord,
You have called me to serve my neighbour
through the means of information.
Grant that I may do so always in obedience to the truth,
with the courage to pay what is due to each person
so they are never betrayed.
Help me also to unite the truth with charity,
never to hurt anyone's dignity
and promote in all, as much as I can, justice and peace.
That I may not have favourites,
but that I may propose my ideas with humility,
honesty and freedom of heart.
Grant that I may be a witness
to the love that comes from you,
to the truth that liberates and saves.
You who live and reign with God the Father,
for ever and ever. Amen
Today the Holy Father release his Message for World Communications Day which will be marked on the 12th May this year.  You will find the text here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What About Alesha?


I finally succumbed to Twitter – I signed up a couple of days ago mainly to be kept informed of what is going on.  I am not a huge fan of Twitter because I think it has become a forum for online abuse and attack and, as I see from the Pope’s own Twitter account, many use it to attack the Catholic Church, articles of our faith and individual members of the Church.  Yet it is a great resource where we can keep in touch in real time and keep each other up to date on what’s happening, hence I signed up.  The Holy Father asked priests a few years ago to take on an online ministry, hence my decision to start this blog: I suppose Twitter, if used correctly, can assist that ministry.  My Twitter account is @jshocds.  I will tweet when I post, put up notices about the Fraternity and other things if I get a chance, so sign up as a follower and keep me sane. 

Actually it was thanks to Twitter that I was reminded of an important story a few years back which went virtually unnoticed by many in the media – the death of a 15 year old girl following an abortion at a Marie Stopes clinic in Leeds.  Alesha Thomas died of a heart attack caused by a bacterial toxin following her abortion in 2007.  Prior to the procedure, the girl was fit and healthy, however as she left the clinic she did not have the antibiotics needed to fight an infection which resulted from the abortion and a few days later she died.

Now if memory serves me right I do not remember candle-lit vigils for Alesha.  I did not hear pro-abortion lobby groups attack Marie Stopes Inc for allowing this young woman to die.  The only person who seemed to speak out was the coroner at her inquest in 2009 who berated Marie Stopes Inc. Given that Alesha joined thousands of women who die every year as a result of abortion (20,000 of them in India alone), surely those campaigning for the rights and health of women should be doing something about this.  But, as Bernadette Goulding of Women Hurt pointed out at the Pro-Life Vigil last Saturday, they do not care about women, they just want abortion. 

In related news, LifeSiteNews has posted what must be the strangest pro-abortion ad I have ever seen – they describe it as creepy, a friend of mine called it demonic, and both descriptions are apt.  It was issued by the Centre for Reproductive Rights to “celebrate” the 40th anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s judgment on the Roe v Wade case.   The video seems to taunt the pro-life movement, but in a most seedy way.  Watch it and see what you think. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pro-Life Vigil Video

Just posting a video with scenes from the recent pro-life vigil.  It shows the vast crowds - many of them young people, and reveals the joyful atmosphere that permeated the gathering - some critics claimed the gathering was subdued, lacking spontaneity...quite the opposite.

Agnes, Vibiana And.......Christoph?


Today, as you know, is the feast of St Agnes, virgin and martyr, often associated with sheep since her name, Agnes is close to the word “agnus”, the Latin for lamb; in fact her name is derived from the Greek “hagia” “pure or holy”, from which we also get Saint.   The connection has led to her virtues, virginity and death being compared with those virtues of innocence and purity symbolised by the lamb; and of course we cannot forget the connection with the Lamb of God in whose passion she participated through her martyrdom. 

Agnes, like St Lucy, was young, and she is also associated with littleness – childlikeness.  It is believed that she was young when martyred, perhaps as young as twelve, and so we see in her that spiritual childhood Jesus often spoke about, but married with courage and determination to remain faithful to Christ.   She has been venerated as a patron of young people, particularly invoked to help the young live chaste lives.   Well, in an age when the young are being ensnared into promiscuity, Agnes is a worthy intercessor.  Young people struggle with their sexuality – their hormones are all over the place, so chastity can be difficult.  Unfortunately there are many distractions and temptations which assail them and many of our young fall.

A friend of mine was telling me about the sex classes his seven year old nephew is attending in school in England – already the child knows all about sex and how babies are made.  Soon enough he will be putting condoms on bananas and taught to chant the liberal secular mantras associated with the sexual revolution.  It is no wonder children begin to experiment and end up in trouble.  The number of young people suffering from STDs and STIs is increasing fast and at this stage, listening to some doctors and sexual health workers, it is expected that many teenagers will have some disease or infection – it is almost a norm.  Of course, contrary to what we are being told, and despite the wide availability of contraception, teenage pregnancies are on the increase and so many young girls resort to the abortion clinics.  One would almost think there was a conspiracy of promiscuity in order to keep these clinics in business.

Organisations like Pure In Heart are doing the best they can to help young people resist the temptations and to live fulfilled, chaste lives.  They are worth checking out and promoting.  Very much in the spirit of St Agnes, the members of Pure In Heart teach about true love, chaste love, seeing sexuality in the context, not only of purity of heart and life, but also in the context of commitment and life-long love – in marriage.  And far from being prudes, as some would paint them, members of the organisation are some of the happiest, joyful and serene teenagers you’ll meet.

As I’m on the subject of a virgin martyr, I would like to draw your attention to another Saint who is not as well known as Agnes – St Vibiana.   First of all here is an interesting article on her.  She is virgin martyrs whose body has been enshrined for last 120 years in the Cathedral in Los Angeles.  Originally in a glass casket above the altar in the old Cathedral which was dedicated to her, she now lies in a marble tomb in an alcove in the crypt of the new Cathedral. 

Little is known of St Vibiana, and she is sometimes confused with St Bibiana.   A martyr of the 3rd century, her remains were discovered in the catacombs on the Via Appia in 1853, together with an inscription which announced “To the soul of the innocent and pure Vibiana”.  As happened in the 19th century, her relics were entrusted to the bishop of Los Angeles as a gift from the Holy See to the people of the diocese, and so, like many Italians, she took the boat to America and is now a “native” of the Archdiocese.  I believe she is the patron saint of the diocese.   

The article reflects on the fact she is, for the most part, unknown, in a city where fame, and the desire to be famous, rules.  Los Angeles is the “spiritual home” of celebrity – Hollywood is there, and so are thousands of men and women eking out a living in the hope of one day “making it big” – few do.  St Vibiana offers us another value, a Christian virtue – hiddenness.   St Paul speaks of this in his Letter to the Colossians, of being “hidden with Christ in God”, and it is very much part of the virtue of humility.  Unknown on earth, Vibiana, like many others, is famous in heaven – known to God, and in comparison with Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame, it is a far better way of life. 

In a way this hiddenness allows us to be ourselves and to grow in holiness.  Those who seek fame realise that they need to offer the world an image, something that stands out from the ordinary, and so they may have to assume a mask, another personality, indeed at times another life, in order to catch the camera’s attention.  If fame is achieved they well have to live this new persona for life and while it may seem exciting at the start, soon it is a burden and eventually the person may not know who they are at all.  The greatest actors are those who are themselves in their ordinary lives – they do not seek fame, they just enjoy their work and go home to their families to live as normal a life as they can.   It is no coincidence that Vibiana is in the city of the stars.

The best fame is, of course, holiness – to be known for a saintly life and even a heroic death.  That fame tends to emerge from hiddenness, as St Paul explains in the Letter to the Colossians – those who are hidden with Christ in God are revealed when Christ is revealed.  Yesterday I found out that one of the members of the White Rose resistance movement in Munich had been canonised by the Orthodox Church.  Alexander Schmorrell, one of the leaders of the group and a member of the Orthodox Church, was recognised as a New Martyr last year.   Those young people certainly displayed great courage in their resistance to the Nazis, and that resistance had its source in the Christian faith. 

The two more famous members of the group, Sophie Scholl and her brother, Hans, were fans of Blessed John Henry Newman and other Catholic writers, though they were Lutheran. In fact evidence has emerged that they were intending to convert to Catholicism.  Indeed when they were in prison, they were making moves to be received into the Church, but a Lutheran minister persuaded them not to for their mother’s sake: as devout Lutheran it was bad enough for her to see her children executed, but to hear that they had become Catholics and left the Lutheran community would have destroyed her.  In charity they decided not to.  However I believe they died Catholics, and while they were already baptised in the Lutheran church, taking the theological cue from the concept of “baptism by desire”, I think they were Catholics already through desire.

That now raises an interesting question – could Sophie and Hans be considered for canonisation?  I have little doubt that certainly Sophie would have been put forward if she had formally been received: her life and courage is like that of many of our World War II martyrs.  She was a young woman of profound faith, innocence, goodness and joy: all marks of her holiness.  Now the Church has no authority to declare non-Catholics saints, but if the Church could prove martyrdom in their case, would it be possible to examine the evidence and see if Sophie and Hans were in communion with the Church by desire?  That’s an interesting one for the canon lawyers. 

There is another member, however, who offers us an easier task – their companion in death, Christoph Probst.  Christoph was a member of the movement, but at a remove since he was a married man with children and he had to provide for his family and be prudent so as not to expose them to any danger. Born in 1919, Christoph grew up in an artistic and academic family.  His father was married twice, his second wife being Jewish, and so Christoph was very much opposed to the Nazis anti-semitic agenda.  After compulsory military service, he began to study medicine in order to be of service to the sick.  When he was 21 he married Herta Dohrn, a young Catholic woman, and it was through her that he came to learn about Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular.  She was a devout young woman, and soon he was being led to faith.  They had three children, the last being born just before his arrest.

As a member of the White Rose, Christoph did not write any of the letters but designed the format for the seventh, and when he was arrested he was found with a draft of this letter on him.  In his trial he pleaded for clemency for the sake of his family, but the judge sentenced him to death.  When in prison, Christoph asked to be baptised into the Catholic Church, and he was received the day before his execution.  He died, by guillotine, with Sophie and Hans on the 22nd February 1942.  His remains are buried beside theirs in Munich, outside the prison where they died.  

Given that he was a Catholic when he died, and already on the way to conversion in the months leading up to his arrest, Christoph poses no problems canonically.  If martyrdom could be proved in his case, then glorification would offer the Church a wonderful example of courage and prudence: Christoph was doing the right thing, resisting an evil regime, yet also conscious of his duties to his family, and so sought a virtuous balance between the two.  Too often martyrdom can be seen a foolhardy thing, where the martyr has, in a sense, to deny family in order to offer his or her life for Christ, as with St Thomas More, and that is the case.  Christoph offers us another example: he embraced his death but also sought to do what he could to provide for his family – his plea for clemency was not a cowardly act.

I think we should look at Christoph’s life and see if something can be done.  And if nothing comes of it, well what harm: he still remains one of the great heroes of the Church and one of Germany’s finest sons.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Vigil For Life


At this stage you will have read something about the pro-life vigil in Dublin yesterday which drew about 30,000 to the square outside Government Buildings calling on the Taoiseach and Fine Gael to keep their pro-life promises.  It was a marvellous day, and once again the huge numbers of young people and young families was extraordinary.    As always there is a dispute over the numbers attending in the media.  However we were told by the Gardai at the start of the vigil that there were "in excess of 25,000" there: at the end of the vigil, the Gardai revised their figure upwards to 30,000. 

A number of events had been organised to prepare for the vigil, among them religious events.  Of these the main one was an hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in St Andrew's Church on Westland Row.  The church was packed - St Andrew's is one of the biggest churches in the Archdiocese - I think someone said there was 1,700 people inside participating in the prayer, including myself.  The Archbishop of Dublin was present, and he said a few words at the end of the ceremony.  From there the congregation left to join the thousands already congregating in Merrion Square.

As with the last vigil we had some impressive speakers, among them one of Ireland's sporting heroes, Mickey Harte, manager of the Tyrone football team.  He spoke passionately about the innocent child in the womb. 

The first to speak was David Manley of Family and Life.  He spoke of the misuse of language to distract from the real issues involved in abortion and to dehumanise the child in the womb.  He reminded us that ro-abortion advocates speak of pregnant women and foetuses rejecting the idea that here we have a mother and unborn child.  He drew on the World War II slogan "Careless talk costs lives" and how true that is when it comes to abortion.  Many people have been desensitised through the ideological use of technical words and phrases.  I find this most interesting in an age when there are campaigns within the medical world to get doctors to use ordinary language when speaking to patients so they will understand what is going on and make informed decisions.  With the pro-abortion lobby they want women to make a vital decision based on ambiguity and ignorance.

Another speaker was Bernadette Goulding who works for Women Hurt, an organisation which helps women suffering from the aftermath of abortion.  She bravely spoke of her own abortion and how she suffered afterwards.  In a moving talk she told us of the pain women feel after they have aborted their children; of the cold, ideological response these women get from the pro-abortion lobby when they seek help, and of the many suicides and suicide attempts.  As I was listenting to her I could not help think of the government's decision to make abortion a solution to suicide, listening to Ms Goulding we realised that many women commit suicide after abortion: abortion is not a solution - it is in fact the cause of many suicides.

Despite the huge numbers, the struggle, I think, is only starting.  The government is determined to go ahead.  Just a few days ago the bishops met with the Taoiseach and discussed abortion among other issues. I do not think it went well, I believe the bishops came up against a brick wall.  The government, it seems, have made a political decision on this issue, regardless of what other options are available, and it is going ahead.  So this is just the start. 

I think every Irish man and woman who believes in the sanctity of life must now seriously consider standing up and being counted and be prepared to take an active role in the campaigns which are to come.  The government will hope that, over time, the issue will go away - that most people will forget about about it, or give in to apathy and leave only a "lunatic fringe" to continue to protest.  We are all the stewards of life and we all have a responsibility to protect it, not only must we continue the campaign, but it must grow, and grow so much that the government will realise that this issue is not going to go away. 

In other news: the Holy Father has appointed Mgr Eamon Martin as the Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh, to succeed Cardinal Brady as soon as he reaches retirement age.   Mgr Martin is from the Diocese of Derry, which he administered following the retirement of Bishop Hegarty.  He is a young man - 52, so he will probably lead the Archdiocese and serve as Primate of Ireland for the next quarter of a century.  He may well have to lead a persecuted Church and in those years Ireland will change considerably.  As Primate he will have to preside over the renewal of the Church here and lead the New Evangelisation on this island - and that will be a very difficult task.  This appointment to Armagh is a vital one for the future of the Church in Ireland, so he will need our prayers since much will be expected of him.  The old mould of Irish bishop must be broken now since we live in very different times: new evangelical and zealous pastors ready to defend the faith must now lead the Church in Ireland.  We must pray that Mgr Martin will be such a pastor. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

St Ita, Our Foster Mother, Help Ireland


What a week it has been.  I took a few days off for a rest after a stressful Christmas and New Year, and then had Fraternity work in London, so I am only getting back into the swing of things this morning: and so much has happened. 

The main "event" in Ireland was the three days hearings of the Committee of Health and Children to take submissions from interested parties with regard to the forthcoming legislation on abortion.  Those three days reveal the chasm that exists between those who believe in the sanctity of life and those who want abortion.  Those speaking for life did very well, including Bishop Christopher Jones of Elphin on behalf of the Irish Bishops.  I'll just tip the toe into the water - so much has already been written on the submissions.

The Bishops' submission was very respectful, yet firm.  They reiterated the high standard of maternal care in Ireland, describing as a distortion of the truth any suggestion that Ireland is an unsafe place for pregnant women.  Absolutely correct.  The Bishop pointed out the need for care in terms of terminology, making clear distinctions between life saving treatment and the direct killing of the unborn child - pro-abortion advocates love to blur these distinctions in order to mislead people.  As agreed by many legal experts, the Bishop reminded the Committee that legislating for the X case was not the only option open to the government - there are other ways which respect the lives of both mother and child.  He called for a referendum to deal with the Supreme Court's judgement on the X case.  Among other things, Bishop Jones pointed out that abortion is not a religious issue, but a human one.

It seems that despite the respectful and moderate tone of the Bishops' submission, it received negative reactions, among them Senator John Crown's rebuke: "The more they speak (the Bishops), I lapse a little more".   Others were even more irate.  Senator Ivana Bacik in her submission after the Bishops attacked the Church and said that it was made up only of old men whose only objection to abortion was that they hated women.  Senator Bacik, a Labour Senator, has been pushing for abortion in a most agressive manner since she was a student.  It seems, however, she is unaware that the Catholic Church is made up of more than old men, indeed many women, and many young women who oppose abortion, not because they hate women, but because they respect human life -a fact ignored not only by Bacik, but also by the media.

The Iona Institute's submission was made by Breda O'Brien and Maria Steen who concentrated on the 1861 Offences Against the Persons Act which outlaws abortion: they maintained that the Act should be amended rather than repealed to cater for situations in which a child unintentionally dies as a result of treatment so doctors could not be prosecuted.  They disagreed with calls to decriminialise abortion, also pointing out that the inclusion of suicide as a reason for abortion "will present suicide as an acceptable option in certain circumstances and this would be a very harmful signal to send to a society already suffering from a high suicide rate".  How true that is.  In relation to this a friend of mine said yesterday that threat of suicide is not accepted as a reason to cancel debt in these hard times.  Just a few days ago a psychologist was talking about the relationship between suicide and financial difficulties, much ignored he said.  If suicide is deemed to be an acceptable ground for abortion, then why not an acceptable ground for debt forgiveness?  I doubt if the banks will go for that - nor the government: unborn babies are one thing, but money is another.

An interesting comment from the pro-abortion lobby also emerged.  When asked about gender based abortions (ie baby girls aborted because they are not boys), Jacinta Fay of Choice Ireland responded:
"Choice Ireland campaigns for free access to accurate information on crisis pregnancy, comprehensive sex education, free access to contraception and free, safe and legal abortion. The issue of abortion based on sex or gender selection was raised. We argue that such practices are due to patriarchal structures and that male preference is a result of gender norms which value males over females. Any ban on abortion for the purpose of sex selection would not counteract the entrenched gender bias that underlines this practice. It has been the experience of other cultures that such bans have been ineffective and have further exacerbated gender discrimination by undermining women's autonomy and creating additional obstacles to women's health care."
In other words - they accept it happens and will do nothing to prevent it - allowing abortion is too important for them - so much for women's liberation.  I also note she wants "free, safe and legal abortion" - so it seems the taxpayers will eventually have to cover the cost of killing our unborn children.  The arguments of the pro-abortion lobby, and experience, reveal that the government is, at the very best, extremely naive if they think we will not have abortion on demand.  We will have it and we, the taxpayers, will have to pay for it.  Did the Minister for Health include the cost of that in the budget?   And what about those who facing cuts - the elderly, the sick, the disabled, carers etc etc, will they be pleased to know that the money they are losing may well go towards abortions?

In related news, Taoiseach Enda Kenny is trying to wiggle his way out of his pre-election promise not to legislate for abortion.  In a radio progamme, the Taoiseach said that his committment not to legislate was no more than "a letter in some cases" sent to people.  Cora Sherlock of the Pro-Life Campaign has responded. 

Other life issues: in Belgium two men, twins, were euthanised because they were going blind.   The brothers were already deaf and when facing the prospect of being blind too, they preferred to die.  What is most interesting about the case is that we were told the euthansia law would be restrictive ("limited", if I can use that word so bandied about in Ireland today), yet this case has interpreted the law so broadly it seems to me it really undermines the law and opens the floodgates.  Such is the way with the culture of death.

To end on a spiritual note: today is the feast of St Ita, one of our great Irish women saints.  Second only to St Brigid in devotion, Ita is known as the "foster mother of the Saints of Ireland".  Born into a noble, Christian family in Waterford around 480, she wanted to dedicate her life to God from an early age, and so became a nun, founding a community in Killeedy in Limerick.  There she established a school, and young people from all over Ireland were sent to her. Her method was that of formation in holiness, and she was a great success - many of her pupils became Saints - hence her title.  She was very much the Don Bosco of her time - she loved those in her care - she was more of a mother than a teacher to them, and this too is reflected in her title. 

She was known for her austere life, but also for some mystical gifts which included prophecy.  When asked what were the three things that God loved, she answered: "True faith with a pure heart, a simple spiritual life, and generous acts of charity".  She is said to have written a lullaby for the baby Jesus:
Jesukin
Lives my little cell within;
What were wealth of cleric high-,
All is lie but Jesukin.

Nursing nurtured, as 'tis right,
Harbors here no servile spright,
Jesu of the skies, who are
Next my heart through every night.

Jesu, more than angel aid,
Fostering not formed to fade,
Nursed by me in desert wild,
Jesu, Child of Judah's Maid.

Unto heaven's High King contest
Sing a chorus, maidens blest!
He is o'er us, though within
Jesukin is on our breast.
The American composer set a translation of the lullaby in his song cycle, Hermit Songs, entitled St Ita's Vision: I include it for your listening on this feast.  In the meantime, let us ask St Ita, whose vocation as a spiritual mother to the Irish led to great holiness for her and those in her care, that she will watch over our children, most especially the unborn, and all mothers, particularly those contemplating abortion.  Let us also commend to her intercession our politicians.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Israel's Chief Rabbis Speak For Life


An interesting article to bring to your attention today, if you have not read it yet.  The two Chief Rabbis of Israel have issued a letter to all rabbis urging them to condemn abortion, describing the killing of the foetus as murder.  Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, timed the letter to coincide with the reading in the Sabbath liturgy in the Synagogue of those verses in the Book of Exodus which tell of the killing of the Hebrew children in Egypt, and it seems the two Chief Rabbis are quite strong in their denunciation of abortion.

This is a welcome move, and one which proves yet again that abortion is not a "Catholic issue", but rather a human issue.  The rabbis see the devastation abortion is bringing to Israel as a million and half Jewish children have been killed in abortion clinics in Israel since 1948.   Speaking in religious terms, the rabbis believe that this massacre may well be delaying redemption for the Jewish people.

God bless these rabbis and may he continue to give them strength to proclaim the Gospel of Life, and we can only hope and pray that Jewish men and women around the world will listen to them.  Apparently the Chief Rabbis of Israel are very influential around the world, so let's hope they touch hearts and minds.  Indeed I hope our Jewish TDs and senators will listen to them and resist the government's intention to legislate for abortion.  How I wish our Catholic TDs and senators would listen to the leaders of our Church and oppose the legislation.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

POLAND 2013

We are now taking bookings for our Fraternity Pilgrimage to Poland in honour of Blessed John Paul II (see link above).  The pilgrimage will take place from the 21st to 29th May this year and is open to all.  If people outside Ireland wish to join us, they are very welcome - they can contact our organisers to make arrangements.  Priests are especially welcome.  Please pass on the word.  As people have found in the past, Fraternity pilgrimages are great fun while being devotional.  We will look forward to your company on the trip.

Holy Epiphany - Still Christmas!


For many today appears to mark the end of Christmas - the Epiphany, Twelfth Night, yet we still have a week to go:  the Christmas Season lasts until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which this year falls on the 13th January.  So we have another week to feast and we can stave off the diet for a little longer, and yes, contrary to common practice, we can still wish each other a "Happy Christmas".  I think the time has come for us Catholics (and all Christians) to resist the secularisation of our feasts and seasons, and the best way to do that is to be true to liturgical time.  The secular world celebrates Christmas before Christmas and then rushes back into ordinary time after the day itself.  We should not rush into Christmas nor rush out of it, but rather linger in preparation (Advent) and then enjoy at leisure the festivities of the Lord's birthday. 

Christmas can be divided into various parts, all of which have a great deal of meaning for us.  We have Advent (the mini Lent) to prepare us, to rekindle the soul (lose a few pounds in anticipation for the feasting!) and reflect on the Jewish people's faithful waiting for the Messiah.  Then the great feast breaks out upon us on Christmas Eve evening and the Day itself which lasts for eight days - the Octave.  This solemnity is so important one calendar day is not enough for its commemoration - we need eight!  So Christmas Day lasts a week in calendar time. 

Then the Season continues as we revel in the birth of the Lord and prepare for his Epiphany.  You could say that as we feast we also accompany the Magi on their way to Bethlehem.  Today we celebrate that great Epiphany as we fall down with the magi before our Infant King, our Divine Messiah.   Then, in the days after Epiphany we may reflect on the Lord's hidden years - the Incarnation in our midst, as we prepare for the feast of the Lord's Baptism and the beginning of his public ministry.  All this time we continue to feast (mince pies, Christmas cake and the turkey curry!).  For the real diehards who just can't let go, we have the "Christmas outpost feast" - the Presentation of the Lord on the 2nd February - our feast of lights, Candlemas.  And then we are all ready for Lent!  Perhaps at that stage, we will need it!

There are people who think we Catholics are killjoys, dreary and no fun at all; well, if Catholics actually entered into the liturgical seasons they would realise that nothing could be further from the truth.  Traditionally Catholics were known for their revels (hence one of the reasons the Protestant reformers broke away from us - they wanted a more penitential approach to faith).  Now there were times when things got out of hand, and that was not good.  However a true living of the Christian faith is one where both fasts and feasts are kept and honoured.  As our Holy Mother Foundress once said: "there is a time for penance and a time for partridge".  Wise words indeed.

And speaking of wise words, today we turn to the wise men, or the Magi and their encounter with the Divine Child.  What an encounter that must have been.  These scholars who spent their lives looking for signs in the sky see the star and are led by it to that Divine Child prophesied by their philosopher Zoroaster.  The Scriptures tell us that they fell down and did the Child homage - they did not discretely bow, nor nod or do the liturgical hop, but rather fell down before him.  Such humility.  And what an insight - they have come to him whom they sought all their lives and they throw themselves before him, worshipping him, perhaps even thanking him.  Our Lady must have been astonished by their devotion - these were pagan men and yet they believed.  We think of the Lord's words about the centurion: "I have not found such faith in Israel" - I wonder, when he said that, if he was thinking of the Magi who came to see him as a baby: no doubt Our Lady, who "pondered all these things in her heart", would have told him of their faith.  Our feast today teaches us than God can work even in pagan lands and in other religions, planting a seed which is to lead the adherents of those religions to Christ.  That is what Vatican II speaks of in its documents.

We too must fall down before him and do him homage: worship and adore Christ.  Yes he became a man to be one with us, to speak to us and redeem us.  But he is also our God and our Lord and we must pay him that homage that is due to him. I remember when I was a seminarian we were told by a liturgist that we must not kneel for the Liturgy of the Eucharist: "We are a liberated people, so we do not kneel, we stand before God".  We are indeed a liberated people, but surely do we not kneel before our Liberator, to thank him if for nothing else?   And when our Liberator is the God who made the universe and us, well, then we must kneel, as do the Elders in the Book of Revelation.  I think the Magi, those wise men of the world provide us with a good example.

On this day our thoughts are, of course, on Bethlehem as we meditate on this event, but we should also pause and go in spirit to Cologne where, we are told, the bodies of three of the Magi are venerated.  Traditionally called Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, they are honoured as Saints in the Church, and if you go to Cologne you will see the tremendous devotion pilgrims have for these men.   The reliquary in which the relics of the three are preserved is the biggest reliquary in the world, and on this day, it is opened to reveal the three bodies, each one wearing a crown.   All of this points to the Epiphany as a historical reality, as discussed by Pope Benedict in his recent book, and that is no harm at all.  There are times when we need to be reminded that heaven has touched earth, that miracles do happen, that God became man and the story of his birth is no mere fantasy, but wonderful and true.  Some will say only a child would believe such stories, well then, let us be children - after all, as the Lord tells us, the kingdom belongs to little children.  So here we are: back to the humility and faith of the Holy Magi.

St Caspar, St Melchior, St Balthazar, pray for us; bring us to the Divine Child, the King of Love, and there let us fall down before him and adore.

The Reliquary Shrine of the Holy Magi in Cologne Cathedral

The Reliquary opened to reveal the crowned heads of the Magi

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Few Links


Happy feast day to you all: today is the feast of our newest Irish Saint - St Charles of Mount Argus, a Dutch Passionist who lived most of his priestly life in Ireland.  He is Ireland's Padre Pio - a man with various mystical gifts, among them healing and discernment, and a priest who went into ecstasy as he celebrated Mass.  He was canonised in 2007, and it is a shame that he is not more widely known, particularly in Ireland.   At the time of his canonisation, I saw his glorification as a gift to the priests of Ireland: a patron, model and intercessor at a time when the morale of priests is very low and when some may be tempted to leave.  He is also a marvellous example of devotion to the Holy Mass, to the Sacrament of Confession and his love and obedience to the Pope.  As some priests may be tempted to rebel, St Charles, in his humility and holiness, calls us all back to see the right path for priests to take in their ministry.

Thanks to all of you who sent best wishes for my father and included him in your prayers.  He is back home now recuperating.   The blockage which caused the problem has been cleared and a stent put it.  It is amazing that something as small as a stent can mean the difference between life and death.  Science and medicine have come a long way, thank God.  Dad's GP is keeping a close eye on him, as are my mother and the rest of the family.  Poor man, it will be like living under surveillance by MI6 for him.  But thanks be to God for his mercy, and thanks to you for your prayers: I will remember you at Mass for your kindness.

A lot of things have been happening since I last blogged, one of the most notable developments has been the granting of a church to the Ordinariate in the UK - what a wonderful gift.  They have been given the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street, Soho, the former Portuguese embassy church, during the persecution that church was a lifeline for many London Catholics.  It is also very central, so that will be handy for the Ordinariate and for those who want to participate in the ceremonies and devotional life of the community.  The dedication of the Church is appropriate - Our Lady of course, but also St Gregory the Great - the Pope who sent St Augustine of Canterbury to England to begin the conversion of the south of England. 

The Ordinariate is doing well: a community of Anglican nuns have been received into the Church over the last few days - their community was an important one in the religious life of the Anglican Communion.  We wish them every blessing as they continue their religious in full communion with the Church.  They have just been established as a new congregation in the Church: the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  I also see that the Ordinariate has been given the care of a parish in the diocese of Southwark - Precious Blood near London Bridge.  Things are moving at last.  It will be interesting to see how things develop as recent decisions in the Church of England alienate more and more members: the most recent is the decision to lift the ban on appointing practicing homosexuals as bishops.  Interestingly it is a decision that is being criticised by both conservatives and liberals.

An interesting article from LifeSiteNews to keep us informed as the campaign for life continues here in Ireland.  Time Magazine laments the inability of the pro-abortion lobby to keep up the momentum in pushing their cause - too many inroads are being made by the pro-life movement.  Thank God for that, but as someone said to me: millions of children are dying every year in abortion clinics and pro-abortion groups have the ears of government and access to public funds to finance their campaign.  We have a lot of work to do.  Here is an interesting article on how, despite medical evidence to the contrary, abortion groups still insist abortion is needed to save women's lives. 

And finally, Cardinal Piacenza, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, has written a letter to the mothers of priests and seminarians.  It is a beautiful piece of writing, so if you know a mother of a priest or seminarian, print it off and give it to them.