Sunday, October 31, 2010

Music and Liturgy

The Catholic press and some blogs have been covering Scottish composer, James McMillan's article on his blog concerning the composition of his Mass for the Papal Visit to Britain.   In the article he reveals that Britain's "trendy" liturgists tried everything they could to prevent him getting the commission and later, branded the work as inappropriate for parish choirs.  I would believe MacMillan because I remember a few months ago some "liturgical composers" complaining that MacMillan was an "art composer" and so not a good choice to write the new Mass.  

Related to that story, I hear that the new priests' association here in Ireland is opposing the new translation of the Mass - no surprise there given its membership.  They are saying the "people" will not take to it and that experiments in South Africa show that the new translation is a disaster.  They did not say that when the "people" were confronted with the Novus Ordo in the 1970's, a much more stressful transition.  Ironically, those who oppose the new translation want to hang on to the old one!  But fathers, sisters, people, are we not supposed to be progressive - we move forward, not backwards!!  The new translation is moving forward, move with it.  Ah, how things go full circle!

Both stories reveal the tedious attempts by aging sixties revolutionaries to keep their Sandinista regime in place through manipulation of the liturgy.  James MacMillan is one of the few great contemporary Catholic composers who can hold his head high in the music world.  His work is infused with faith and beauty, and is well written, something most of the ditties composed for the liturgy over the last forty years lack.  He is a professional composer who knows his art and excels in it - who better to write a Mass in the new translation?  His genuine ability as a composer can be seen in the fact that he can write for amateur choirs and provide a Mass which can be sung by congregations - many composers today cannot do that, not even professionals.   MacMillan has done that.  Listening to the new Mass both at the Mass in Glasgow and then at Blessed John Henry's beatification, I was impressed - it is very beautiful and real, and it is sensitive to the nature of the liturgy and the varying abilities of choirs around the English speaking world.  It will last, I think, unlike the compositions of some of our liturgical composers which sound outdated almost as soon as they are trawled out.

Now, a treat!  Some MacMillan for our Sunday listening:

His Tu est Petrus, written for Pope Benedict XVI and performed at the Westminster Papal Mass.  Can I get Rathkenny choir to perform this, I wonder?

His Gospel Fanfare at the same Mass.  This is just fantastic!!

Is The Giving Hand Failing?

Two interesting, but connected stories.  One is the recent campaign by UNICEF to raise a million euro in two weeks.  Their tag line is that 22,000 children will die today: "are you ok with that?"  I first saw a campaign advert when I got back from Italy: a large banner hanging down the side of Liberty Hall in Dublin - Ireland's only skyscraper.  On that particular banner the actor Liam Neeson poses with "Zero" written on his hand.  The full text tells us that "Every day, 22,000 children die from preventable causes we can prevent".  I smiled when I saw it. There are more children than that dying in the world every day from preventable causes, but UNICEF is not bothered to champion them - they are the approximately 115,000 who die in abortions each day.

The second story concerns the recent comments by the Papal Nuncio to the United Nations, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt.   He asks the question that, given the fact that we do have the means to bring poverty to an end, do we really have the will?  He was speaking before the UN General Assembly's Second Committee which deals with economic and financial matters.  He spoke about the need for global solidarity rather than following "a feeling of vague compassion or shallow emotion".  Eradicating poverty, he pointed out, should not be a matter of charity, but rather an obligation of the international community.

The two stories are linked: both concern the effectiveness of the UN and its various agencies, and, of course the role ideology plays in the organisation.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, such agencies tend toward the easy solution, a solution which tends to create more problems than it solves.   I note, for example, in the global battle against poverty, contraception is an important factor in the aid given.  How many emergency response teams include contraception and abortion kits in their shipments to countries in need?  You get the sense that it is presumed that the solution to poverty in developing countries is to prevent children being born - no children, no mouths to feed.   In this regard it is important to note that UNICEF, a UN agency dedicated to the care of children, is pro-abortion, and is, in fact, an important global agency involved in promoting abortion services and "rights".

How seriously does the UN take the problem of poverty and need in the world?  I'm not suggesting that there are not well-meaning people working for the UN doing what they can to help the poor, but the organisation itself is a hotch-potch of ideologies, and these ideologies tend to dictate the nature of the aid given to the poor.  The Papal Nuncio is right to question the UN commitment to end poverty, not putting words in his mouth, I personally think the organisation has an agenda and certain people in it use philanthropy to promote that agenda. 

The UN is not the only organisation to be tainted with such ideology.  I am aware of certain aid agencies who promote the same ideology in their work.  Even Catholic agencies have embraced these ideologies in direct contradiction to Church teaching, either providing contraception and abortion service themselves, or providing funding to organisations that do.  For this reason I am very careful about where my money goes.  Personally I support the Little Way Association - in doing so I know my money goes directly to those in need via the Church's structure (to projects directly sent through local bishop who passes it on - 100%).  The organisation is staffed by volunteers, usually retired people, so little is spent on administration, and the monies put towards it come from separate donations specifically earmarked for admin. 

In Ireland we have a saying, usually directed towards a generous benefactor, "May your giving hand never fail" (as you can see that particular blessing is tainted with future expectation!).  One has to wonder is the giving hand of aid agencies ultimately failing and adding to global poverty as they put their agendas first? 

Excellent article by John Mallon on on the topic of abortion.  Well worth a read.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Is This The End?

Back from Italy after a wonderful few days of prayer.  I have to say the north of Italy is a mine of gems when it comes to shrines and sanctuaries.  As you know we spent a few days in Padua, at the sanctuary of St Anthony - even in these cold weeks crowds of pilgrims throng the Basilica.  It was a great encouragement to prayer and meditation.  If you are planning a holiday or pilgrimage, consider Padua.

Over the week I was reading Michael O'Brien's novel Father Elijah.  I had heard about it when it first came out.  Earlier this year a friend of mine read it and was gushing praise: he bought me a copy for my birthday - I finally got time to read it.  What a read!  I was hooked from the first page.  I see from a brief google search that a few bloggers have reviewed it (good review here), so forgive me if I throw in my two-pence worth.  The story is good - it is a fictional account of what might happen at the end  when the Antichrist comes.  Reading it I see it is very close to Robert Hugh Benson's Lord of the World.   In literary terms, there are weaknesses, the first conversation between Fr Elijah and his prior in chapter one does not work, but there are also gems: the story of Fr Elijah and his wife in the chapter entitled "Ruth" is exquisite and tender.   I won't reveal what happens, but O'Brien avoids determinism when it comes to the one who becomes the Antichrist and reminds us we all have a choice.  If you have not read it, do (and I'm not on commission from the author).

The whole question of the Antichrist is one which pops up every now and again, usually accompanied by speculation as to who he (or she) will be, and if they are alive now.  Is this the end, many ask?  Well, it will be when you come to die!  During the last presidential election in the US many thought one candidate resembled the Antichrist.  I didn't go for that, although I have to admit when that candidate was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for doing nothing the word referring to the Antichrist: "And the whole world will fall down before him" immediately came to mind.  

Do I think Obama is the Antichrist?  No, I don't think so.  But like many before him, his rise and the worship he inspires in many stands as a warning to us that we fall for the image and the meaningless word all too often, and at times at our peril.  The Antichrist will be charming, kind, attractive and offer a new vision, a new hope, and people will fall for it hook, line and sinker.  Yet behind it all, there will be nothing but the devious machinations of the devil.  That is why we must stay close to Christ, to the Gospel and to prayer.  In O'Brien's book we see some people who do not fall for the charade, not all of them religious, but people of good will with their senses about them.  Interestingly, all of them have suffered and that suffering has brought wisdom.   Perhaps it is those who have come to recognise the face of Jesus Christ and truth through suffering, who will see through the Christ-mask the Antichrist will wear. 

So closeness to the Cross is important - it is wisdom, as St Paul tells us.  It also reminds us that when it comes to life, salvation and the difficulties we face, the easy solution, the simple answer, are not always the best - in fact the easy solution may well be the worst: we see that already as our secular governments peddle the easy solution as the most compassionate, but yet the most destructive and immoral.  Perhaps the Antichrist will be the man of easy solutions and many will think that is wisdom.

My friend suggested a movie based on the book would be brilliant: "The Fraternity can do something about that!" he said.  Well, that will be hard at the moment, we do not have a production company, but we can dream - and pray.  But, if you have read the book, any ideas for actors?  Who would play Fr Elijah, the humble Carmelite priest sent on a mission by the pope to stop the Antichrist?  Do I hear Michael Caine???  Robert de Niro??  Or Al Pacino???  Matt Damon...(The Elijah Ultimatum? No way!!).  Tom Cruise????   I think it's time for my Holy Hour!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Terrorism and Nepotism

These are things we do not associate with the two saints whose feast we celebrate today, even though each one was in a prime position to go down the wrong road: SS Simon and Jude.  Both are apostles, the foundation of our Church, and both come from different backgrounds.

St Simon is commonly called the Zealot.  The Zealots were a group of extremist Jews who were in constant rebellion against the Romans during the occupation of Israel.   Organised in the year 6 AD, the Zealots continue their struggle right up to 66AD when they incited the revolt which would lead to Masada, and the eventual destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD.   Simon was one of their group, and was converted from his ways by the Lord, though the story of his conversion is not recorded in the Gospels.  The Zealots were hanging around Jesus for a time, thinking he was the Messiah and would lead them in their revolt - they were correct in the first, wrong in the second.  Simon had to come to realise that the Messiah was not to be a political figure - salvation is not political, it is on the level of the entire person.  That is a message which was, and is, hard for many to get.  In the Church today we have our Zealots who want a revolution within the Church as the means of reform, but that's not how things work.  Living in an age when the world lives in fear of terrorism, St Simon should be a patron for these times.

St Jude is a different character.  He was a relation of the Lord, and so well placed to climb the greasy pole, but it seems he had no intention: it was the brothers James and John who fell into that particular trap, although Scripture notes the apostles did squabble over who was the greatest, and Jude is not excluded.  However, he came to his senses on that one, as did all the apostles, and he was content to serve rather than be served: a good lesson for those in the Church who want to further their ambitions or agendas, be they clerical or lay.  Jude is often portrayed holding an image of Jesus at his breast.  Some say it symbolises his relationship with Jesus, both as relation and loving disciple, but in fact it refers to the Cloth of Edessa - the mysterious cloth imprinted with the Image of Jesus which, according to tradition, the apostle brought to the king of Edessa.  Recent research suggests that this cloth was in fact the Shroud of Turin.  If it is, then St Jude was a custodian of the relic.

St Simon and St Jude were martyred, and their relics eventually brought to Rome, where they lie under the altar of the Chapel of St Joseph in St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Saint of the Confessional

Here in Padua, St Anthony is not the only saintly notable.  Another Franciscan elbows in for the limelight, St Leopold Mandic - a Croatian who settled in Padua and gained a reputation for holiness through his ministry in the confessional.  We priests always need renewal in our ministry and how we administer the sacraments.  It is too easy to get lax and dish out grace as if it was ordinary food.  So close to the mystery, there is always the danger we become too familiar with it, too casual.  We need to realise that when we administer the sacraments we are immersed in a great ocean of grace, a great mystery, which God in his goodness, has ordained us to pass on to our brothers and sisters.  Confession is a great mystery - the mystery of God's mercy, the mystery of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus poured out on sinners with the intention of forgiving them their sins, regenerating them and strengthening them to pursue a life of holiness.  St Leopold understood: I pray we priests may do the same.

There is a wonderful story from the life of St Leopold and St Pio.  Both were Capuchins ministering around the same time, Leopold in Padua and Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo; both were renowned for their gifts in the confessional.  One intrepid lady decided to compare and contrast the two.  So she went to St Leopold in Padua, and came away delighted with his gentleness and kindness.  She then popped down to the south of Italy to see how St Pio compared.  She should have known better: Pio turned out to be very harsh with her during the confession.  Indignant (funnily, I expected that!), she tore into Pio, proclaiming that he was not as nice as his brother Capuchin in the north: Padre Leopold was kind and gentle.  Quick off the mark, St Pio turned and said: "He gets the easy ones: he sends all the difficult ones to me!"  Touche, Padre Pio!!

Lovely videos on the life of St Leopold produced by his brother Capuchins:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mission Sunday

Today, being Mission Sunday, the Church prays for her mission of evangelisation, and the missionaries who devote their lives to that apostolate.  That mission is longer confined to foreign climes, but is now turing to the west, and to Europe in particular.

Here is the Holy Father's message for today's commemoration:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The month of October, with the celebration of World Mission Sunday, offers to diocesan and parish communities, institutes of consecrated life, ecclesial movements and the entire People of God an opportunity to renew the commitment to proclaim the Gospel and to give pastoral activities greater missionary perspective. This annual event invites us to live intensely the liturgical and catechetical, charitable and cultural processes through which Jesus Christ summons us to the banquet of his word and of the Eucharist, to taste the gift of his presence, to be formed at his school and to live ever more closely united to him, our teacher and Lord. He himself tells us, "He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him" (Jn ). Only on the basis of this encounter with the Love of God that changes life can we live in communion with him and with one another and offer our brothers and sisters a credible witness, accounting for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pt 3: 15). An adult faith, capable of entrusting itself totally to God with a filial attitude fostered by prayer, meditation on the word of God and study of the truth of the faith, is a prerequisite for furthering a new humanism founded on the Gospel of Jesus.

Furthermore, in many countries the various ecclesial activities are resumed in October, after the summer break, and the Church invites us to learn from Mary, by praying the Holy Rosary, to contemplate the Father's plan of love for humanity, to love her as he loves her. Is not this also the meaning of mission?

Indeed, the Father calls us to be sons and daughters loved in the beloved Son, and to recognize that we are all brothers and sisters in him who is the gift of salvation for humanity divided by discord and sin, and the revealer of the true face of God who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3: 16).

"We wish to see Jesus" (Jn ), is the request in John's Gospel that some Greeks, who had arrived in Jerusalem for the paschal pilgrimage, address to the Apostle Philip. It also resonates in our hearts during this month of October which reminds us that the commitment to, and task of, Gospel proclamation is a duty of the whole Church, "by her very nature missionary" (Ad gentes, n. 2), and invites us to become champions of the newness of life made up of authentic relationships in communities founded on the Gospel. In a multiethnic society that is experiencing increasingly disturbing forms of loneliness and indifference, Christians must learn to offer signs of hope and to become universal brethren, cultivating the great ideals that transform history and, without false illusions or useless fears, must strive to make the planet a home for all peoples.

Like the Greek pilgrims of two thousand years ago, the people of our time too, even perhaps unbeknown to them, ask believers not only to "speak" of Jesus, but to "make Jesus seen", to make the face of the Redeemer shine out in every corner of the earth before the generations of the new millennium and especially before the young people of every continent, the privileged ones to whom the Gospel proclamation is intended. They must perceive that Christians bring Christ's word because he is the truth, because they have found in him the meaning and the truth for their own lives.

These considerations refer to the missionary mandate that all the baptized and the entire Church have received but that cannot be fulfilled without a profound personal, community and pastoral conversion. In fact, awareness of the call to proclaim the Gospel not only encourages every individual member of the faithful but also all diocesan and parish communities to integral renewal and ever greater openness to missionary cooperation among the Churches, to promote the proclamation of the Gospel in the heart of every person, of every people, culture, race and nationality in every place. This awareness is nourished through the work of Fidei Donum priests, consecrated people, catechists and lay missionaries in the constant endeavour to encourage ecclesial communion so that even the phenomenon of "interculturality" may be integrated in a model of unity in which the Gospel is a leaven of freedom and progress, a source of brotherhood, humility and peace (cf. Ad gentes, n. 8). The Church in fact "is in the nature of sacrament a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men" (Lumen gentium, n. 1).

Ecclesial communion is born from the encounter with the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who, through the Church's proclamation reaches out to human beings and creates fellowship with himself and hence with the Father and the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Jn 1: 3). Christ establishes the new relationship between man and God. "He reveals to us that "God is love' (1 Jn 4: 8) and at the same time teaches us that the fundamental law of human perfection, and consequently of the transformation of the world, is the new commandment of love. He assures those who trust in the charity of God that the way of love is open to all men and that the effort to establish a universal brotherhood will not be in vain" (Gaudium et spes, n. 38).

The Church becomes "communion" on the basis of the Eucharist in which Christ, present in bread and in wine with his sacrifice of love builds the Church as his Body, uniting us with the Triune God and with one another (cf. 1 Cor 10: 16ff.). In the Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis I wrote, "The love that we celebrate in the sacrament is not something we can keep to ourselves. By its very nature it demands to be shared with everyone. What the world needs is God's love; it needs to encounter Christ and to believe in him" (n. 84). For this reason the Eucharist is not only the source and summit of the Church's life, but also of her mission: "an authentically Eucharistic Church is a missionary Church" (ibid.), which can bring all to communion with God, proclaiming with conviction "that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us" (1 Jn 1: 3).

Dear friends, on this World Mission Sunday in which the heart's gaze extends to the immense spaces of mission, let us all be protagonists of the Church's commitment to proclaim the Gospel. The missionary impulse has always been a sign of vitality for our Churches (cf. Encyclical Letter, Redemptoris missio, n. 2), with their cooperation and their unique witness of unity, brotherhood and solidarity that gives credibility to heralds of the Love that saves!

I therefore renew to everyone the invitation to pray and, despite financial difficulties, to offer fraternal and concrete help to support the young Churches. This act of love and sharing, which the precious service of the Pontifical Missionary Societies to which I express my gratitude will see to allocating, will support the formation of priests, seminarians and catechists in the most distant mission lands and will encourage the young ecclesial communities.

At the end of this annual Message for World Mission Sunday, I would like with special affection to express my gratitude to missionaries who bear witness to the coming of the Kingdom of God in the most remote and challenging places, often with their lives. To them, who are in the vanguard of the Gospel's proclamation, every believer offers friendship, closeness and support. May God who loves a cheerful giver (cf. 2 Cor 9: 7) fill them with spiritual fervour and deep joy.

As with the "Yes" of Mary, every generous response of the ecclesial community to the Divine invitation to love our brothers and sisters, will raise up a new Apostolic and ecclesial motherhood (cf. Gal 4: 4, 19, 26), leaving us struck by the mystery of the God of love who "when the time had fully come... sent forth his Son, born of a woman" (Gal 4: 4) to give faith and boldness to the new Apostles. Such a response will make everyone capable "rejoicing in hope" (Rom 12: 12) by realizing the project of God, who wills "that the whole human race form one people of God, be united in the one body of Christ, and be built up into one temple of the Holy Spirit" (Ad gentes, n. 7).

From the Vatican, 6 February 2010


Saturday, October 23, 2010


Arrived in Padua today for a few days of prayer and retreat at the tomb of St Anthony.  Be assured that I will remember all those who read this blog in my prayer at his tomb.  If you have any petitions, send your Guardian Angel with them to me. You'd never think it, but you have to tread carefully when it comes to St Anthony: two countries claim him, and give him their own title.  His native Portuguese call him Anthony of Lisbon, and the Italians invoke him as Anthony of Padua and see him almost as a naturalised citizen.  Others know him as Anthony the Opportunist who hides what you are looking for, makes you promise cash to get them back, and then produces the lost object and, bingo!  Pay day!  That is extortion, and we all keep him in business.

Seriously, St Anthony is one of the most loved of all saints, and rightly so.  My devotion to him springs from my inheritance from my grandfather.  Though he had died years before I was born, my grandmother gave me a prayer card which he had cherished in life - it was of St Anthony.  I still have it, carefully preserved.  Apart from his prowess in finding the lost, he is one of the Church's great Scripture scholars and preachers, and as such encourages us to make Scripture part of our daily lives - reading it, meditating on it and living it.

For what it is worth, I am posting the homily I delivered in his Basilica, during the Fraternity pilgrimage to Turin and Padua.  Many of the pilgrims have requested a copy of it, so here it is.  Forgive the typos and mistakes.

Mass at the Basilica of St Anthony (Il Santo), Padua
13th May 2010

When Friar Anthony from Portugal was asked to preach a sermon at an ordination because there had been confusion over who was to speak, the experience would prove to be much greater than anyone had anticipated.  They did not expect much – he was Portuguese – so not a native speaker of Italian; he had seemed rather quiet, and while faithful to his duties in the kitchen of the hospice of San Paolo, he did not give the impression of being very learned.  Besides, there would be a number of Dominicans present and with their being renowned for their ability to preach, the poor Friar Anthony would be a meagre offering: it would be down to Franciscan humility and spiritual poverty to excuse his efforts.  However, when Anthony began to speak, everyone was taken by surprise, not only was he eloquent, not only was he learned, but he knew the Gospels and Holy Scriptures so intimately that he seemed like a living icon of the Word of God himself.  When St Francis heard of it, he immediately wrote to Anthony, calling him “My bishop”, and asked him if he would become the theologian of the new Order, and devote himself to teaching and preaching. Francis who knew Christ intimately recognised another who knew Christ in the depths of his soul and could entrust to him the formation of the friars. Later, in 1946, when he was declared a Doctor of the Church, St Anthony was given the title Doctor Evanglicus – the Evangelical Doctor - the Doctor of the Gospel.

As we gather in his basilica, near the ark which contains his sacred remains, we come to honour one of the Church’s most popular saints, but also to listen to him as we continue on our pilgrimage-retreat towards the Solemn Exposition of the Holy Shroud.  To seek the Face of Christ – as this is our theme, indeed the desire of our lives, was also St Anthony’s desire.  As he opened the Holy Gospels, therein, living and breathing in the Spirit, he found the Face of Christ:, Jesus, the Word of God present in the Scriptures.  And so Anthony, on fire with this encounter, proclaimed he whom he had met in the Gospels to the world.  A man transformed by the One he met in Scripture, continues to preach right down to our day for all who are prepared to listen.     When he was canonised on the 30th May 1232 he was not a year dead, such was the popularity and obvious sanctity of this humble friar. This popularity continues, yet for all of it, Anthony’s life and mission remains a mystery to many who see him as no more than an aid in finding lost objects.  The treasure which is St Anthony is not his ability to push the forgetful in the general direction of a lost possession, but rather his ability to lead the faithful on the path to Christ so they may find again the road to heaven and win the treasure which God has stored up for those who are faithful. 

Anthony was born in Lisbon, in Portugal, just beside the ancient Sé, the magnificent cathedral of the city.  In that holy place he was baptised, and in its shadow he grew up in a devout family, discerning a vocation to the priesthood and religious life.  He joined the Augustinian Order and was ordained.  In an attempt to escape the continual visits of his family, he asked to be sent to the Order’s community in Coimbra to dedicate his life to prayer, study and service.  It was there in 1219 that he met a group of five Franciscan friars going out to Morocco to reach the Gospel.   The following year, he was preset when the remains of the five who had been martyred were being brought to their resting place.  Their example inspired him to seek admittance to the Franciscan Order – to leave behind the ease of the Augustinian life and embrace the poverty and simplicity exemplified by the now famous Francis who was still living in Italy and inspiring a real reform in the Church.  Receiving the Franciscan habit in Coimbra, he set out for Morocco, to preach the faith and be martyred, but his health was bad, and he was sent back to Europe – to go Italy, making his way to Assisi for the General Chapter of 1221.  

Looking so sickly when he arrived, he found it difficult to get an appointment – they did not expect him to live long.  However, out of pity’s sake he was sent to work in the kitchens of the Hospice of San Paolo where his skills were discovered.  Once he was appointed theologian of the Order, he spent the rest of his life travelling around Italy and Southern France preaching against the heresies of the day, working miracles and astonishing all by his humility and obvious sanctity.  He drew huge crowds who came for many miles to hear him.  In early 1231 he had his famous vision of the Infant Jesus, and on the 13th June of the same year, he died in the Poor Clare convent in Arcella at the age of 36.  After a row over where his holy body should be buried, he was brought back to Padua which he had made his base in the last years of his life.  A few years after his swift canonisation this magnificent basilica was built over the chapel in which his body was entombed.   St Bonaventure in 1263, when Minister General of the Franciscan Order, had the Saint’s body examined a few years after his death and found his tongue and vocal cords, the organs of his preaching, incorrupt.

St Anthony of Padua, the teacher of the Gospel urges his listeners, his brothers and sisters in the faith, to put the Holy Scriptures at the centre of their lives, just as he did.  If you wish to know God, if want to see his Face – go to the Holy Scriptures – this was his advice. “The Word of God is alive and active, it cuts more finely than a double edged sword”, so says the Psalmist, reminding us that the Scriptures are radical – that they are not ordinary literature, but the Word of the living God, the place where the Holy Spirit moves and works in a creative way, bringing the reader to an encounter with Christ who is the Word Incarnate.  As the Word of God, we see that between each word of Scripture there are great spaces within which our loving God is present and reaching out to us.   As we enter into the Scriptures, we encounter the living God who speaks to us, and so, if we allow him, he touches us, changes us, transforms us.  As a master of the Scriptures, St Anthony opened himself to the Holy Spirit working in the Word of God, and preaching them, touched the hearts and lives of those he preached to.  One primitive writer called him the “pen of the Holy Spirit”, Pope Gregory IX called him an “ark of the covenant”: Anthony was indeed an ark, because the Holy Scriptures had found a place in his mind and his heart and they led him to a deeper love and understanding of God.  He was a true servant of the Gospel.  The legacy of the Saint of Padua is one in which we are urged to go to the Scriptures and there to acquaint ourselves with the life and teaching of Jesus, with the Spirit moving through those sacred words, and come to see the meaning of our lives. 

St Jerome, another great Doctor of Church tells us that “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” – Anthony wholeheartedly agreed with that.  Living in an age when most people were illiterate, and those who could read and write may not have had access to the Scriptures, now as we have now, Anthony’s sermons were completely based on the Word of God.   He told the stories from the life of Jesus, taught the Lord’s teachings, spoke of the Old Testament and led his listeners into a deep understanding of the prophets, all of Scripture pointing to Jesus, the Incarnation and his mission of saving souls through his death and resurrection.  His approach to the Scriptures was rich.  Drawing on the tradition established by the post-Apostolic writers and Fathers of the Church, he saw the hidden treasures of the Scriptures and he opened the vault to admit even the humblest of people to enter into the palace of God’s Word.   We know Anthony as the Saint of Miracles and the Wonder Worker, God gave him the gift of healing and miracles, not to make him a magician in the eyes of the people, but to assist him and to draw people’s attention to what he said: as in the public ministry of Jesus, they were signs.

What is the best way to honour St Anthony?  Do we have to give up our simple devotion to him, ignore him when we have lost something.  No, not at all.  He has already made it clear through his miracles and assistance that he is happy to continue to help us in this little things.   But we must also widen our devotion – make it greater so we will sit and listen to him, as did the people he preached to in life.  And how do we do that?  We may read his sermons – they are available and easy to read – we only have his notes written after his preaching, but they are enough.  But we must eventually – (sooner rather than later I hope) to the Holy Scriptures and put them at the centre of our lives with the Holy Eucharist.  Take your holy picture of St Anthony, and put it in your Bible, and allow him, in prayer, to lead you through the Sacred Words and then help you to meditate on them, to see your own life in them, and come to encounter the Hidden Face of Jesus, the Word of God Incarnate.  St Anthony is a great Doctor of the Church, not for the academics and theologians, but for us, for you: he can be, and should be our teacher in the Scriptures. 

Drawing on St Anthony’s own words, then.  He says that Scripture contains the knowledge that surpasses all knowledge: “Just as gold excels all other metals in excellence”, he writes, “so does the knowledge of Sacred Scripture surpass all other forms of knowledge”.  If we seek wisdom, then again, we will find it in Scripture: he says, “The plenitude of knowledge is found in the Old and New Testaments. Here also is the totality of knowledge which alone teaches wisdom and makes a person intelligent.”   If we wish to love God more, as he reflects on Moses receiving the two tablets of stone from God on Sinai, he says: “These two tablets symbolise knowledge of the Two Testaments… This is the one true knowledge which teaches the love of God, the contempt of the world, and the subjugation of the flesh.”  In his sermon for the Fifth Sunday after Easter, he compares Scripture to a mirror.  He says: “A mirror is a fitting symbol for Sacred Scripture, because in it all of us can see ‘the face with which we were born; whence we were born, as far as the baseness of our origin, what kind were we born, as far as the frailty of our existence, and why we were born, as far as the dignity of our future glory.”  As we find ourselves in Scripture, as we find the Lord, we must begin to listen to God’s word and live it.  In the same sermon, again using the image of the mirror, he warns, “A man who listens to God’s word, but does not put it into practice is like a man who looks into a mirror at the face with which he was born, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looks like”.  If we seek the Face of Christ, we need Sacred Scripture to assist us on our journey – it is the map, the blueprint, the Testament which will bring us to him.

An interesting miracle from his life serves as a good teaching about the life of a Christian.  During one of his preaching tours, a notorious miser and usurer died.  Teaching the necessity to put God at the centre of their lives, Anthony, in fulfilment of the Lord’s teaching that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Lk 12:34), predicted that the miser’s heart would not be in his body, but with that he treasured most in life.  When they opened his body, the corpse had no heart at all, when he opened his money chest, there was the heart lying in the midst of the miser’s carefully amassed coins.  If our hearts are truly in immersed in Christ, then they will be found in the midst of the Holy Scriptures. 
May the Holy Doctor of the Gospel, our dear St Anthony, the Saint of Miracles, help us keep Christ as the treasure of our lives and bring us to know and love him more.   St Anthony’s last words are appropriate for our theme of our reflections on this pilgrimage-retreat.  As he was dying, after he had received Holy Communion, he kept looking upward with a smile on his face.  When asked what he saw there, he answered, “I see my Lord”.   May that vision be ours also.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Gran Torino

Today we are in Turin, the city of the Holy Shroud, and the city of St John Bosco.  The Shroud has got a lot of coverage this year, but it is well worth visiting the Basilica of Mary, Help of Christians, the Motherhouse of the Salesians.  St John Bosco, his co-foundress St Mary Mazzarello, and his protege, St Dominic Savio are all entombed in the church.   To be honest, this church is perhaps one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.  It is well designed, devotional and colourful - it would really appeal to children (to the child in you!) - maybe that was Don Bosco's idea (see below).   The first time I visited the basilica I was gobsmacked and felt so poor - why can they have beautiful, artistic, prayerful and just wonderful churches here in Italy (and other places), while in Ireland many of our churches are of poor quality, and as for our modern churches: well, a stick of dynamite is the only answer there!

When I was in university, when discerning my vocation, I looked at the Salesians as a possibility.  They had the chaplaincy in our college, so I had plenty of contact with them.  I was very impressed by a number of them. They absolutely loved Don Bosco - for a youngster with little devotion to him it was a bit off-putting - but that was me, not them.  Now, looking back on it, I admire them for the real desire to stay close to their founder (their father!) and to live his charism as best as they could - if only all orders did the same. One priest in particular impressed me - Fr Michael Hicks.  He was an old man by the time I met him, and he was helping out in the chaplaincy.  Every few days I'd ramble in after a lecture for a chat and cup of tea.  He never had fresh milk, only the powered stuff, and while it coloured the tea, it did nothing for the temperature - I'd scald myself most of the time - but no bother on Fr Hicks.  When a group of us set up a Legion of Mary praesidium in the college, he was right behind us and served as our spiritual director.  He had many years of experience, and had travelled a great deal, so he had plenty of stories which we loved to hear.  He was a real son of Don Bosco.  He is gone to God, and I pray he has a high place in heaven with his founder.

So Fr Hicks led me to have great regard for Don Bosco.  As I read more about him, I saw his relevance for our times - particularly his visions.  His vision of the Church as a great barque caught in a storm, with the pope leading it to a safe haven between the two pillars of the Eucharist and Our Lady has proved providential.  In the basilica here, that vision is depicted in vibrant colour.

Some inspirational videos on Don Bosco, first the vision, then a reflection on his life:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Blessed Peacemaker

Today is the feast of Blessed Karl of Austria - the last emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who tried to broker peace during the First World War.  He was a true peacemaker, but suffered for it.  Refusing to renounce his crown because he saw it not as an honour, but as vocation of service to his people, the allies and new regime in Austria sent him into exile, eventually putting him on the island of Madeira where he died in 1922.  He was accompanied by his faithful wife, the Empress Zita, who is now also being considered for sainthood.  Those who knew him recognised his holiness, and his desire to offer his life in service for his people.  He was treated shamefully by the allies, a good man who fell victim an unjust desire for vengeance, a vengeance which would eventually be a major cause of the Second World War.

Blessed Karl has been occupying my thoughts since my visit to Vienna this summer.  In fact I am developing a devotion to him.  He is a wonderful model for Christian men - for politicians, yes; but most importantly for husbands and fathers.  He had no interest in worldly honours, he saw himself called to a duty and a responsibility - that of a father to his people, and he sought to fulfill that responsibility as faithfully as he could.  That he should find himself in the middle of one of history's most contentious periods was providential because he reveals how a Christian should respond.  He was the only ruler to heed Pope Benedict XV's calls for peace and he tried to implement the pope's plan for bringing the war to an end - he got nowhere because people were not prepared to listen - they had too much at stake - power and national pride. 

In a sense, I think Blessed Karl is a martyr of sorts - one who became an oblation for peace.  In exile he sensed that he was being called to offer his life for his people and for peace.  He spoke to Zita about it, and she discouraged him from making any such offering to the Lord knowing full well that it would be accepted.  He prayed intensely about it, and he was led to understand that is what God was asking.  Karl being Karl responded generously, and made an act of oblation, offering himself for his people and peace.  He died soon after.

He and his family lived in poverty in their exile, and for a time he was not allowed by his keepers  to go to Mass.  He and Zita were separated from their children and not allowed visit them - the children were eventually brought to Madeira.  He was loved by the people of the island, and he grew to love his exiled home.  When he died, his remains were buried in the church of Our Lady of Monte, where they rest to this day. There have been attempts to have his relics translated to Austria, but up to now they have failed.  Perhaps Blessed Karl, having found his last home with the people of Madeira, wants to stay with them, and so Austria, as it exiled its emperor has also lost a saint whose major sanctuary may remain among a foreign people who welcomed him as one of their own.  There is something biblical about that - the first and the last, the ones who take the places of others at the banquet....  His website is here.

His wife, the Servant of God, Zita, suffered a great deal after this death.  She moved to Spain, then, with Hitler on her heels, she had to flee across Europe, eventually finding a home in the US.  In 1982 she was allowed to return to Austria for a visit.  The government of Austria demanded that if she renounced her titles she could come home, she refused, but public pressure became too much for the government and they allowed her return.  She did not stay, and returned to Switzerland where she died in 1989.   Her remains were brought back to Vienna where, after a huge funeral in the cathedral, her remains were laid with the emperors and empresses in the crypt of the Capuchin church.   Read more about her here.

Wonderful footage of Blessed Karl and Empress Zita's wedding:

During World War I, a visit to Bolsano:

His arrival on Madeira:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Cardinals

The Holy Father has announced, as speculated, that he will hold a consistory on the 20th November and create twenty-four new cardinals.  The list is below. 

As expected Archbishop Dolan of New York and Archbishop Nichols are not included, as their predecessors are still under eighty, and so eligible to vote in a conclave.  Both men deserve it, but they will have to wait until the next consistory. 

Among the new Cardinals, the Holy Father is conferring the dignity on two priests: Mgr Walter Brandmuller, former president of the Pontifical Commission for Historical Sciences, and Mgr Domenico Bartolucci, former director of the Sistine Choir, all of whom are over eighty.  I also see Archbishop Raymond Burke is included - delighted with that. 

God bless them all, may they be true to their dignity and the colour they wear.  We must accompany them with our prayers.

The List: 

•Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints;
•Antonio Naguib, patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts,
•Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum,
•Francesco Monterisi, archpriest of St Paul's Outside the Walls,
•Fortunato Baldelli, major penitentiary of the Roman church,
•Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura,
•Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
•Paolo Sardi, pro-Patron of the Order of Malta,
•Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy
•Velasio DePaolis CS, prefect for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See (& papal delegate to the Legionaries of Christ)
•Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture
•Medardo Joseph Mazombwe, archbishop-emeritus of Lusaka (Zambia)
•Raul Eduardo Vela Chiliboga, archbishop-emeritus of Quito (Ecuador)
•Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, archbishop of Kinshasa
•Paolo Romeo, archbishop of Palermo
•Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington
•Raymundo Damasceno Assis, archbishop of Aparecida
•Kazmierz Nycz, archbishop of Warsaw
•Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo
•Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich and Freising
•Archbishop Jose Manuel Estepa Llaurens, Military Ordinary-emeritus of Spain
•Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president-emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life
•Msgr Walter Brandmuller, president-emeritus of the Pontifical Commission for Historical Sciences
•Msgr Domenico Bartolucci, director-emeritus of the Sistine Choir

The Case of the Kangaroo in the Nightclub

The media here in Ireland have been devoting a good bit of time over the last couple of days to a situation in which a kangaroo (or wallaby) was brought into a Dublin nightclub during a birthday party and made fun of on the dance floor.  Unconfirmed reports claim that the poor creature died from shock afterwards.  Cruelty to animals is horrendous, we really reveal our inhumanity when we abuse those creatures God meant us to look after and care for as stewards of his creation.

That said, I was a little miffed at the coverage it got: not that it was reported - it needed to be to expose where we in Ireland find ourselves today, but that an item dealing with cruelty to animals received so much time when the media conveniently ignores the wilful murder of millions of innocent children each year, or if it covers the issue of abortion and embryonic harvesting and manipulation, it does so in order to defend and promote it.  Or, as we saw last year, when the murder of a pro-life activist, Jim Pouillon, simply for silently praying at a pro-life event, was ignored by most of the media, the same media that made banner headlines over the equally inexcusable murder of an abortion doctor by people who claimed to be pro-life.   Again it is another indication that the modern world has lost the plot. 

In case this post turns into another rant, and you, dear readers, will be referring to me as the fuming priest on a roll again, we should look at the positive.  Instead of complaining, what can we do?  Well, I always turn to Fr Frank Pavone, a colleague at EWTN, and he inspires me to do what I can for the pro-life cause.  Our paths have never crossed in the network, we are there at different times, but his presence is discernable through he work he has devoted his life to.  God knows how he keeps his sanity and patience working in the area he does: he has a huge dose of charity.   His organisation Priests for Life, does great work, as does Rachel's Vineyard, which he advises.  It would be a good idea to support him in his work, but also all those who devote themselves to the pro-life cause.  Word of caution: avoid the crazies - they do us more harm that good.   Of course, my friends in the US will know that they devote the entire month of October to the pro-life cause, and refer to it as Respect Life Month.

Now I know there will be those who condemn me, say I am condoning the act of cruelty to an animal - I think I have established that I do not, I just happen to be more consistent in this issue than many who fight for the rights of animals but then repeat the inane slogan that it is a woman's right to choose: the devil said that to Eve in the garden, and see where we ended up!  It is ironic to note that, it is because we defend abortion that such dreadful acts take place. After all, if we can kill our own in the womb, then acts of violence against innocent creatures should not surprise us: if we do not respect human life, then animal life will not even register on the radar.

"Ite Ad Joseph!"

As the Church continues to celebrate the canonisation of our new saints, one of them, St Andre Bessette, has a message for the Church of our time: "Ite ad Joseph!"  Go to Joseph.  St Andre was the founder of Montreal's great sanctuary to St Joseph, and through this humble brother's ministry, devotion to the husband of Our Lady experienced a great renewal in the Americas. 

In the years since Vatican II many Catholics have forgotten about St Joseph - he seems to have been thrown out in the frenzied zeal of the reformers to "simplify" our faith.  Yet the life of the Church is impoverished when the Saints are discarded.  When we put the patron of the universal Church to one side, then that presents other problems.  St Joseph, the just man, chosen by God as husband for Mary and guardian and father figure for Jesus, has an important role to play in the life of the Church and in the lives of each individual Christian.  Hence, devotion to St Joseph brings many blessings and graces, as well as his protection.  The canonisation of St Andre is call from the Lord, I believe, reminding us that we must put Joseph back into our lives.  By the way, Wednesday is the day in the week dedicated to St Joseph.

My friend the exorcist (that sounds good!) was telling me about the power of St Joseph's intercession and protection.  The demons, he said, hate him because they had no power over him.  In his life on earth, it seems, Joseph resisted the temptations they laid in front of him: his love for Jesus and Mary was so strong, so complete, no earthly pleasure could distract him.  Now there's a patron to have!  One of St Joseph's titles is "Terror of Demons", so that fits.  Apart from that, in St Joseph we see the model of the devoted servant of Christ.  We also see the model for men and for fathers in particular.  As radical, atheistic feminism has wrecked havoc in society and the Church, St Joseph provides for us men a refreshing antidote to the misandry which has become so prevalent in our times. 

In this time of renewal and reform, we have a great friend in St Joseph, as many Saints have found.  St Teresa of Avila said that whenever she went to Joseph for help, he never failed her: hence she placed the reform of the Carmelite Order into his hands, dedicating the first house of the reform to him.  We would do well to dedicate all our efforts for renewal, personal and institutional, to him and allow him to lead us.  St Andre once said that devotion to St Joseph was the way to heaven - how true that is.  As St Joseph safely conducted Jesus and Mary into Egypt and then to Nazareth, he can bring us, safely and surely, to heaven. And let's face it, with Joseph on our side we're in with a pretty influential person: after all, if he asks Jesus to let us into heaven, can the One he brought up refuse him?  Not likely!! 

Prayer to St Joseph:
Remember, most pure spouse of Mary ever Virgin, my loving protector, Saint Joseph, that no one ever had recourse to your protection or asked for your aid without obtaining relief. Confiding, therefore, in your goodness, I come before you and humbly implore you. Despise not my petitions, foster-father of the Redeemer, but graciously receive them. Amen

Collect for the feast of St Andre Bessette:
Lord our God, friend of the lowly,
You gave your servant, Brother André,
a great devotion to Saint Joseph
and a special commitment to the poor and afflicted.
Through his intercession
help us to follow his example of prayer and love
and so come to share with him in Your glory.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

St Mary MacKillop: In the Heart of the Church

My sister Carmelite over at Te-Deum Blog, Diane Korzeniewski, draws our attention to an excellent article on St Mary MacKillop, the recent controversy over her excommunication, and the false interpretation of her life.  It well worth a read.

A Prophet For Our Times

Today the Church in Poland celebrates for the first time the feast of Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko, the priest martyred in 1984 for daring to stand up to the country's Communist regime.  I remember the events surrounding his disappearance, the finding of his body and funeral.  His name became a slogan for freedom in the 1980's as people behind the Iron Curtain began to revolt against the oppression socialism had imposed on them for almost fifty years.  I was always cautious about Blessed Jerzy because I had thought he was too political a figure.  When his Cause was announced and proceeded, I had to wonder if he was really a martyr - his death seemed more political than religious.  When Pope Benedict recognised his martyrdom I told myself to look again, so I began to read up on his life and murder. 

It became apparent very quickly that his death was indeed martyrdom, and strangely his struggle seemed to have a relevance to Ireland and Europe in these years.   As the day of his beatification came closer, legislation was passing through our parliament which enshrined in law unions which we, as Christians, believe to be deeply immoral.  The legislation, establishing Civil Partnerships for same-sex couples, undermined the special relationship marriage has in our country, and seemed to criminalise Christian morality.  That legislation was passed.   In a homily I reminded politicians who claimed to be members in good standing of the Church, that according to the Gospel and Christian morality, they could not support that legislation, quoting the CDF's document on the issue.  It opened a can of worms and even the Minister for Justice, who was sponsoring the legislation, condemned me in the press.  An interesting side issue emerged when he said that he left his faith and conscience outside the door of the cabinet room - it had no place in his work as a public representative.  Cue: John F. Kennedy's speech to Protestant ministers in Houston.  The affair also led the Minister for the Environment and leader of the Green Party, to insist that the Church and her bishops should stick to the spiritual needs of their flock and not intrude in matters political.  In response to this diktat, Archbishop Martin of Dublin had to remind the same Minister than only a year before he had asked the bishops of Ireland to help the government get the EU Lisbon Treaty passed by openly supporting it!   I think we know that to be double standards.

Blessed Jerzy was also told by the Polish government to keep his nose out of "political matters" - of course those matters were actually religious and moral issues - human freedom and religious freedom.  So too in Ireland - the issue of marriage is a human issue, a moral issue, and as the government has now enshrined penalties in law for those who, in conscience, cannot cooperate with what they believe is immoral, it is also an issue of religious freedom.  In the end the bill was rushed through parliament without a vote, thus undermining the process of democracy: this was hailed as "mature" by the same politicians.  I had thought, stupidly, that I had the right as a citizen of this nation to say what I believed,  but what I said did not accord with the agenda of the ruling power of our country, so it seems I do not.  I also thought that, as a pastor, I could remind my flock of what their Lord and Saviour taught them with regard to certain moral issues: again, it seems I was wrong in that.  My government tells me I cannot preach the Church's moral teaching from the pulpit.  I was branded as an interfering priest like (but certainly not on a parr with) St Thomas Beckett and Blessed Jerzy. 

I thought Blessed Jerzy was too political a figure, but I was wrong, and I know why from personal experience.  Should the Church and her ministers engage in matters which are classed as political?  If they affect her, yes.  The Church cannot and should not be silenced in the public square.  Blessed Jerzy, in condemning the abuses of a tyrannical regime, spoke up for the oppressed as any Christian pastor should, and defended the rights of the Church and her members.  The Church reserves the right to do the same.  A democratic government will respect that and even listen to what the Church has to say instead of condemning her and attempting to undermine her. 

Blessed Jerzy has since helped me in so many ways, particularly when dealing with the condemnation of a member of our government, and I am humbled by his prayers and presence.  Since then I have been given a first class relic of Blessed Jerzy, and I treasure it - it is on the altar of my little chapel.  I believe he is a saint for our times, given the gradual growth of secularism and increasing powers of the state.  I think we should pray for his speedy canonisation, and his assistance in these difficult times.

Almighty God,
by whose grace and power your holy martyr Blessed Jerzy
triumphed over suffering and was faithful unto death:
strengthen us with your grace,
that we may endure reproach and persecution
and faithfully bear witness to the name
of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Trailer of a new movie about Blessed Jerzy:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tracking For Stalkers

Watching BBC News, I see that a new website is due to be launched next week which will track the movements of celebrities.  Through fans will be able to keep an eye on their idols and where they are at any given moment.  The idea, it seems was that people around the globe would be encouraged to keep an eye out for celebrities and then inform the website if they have spotted any via Twitter.  The site has angered celebrities, so much so that Twitter has pulled out from the deal, but that will not be enough to stop the website going live on Tuesday because those running the site have other sources of information.

Well, we already know the world we are living in is one mad place, and this is just another lunatic idea.  This website will be a stalker's paradise and, no doubt, we will probably see a rise in stalking incidents in the years to come.  JustSpotted may need to have a permanent legal team on staff to deal with the various law suits which may be filed against them.  Apart from that, one has ask the question, have the press/media learned nothing from recent events?   More than likely if the paparazzi had not been so bolshie, and had more respect for celebrities' privacy, Diana, Princess of Wales would probably be alive today. 

The excuse we often hear wheeled out is that celebrities have chosen to put their lives and careers in the public eye, so when the press follow them for stories, they should not be surprised.  While there is an element of truth in that, common sense dictates that people, regardless of who they are or what they do, should be allowed personal space and respect which allows them the same rights and dignities all of us enjoy, including privacy.  Again the media will say that people have a right to know - I'm not convinced by that one. I do not think anyone has the right to leer at other's people's private lives or misfortunes.  Let's hope enough people have the sense to leave "celebrities" alone.  

Of course, the message to those seeking fame - be careful, you might just get what you are looking for.  In the last decade or so the rise of reality TV shows has allowed ambitious people a forum in which to become famous - Andy Warhol and his fifteen minutes has a lot to answer for!  We now have people who are famous for being....famous!   No talent, no career, just....a celebrity.  That is another piece of lunacy of the age we live in.  But it also reveals a hunger: people are looking for something, and think fame, the cult of celebrity, will satisfy that hunger.  It doesn't - experience shows it creates problems.  This new website is just one of the problems they face; although, given the insatiable need for fame some are nurturing, you might find some of them will be delighted to be stalked if it means they become a celebrities.  Will we now have minor celebrities vying to get themselves spotted?  As the song says, it's a mad world.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Interesting article in the Montreal Gazette on miracles, well worth a read.

Boost For Religious Life

All six Blesseds canonised today were members of religious orders, so might say that today religious life is getting a boost from the Lord.  Each of the six have their own stories, experiences and difficulties, but all are united in their love of Christ and their desire to offer themselves to him in consecrated life.  What is so wonderful is that all three vocations within traditional religious consecration are represented.

St Stanislaw Soltys was a priest and professed member of the Canons Regular of the Lateran.  St Candida Maria  de Jesus Cipitria y Barriola, St Guilia Salzano, St Camilla Battista Varano and St Mary MacKillop were sisters. St Andre Bessette was a professed brother.  In their canonisation, the Church offers to all of us, but to our religious in particular, examples of how to follow Christ in every aspect of life.  I am particularly delighted with St Andre's glorification because we need to be reminded of the unique vocation of the Brother.  For too long professed brothers were seen as those who did not quite make the mark to be priests, yet their calling is as unique and particular as that of priests and sisters.  St Andre reveals through his life the rich possibilities that exist within the vocation.  He was not impoverished because he could not say Mass or hear confessions, he was enriched because in his calling he could exercise a ministry which the priests of his order were unable to do. 

Yesterday's profession ceremony in Stamullen was beautiful - simple, yet solemn and wonderful.  Sr Cora Marie vowed to live the evangelical counsels for the rest of her life while devoting herself to a life of prayer and service for the Church and the world.  As one of the vows recalled, she was to be hidden with Christ in humble service.  This is what each of our six new saints did: the fact that Sr Cora Marie's profession took place on the weekend of the canonisation of six religious, is no coincidence, I think, but providential.  I hope many will follow in her steps, and inspired by the Church's holy religious, make the generous offering of their own lives.

Another wonderful thing about this canonisation is that it is a welcome moment for the religious of the west, and for Ireland, if they choose to acknowledge it.  Many are depressed by the recent scandals - innocent and good religious who spent their lives in humble service of those in need, are now hated, despised and demonised by many in Irish society and the media here.  They did no wrong, but they are crucified all the same.  On the other hand, there are others who have thrown off their religious life and pursue "personally fulfilling lives" and chide the Church for her adherence to the teachings of Christ.   Anyway, no giving out. 

The renewal of religious life was one of the aims of the Second Vatican Council, and while many religious have gone haywire, as we say here, God love them, the renewal is still happening, even new forms of religious life are emerging - always a sign that a great spiritual regeneration is taking place.  The two last times we had this was, first, in St Francis's time when the new form of friars emerged - these friars - Franciscan, Dominican, Carmelite, among others, were responsible for a great reform of the 12th and 13th centuries.  Then, the second great period, was that around Trent. Again new, revolutionary forms developed - the Jesuits and Oratorians among them.  And again these new orders, societies and congregations, joining forces with the existing Orders which reforming either from within or from breakaway groups, began a great evangelisation.  Even a quick look at Church history teaches us that.

Now look at what is happening - Church history is repeating itself.  New congregations and forms are emerging: new societies of friars, monks and nuns.  The innovative form of the Secular Institutes, consecrated lay people and the myriad of movements which united priests, religious, consecrated and non-consecrated lay people.  And God is confirming that these new ways of life sanctify, as, for example the canonisation of St Josemaria Escriva and beatification of Blessed Chiara Luce Badano prove.  In Ireland, we are still waiting for that, although the movements are present, some of them.  We need more of them, and we need new religious - particularly native foundations.  When a man or woman finally founds a new congregation in Ireland, we will know the reform has begun.  I hope our six new Saints will pray for that.