Monday, February 28, 2011

Widespread Panic!!

It has been a busy week and weekend, and the time I normally used for blogging was directed to writing - I am putting some stuff together on the Acts of St Genesius and pondering publishing. 

In the meantime I have had a look at what is occupying some of the bloggers around the world and I see that the forthcoming Instruction on Summorum Pontificum is taking up a lot of cyberspace.  I see Damian Thompson has reported that 10,000 traditionalists have signed a petition calling on the Pope not to pull back on the freedom he granted for the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.  This is the latest contribution in a saga which included one blogger telling us that "Strange, violent, and dark forces wish to derail the application of Summorum Pontificum".  Hmmm????

Now I welcomed the Holy Father's decision in granting greater freedom to celebrate the Extraordinary Form, and though I do not celebrate it myself (as of yet), friends of mine do, including one who does so every day as appointed by his bishop.  And yes, I do think our seminarians should be trained to say it, as Pope Benedict has requested.  I think the Novus Ordo will benefit a great deal from the Extraordinary Form, and hopefully, with the two side by side the celebration of the sacred liturgy in general will improve.  I am, however, cautious of what might be (might be) a tad of an overreaction with regard to this Instruction.  

Surely if the pope wanted to give more freedom and he sees the value of it, he is hardly going to restrict it, unless, having kept a close eye on things are going, he feels certain limitations may be in order and good for the the Church.  I do not accept that dark and violent forces will hoodwink the pope and he will assent to the new Instruction without even reading it.   Our Holy Father is a wise and shrewd man, few get to the pull the wool over his eyes - not even arch-deceivers who managed to con the future Blessed John Paul II could do so with Ratzinger.

That said, there needs to be a lot of common sense injected to some of these liturgical debates.  I remember speaking to a man who had been missing Sunday Mass for thirty years, only attending a montly Mass with the Society of St Pius X, refusing to attend the Novus Ordo because he said it was invalid.  I was told by him that I had never attended in my life, or my seven years as a priest celebrated, a valid Mass.  And then there is the other side with women dressing up in vestments made from flowery curtains, elevating sliced pans and cups of grape juice!  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pray For Asia

The Catholic News Agency has an interesting article on Asia Bibi, the Catholic woman in Pakistan who has been condemned to death for alleged blasphemy against the Islamic religion.  The Holy Father has made a personal appeal on her behalf and the Governer of the Pakistani province of Punjab was murdered for defending her. 

The case has all the hallmarks of a stitch up.  It seems the accusations have been made following a dispute between Asia's family and a Muslim neighbour whose cattle had damaged their property.  When working in the fields she brought water to others working with her, they refused to drink from the cup because as a Christian she was unclean and so too the cup she carried.   A very Biblical situation - she brings a cup of cold water to people working in the heat and they managed to start an argument and find an excuse to have her put on trial for blasphemy. 

It is obvious she is being punished for her Christian faith and the unjust and easily manipulated blasphemy laws in Pakistan are faciliating her condemnation.   Extremists have put a price on her head - $5,000 to the one who kills her - I believe that is what they call a fatwa.  We must pray for her.  Things seem bleak, but God can do all things.  Reading this article I am impressed with her - she has great faith and while she wants to get out and go home to her suffering family, she seems to demonstrate a deep serenity.  Are we watching the making of a great Christian martyr?  

I see from Catholic Culture that another Christian woman has now been charged with blasphemy - the charges seem strangely similiar to those brought against Asia.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Series On EWTN

I have been asked by a number of people as to when the next series of Forgotten Heritage will air.  Our next series begins in the US and Canada on Sunday, February 27th and is entitled: Forgotten Heritage: Europe and Our Lady.   The European channels are still showing our series on the Eucharist.  If you go to EWTN's website you will get the schedule, and if you do not have the channel beaming into your TV, you can watch any of EWTN's channels anytime online, so European viewers can catch our new series before it comes here.

The new series looks at Our Lady and her importance in the spirituality and culture of Europe.  Following the same format as the last series, which proved popular, we will be discussing various devotions, apparitions and devotees of Our Lady, always with a view to encouraging a renewal of devotion to the Mother of the Lord in these times. 

The schedule for the new series (US and Canada):

Sundays       8pm (Pacific),  11pm (Eastern)
Tuesdays     12.30am (Pacific), 3.30am (Eastern)
Saturdays    1.30pm (Pacific), 4.30pm (Eastern)

We are scheduled to record series three, Fr Owen and myself are working on that at the moment, and series four is in the planning stages.  Our first series is available on DVD, you can order it from EWTN Religious Catalog here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Rite: A View

Well, last night myself and Caroline of the St Genesius Blog donned the glam gear and headed out on the town to the European Premiere of the The Rite in the Savoy.  Thanks to Warner Brothers for the invitations.  It had been a long day - the Divine Mercy Conference kept Frat volunteers busy - thanks to all of them, and welcome to the many new members who joined the ranks of our family of prayer over the weekend.  After a hard day's work we looked forward to the film.   There was a good crowd, though the auditorium was not full, afterwards there was a party at Whelan's - Colin O'Donoghue's band provided the music - good group.

So what did we think of the movie?  Well I do not want to spoil it, so I will not give the plot away.  Performances - very good.  By far the best was Anthony Hopkins - and he is being praised for his role by critics.  He plays the part of a crusty old priest very well, balanced between unorthodoxy of approach, humanity, faith, struggle and fatherly tenderness: there is also a tough side to him.  Unfortunately while Hopkins is a great actor, you  cannot escape his most famous role - Hannibal Lector, and I'm afraid there are lots of Hannibal moments.  While the image of Hannibal Lector in a stole may be a bit extreme, it's not too far off the mark either.  But his performance is great - and he gets all the great lines - and he has some brilliant lines.

Colin's performance was excellent.  You probably expect me to wax lyrical about him, but I think I can be objective as well.  Colin plays the serious young man role very well, and the part of seminarian Michael Kovak is made for him.  I know a number of online reviews are not positive, but I would have to argue with them.  No, he is not bubbling over, hamming it up, or doing the extreme hero, he is playing the quiet and conflicted seminarian who finds himself confronting a reality which he refuses to acknowlege even exists, and he does it very well.   Interestingly he provides a good contrast to Hopkins who is hamming it up and making a meal of his role.  Having seen Colin in a number of roles in various productions, this is his best and that is a good thing given it is his big screen movie debut.   In fact le he manages to quieten down the movie: perhaps this is what the American critics didn't like, but to be honest, the director needed a character to bring depth to the film, to quieten it down given the subject matter that is very necessary - it is very easy to turn exorcism into Vaudeville - in this movie you are dealing with serious subject matter.  I think Colin manages to do that and provide a contrast which keeps the movie rooted (in the first part anyway - more on that later). 

Ciaran Hinds is the other actor I was very impressed with.  Hinds is one of the finest Irish actors working at the moment.  He plays a Dominican priest who is teaching the Exorcism course and puts the seminarian in touch with the crusty old exorcist.  Hinds, or Fr Xavier, is the confident even arrogant academic who sknows his stuff, who knows he's right most of the time and a thorn in the side of the doubting seminarian.  I have one complaint about Hind's role - it is not developed enough.  I think there was so much potential in the role and Hinds has the ability to bring it much further, but the writers seemed content to leave him as he was and to allow him drop out altogether as the movie moves towards its climax - that is a pity.  I would have loved to have seen the relationship between Hinds and Hopkins - there would have been endless possibilities there - including some comic ones, which would have been good. 

What about the movie itself?  It is really a film in two parts.  The first is good.  The researchers did their work and seemed content to present the reality of exorcism in the Church today rather than the Hollywood conception.  Overall the movie's presentation of the Church and exorcism is positive and it is great to see movies like this being made.  Mingled with Kovak's personal history, there is an interesting story there and it will keep you engaged, although his personal story comes as no surprise - stock material for conflicted young man.  But it works.

However, for me, the second part does not live up to the first - I think the movie turns "Hollywood" at that stage.  While there are a few factual errors in the first part (seminarian giving the Last Rites?) you can ignore them and get on with it.  In the second part there are a number of errors, and one particularly glaring one which really cannot be ignored.  If the writers had done any research they would have known this error was a no-no.  This error, however, forms the basis of the storyline in the second part, so to be true to reality the writers would have had to take the movie in a different direction.  But I think that was the moment the writers/director etc felt they had to work to a climax and had to shift gear to please an audience.  I was disappointed with that.  However, the performances were still excellent and, if you can suspend your critical faculties, the second part was entertaining and we enjoyed it.  The last scene was very good - the outcome of the seminarian's faith crisis: full marks to writers and director for that one.

So - verdict? Very good.  Second best exorcism movie I have seen so far - Emily Rose is still the best.  I would advise you to go and see The Rite, critique my critique if you wish (don't forget the competition).  You will enjoy it.   It presents a positive view of the Church, takes a chance on trying to understand it from within, and for that the movie deserves our praise and support. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"The Rite" Premiere

Tonight sees the European Premiere of The Rite in the Savoy Cinema, O'Connell Street, Dublin.  The movie will go on general release in Ireland and the UK from Friday next - so go and see it. 

Warner Brothers have kindly given the Fraternity tickets to the premiere and the bash afterwards, so Father Director here will be getting the extra big starched collar on to walk the red carpet.  Pray I do not fall into temptation!  We got two tickets, so we had a raffle for the second and who won but the Lady of the Blogs herself, Caroline over the St Genesius Blog.  I have told her to bring a big handbag for all the St Genesius prayer cards!

I hope it is a great night for Colin.  He has had the triumph of the World Premiere in LA, but there is always something special about your home country.   In the meantime, the movie is getting lots of good reviews, and what I am happy to see, the Catholic blogosphere is impressed with the treatment of exorcism and the Church in general: we shall see tonight.   I hope this is another positive factor which will help develop better relations between Hollywood and the Church.  For this we pray!

Don't forget our competition to write a review: closing date 9th March.  Open to all readers of this blog anywhere in the world; only condition: you have had to see the movie.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wanderly Wagon Blog Post Of The Week

And this week's Wanderly Wagon Blog Post of the Week goes to........Damian Thompson who has discovered that the Brits were cannibals.  Don't know how that is going to down with our dear neighbours next door, but you have to admit good old Damo has reached a new high!

Friday, February 18, 2011

New Translation of Missal: Online

A quick post.  A friend of mine alerted me - the text of the new translation of the Missal has come online.  WikiSpooks has the entire text

Divine Mercy Conference

The annual Divine Mercy Conference takes place this weekend in Dublin - in the RDS, Saturday and Sunday.  The Fraternity will have a stall there again this year, so please, if you are around pop over and say hello.  And if you are not a member of our family of prayer, you might even consider joining us. 

Brick By Brick Deconstructing Love

Is God the eternal optimist?  We might think so.  No sooner had he made the covenant with Noah than the shenanigans begin again.  In our last reading from Genesis in these weeks of the lectionary, we read of the attempts by some of Noah's descendants to build a great tower to reach up to heaven.  Full of pride, they seek to make a name for themselves.  We see here the temptation of the serpent in the garden again: the self-glorification of man and woman.  We are back to where we started! 

The story of the Tower of Babel is interesting on a number of levels.  First, on a etiological level, the writer is trying to explain why there are so many languages.  He equates this with division, a division God has imposed on humanity to prevent them getting in to even more trouble than they are already in.  This division will be healed in Christ who incorporates all humanity in himself, in his body.  When he is lifted up he will draw all people to himself, uniting them in his offering to the Father as he returns to the Father the kingdom he has been given. 

The desire to reach for heaven is not wrong in itself - as we know from the example of the saints it is a noble desire.  The problem for this lot in Genesis emerges when we see they want to do it themselves - they think they can storm heaven on their own initiative, which of course they can't.  Not only are they overreaching themselves but they are committing the sin of presumption.  I do not think we need to point out examples of this in modern life, they are all too clear.   In humility, like the saints, we must recognise that Christ brings us to heaven, so we must not trust in ourselves and our abilities, but trust in him.  In Christ humanity will indeed reach up to heaven, we will not need to build a tower - Christ is the tower.

Archeology tells us that the most likely model for the Tower of Babel was the ziggurat, the ancient temples of Mesopotamia.   As we read this passage, can we see humanity constructing a temple to a pagan god and in this way - the worship of this being, they hope to attain heaven?  As with the fertility rites of ancient paganism, they seek to bribe this non-existent god with a magnificent tower-temple.  If we can read this as an interpretation, an ancient Jewish commentary on the worship of false deities, we may see an allusion to the later Golden Calf incident.  Only the true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is the one who lives, the one who saves.

Finally as we read this passage the story of Pentecost always comes to mind, for the coming of the Holy Spirit on the infant Church is the healing of the division we witness here.  At Pentecost language was no longer a barrier to understanding, the power of the Spirit and the Gospel overcame the different languages, and so the apostles and disciples preached the Word and everyone heard them in their own language.  As the people building the tower gradually deconstructed love as they laid presumptive brick upon presumptive brick, the Holy Spirit knocks down these walls and begins the construction of a edifice of love - the Church founded on Christ who offered his life for the sake of love.

At this point, Genesis is ready to begin the construction of that Church, first with Abraham, then Isaac and Jacob - the family.  Then the sons of Jacob, particularly Joseph who brings them into Egypt where God forms a nation - in the desert he will make a covenant with this nation.  Then, as they face the ups and downs, fidelity and infidelities of life in the Promised Land, they are prepared for the coming of Christ who founds his Church, a Church for all the nations bound in love to him and brought by faith, hope and love, professing the truth, back into the garden of paradise, not to hear the Lord walking in the evening, but to see him in the full light of his majestic divinity.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Are We Agreed?

God makes a covenant with Noah and his family.  As we read today's reading from Genesis we hear God repeat the blessing he first uttered at creation: "Be fruitful, multiple and fill the earth".  He re-establishes man as the preeminent creature on earth, but also as one which must be the most responsible.  He outlaws the murder of other human beings because they are created in the image and likeness of God.

The covenant God makes here is with all the earth, all creation, and the sign of this covenant is the rainbow.  This covenant prepares for the one the Lord will make with Moses and then the New Covenant in Christ.  God is making peace with the earth and humanity as the first step towards redemption.  In this covenant God promises to sustain creation and the natural order - he will not send another flood.  As God makes this promise, his side of the covenant, Noah and his descendents must fulfil theirs, and this is symbolised by the ban on consuming blood.  This is of course a looking towards the kosher laws of the Mosaic covenant, but here I think we can see another meaning. 

Blood, for the Jews and other ancient peoples was seen as the principle of life, as God points out in verse 4, so it has to be respected.  Here God is telling humanity to respect life and the natural order, and the law which will govern this is the natural law: that which is written in our very humanity.  The natural law is that which is the most basic of laws and it provides the foundation for the divine law when it is revealed to Moses and then by Jesus.  When that law is heeded that peace which existed between God and the earth following the flood is maintained, order is maintained. 

Some examples: natural law tells us murder is wrong (and so abortion is wrong since it is murder - the killing of the innocent).  Stealing is wrong.  Adultery is wrong since it is the betrayal of an intimate relationship.  These are basic transgressions that we know are wrong by instinct.  But natural law also tells us that certain relations are wrong - between people of the same sex, between humans and animals, since such relations contradict the natural order of our bodies and the process of reproduction.

We live in an age when natural law is denied and fought against.  Goverments and legislatures have abandoned this most basic and sound rule of life, and as they do so society begins to suffer.  People may ask, why is society in melt down mode in so many places? Perhaps it is because we no longer want to adhere to what is most human and natural, but seek to manipulate it and when we do find we create problems for ourselves. 

This Is How Bad Things Can Get

Believe it or not a pro-choice Catholic priest is suing a pro-life website for $500,000 for libel.  He maintains that the site is responsible for his losing his position as a diocesan catechist.  Read the article here

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Turning Over A New Leaf

When Adam and Eve were trying to hide their nakedness they desperately made a desperate suit of clothes for themselves from leaves - the fig leaf has become the iconographical expression of their fall.  In our reading from Genesis today we have another leaf - that of the olive, now symbol of peace, which informs Noah that the flood has subsided - the new creation is emerging from the waters.

As I was praying this reading today I was struck, in my imagination, by the silence which must have greeted Noah and his family as they opened the doors and walked out on to earth again.  First there was probably all sorts of noises from the animals on the ark - imagine the sleepless nights there - they must have had a few tense moments during the weeks in the ark, perhaps even a few tense words were spoken.  Going outside to an empty earth must have been strange.  But then there is the silence which emerges when the cacophony of sin and chaos has gone - that silence which most equates with peace.  Perhaps at that moment, perhaps even for just that moment, there was peace on earth.  Noah then offers sacrifice, a thanksgiving, but also a desire to remain in that peace - to remain in friendship with God.

Noah and his family represented God's attempt to begin again: as Noah foreshadows Christ, his family foreshadows the Church, the silent earth and saved animals, the new creation.   Here in this mysterious event the sacrifice of Jesus and the establishing of the New Covenant is prepared for, alluded to, promised.  

Here also we see the new beginning - a second chance, hopefully to get things right.  Noah, a righteous man, in peace with God, represents the hope that human beings can finally undo the damage and rise again to what God intends us to be.  It was not to be so for some time.  Noah's descendants would fall again: humanity would have to wait for the Messiah to come, and he, God and Man would fulfil the hope the silent and peaceful earth after the flood longed for.

This reading today brings to mind the new beginning all of us may experience in the Sacrament of Confession.  In that Sacrament the waters of grace pour over us like a flood putting to death within us our sinfulness and seeking to heal the original wound of Adam's sin which manifests itself as weakness and pride.  Emerging from the Sacrament - the confession box is a worthy image for the ark, we too face the silence and peace of reconciliation, of God's presence now felt more profoundly thanks to the grace of our encounter with him in his mercy.   Like Noah, emerging from the ark, the first thing we must do in that moment is offer sacrifice, offer ourselves, so we will remain in his peace and become stronger and holier.

The Experience

Interesting events last night at our Film Club in Dublin.  The film for the evening was the powerful documentary The Human Experience, produced by two brothers looking for the meaning of life, for the meaning in humanity. 

Fr Paulus of the Friars of the Renewal in Limerick was to give the talk and bring the DVD.  All was ready at 7pm - the DVD player working perfectly, the projector in great form, we were waiting for Fr Paulus.  After ten minutes we were getting worried as the audience were getting restless.  But after about twenty minutes the good father arrived - he had been delayed because his car was acting up.  But the Lord sorted it out and got him up.  Intrepid Kevin, Fraternity Culture Secretary, took the DVD and went to get things going.  Screen goes blank!  Our new DVD player dies!  "No signal" sign mocks us on the screen. Shock (I wrote a cheque for the player only a few months ago, multiregion and expensive!  Shock!!). No resurrection here, even after the kiss of life and a blessing: dead!  But Kevin has a plan, as always - his parents could get their DVD player in in twenty minutes.  Grand.

Fr John welcomes everyone, explains the difficulty, but the cavalry are on the way. We'll start with a prayer, nice and slow...give cavalry time to get here.  Fr Paulus starts his talk, very good.  After twenty minutes or so, Kevin's parents appear at the door - our Treasurer Jim turns and looks at me with a huge sigh of relief. Kevin proceeds to set up the new player.  But nothing is happening.  Every connection is checked, twice, three times...... Fr Paulus looks, sees there is trouble and keeps talking (God bless him, these Franciscan friars can keep you riveted for hours!  Fortunate for us).  The new player is not working now - sound is coming through alright, but no picture.  More kisses of life and blessings - no: dead!

But Donal, our Media Secretary has a lap top!  Thanks be to God and his Holy Mother, sigh of relief number two from Jim.  It plays DVDs Donal tells us (Te Deum!!), he was watching one on it only  a couple of days ago.  We try to hook it up, but the lead is damaged.  AHHH!!!  Next thing Darren appears "I have a lead at home and only live around the corner", he says.  Thanks Darren; he's at the club for the first time. Off he goes.  Fr Paulus turns around, still trouble, and keeps talking - now he has a discussion going.  God bless these friars.  But people start to leave..... 8.05 pm.

Darren arrives with the new lead - fits (relieved sigh number three from Jim).  All connected up - projector beams the desktop image from the laptop - JOY!   DVD put in.  Kevin is optimistic.  Laptop refuses to even acknowledge the DVD.  Is it the wrong region?  Another DVD is inserted: no the laptop is playing silly beggars.  More blessings, no: dead!!!  But there is another laptop, the girl up the front has hers.  Bliss!   Connect up - everything fits, but all to no avail: DVD not acknowledged - the laptop is too old, incompatible.  (Jim is now out in the hall trying to cope with severe tension).   Fr Paulus is still talking.  "Say a rosary!" Christopher our secretary suggests, good idea (later he admits he was only messing)!  Who cares! Fr Paulus starts it up, and we're off.  It is now obvious someone is at work here.

Darren runs home for his X-Box. Donal is on the floor rebooting: laptop still rebelling.  Kevin is forlorn. The audience is praying and Fr John is (prayerfully) telling St Genesius what he will do with him when he gets him home!  Jim is weeping!  And Christopher is sitting in the middle of the crowd with a big grin on his face, no doubt already composing the blog entry for the following day. Darren arrives back during the last decade weighed down with wires and leads. The team springs into action. Does Jim dare to hope?  No sigh of relief yet.  Connected.  Blessings galor.   Prayer to St Michael!!  Hail Holy Queen.....  Movie starts!!!   Relieved sigh number four from Jim, with tension, but prospect of heart attack avoided.  

Lights off.  It's 8.45pm.  Movie starts.  Silence.  And then we understood why all the trouble.  If you have seen it, you will understand, if you haven't go see it and you will.

Moral of the story: bring Holy Water the next time. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Noah, Row the Boat Ashore!

Well, as we follow the narrative of the Book of Genesis things turn from bad to worse!   Cain heads off and starts his own lineage and they get up to all sorts of devilment; the virtuous Enoch lives a holy life and is taken up to God, and Seth fathers a line of righteous people.  However, human beings, now marked with original sin, soon let things get out of control and before you know it things are chaotic as they live lives that would make an Amsterdam madame blush.   Time to start again, says God. 

The story of the flood is very curious.  Unfortunate for those scholars who like to dismiss a literal reading of Scripture, seeing even the miracles of Jesus, and with some his Resurrection, not as real historical events but as symbolic stories, the story of the flood defies, to a point, such an interpretation. Numerous religious traditions and legends of Mesopotemia preserve stories of a major flood which took place at some point in history.  The famous ancient poem The Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, records a flood not unlike the story we are reading here today.   So the story of Noah and the flood cannot be dismissed.    Whatever that primeval event was, the meaning is clear: God seeks to bring about a new creation. 

Noah was a righteous man, he has found favour in God's sight, and so he is to become another Adam: the human race will begin again with him; he also foreshadows Christ.  Noah, his wife, their sons and their wives will be preserved, and with them representatives of the animals of the world - seven pairs of every clean animal, two pairs of every unclean animal (anticipating the distinction of the Law of Moses).   These survivors are to find refuge in an ark - a large boat.  Note the symbolism of wood throughout the story of the fall and redemption: the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the wooden ark, the Cross of Christ.  The waters will sweep across the world, wiping out sinful humanity and an agent in the bringing about the new creation.  Here, scholars tell us, we see a foreshadowing of baptism where humanity is renewed in the holy waters of regeneration.   So humanity is saved, reborn, through wood and water - the Cross and the waters of baptism.

All of this should give us great confidence.  As we look out onto the world we might think that another flood is badly needed.  Well, not so.  The story of Noah, his ark and the flood remind us that God has the power to overcome even the greatest evil, to save the righteous and to transform all situations.  We should never lose faith in God even when his own ministers fail.   This story, understood in its symbolic significance, should also bring us back to reflect on our baptism and what it means. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

New Causes

The Servant of God, Fr Andrea Santoro

Good news from my friends over at the Hagiographer's Circle, a great source of information on the Causes of those being proposed for sainthood (include it in your favourites!) .  I see Fr Andrea Santoro, the priest murdered by a Muslim fundamentalist in Turkey following the Holy Father's talk in Regensburg, is on the road to beatification.  At his funeral in Rome Cardinal Ruini said that he intended to open a Cause for the priest, whom he personally believed to be a martyr.  Well, true to his word, the five year waiting period over, the Cause has been opened.  We pray for a successful conclusion.  May Fr Andrea pray for peace between Christians and Muslims and peace in the Middle East.

The Servant of God, Br Jean-Thierry, OCD, with his mother
on the day of his profession shortlt before his death

Our Order also has reason to rejoice.  The Cause of one of our Carmelite brothers has also been opened: Br Jean-Thierry of the Child Jesus and of the Passion OCD, died in Milan in 2006 at the age of 23.  I know nothing about him, so I must looking for information.  For one so young and the Cause to be opened so soon, he must have been someone wonderful: here is his biography. It seems his mother was an incredible help in his progress towards sanctity.  I note that he offered his death for a number of intentions including the sanctification of priests - may his offering be accepted by God and bear abundant fruit!

He writes in his spiritual journal:    "Father comes back to the prison. He is all smiles and kind to everyone; they were all adults. Since I liked to go with my parents, I was there too. When our looks cross, Father Edy smiles at me: I feel like bursting from joy. Really, for me, the priest who always speaks to us about God must surely know Him better than other people. He must be, if not the image of God, then one of those who have the special grace of “seeing God” and speaking with Him. He is a symbol; in looking at him, I feel that I am seeing Jesus Himself, charming, handsome, dazzling, and especially, very appealing…"
All of this just goes to remind us that we are still living in the age of saints, so may that fact increase our hope and joy.

Fr Andrea and Br Jean-Thierry, pray for us!

The Little Green Monster Appears

Today in Europe we celebrate the feast of two of our patrons, SS Cyril and Methodius, the holy brothers who brought the Gospel to the Slavic peoples, so our readings are proper.  However, I will  dedicate this post to the first reading of the day outside Europe which continues the cycle from the Book of Genesis.  In that wonderful appropriateness which you find with the liturgy the feast in Europe and the reading from Genesis fit together perfectly.  In the feast we celebrate the loving union and ministry of two brothers dedicated to preaching the Gospel, in the reading from Genesis we see another pair of brothers, the strained nature of their relationship, and the introduction of murder into the world.

The story of Cain and Abel is well known and so is the jealousy which creates a barrier between the two brothers.  That jealousy is nurtured in the heart of one of them who has strayed from God, and the fruit of this jealousy is the brutal murder of an innocent man.   When we read the story we see that, for some reason, God does not accept Cain's sacrifice, while he accepts Abel's. We are not told why Cain's was not accepted, but in his reaction we see a side of him which leads us to guess why.  He is a man of the land, and so close to nature you would imagine his heart would have been open to the beauty of creation as are so many who work with the soil.  However, it seems the inherited weakness from his parents has led him to see drudgery in the earth.  Wondering why God did not accept his offering I turned to Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch: in their commentary they point out that there is no mention of "first-fruits" in Cain's offering, while Abel, we are told explicitly, sacrificed the firstlings: the author is making a point here.  God doe snot accept Cain's offering because he keeps the first fruits, he seems to keep the best for himself and gives God what was left over.  Abel, however, thinks first of God and makes the better offering.

Cain was a cursed man long before he killed his brother: he had forgotten God who was only an afterthought, he put himself first, and so it was easy for him to be offended, and when offended he lashed out and destroyed that which revealed his sin: his holy brother.  Then, as did his parents before him, he tries to hide his crime from God. 

That passage is a good commentary on modern human life.  So many of us put God last and ourselves first and when we judge that God is not as receptive to what we want, we lash out and try to murder that which reveals our unreasonableness.  Often, as a priest, I see people living immoral lives who, when corrected, strike out at God, the Church and its ministers.  I have listened to people who complain about God not hearing their prayers and yet when you dig deeper discover that they rarely acknowledge him, they only what him when they need something: they come first, God second.  This is original sin running rampant in our humanity and we are all guilty of it from time to time.  As a priest I must struggle with that temptation every day and remind myself of those words uttered by Archbishop Fulton Sheen: "A priest is not his own" - living that is hard.

Yet, today's feast provides the antidote: two brothers who lived in unity, not only with each other, but with God, and put him first in their lives; and the fruit of that selfless dedication to the Lord is the lively faith of generations of men and women, saints and martyrs, cultures and wisdom, peace and love. 

Abel did not die in vain - this first martyr shed his blood in testament to the call to give ourselves completely to God.  His sacrifice - that of the firstlings and his own death, foreshadows Christ's own sacrifice, of our Saviour's act of complete surrender to the Father.  As you continue to read Genesis we see that Cain goes on to produce a line of people who alienate themselves from God and who bring the world God created to the brink of destruction.   In the midst of that the blood of the murdered one calls out for renewal and redemption: that call is answered by the Blood of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Will Apple Give In.....Again?

The Guardian newspaper reported that the gay rights movement is complaining again about another App - this time one which prepares people for the sacrament of confession.  This particular App has been the subject of lots of media reports and blog posts and seems to be a good promoter of the sacrament.  It is also doing very well in the Apps charts.   However in its examination of conscience it includes the question "Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity?".   The gay groups are describing this as "cyber spiritual abuse" (that last word has been chosen carefully, I suspect).  Maintaining that gay Catholics do not need to confess but simply come out of the closet, they say that this App is facilitating and furthering harm, and creating neurotic individuals who are ashamed of who they are. 

Two things, as a friend of mine would say.  First, in this we have reached a stage where we as Catholics are no longer allowed to believe the teachings of our Church even within our Church, nor are we allowed to make available materials which reflect what we believe.  This organised gay movement is using its power to dismantle the Church's teaching without regard for those who choose to believe it.  This is an attack on freedom of religion and it is very organised.  Secondly, can we expect Apple to remove this App now, as they did the Manhattan Declaration?  I think that will happen - they gave in the last time, can they withstand the pressure to give in again?  Maybe I am a pessimist, but I think the pink dollar is more important to Apple than religious freedom and what the Americans call the First Amendment: guaranteeing the free exercise of religion and free speech. (Thread which may confirm this)

So, will we work out the odds and open a book ? 

Ryanair Tutorial: How To Pack Your Bag

Ryanair has had a little trouble lately (what's new?), this time they had to deal with a mutiny of Belgian students.  They revolted over baggage charges (nothing new there) and a group of them were put off their flight.  No doubt many of you, like myself, have travelled with the world's cheapest airline (plus tax and charges), and no doubt like myself have worried and fretted over the weight of the checked bags and size of hand baggage.   Once in Gatwick airport, going home to Ireland after a trip to Poland I almost had to take out a mortgage to pay the extra baggage charges (the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa was too heavy!). 

But we have since discovered ways of getting around the charges, like one lady who wore all her clothes on a trip back from Sicily to make space in her bags for the souvenirs (she was swimming when she got to Ireland).  Or the blissful smile as you attempt to hide the fact that your slim hand baggage actually weighs a tonne and not the 10 kg laid down by decree.  All the fun.  Ryanair, God bless them, have introduced whole new dimensions to air travel, like the Boarding Time Olympic Sprint and the Flight Cabin Musical Chairs (who needs Strictly Come Dancing now?), not to mention the G-force Dash as the pilot tries to get the plane to its destination early even though they left half an hour late so they can broadcast the little triumphant trumpet as they bang down on the runway...two minutes early. 

And as for Michael O'Leary, the boss, you have to smile he's so unconventional.  He is a good man, I believe, and he has run that company well, even if we do throw our hands up in despair at extra charges and might not agree with some of the company's policies.  But it is thanks to him and Ryanair that other airlines have had to pull back on prices and become more efficient and that's not a bad thing.  And while we complain we have to bear one thing in mind: his company more than any other has to keep a strict eye on safety issues.   I remember hearing him in a radio interview once and he said that if Ryanair ever had an accident, that would be the end of the company.  While other airlines have survived such disasters, Air France for example, in Ryanair's case the accident would be blamed on all the savings they are making and that would finished them off. Quite possibly true.  So far they have a good safety record, but in other areas there is room for improvement...

Anyway, for today's post, Ryanair's response to the Belgian students' complaints about baggage charges: a tutorial on how to pack your bag.....

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Issue of Life: Election Issue

This Election....Life is in your hands!

My colleague over at the St Genesius blog drew my attention to this article by David Quinn.   You may remember I had remarked in an earlier post on our local Labour candidate canvasing outside one of our churches a couple of weeks ago.  David is as disturbed as I am.  

As a priest I cannot be political, but I can advise my flock on moral issues.  I cannot advise my flock on how to vote, but I can remind them of the Gospel of Life and how that must form their conscience and their opinion of a candidate and a party, and that they as Christians must choose life, and so choose those who support life and not destroy it.  The issue of Life IS an election issue.  To my readers in Ireland - spread the word,.  To my readers around the world, please pray for Ireland.


Found out, Adam and Eve start making excuses. Adam blames the wife (and it has been way ever since), Eve blames the devil, the devil tries to slink away to gloat: dissension and blame has entered the world.  This passage from Genesis is very ironic - they wanted to be like God, but when they are caught they will not step up act like gods, taking responsibility for what they have done.  They do not argue their case or rebel, but like bold children knowing they have done wrong they try to get out of trouble by passing the buck.  Unfortunately for them God happens to be omniscient, so he knows what has happened.  His question "Where are you?" was their golden opportunity to come clean and who knows if they had, would the punishment been as harsh?  Who's to know?  But they don't - gone is human dignity with human responsibility.

The devil gets it first - crawler at the start, he'll be a crawler forever.  Woman will now have pain in childbirth and while she will love her husband, she will fall victim to male pride and will be lorded over - a feminist statement in Genesis which tells us that the oppression of women by men is wrong, but a result of the fall - that wonderful bond is wounded.  The man too will suffer: now he will have to work hard with little return - the world will now be a harsh place and in the end: death.

It is an awful curse.  You might ask why God did this - surely he should have forgiven them seeing as he is the God of love?  He does, he provides for mercy, we will look at it in a minute.  But he must also respect their free will.  Adam and Eve chose to do what they did - they disobeyed him, they wanted to become like God, so now he respects that decision - let them be gods.  But seeing as they are not divine, they do not have what he has, they cannot transform the world into a paradise nor cheat death.  Now they are in charge and suddenly their powerlessness is revealed. 

But there is mercy.  As he passes sentence, God speaks of the Redeemer in 3:15.  This verse is the Proto-evangelium, the first Gospel, the prophecy of the coming of Christ, and also a reference to Our Lady, the new Eve who will be conceived sinless.  The tragedy has a happy ending in Christ and, most wonderfully, an even better outcome.  "O happy fault", St Augustine sings, "that merited such a Redeemer!" 

God did not abandon them, and this is a consolation.  As they prepare to leave Eden, he clothes them: a symbol that he loves them dearly and is with them even in the midst of the world.  Eden is closed, but outside, in the wilderness, he is present and there lies the promise of a return.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Original Mess

As I read today's first reading of the Mass from Genesis, those immortal words uttered by Oliver Hardy come to mind: another fine mess, though here we have the original mess.   The account of the fall of man and woman is both symbolic and tragic; here is the loss of innocence, the victory of evil and dispossession.  Man and woman reach out, tempted by the devil, to become god, or so they think, and then, when they have jumped over the boundary, lose confidence in their humanity and lose the original blessing.  When God next appears, for the first time they hide from him - fear has entered the world, God is now alien.  The attempt to become like him has reduced Adam and Even to cowering behind a bush terrified of him.

The great temptation which is particular to us as human beings with all the talents we have is that of seeing ourselves as God.  Adam and Eve yielded to the temptation to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  This does not symbolise knowing the difference between good and evil - they knew that already, but rather the temptation to decide for themselves what was good and evil - a tendency which still flourishes today: in a phrase "ungodly pride".  

Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch point out in their commentary of Genesis, that the serpent, the devil, led them to think that God was holding things back from them, preventing their true flourishing by imposing a limit.  The devil tells them that God is unjust, he is jealous of them and so tries to enslave them and deprive them of what is their right - sound familiar?  We hear it all the time - just replace God with the Church and we have the eternal whine of the dissident: it was first heard in Eden.

Providentially, as we reflect on the fall of humanity, the feast we celebrate today, Our Lady of Lourdes, reminds us of the raising of humanity.  Our Lady appeared to St Bernadette and confirmed the proclamation of Blessed Pope Pius IX that she was conceived immaculate, and in her message reminds us all of the path to joining her in that sinless destiny, the renewal: penance, prayer and adherence to the teachings of her Son.  Mary is the second Eve, the sinless one who reverses Eve's disobedience by her obedience.  Jesus is the second Adam who reverses Adam's fall by pride by being raised on the Cross in humility and poverty to win eternal life for us.  In Lourdes, in the midst of a rationalist Enlightenment rebellion against faith in Europe, Mary calls us back to faith, to the One we can believe in. 

Synonymous with the sick, Lourdes is a place of healing, of body, but more importantly of souls.  The original wound of the fall is healed by the waters of grace flowing from Christ, these waters are symbolised by the waters which sprung up from the earth at the grotto just as Christ, the source of grace, sprung from the earth on Easter Sunday.  As Our Lady calls her children to Lourdes, she does so to bring them to her Son to find in him our eternal life.  No more to cower behind a bush fearful of our nakedness, she invites us to stand in the clear light of the Gospel with her, adoring her Son.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Teddy Bear Jesus

William Barclay the renowned Scripture scholar once wrote that Jesus was not a "nice" man - he was more complex than that.  Barclay, who was a Scottish Presbyterian, was a fine commentator on Scripture with a gift for explaining what the text means with lively examples.  He was praised by many, including the Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen.  He is correct when he asserts that Jesus cannot be reduced to being a nice man, yet for many Christians today that is the image they have of Jesus - nice, gentle, kind, loving, peaceful, tolerant, compassionate etc etc.  Yes, he was all these things, but much more.  And contrary to the prevailing wisdom he could also lose the cool and he taught hard lessons which certainly grates with the "Jesus the nice man" image.  

Fr Longenecker has an interesting post on his blog reflecting on such matters, I thought it would be good reading.  One of the problems we have in the Church today is the prevalence of this nice Jesus, or what some call the Teddy Bear Jesus.  As Pope John Paul II taught, Jesus is challenging, and this is part of the Gospel which we must preach to the men and women of today: you see, we are dealing with reality not a comfortable mythology.

Following up on our discussion on the new translation of the Missal, William Oddie over at the Catholic Herald Online (perhaps the best Catholic newspaper in Britain and Ireland) has a very good article on the whole issue.  He believes the new translation will help renew reverence for the Mass, I think he may be right, though if priests are determined to turn the laity against it for ideological reasons, then there will be problems.  If we approach it with open minds and tolerance (Aha!), we may indeed see that our liturgy is enhanced.

Just a few nights ago a priest friend and I were talking on the phone about the new translation, he began to read the First Eucharistic Prayer - wow, it was a moment of sheer beauty - the language is so rich, the references clear, it calmed the soul through its poetry.   The translation is not perfect, but it is beautiful, yes awkward in places, but yet it stands out.  This new translation is a movement in the right direction: from the banal to the beautiful, to what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council originally intended.

La Bella Donna!

They say that you either love or hate Marmite.  I tried to eat it a few times, but I'm afraid I fall into the latter group - hate the stuff.  If anyone is planning to martyr me - a jar of Marmite will do the job!  Apologies to all my English and Australian readers who can find the virtue, which I have failed to find, in that food.  However, one time when trying to aquire the taste I was trying to distract myself by reading the label on the jar.  There was a recommendation which proclaimed that there was no poem more beautiful than Marmite - I will not repeat what I said to myself when reading that!  But I'm afraid the little jar has no claim to that sentiment when we look at today's reading from Genesis which tells us that there is indeed no poem more beautiful than woman.

Now some people have a problem with this account of the creation of woman, and to be fair to them they are right if they see it as an account which sees woman as less than equal to man and puts her in subordination to him as "Adam's rib".  That may have been the interpretation of the passage put forward by many for many centuries, but it is not accurate.  First of all the passage must be read in context, and the context here is the first account of creation where we are told man and woman are created together.  Now I know some Scripture scholars like to isolate passages and read them as individual texts - that may be fine for the purpose of study of origins etc, but not for the study of meaning since Scripture, regardless of how it was written and compiled, is now an organic and theological unity.

When we keep the two accounts together we see that this second account of woman's creation does not mean she was to be less than equal - it teaches another lesson - one which is a reminder to the man of who woman is.  First we see man in the midst of all the animals, and while he enjoys their company, they do not suffice - none of them, not even the beloved doggie, is a suitable companion and helpmate.  So woman emerges out of man as his perfect helpmate.  As she is taken from his rib, we see not a subordination, but a symbol of unity: "bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh".   Man and woman are made for each other, they share the same dignity, there is a unique bond, they need each other.  In this passage we see the beginning of marriage where man and woman fulfil that bond in becoming one flesh.

As we look at man and woman in that bond, that unity, we see that they are different. Woman is a helpmate for man not because she is exactly the same, but though she is part of man and he a part of her, she has a uniqueness all her own, as does man, and this difference is intended to enrich that union and companionship.  Each is created in the image and likeness of God, but each reveals different dimensions of that for the sake of the other - and so God, in this difference, has provided for the beginning of a community.  This difference does not mean one is better than the other, or unequal, but complementary.  In this we see different roles, both of which are necessary for the union and progress of mankind.  Man has his role, woman has hers, different, but necessary, and equal in dignity.

Here we come to one of modern thought's greatest confusions.  Though we hear concepts such as multiculturalism proclaim the benefits of variety and difference, radical feminist thought sees only inequality and oppression.   Modern secular society, inspired by this radical feminism, despite all its talk of celebrating difference, does not want difference - all must conform to a bland similarity and this, when it speaks of men and women, has led to a gender confusion.  Drawing on the stereotypes of male and female, it has created a new stereotype of the neutered.   

This strikes at the heart of who we are as human beings, it has created a "gender" war and confuses what is masculine genius and role with the feminine genius and role to create what can only described as a robot with no identity but that which is programmed by society's biased expectations.   Men and women are more than that.  What Genesis is trying to explain and celebrate in a poetic way - a poetry which is leading us to see the wisdom of complementarity firmly founded in union, is lost in the modern cacophony of "Equality" which is not equality at all but a tyranny of forced observance.  This is the great irony of our times: as the Church's critics accuse her of being a tyrant enforcing rules and regulations, they themselves have dismantled all that is beautiful and true about who we are as men and women while the Church is trying to turn our hearts again to the wisdom which these inspired passages teach.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In The Beautiful Garden

Another few moments in a busy day.  I want to continue my reflections on the Book of Genesis which we are reading at daily Mass for the next couple of weeks.  I think it is important that we read this book and understand its message because it reveals the basic truths about who we are as human beings, truths that are under attack and denied today.  The Venerable Pope John Paul II drew on these passages as he began to write his Theology of the Body, and so we can see in that the importance of these inspired words for us as we face the culture of death and the attempt of secularism to undermine the family.

Today we see an interesting account of creation which reverses the order of the creation week.  One thing we need to understand as we read the accounts of creation in Genesis: they are not scientific accounts - they are theological - they teach us the meaning and purpose of creation not the manner in which it occurred.  As the Church has said and continues to say - it is up to science to explore how the world came into being, but it is the Church, through Scripture and Sacred Tradition which teaches us why it came into being and who started the process. 

In this second account, only a few verses (Gen 2:4-9), we see man created first as the waters fall on to the land - God forms man from dust and then breathes the breath of life into him and he becomes a living soul.  That is interesting.  Can that be seen as a hint of evolution?  Just a question.  The waters fall onto the land, man comes into being and then, at some point, God gives him a living soul.  Interesting. 

Then, Genesis continues, a garden is planted in Eden in the east, and vegetation springs into life.  The message is obvious - it is created for man.   While men and women are part of creation, it is brought into being for them.  At my homily at Mass this morning I said that this is God's providence - he provides for us, give us a home and loves us, not with mere feelings but with life and the means to live it and flourish, and we are prepared for a great destiny.  In terms of our origins this is good news.  

However, there are limits.   Though man is the at the pinnacle of creation, he is still a creature, and though certain things may seem to be within his reach, there is a boundary which he must not pass. In the garden there are two trees - the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, man must not eat of the second tree -he can eat of all the rest, including it seems of the Tree of Life which confers eternal life, but not the other.  This is interesting.  The Tree of Life will confer eternal life, and God has no problem with men and women eating of that - we are destined for eternal life.   The other is a no no because it will make men and women think they are god.

We love to push beyond the limits.  It might be said that God was looking for trouble planting the forbidden tree in the garden, and say he was, perhaps, a little foolish in drawing man's attention to it.  But yet it had to be that way, for this represents our freedom as human beings, a freedom which is necessary if we are to know love.  God created us to love and love is a choice - no freedom, no choice, no love.  It was a big risk and it did not turn out well at the start, but the remedy, as we know, was already planned.

In The Image of God

I was hoping to get a post in yesterday to reflect on the first reading of the Mass from Genesis with the feast of the day the lovely St Josephine Bakhita, but I did not get the time.  However that won't stop me.  I have a few minutes now.  I might get another post in later about today's readings.

Yesterday's first reading brought us the second part of the Creation week story culminating in the creation of human beings and then the Sabbath day - the day of rest.  There is a lot which can be said, but taking the cue from the feast of the day our minds have to turn to the nature and dignity of the human person.  St Josephine Bakhita was born in the Sudan around 1868/1869.  When she was around seven she was kidnapped by Arabs and sold into slavery, like so many Africans at the time.  Her early years remained somewhat of a mystery and in the trauma of the experience she even forgot her own name - a young slave with neither history or an identity.  The slave traders called her Bakhita which means lucky, though how they could conclude she was lucky at that point in time is a mystery.  According to one biographer she was forcibly converted to Islam.

Providence, however, led her to a good Italian family who brought her to Italy and her encounter with the Church.  She found her freedom, was baptised into the Church and then entered the Canossian Sisters of Charity where she lived a life of great holiness.   Though she bore physical scars from her years of slavery, including over a hundred marks scored into her body, her suffering did not prevent her from finding her freedom from the pain and traumatic memories through her faith in the love of God - she was a woman of great serenity and joy.   When she was being baptised she chose Josephine as her name - in this she reclaimed her identity - but now it was an identity firmly centred in Christ.

St Josephine's story is one of a human being, created in the image and likeness of God, forced by other human beings into a life of degradation, but set free to find the breath of God living within her, and relying on that, discovering the life of grace and the presence of her loving Redeemer.   Every human person, at every stage of life, regardless of the status society puts on them or the state of their health is worthy of the profound respect due to one created in the image and likeness of God and within whom the breath of God is alive. The attempt to categorise human beings is offensive to their dignity.  

The efforts of Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, and her eugenics movement which inspired such disciples as Adolf Hitler and company, have managed to create a hierarchy of value when it comes to human persons.  For Sanger, like the Arabs who kidnapped St Josephine, race determined whether one was fully human or not, whether you possessed the full rights and privileges of humanity or not: it even decided whether you were free or a commodity.  Sanger's ideas inspired Hitler who murdered Jewish people because they were less human, and today her sons and daughters use the same criteria in murdering unborn children.  These people perish because others fail to see, or to acknowledge, that they are created in the image and likeness of God. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Excellent Articles

Following on our discussion of the new translation of the Missal, a friend brought this article to my attention. Written by Fr Peter Stravinskas, he describes what actually happened as ICEL was working on the original translation of the Mass.   This is well worth reading because it reveals that the whole project was first and foremost an ideological undertaking rather than an attempt to convey faithfully the liturgy given us by the Second Vatican Council.

And after that, another article, an expose into what was actually happening in the committee set up by Blessed John XXIII to look at the question of contraception.  

In The Beginning

What a wonderful two weeks we have ahead of us!  The first readings of our Masses are taken from the Book of Genesis.  I have always loved that book, as a child I would read it again and again for the stories, and then move onto Genesis: The Sequel aka Exodus, and then, in the mood for adventure, skip over the three unpronounceables to Joshua and Judges.  

As I grew older I began to understand Genesis and then as I lived in the world I was convinced of the truths it teaches - experience of human life confirms its wisdom.  If we want to understand human nature, it's all there in Genesis.  By a happy coincidence I am reading Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch's commentary on the book and it is bliss, well worth reading. So my understanding of the book, but also of human nature, is deepening. 

In today's first reading we have the story of Creation, a most controversial topic today.  The battle between Darwinian Evolutionists and Literal Creationists is heated.  I share Pope John Paul II's position - evolution is most likely what happened - we see evidence of it every year in the annual bout of flu which makes its way around the world - each year new strains evolve to keep scientists busy trying to find a vaccine.  That said I do not believe the universe is a product of chance, as philosopher Jean Paul Sartre put it after his conversion, but rather created by God who intended it to evolve in a particular way.   At the heart of it, the pinnacle: man and woman.  Reading the account of creation, organised in a liturgical manner, we are led to reflect on the magnificence of God's creative act.  Out of nothing this beautiful universe emerges - out of chaos, order. 

This is something in evolution which, I believe, reveals the intention of God - there is so much order - the laws of nature are not mere chance events, but true laws - ordered.  This might bring us to a reflection on natural law - that natural morality which seeks to move man out of moral chaos into moral order, in harmony with God and his creation, a law which is written in the hearts of men and women.  The whole question of natural law is one much disputed today; just recently I heard an advocate for same-sex marriage decry the brutality and tyranny of natural law in its ordering of human sexuality along the lines of male and female.

That said, it is natural for us to nurture order in our lives and in our liturgy and we can see this process happening in recent years, most particularly during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI.  After swirling around in the ideological chaos which broke out after Vatican II thanks to misinterpretations, and maybe even the mischievousness of some, the Church is coming back to that order which has always been the hallmark of her life - the order she finds in the Heart of her Divine Founder.  The new translation of the Missal, or as one of my readers called it "the corrected translation", is one element in this return to order, the means through which the Church can overcome the liturgical chaos which has reigned supreme in some places.  

Each reform of the Church re-echoes the creation of the world and Pentecost as the Holy Spirit sweeps across the Church renewing her and preparing her for the mission which is about to unfold.  We live in interesting times, exciting times and, yes, difficult times, but we all have our part to play.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Nurturing Mystics

I popped into Veritas yesterday - religious bookshop in Dublin.  During my move from Drogheda to Rathkenny my copy of Ralph Martin's The Fulfilment of All Desire got lost, so I was determined to get another.  That is not as easy as it sounds for, as the good ladies in Veritas told me, it is walking off the shelves - it is probably one of the shop's best sellers.    I am delighted to hear that even if it means having to go back to see if the next order is in. 

Many of you will know the book, probably have read it and are trying to live what he teaches.  For those of you who do not know, Martin looks at the teachings of seven of our Doctors of the Church to plot the path to holiness which, following the teaching of Vatican II, he reminds us is what every single member of the Church is called to.  The book is a wonderful read, Martin has that rare gift of taking what is complicated and difficult and explaining it in simple language without diminishing the message.  His understanding of the Doctors is comprehensive and deep, but he is quick to tell you that that understanding or insight is a gift from God.    God has indeed given him great gifts to assist him in his mission of nurturing mystics for the 21st century.

I am also delighted to hear that it is popular because it is a real sign that people in Ireland are taking an interest in the teachings of the great mystics and are determined to read them and understand them.  I also believe they are interested in following the way mapped out by these great saints.  That is where the renewal of the Church in Ireland will begin.   Having worked with new groups and movements here in Ireland I can safely say that the seed of reform has been planted, now it must grow and for that to happen it must be nurtured by sound teaching that nourishes.  And that is what the priests of the reform in Ireland must engage in - assisting the laity on the path to holiness while being sanctified themselves.   So, dear Fathers if you have not read the book, do so.  Not only for the laity but also for yourselves.  And for those of you who were afraid of tackling St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, St Francis de Sales or other mystics, this book is a very good introduction.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Competition To Rite A Review

Don't forget our little competition below for a review of Fraternity actor Colin O'Donoghue's new movie The Rite.  If you have seen the movie (go and see it!), write a review of about 600 words and sent it to me at  The best review will be published in an issue of our newsletter Fraternitas and the winner will get a prize!  Closing date: 9th March.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Old Priests Reject New Translation

As expected the self-styled the Association of Catholic Priests of Ireland (ACP) have launched their call to the bishops to "postpone" the introduction of the new translation of the Missal - they want it "postponed" for five years.  Now you might wonder why I have put postponed in inverted commas, well if you read their statement you'll see why: in reality they do not want it postponed but discarded altogether so, after consultation with the people (ie them, I presume), a new more vibrant, dare we say "relevant", Mass can be put in place. 

See their views here.   Sarah McDonald of the Catholic News Service has an interesting article on it.  I also got to hear part of an interview on Newstalk with Fr Padraig McCarthy from the group who was talking about the number of words in a sentence in the new translation.  His objections were pretty poor. Fr Vincent Twomey had been on earlier defending the translation pointing out the overall positive aspects. 

The new association's objections were anticipated since the rejection of the new translation now falls in the overall agenda of those who dissent from orthodox Christian teaching and Catholic teachings in particular.  But there is also another reason they reject it: their understanding of the liturgy is different from the Catholic understanding.  Influenced by the secular thought of the sixties and seventies (they are all of that generation), liturgy is mostly a human centred, human focused activity: it is all about the gathered community gathering together to celebrate this gathering.  A ritualistic order of service does not fit into this view of liturgy.  The theology of the meal, which is part of the Church's theology of the Eucharist, overshadows the sacrificial element which is downplayed and even rejected, and so a new translation which heightens our focus on the ritual of the sacrifice is unacceptable.

They seem to be particularly stung by Rome's rejection of the 1998 translation and that the expertise of those experts who produced it was "spurned" - seems to be the usual argument liberals use to keep their agenda in place: reject it and you hurt good people who have worked so hard - I've heard that excuse recently. 

I remember seeing the 1998 translation before it went to Rome - a liturgy professor displayed it proudly for us when in seminary.  Looking at it I knew Rome was going to have a fit and it would be rejected.  They had rewritten the Missal according to their own taste - adding their own prayers: it was not a proper translation at all - but a new Missal.  It was also a massive tome - it seems when they got down to writing their own prayers for the Mass they forgot to stop.  I remember the state the professor was in when news came through Rome had rejected it - he nearly had a heart attack with fury, complaining about those who had no idea about the people in the Church today and no sense of what real liturgy was, and the "good people who worked so hard on it now being hurt and rejected".   Thank God Vox Clara came along and got things back on track.

The new translation is not perfect, but it is a vast improvement on the present one which is inaccurate, banal and even dodgy in places.  The new is more archaic, but that is a positive - trendy translations age very quickly - imagine a Mass written in sixties language:   "Hey dude God, slap me a five" just doesn't do it;  no, "Lord God, grant us your grace" sounds better.  A trendy translation which the ACP wants will quickly become irrelevant, a classical translation, while not this year's slang, will not date.  All the religious traditions recognise this - they conduct their liturgies and worship with a poetic and symbolic language, many of them with a language which is no longer spoken by the masses, because they recognise that while worship is part of every day life it also looks beyond this life, to God and this means ritual action, formal prayer and beauty are essential.  

Another positive about the new translation: it will slow priests down saying Mass.  It might curb the Sprint Mass and reintroduce a little more decorum into prayer.  That can only be a positive.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Presentation of the Lord

The Church has many beautiful feasts, many of which have been lost.  Today is one of the richest and the liturgy provides us with a wonderful way of celebrating.   The feast of the Presentation of the Lord is also known as Candlemas and it is the day we traditionally bless candles at Mass, light them and have processions. We all love candlelight processions, there is something so simple and wondrous about them.  I hear time and time again from people who go to Lourdes, Fatima or Knock during the novena in August, that the candlelight procession touched them deeply. 

The candles, of course, reflect the words of Simeon in the Temple, hailing Jesus as the "Light to enlighten the Gentiles" - the Light who has come into the world, and so the liturgy bears witness to this Light with the blessing and lighting of candles. 

Today's feast reminds us that we do not have to add anything to the liturgy - everything is there, it is already meaningful: if our people do not see that meaning that is our fault, they have not been catechised properly.   I hope the new translation of the Missal will lead us to a rediscovery of the riches of the liturgy and gradually wean us off the questionable paraliturgies.

Today is also the day we pray in a special way for those consecrated in religious life through the profession of the evangelical counsels - it is the Church's official Day for Consecrated Life.  So pray for all our religious priests, nuns, sisters, monks and brothers, and also those lay people and diocesan clergy consecrated under promises and vows.  As an act of love today, if you see a nun, run over and give her a big kiss and wish her a happy feast day.  If you don't end up behind bars, the gesture might just be appreciated. So, if I may paraphrase Willie Nelson's wonderful song: "To all the nuns I've loved before...God bless you sister!"  Ditto to the brothers and priests, but no kisses!

Happy feast day sisters....always wanted an excuse to post this picture!