Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Holy Father!

Today a prayer, and Holy Mass offered for the Holy Father on the 60th Anniversary of his Priestly Ordination. 

and in honour of the occasion, a Papal salute from one of the best living Catholic composers:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Who You Know

Fr William Doyle, SJ

A friend of mine, Pat, has a great interest in the life of the Irish Jesuit, Fr Willie Doyle, who died as he heroically served soldiers during World War I (see his blog here).  I was talking about the same priest with other friends of mine yesterday and one of them told me that his grandfather had been a friend of Fr Doyle and they had served together in the war.  It is a small world.

Fr Doyle was one of Ireland's unsung heroes - a typical example of the humble padre out on the frontline bringing comfort and help to the soldiers, Catholic and non-Catholic, in the midst of the horrors of war.  The example priests like these offer is truly amazing, revealing the astounding courage which is one of the graces conferred on a priest in the sacrament of holy orders. 

Among those heroic priest being considered for beatification is Fr Emil Kapaun who died of neglect in a Korean hospital during the Korean war in 1951 - there appears there may be a miracle for him.  Another fine example is the "Grunt Padre" himself, Fr Vincent Capodanno, a native of New York who died in the Vietnamese conflict in 1967.    These priests are not to be seen as men who support war, but rather knowing that human beings are in the middle of life-threatening conflicts, they take the risk to be with them to minister to them and, if it happens, to prepare them for death and be with them when they die.   As Fr Capadanno often said: "I need to be with my men - to say Mass for them" - that sums it up.  That's why Fr Doyle was on the battlefield, and he died carrying out that ministry.

Are such priests martyrs?  Now that is an interesting question.  Martyrdom, defined strictly, is when one willingly accepts death for Christ, the Christian faith, the Church, a teaching or a virtue.   These priests died, not for the faith, but rather in solidarity with those they were ministering to.  I see that both Fr Capodanno and Fr Kapaun's Causes are proceeding on the basis of heroic virtue, and so require miracles for beatification.   Their decision to remain with their troops in the heat of battle at the risk of their lives may not merit to be called martyrdom, but it does reveal heroic virtue. 

There is supposed to be a Cause for Fr Willie Doyle, though I can find no trace of it.  There was certainly great devotion to him in the past, and as my friend Pat points out in a recent blog post, St Josemaria Escriva was influenced by the Irish priest and seems to have used Fr Willie's spirituality and teaching in his own.  So what happened to his Cause - did it start at all?  Well, according to this blog post, it seems it "faded out" in the 1960's.  That would sound right if it is true - we got rid of a lot of things in the 60's including faith and virtue.  Now that we are finally recovering from the hippy madness, might we not try and look at our saints again, Fr Doyle among them? 

And while we are at it (I'm on a roll now, rant coming....) include Nellie Organ of Cork, child mystric of the Eucharist;  Archdeacon Bartholomew Cavanagh, visionary Mary Byrne and Dame Judy Coyne, the "saints" of Knock;  Tom Doyle, the saintly Legion of Mary worker who was renowned for his holiness and service of the poor in Dublin; the priest martyrs of the Columban order; not to mention jump starting the Causes already in progress. Time to get the finger out.  Ireland needs saints, we already have candidates, why ignore them - surely we are not embarrassed by them......or are we?

Possible "Saints" of Knock Shrine.  The visionary Mary Byrne, renowned for her holiness of life, the Parish Priest at the time of the apparitions, Archdeacon Bartholomew Cavanagh; and the great defender of Knock and foundress of the Handmaids of Knock Shrine, Dame Judy Coyne.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Age of Martyrs

The Servant of God, Fr Christian de Cherge, leader of the "Atlas Martyrs"

There is little doubt that the age of martyrdom has returned to the Church - if it had ever left us.  Apparently every day numerous Catholics, among other Christians are put to death for their Christian faith.  Indeed every day followers of Jesus Christ are persecuted and discriminated against in many countries in the world, including the so called "free nations" of the West.  Secular intolerance and the growing power and influence of militant gay groups ensure that Christians are being denied their basic human rights and are sidelined in countries they have actually built and support. 

Tomorrow evening at our film club we will watch Of Gods and Men, the story of the Cistercian monks put to death for their Catholic faith - men who may be declared martyrs by the Church and beatified at some time in the future (the "Atlas Martyrs").  These holy men made the decision to stay in community and face whatever was to come.  They did not want to abandon the local people whom they loved, many of whom were Muslim, nor renounce their vocation of witnessing to the Gospel through their religious life.  

These martyrs give us all courage.  They also remind us that even in the face of trial and persecution, we must remain firm and trust in the Lord.  Faith, hope and love are all very well when things are great, but when things get tough, that's when we are tested and the Lord wants to see if we will stay faithful to him.  If we do, we will be given the graces we need, and we will be sanctified: remember Saints are heroes.  Like Blessed John Paul II I believe all of us are called to be Saints, and God offers us the means to sanctification every day, we need only say "Yes".

These martyrs, and Saints in general, are our helpers - from heaven they look down with love and seek to help us every step of the way.  The whole concept of the patronages of Saints reveals this truth.  Given recent events in New York and the diabolical attack on the Church from militant gay groups, we need to call upon the Saints who have a special mission to help in this area.  One of these Saints is St Maria Goretti whose feast falls on the 6th July - patron of purity and innocence, she is a tough cookie who can obtain many graces from God for those in need.  The novena in preparation for her feast begins tomorrow, so you might join me in praying for help in these times. 

Powerful with God, a mighty ally: St Maria Goretti:
she may look cute, but she packs a punch!

Novena to St Maria Goretti

Blessed Maria, faithful witness to Christ, patron of purity,
we turn to you now and ask your powerful intercession
as we face the difficulties and temptations of our daily lives.
You offered your whole life in witness to grace,
preferring to die rather than sin.
Help us in these times to witness also to this purity of heart;
defend us in the face of attack by your example and fidelity.
Watch over our Mother the Church, our Holy Father the Pope
and all our priests and religious.
Keep our young people close to your heart and guide them,
through your prayers win them for Christ.
In this novena, we offer you our own prayers __________
and ask you to intercede for them.
Stay close to us, dear sister in Christ, help us to remain faithful,
joyful and pure,
witnesses of hope and light of the world, as Christ our Saviour intends. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Reforming The Body Of Christ

In Ireland today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ - Corpus Christi.    The feast has added significance this year because we are preparing for the Eucharistic Congress next year, and the Church in Ireland held a mini Congress in Knock.  Having reflected on our martyrs, this feast gains even more significance since many of our martyrs were put to death for their devotion to the Mass - our priestly martyrs in particular.

Interestingly I am also reading Mark Dooley's new book, Why Be A Catholic? - I have to say it is a good read.   Dooley is a philosopher, and has held a number of positions in philosophy departments.  He is an expert on the "philosopher of beauty", Roger Scruton and has written a couple of book about him.  He has also written articles and columns for a number of newspapers, he is currently a columnist for the Irish Daily Mail.  It was in that paper that he exposed the inner life of the national seminary in Maynooth where he was working in the Philosophy Department.  His articles caused a stir, perhaps even a bit of a storm in the seminary.  Strangely, following the publication of the articles his contract with Maynooth was not renewed - a pure coincidence I'm sure.

Dooley's book is, in a sense, a response to his critics, although it was in pipeline long before he wrote the articles, and it is wider in scope.  I mention it today on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi because his writing reveals a real veneration for the Holy Mass and, indeed, a profound understanding of the Eucharist.   Asking the question, How may we reform the Church in these times? He sees the answer in the revitalisation of the liturgy as we see in the present Benedictine reform.  

Dooley points out that we need to come to understand what the liturgy is - that it is not ours but God's.  It is not a place for experimentation, but rather the place where we encounter God and enter more deeply into his life.   Refreshing stuff, but not original, Pope Benedict and many of the new reformers have been saying this for years.   He is correct when he maintains that the renewal of the Church begins with the way we worship because the way we worship reveals what we believe.  When we reorient our worship back to God, we give him precedence, and so we are more inclined to listen to him and more resolved to life lives conformed to his teaching.

At the moment, though many talk about reform, many fall into the trap which swallowed Marx and other ideological thinkers - thinking that reform will emerge from changing structures.  We see so many efforts, so many committees, so many policies and plans from thrusting the burden of the reform onto the laity, to spending thousands of euro on clustering and other such schemes. It will all fail if prayer and adherence to the Gospel are not put on top of the list.   If we look at the history of the Church we see that every reform (EVERY reform) began with personal, spiritual renewal.  

Recovering from the spiritual and religious stagnation of the last forty years will require the same plan.  So what should we do to reform the Church?  Ordain married men???? No.  Ordain women????? No.   Allow contraception and divorce so we can get the people back????  No - those things will only create an even greater rupture from Christ and his teaching.  The reform of the Church will begin when you and I get on our knees before Christ in the Eucharist and make the commitment to become holy.  That's what Dooley says and he is right, hence the importance of today's feast.

Friday, June 24, 2011

More Irish Heroes

After yesterday's post I have been reflecting a little bit more on our Irish martyrs and the times they lived in.  It seems the Church in Ireland in their day was very different to what we have had since Emancipation in 1829.   The Medieval Church was indeed a lively one with great devotions, pageants and saints - this was the case in England and Europe in general - perhaps not so much in Ireland - as far as I am aware we had a more austere Church, but yet there was great faith and we knew how to celebrate - "patterns" - local saints' feast days were known for.   While the beauty of Catholicism in Europe was preserved, thanks to the Reformation we lost our churches, shrines and universities and were forced to go underground where simple, quick ceremonies in rural spots became the norm.  I suppose this changed the Irish spirit against beauty, splendour and ceremony - associating it with our English invaders. It also conditioned the Irish to "quickie Masses".

To appreciate our rich past, though, we can look to our martyrs and their dedication to the Catholic faith, to the Mass, to Our Lady and the Pope.  If I am posting about our martyrs I have to include a member of my own Order - the Servant of God, Br Angelus of St Joseph, Discalced Carmelite, martyred in 1642 at Siddon, Co. Meath, just a few miles from my presbytery here - in the next parish.  He was born George Halley in Herefordshire, England around the year 1622.  He discerned a vocation to the priesthood and religious life and sought to enter the Discalced Carmelites.  He had to come to Ireland to do his studies, to the House of Studies in Drogheda (my former parish).  

He was known as a model student who had a deep regard for the poor.  When Irish insurgents laid siege to the town of Drogheda in 1642, many fled but Angelus stayed to help the people. However he was arrested by Royalist forces and given a prison sentence.  He may have escaped, or served the term which was to be seven months, but he is known to left Drogheda in early August 1642.  He came to the castle in Siddon seeking refuge, however after three days the castle was surrounded by Royalists who were trying to quash rebellion in County Meath.  Angelus, the owner of the castle, a Catholic, Anthony Nugent, and some nuns who were also taking refuge there, were all arrested.  All except Angelus were released - he was well known as a zealous Catholic, and it was for this that he was condemned to death.  On the 15th August he was shot and then run through with a bayonet to finish him off.   His cause is presently being considered in Rome: his beatification will be a moment of great joy for us Discalced Carmelites in Ireland and England, which interestingly is still the one province.  Br Angelus's martyrdom is important in that it reminds us here in Ireland that our martyrs died for their faith and not their being Irish.

That point is important since in Ireland we too often associate Catholicism with Nationalism here - that lethal little cocktail is a product of 19th century Nationalism and came into almost quasi-legal force with the foundation of the Irish state.  In my opinion it has been a curse to the Church in Ireland because it has made the Church almost a department of state and it has, in a sense diluted the reality of the Church's universal nature in the eyes of many here - hence the ease with which some Irish Catholics can adopt a "them and us" attitude to Rome.

One of our martyrs who certainly undermines the Catholic-Nationalist view is the Servant of God, Archbishop Richard Creagh.  Now here is a man of great stature and holiness, with an exciting life and indeed a martyr of importance.  Richard was born in Limerick in 1523.  He came from a family of merchants and so, when he finished his schooling that was the occupation he took up.  He made many voyages to Spain and gained a reputation for honesty.  However God had other plans.  After a successful business trip Richard was due to set sail from Spain on a particular day.  He thought he had time for Mass before the ship left, so he attended Mass in the port church.  However when he came out after Mass had finished he saw his ship already out at sea: he had missed it.  However at that moment a violent gale blew up, struck the ship causing it to founder and killing all on board.  Already reflecting on vocation, Richard saw this as a sign to renounce his merchant life.

He studied in Louvain and was ordained priest, returning to Limerick to minister where he taught for a number of years.  Recognising his abilities, the Papal nuncio recommended him as bishop for the diocese of Limerick: Richard, in his humility turned it down.  He was offered Cashel: again Richard turned it down.  The nuncio was determined, and so when the Archdiocese of Armagh became vacant he nominated Richard again, but this time he persuaded St Pope Pius V to make Richard take it under obedience: Richard had no choice and left Limerick for Rome to be consecrated.  When he returned in 1564 he fell foul of a local leader, Shane O'Neill who, while being Catholic, despised the England.  Richard, who wanted to keep faith and politics separated disagreed and made his loyalty to the crown known.  This infuriated O'Neill who burned down Armagh cathedral as a punishment.

Despite his loyalty, Richard was arrested a number of times - his position and ardent faith did not endear him to reformers.  It was when he was travelling down to Limerick for a visit in 1567 that he was arrested and brought to London where he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.  Put on trial, he was accused of adhering to the authority of the Pope over the Queen's and of supporting the traitor Shane O'Neill (ironic).  His trial dragged on for years, all the while he was languishing in the Tower.  An attempt to undermine his morals was made with a false accusation of sexual abuse made against him by the jailer's daughter.  The accusation was investigated and found to be false.  Left in the prison because the authorities feared the veneration the Irish had for this courageous and holy bishop, he died in the Tower as a result of his sufferings in either late 1586 or early 1587 and was buried inside the walls of the fortress.  His cause is presently being examined, excellent biography here.

In case you are wondering, most of my information comes from a book on the Irish martyrs, Our Martyrs, written by Dennis Murphy, SJ, published in 1896 and recently republished.  Well worth reading.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Martyrdom of Ireland

Yesterday I reflected on St John Fisher and St Thomas More, two great English martyrs.  While martyrs belong to the whole Church, offering a universal message of fidelity to Christ, it is good to remember the martyrs of your own land - our own who made the ultimate sacrifice for Christ.

Over the last few days I have been thinking about and reading a little on our Irish martyrs.  Our most famous one is St Oliver Plunkett, a priest of my own diocese who became Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland and was canonised in 1975.  He was hanged, drawn and quartered for his faith at Tyburn in London on the 1st July 1681 - he was the last Catholic to be executed for his faith in England (to date).   St Oliver was a remarkable man who suffered much long before he fell into the hands of the authorities.  He must have had a constant headache as he tried to sort out the Church in Ireland and deal with Irish bishops and priests - I'd say physical martyrdom was easy after all that.  He was betrayed by his own - two priests: a Franciscan and a priest of the diocese of  Armagh. 

St Oliver Plunkett

But we have other amazing martyrs.  If I may stay with people from my diocese: Blessed Margaret Bermingham Ball: she was the St Anne Line of Ireland - harbouring and protecting priests; providing Mass for Dubliners in her own home.  A devout and kindly woman who could stand up for herself in any row, she was betrayed by her own son.  Walter had become a Protestant to help his career, when he became Lord Mayor of Dublin he decided to make an example of Catholic Dublin's most frequent offender - his mother.  He had her dragged through the streets to prison, telling her she would get out if she renounced her faith.  He did not know his mother very well - she remained steadfast and died from neglect three years later.  She was beatified in 1992.

Blessed Margaret Bermingham Ball

Other martyrs include the baker Blessed Matthew Lambert and his companions in martyrdom, three sailors, Blessed Robert Meyler, Blessed Edward Cheevers and Blessed Patrick Cavanagh, all from Wexford.  These four were found guilty of helping priests escape from the priest-hunters.  They were simple men who loved God - who would ever have thought that they would become Beati.  Blessed Matthew at his trail could not defend himself against the charges, he said in all his beautiful simplicity that he could not answer the learned arguments, he was just a baker who loved his Church and followed whatever it taught.  As for the Blessed sailors - sailors tend to have an awful reputation - a woman in every port, well Ireland, for all its faults, has three martyr sailors who are the epitome of love of Christ. 

More martyrs for you:  the Servant of God, John Burke whose cause is presently being considered in Rome.  He was another remarkable man who was executed in Limerick in 1606 for his faith.  He was a knight, happily married with several children, a man who was deeply holy - if he had not been martyred there would probably be enough evidence to canonise him for heroic virtue.  He harboured priests and arranged for Mass to be offered secretly in his home.  His reputation, however, reached the ears of the authorities and soldiers were sent to arrest him.  They arrived just as John was helping a priest prepare for Mass.  In the melee that followed John resisted arrest and made an effort to get the priest away.  They made it, but John, on the run, was eventually caught, put on trial and found  guilty.  He was beheaded on the 20th December 1606.

Finally, for today, the holy martyrs of Cashel.  On the 13th September 1647 the Protestant forces of Lord Inchiquin massacred hundreds of innocent Catholics on the Rock of Cashel: it seems that most of them were killed for their Catholic faith.  Unfortunately we know the names of only nine of them and their cause is being processed in Rome.  The nine: Fr Theobald Stapleton, a priest of the diocese of Cashel; a second Fr Theobald Stapleton who was a famous scholar in Europe; another diocesan priest, Fr Thomas Morrissey who was also a Third Order Franciscan; a Dominican priest, Fr Richard Barry; a Franciscan priest, Fr Richard Butler, with a Franciscan Brother, Br James Saul; and a Jesuit priest, Fr William Boyton.  There are also two women: Elizabeth Kearney and Margaret whose surname is unknown. 

These two ladies are most interesting.  Margaret, we might call her Margaret of Cashel, was known to be a devout Dominican tertiary, and having escaped the massacre, she came back to look for survivors and for the body of her spiritual director Fr Richard Barry, OP.  However she was discovered and put to death.  Elizabeth Kearney is already the mother of a saint - her son is Blessed John Kearney, a priest and martyr beatified in 1992.  It seems the apple did not fall far from the tree with Blessed John, his mother was a fine example of Christianity and was willing to lay down her life for her faith.  Hopefully she will join her son among the Beati and then, all going well, we may see mother and son canonised together. That should get the hankies out for the tears of joy.

Rock of Cashel, scene of the martyrdom of hundreds of Irish Catholics

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Holy Martyrs

Today, as you know, is the feast of St John Fisher and St Thomas More, two of the stars of the English Church.  The story of their lives and martyrdom is well know, so there is no need to relate it, suffice to say that they were among the few who stood up to Henry VIII and perished for their fidelity to Christ. Like many before and after him, Henry could not understand why people would put God before their king or government - he firmly believed that as ruler he represented God and what he said was endorsed by God.  Many today still labour under that illusion.

Many of you will know St Thomas More through the film A Man For All Seasons, based on the play by Robert Bolt.  Both film and play are okay, but they fail to capture the real Thomas More.  As some have said, the Thomas of the film/play dies for conscience and may even have made it his god; the real Thomas More died for Christ and the Catholic Church - his conscience witnessed to these.  Good news, though, if you admire the Thomas More of the film/play, you'll really like the real McCoy: St Thomas was altogether greater personality than Bolt's character.  For one thing he was wittier. 

St John Fisher may seem a more distant figure to some.  He was a very different character to St Thomas.  He was more solemn, less politically astute, but just as holy and learned.  He was a venerable figure who oozed holiness and kindness.  He was prudent and thoughtful, a real academic (he had the biggest personal library in Europe at the time) but he was also a true pastor with a love for the poor.  Imagine a cross between Pope Benedict and Blessed Mother Teresa - that's him. 

St John was the confessor to Katherine of Aragon, so like it or not, he was in the middle of the whole divorce thing.  He recognised that she was true to her husband, unworthy as Henry was, and John remained true to her, guiding her and sustaining her spiritually in her own suffering during the whole affair.  He was tricked by Henry into making what was regarded as a traitorous statement.  He was the only bishop to remain true to the Pope: all the other bishops of England and Wales, when faced with a choice, chose their own heads and the new church Henry was constructing rather than the Pope and the Catholic faith. 

For that very reason I have a statue of St John Fisher on my desk (he's looking at me now!), to remind me that bishops are weak human beings, as we all are, and they need prayer if they are to remain true to God, the Church, the Pope and their duties.  And yes, sometimes it is good to pray that they are not put to the test as some may not have the strength to pass it, and their failure may scandalise the faith of the little ones - we have had personal experience of that in Ireland in recent years.  So, dear readers, pray for your bishop! 

Of course, the feast today reminds us of the challenges we face in these times, and they are not unlike the difficulties St John and St Thomas faced.  Today secular authorities are making unacceptable demands of religious people, asking us to accept and even promote things which are contrary to our faith. The whole gay marriage and adoption thing is one such issue, and it seems it will be the main motivation for the persecution of Christians in the decades to come.   We will need the strength of these two martyrs to overcome. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Reform the Reform

We all know we need to careful when it comes to reading the newspaper.  I was often told as I was growing up that paper never refuses ink and just because a newspaper says something is true, it is not necessarily so.  When you get into the nuances of hermeneutics and "sources", a good salt cellar is a handy tool to have at your side. 

The same rule could also be applied to the writings of some theologians and liturgists: one needs to be very careful when thrashing through the ideas and proposals of certain thinkers - knowing where they are coming from is vital.  When reading their account of history, it is even more important to check facts - ideas and opinions are exactly that, but when it comes to historical reality, then we have to show prudence for a false history can serve as a very shaky foundation.

This is especially true when it comes to Church history, and liturgical history in particular.  There is an excellent article by Michael Foley on the Crisis Magazine website, exposing five of the most common myths proposed by liturgists in the last number of decades as an argument to introduce revolutionary ideas and practices in the Catholic liturgy.  

For years these versions of how the early Church worshipped were accepted as fact and changes in the Mass and the orientation of prayer were founded on these very "historical facts".  By the time I got to seminary to study liturgy enough research had been carried out by objective parties to undermine these myths, so much so our lecturers put their hands up and admitted that there was no evidence to support their propositions but they think the new way is the best and, anyway, people are used to it now so things cannot be changed.  Their ideological work done and reinforced, they can afford to let the cat out of the bag.

Well, they thought they could, but they did not factor Pope Benedict into the equation, nor Summorum Pontificum nor the establishment of the new Ordinariates, nor the corrected translation of the Roman Missal nor the orthodox nature of the up and coming generation of priests, religious and laity. 

Now those of you who know me know I am not a Traditionalist, though I count some Traditionalists among my friends and we have had many conversations on the liturgy.  While I am often infuriated by the attitude of some Traditionalists and their views, some of whom pick and chose when they are faithful to the Pope and when not, the ones who are truly faithful to the Pope and not reactionary I respect and admire. 

When it comes to the liturgy I am a liberal: not in accord with the usually meaning of the term, I assure you.  Unlike the ideological liberals, I have no problem whatsoever with the normalisation of the Extraordinary Form and making it widely available.  I think Pope Benedict is on to a winner with his hope that the two forms of the Latin Rite will cross pollinate and, in time, one form may emerge organically with the best of both.  Now I know that statement may give some Traditionalists a stroke, but, if they survive it, they may realise that that will not happen in their lifetime nor in mine: the Church tends to work and think in terms of centuries, and the recalibration of the sacred liturgy will take time.

At the heart of the reform of the liturgy is, of course, a return to reverence, devotion and prayer: three things which tend to be absent to various degrees at many liturgical celebrations.  We need to be reacquainted with the idea of sacred space - something the liberals have been talking about for years, but ironically, have managed to undermine.  Indeed in creating sacred space out in a field or forming a coven in a group, they have turned the sanctuaries of churches into marketplaces.  

Reclaiming the sacred space will include how we behave in a church, and at the moment that is a real issue as people treat the building as if it was an ordinary public hall.  In Ireland in particular we have a real problem of talking, and loud talking, in churches, particularly in the time before and after Mass.  They have forgotten what a church is, and indeed, they have forgotten who is there.   

Over time I have begun to realise the importance of altar rails, dividing the sanctuary from the the rest of the church: a physical reminder to all of us that this place is different. Of course this brings up the whole topic of church architecture, another serious issue that has to be addressed.  It is interesting that the restored St Patrick's Church in Soho is being considered by some to be an example of liturgical progress: I would agree.

Another thing I have come to realise as necessary, is the reorientation of the liturgy prayer.  Pope Benedict speaks about this in his The Spirit of the Liturgy.  More and more as I offer Mass, and try to enter more deeply into the mystery, I find myself wanting to turn around and lead the people in prayer rather than stand as the focus of the Mass. 

People judge the Mass on the basis of the priest's ability to say it (perform it??), and this, of course, distorts what the Mass is.  The priest-performer is under pressure to deliver and make the Mass interesting and entertaining, so he has to resort to new ideas, themes, para-liturgical elements, to keep his congregation (audience??) onside.  This has to change not only because greater reverance is needed, but also because thus way of worship cannot be sustained: people's threshold for boredom will get lower and more and more crazy stuff has to be introduced be it clown Masses, or Barney blessings, or aging sisters girating in the sanctuary (that'll drive them out!). 

So much to do, and so much opposition, and the worst enemy is the mediocrity which reigns among bishops, priests and laity.  It seems for many in the church today mediocrity is taken as a sign of authenticity: beauty, excellence, devotion and ritual are seen as dishonest, irrelevant and unnecessary.  Yet these things are part of our human nature, they have always been a means of expressing what is important to us.  We are in a bad way if we deny this part of our humanity and our worship. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Back Down To Earth

Well, we're back from Fatima after a wonderful week.  I had to be carried kicking and screaming to the airplane, as I usually do it's so hard to leave.   You were all remembered in prayer, dear readers, and your intentions remembered in a Mass I offered at the Capelinha, the Chapel of Apparitions.  

We had a wonderful time of prayer, candlelight processions, visits to the holy places around the town and further afield to Lisbon (the house of St Anthony) and the Eucharistic Miracle of Santarem.  We also got to visit Coimbra for Mass in the monastery where Sr Lucia lived most of her religious life, and to the tomb of St Elizabeth of Portugal, my first visit, but which was a little disappointing as it is very run down.

All the talk of the sanctuary was of a "miracle" of the sun which took place last month, on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.  After the Solemn Mass, images of Blessed John Paul were being broadcast over the square to celebrate his beatification, when the sun changed and became like a large host with a halo around it.  Many of you may have heard about it, but here in Ireland we heard nothing - our media would not tend to be interested in such celestial happenings.  When visiting the Dominican sisters of Perpetual Rosary they confirmed it: they saw it from their cloister.  Apparently the phenomenon lasted three hours.  Here are some videos so you can see for yourself.  The first is the moment when the "miracle" was first seen, the last, Portugese television's report:

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I am away tomorrow morning leading the Fraternity pilgrimage to Fatima.  I may not get the chance to blog at all - the schedule is pretty busy, so the blog may go silent for a week ("Thank God!" I hear you say!).  But be assured I will remember the intentions of all my readers during the pilgrimage, and I will light a candle at the capelinha for you.  If you have a special intention, as St Pio used to advise, send your guardian angel over to Fatima with it, so it can be included in the Masses and prayers.

For your information, our schedule includes:

Visit to the capelinha, site of the apparitions; the old village of Fatima where the visionaries lived, and the places where the angel appeared to the children in 1916.  We will be staying in a hotel beside the Sanctuary, so we will be taking part in the daily ceremonies, including the celebrations for Pentecost and the 13th day.

Pilgrimage to Coimbra, to the monastery where the visionary and Servant of God, Sr Lucia, lived most of her life.  There we will also visit the tomb of St Elizabeth of Portugal, and the church where St Anthony of Padua was received into the Franciscan Order.

Pilgrimage to Santarem to venerate the Eucharistic Miracle.

Pilgrimage to Lisbon to visit the birthplace of St Anthony of Padua, the convent where Blessed Jacinta Marto died and to sample the beauties of the capital.

If we have enough interested, we may even get up to Balasar to make a pilgrimage to the tomb and house of Blessed Alexandrina da Costa, the great saint of the Eucharist.

And of course a visit to the Dominican Sisters of Perpetual Rosary, a number of whom are Irish, and one of whom, Sr Angela, is a spiritual companion of the Fraternity (the spiritual companions were a group of holy people who accompanied us through prayer and sacrifice in the process of discernment).  I normally stay with the sisters when in Fatima, but with leading a group I will be in a hotel, so I will miss the silence, serenity (and, let's face it) the wonderful food of the nuns - ahhhhh, not even Fr Z (peace be upon him) in his most inspired culinary moments can cook like these angels of St Dominic!  And their mashed potatoes - like an angel crying on your tongue!  Ok, not very penitential, but I'll make up for it in other ways!

Adeus, queridos leitores, até

The Problem Of The Elderly

As my Irish readers will know, there is a scandal being uncovered in yet another Irish nursing home - one in a leafy, upmarket suburb of Dublin, Rostrevor Nursing Home in Rathgar.  According to new reports there are accusations of abuse and mistreatment, so the place has been closed down, the residents are being moved and an official investigation is underway, one which may led to prosecutions.  

This is not the first nursing home here to fall under the accusation of elder abuse, over the past few years other private nursing homes have come under scrutiny and have been found wanting.  One of them, Leas Cross, was found guilty of "institutional abuse".   That said, it has been said by many, especially by those who visit nursing homes regularly, the HSE or state run homes, need to be as zealous in scrutinising their own homes as private nursing homes, as you sometimes hear the accusation that these institutions not to meet the standards the state has set for others.

All of this is deeply disturbing, more particularly when we remember those relatives who can no longer care for their elderly make the painful decision to admit them to a nursing home trusting the institution to provide the professional care that is needed.  They are also paying out a lot of money.  Your average fee for a week in a nursing home is about €1,000, much more if the nursing home classes itself above the average. 

Of course this situation raises the issue of care of the elderly in general.  Our country was once renowned for its care of the older generation in whom we recognised a wisdom and a nobility which was worthy of veneration.  This respect was derived from our Christian faith, but also from Celtic family traditions which honour age.  The extended family was the norm, as it still is in traditional societies. 

However, as we moved towards the nuclear family, as we divested ourselves of the Christian faith and as we became wealthier, our respect for the elderly began to wane.  With money in their pockets and generous subsidies from the state, people availed of nursing homes which were sprouting up all over the country.   As one friend of mine often remarks when this issue of a nursing home culture arises, the motto for many of these could be: "We care so you don't have to".   Which, to be honest, is a typical consumerist attitude: we can pay for everything now, even to get rid of the inconvenient, that includes inconvenient relatives who can't look after themselves.

Not everyone is like that, as I said above, for many the decision to admit a relative into a nursing home is distressing and difficult - and it is one all of us may have to make, and one which may need to be made for us.  But there is an attitude growing in Irish society that is diluting our respect for the elderly.  As a more selfish society, we are focused on ourselves and our ambitions (our self-fulfillment?), anything that gets in the way of that has to be removed, and sometimes our obligations to our weaker relations can be a serious barrier to that.  This attitude fuels the euthanasia movement, though few in it would admit it - they claim they are being compassionate.  Well, we know compassion is often used to justify anything even the murder of children before their birth.

This neglect of the elderly falls under what Blessed John Paul II famously referred to as "the culture of death", we might even discern the contraceptive mentality in it.  The lives of the weak and vulnerable are seen as inconvenient, and so like the child that could be conceived, action must be taken to prevent this inconvenience.  We can't kill them as they do in "Logan's Run" (not yet anyway, but they're working on it), so we put them away.  The scandal of abuse in nursing homes should shake us up and remind us of our duties and obligations to the elder generation.

All that said, there are worrying times ahead.  Thanks to contraception and abortion, the population in the industrialised west is falling - with fewer people being born and people living to a greater age the problem of providing for the elderly is a real one, and it will be interesting to see how western governments deal with it.  At the moment they are raising the retirement age, but that is a very short term solution: what instant solution will they choose?  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Not A Da Vinci At All, It's A Giotto!

You got to love some people. It seems that the Shroud of Turin was not painted by Leonardo da Vinci, as many have maintained, but by Giotto, or at least this is what one Italian artist wants us to believe.   This theory will get the same response as the "Da Vinci" one.  As far as the most up to date scientific techniques can discern there is no paint on the Shroud, and the image was produced by some sort of process which is still unknown to us, though similiar to photography.  So far, though, the most up to date photographic techniques have failed to reproduce the Shroud exactly.

Of course we will never convince those who do not believe (or will not believe).  My own personal opinion is that it is genuine and science is gradually edging towards that conclusion.  In reality there is more scientific and historical evidence in favour of authenticity than it being a medieval fake.  The Shroud's critics, of course, tend to pick and choose the evidence they want to acknowledge.  The Carbon-14 test is still being resurrected (no pun intended) long after sindonologists have left it behind and moved on, recognising that it is no longer reliable. 

But you have to hand it to the critics they are still working hard; many of them cannot bring themselves to accept it - to do so would mean they would have to accept much more than they want to.  The more the Shroud is investigated, the more of an enigma it becomes, the more mysterious and more complex.  The more they know about it, the more they realise they know so little.   I think there is a sign in that.

Interestingly, the whole field of study which has developed around the Shroud - sindonology, has done a great deal to bring science and religion together.  In this unique area of research numerous disciplines work together to unravel this scientific and historical tapesty, or what has been called, an icon of the suffering Christ. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

At Last, A Blessed!


Today a new Blessed was enrolled in the Church's official list  - the Spanish bishop and defender of human rights, Juan de Palafox y Mendoza.   

Blessed Juan was born in Navarre, Spain, on the 26th June 1600, the illegitimate son of Jaime de Palafox.  His father was not too keen to accept the child as his own, so he was taken in and raised by a miller and his family who gave him the name, Juan.  When he was ten his father finally accepted him as his son, and took responsibility for his education sending first to Alcala, and then to the University of Salamanca.   He was a gifted young man, and so he became a deputy in the Cortes and later a prosecutor.

However, Juan's heart lay elsewhere, and so he decided to become a priest.  When ordained he was appointed chaplain to the sister of the King of Spain, and as such accompanied her on various journeys around Europe. 

Partially because of his ability, and perhaps mostly because of his connections, he was nominated as bishop of Puebla de los Angeles in the New World, now Mexico.  He was formally appointed by the pope and consecrated bishop on the 27th December 1639. He arrived at his See the following June, not only as Ordinary, but also as visitator which the brief to investigate the administration of two previous viceroys of what was a Spanish colony.  During his time in Mexico he also served as Archbishop of Mexico for a year while remaining bishop of Puebla, he also served as viceroy himself.

Once in the New World, Blessed Juan quickly saw how the native peoples were being treated, and he understood this as an offence to Christian teaching.  At every opportunity he sought to protect the natives, forbade forced conversion and publicly opposed those who mistreated them.   In other matters he was as diligent: he completed his diocese's cathedral and was a patron of the arts and education.

His strong defence of the natives and his ban on forced conversion led to issues which brought him into conflict with the Jesuits.  Relations got so bad he was forced to impose an interdict against them in 1647.  In retaliation the Jesuits excommunicated him twice, as if they had the power to do so, but also began to send formal complaints against him to Rome.  Their campaign against him was successful, and the Pope, believing their accusations to be true, refused to confirm the interdict, though he did command the Jesuits to respect Blessed Juan's jurisdiction.  The Jesuit final victory came in 1655 when, after Blessed Juan had signed an accord with them presuming this would lead to better relations with them, they used their influence to have him removed from his See and transferred back to Spain where he was appointed Bishop of Osma. 

Despite these difficulties, Blessed Juan sought to follow God's will and overcome the trails he was forced to endure.  He was a friend of a community of Discalced Carmelite sisters, and was highly influenced by St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross, so much so that his writings, of which there are many, are very much in the Carmelite tradition and the school of Spanish mysticism. 

Worn out from his labours, but with a reputation for holiness both through his life and writings, Blessed Juan died on the 1st October 1659.     The investigative process for his Cause was opened in his diocese, Osma, in 1666, and in Puebla de los Angeles in 1688.   In 1694 the Cause found support in King Charles II of Spain when he petitioned Rome for the bishop's canonisation.  The process was formally introduced in 1726, and, with the work completed, it seems he was proclaimed Venerable.  A miracle had been identified - the cure of a Spanish priest from TB which was incurable then.  The miracle was examined and approved, and so on the 28th February 1777 the way was cleared for this beatification.  However, a new generation of Jesuits were as determined as a previous one to defeat Palafox, and they persuaded Pope Pius VI to suspend the Cause.  Palafox, they thought, had finally been finished off for good.

However, they had not thought of a figure like Blessed John Paul II, who reopened the Cause in 2003, giving it to Palafox's spiritual family, the Discalced Carmelites, to process.  In 2009 Pope Benedict approved his writings and declared him Venerable.  The original miracle was reexamined, and approved (again), and today, at long last, 234 years after it should have happened, Juan de Palafox was beatified. 

Phew!  Revenge is a terrible thing, even the Saints fall prey to it.  Blessed Juan's holiness was born of his sufferings.  Like his spiritual parents, St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross, he recognised the purifying power of suffering, and its part in the journey which we know as the way of perfection. 

Congratulations to Fr Ildefonso, our postulator in Rome: he has done Trojan work on the Cause and has a fondness of Blessed Juan - I believe he keeps a picture of the bishop on his desk.  Here is RomeReports video on the announcement of the decree of the miracle:

Here are the sacred remains of the new Blessed:

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Saint For Our Times

Original photo of St Charles Lwanga

Today in Ireland we celebrate the feast of St Charles Lwanga and his companions, the martyrs of Uganda.  We are a day out from the rest of the Church because on the 3rd June we mark the memorial of St Kevin of Glendalough, so St Charles has been moved. 

Charles is a saint to whom devotion should be growing, a young man whose witness is of profound relevance to all Christians in these times.  You know his story: he and a number of companions, all men and servants of Mwanga, the king of Bukanda, were martyred by their king when they refused to participate in homosexual activities with him.  Indeed, they reminded him that such acts were morally wrong.  For their heroic stance he had some hacked to death, and others burned alive.

St Charles was in charge of the pages of the royal court, and he heroically protected them from the evil desires of the king.  He led many of them into the Church, and in the hours before their martyrdom, he baptised the catechumens among them in preparation for their deaths.  He was not the protomartyr of the group, but for his heroism his name heads the list.

A year or so ago I discovered that there was a photograph of many of these martyrs with other Catholics with two missionary priests who ministered to them, St Charles included.  So above you will see a original photograph of St Charles himself - he looks like a capable and strong young man, indeed a pure soul.  See the full photo here with the martyrs marked.

I first discovered the martyrs of Uganda in my teens, and have had a bit of devotion to them.  Of the group St Charles and St Matthias Kalemba have interested me the most - their stories are fascinating, particularly St Matthias' journey to the Catholic faith.  When in Rome I was given relics of these two, ex ossibus, and I cherish them.

As I said above, St Charles and his companions are necessary witnesses for our time as Christians today face a persecution from militant homosexualists.  As the governments of our nations are becoming more and more like pawns in the hands of gay groups, those who profess the orthodox Christian faith are now the target of laws which are, in essence, anti-Christian and  destroying religious freedom.  The tyranny of the gay king Mwanga is alive and well in the 21st century. 

That said, my devotion to St Charles was strengthened after I started helping Courage, a Catholic organisation which ministers to men and women with same sex attraction.  It is a marvellous organisation peopled with saints - men and women struggling but with faith in Christ, relying on the sacrament of confession and prayer, and making much better Christians than this priest here!   Pray for them today, and for our various countries.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The St Vitalis Skull: The Whole Truth!

It seems the whole St Vitalis thing has really intrigued my friends - they are all talking about the skull.  At a Consecration Mass on Tuesday evening a number were huddled around in a group pondering over my blog on an iPhone and discussing whether the skull was authentic or not.  Today another mate, a priest, has informed me that he and his school pal now living in England, have finally worked out how the skull ended up in Ireland.  It's so funny I thought I'd share it.
Young Anglo-Irish gentleman (henceforth referred to as "your boyo") is doing the grand tour thing.  Starting off with great intentions he ends up availing of the services of those whom it is not moral to avail services of, and after a number of services your boyo ends up with a rash or another such aggressive complaint that tends to come from availing too often of services that it is not moral to avail of. 

In desperation he seeks a cure of this aggressive complaint before he goes home, otherwise how could he explain how he ended up with this complaint when he was supposed to be finishing off his education?  Perhaps (it is cited by my friend and his pal) in such desperation your boyo was introduced to a foreign gentleman who informed him that there was a cure to be found in the rub of the relic of St Vitalis of Assisi, whose patronage covers such aggressive complaints.  And you would never guess, but he knows where to get the skull of this saint for the rubbing, but it will require a tidy sum and the utmost secrecy: if the priest found out there would be war.  Though it offends his respectable Protestant sensibilities, your boyo agrees, hands over the dosh (translation: money) and off goes yon foreign gentleman to raid the sacristy. 

However, the foreign gentleman does not go to the local church, for the relics of its saints and martyrs are guarded with great jealousy because there is always the threat that the crowd from the parish next door might stage a raid to grab whatever relics they can - a common pastime in Europe at the time.  He takes another turn and ends up in the local charnel house, where rifling through the various skulls of the dearly departed picks one, that of the late Signora Maria Teresa Benedetti-Morales fine upstanding mistress of the Buon Amici hostelry out the Milan road, who died at the ripe old age of 93 after burying three husbands, all rich, and finally succumbing herself following an incident with a hazelnut.*  And polishing up the skull, the foreign gentleman brings it to your boyo.  Delighted, with utmost faith in the fake, your boyo heads off back to the manoral pile in Ireland hoping this Vitalis of wherever will do the job and return him to his pristine state.  
We may never know if your boyo got the cure, but if not, the skull of the saint would be enough to distract the mater's attention.  And so it remained in the ancestral seat until one day a young little auctioneer arrived on the scene with a heap of dosh to carry off the skull to Hollywood with the promise of making it famous.  Here endeth the proposition.
The late Signora Maria Teresa Benedetti-Morales (note the resemblance to the skull)

Indeed!  I take it, then, they think it is a fake.

* That bit about Signora Benedetti-Morales is my insertion, which I do admit might not be the most inspired; call it a bit of colour, if nothing else.

In Glorious Splendour

For those of you who know London, and Catholic London in particular, St Patrick's Church, Soho, may be well known to you.  Many times I popped in to the church for a few prayers whenever passing down Oxford Street on the way to Charing Cross and Covent Garden. 

Of late, though, the church had been looking very grimy, long past a restoration.   At my last visit to the church before they closed it I had the honour of concelebrating Midnight Mass for New Year with the Parish Priest, the kind and most welcoming Fr Alexander Sherbrooke.  After Mass we had a delighted soiree into the wee hours with members of the Brazilian community who were hosting their annual post-Mass New Year's party in the basement.  We sacrificed the London fireworks to join in the Mass and party and we certainly chose the better part.

Well, Fr Alexander closed the doors of St Patrick's soon after to begin the restoration, and on the 31st May last they opened again to reveal a truly magnificent and splendid church.  A dark church has been wonderfully transformed into a gem.  Congratulations to Fr Alexander and all involved.  

The church  has a long and prestigious history, and among the many people of renown who have entered under its roof was the Servant of God Archbishop Fulton Sheen who spent some time there ministering.  It was in that church that the famous incident of the actress and the confessional took place.

Here are some more photographs of the restored church and ceremony.  It is interesting to note that church design and decoration are finally moving back to a richer, more traditional, devotional and artistic style.  Thank God the temptation to create another whitewashed, austere and bland minimalist monster was avoided.  Time we left those experimental disasters behind. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Holy Father On The New Evangelisation

Here is the text of the Holy Father's speech to the members of the new Pontifical Council for Promotion of the New Evangelisation, delivered on Monday last (that title needs to be tighted up, why not Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation?).  Some good points we in the Fraternity should take careful note of, particularly the observation that modern man is distracted.  How true that is in the area of culture and the arts.
Lord Cardinals,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

When last June 28, at First Vespers of the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, I announced that I wished to institute a dicastery for promoting the New Evangelization, I gave an operative beginning to a reflection that I had had for a long time on the need to offer a concrete answer to the moment of crisis in Christian life, which is being verified in so many countries, above all those of ancient Christian tradition. Today, with this meeting, I can see with pleasure that this new pontifical council has become a reality. I thank Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella for the words he addressed to me, introducing me to the work of your first plenary assembly. My warm greetings to all of you with my encouragement for the contribution you will make to the work of the new dicastery, above all in view of the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that, in October of 2012, will in fact address the topic "New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith."

The term "New Evangelization" speaks of the need for a renewed method of proclamation, especially for those who live in a context, such as the present one, in which the developments of secularization have left heavy traces even in countries with a Christian tradition. The Gospel is the ever new proclamation of the salvation wrought by Christ to render humanity a participant in the mystery of God and in his life of love and to open it to a future of sure and strong hope. To underscore that at this moment in the history of the Church she is called to carry out a New Evangelization, means intensifying missionary action to correspond fully with the Lord's mandate. The Second Vatican Council reminded that "the groups among which the Church dwells are often radically changed, for one reason or other, so that an entirely new set of circumstances may arise" (Decree Ad Gentes, 6). With farsighted understanding, the Conciliar Fathers saw on the horizon the cultural change that today is easily verifiable. Precisely this changed situation, which has created an unexpected situation for believers, requires particular attention to the proclamation of the Gospel, to give the reason for one's faith in situations that are different from the past.

The crisis being experienced bears in itself traces of the exclusion of God from people's lives, of a generalized indifference toward the Christian faith itself, to the point of attempting to marginalize it from public life. In past decades it was still possible to discover a general Christian sense that unified the common feeling of whole generations, growing up in the shadow of the faith that had molded the culture.

Today, unfortunately, we are witnessing the drama of a fragmentation that no longer consents to a unified point of reference; moreover, we often see the phenomenon of persons who wish to belong to the Church, but are strongly molded by a vision of life that opposes the faith.

To proclaim Jesus Christ the only Savior of the world seems more complex today than in the past; but our task remains the same as at the dawn of our history. The mission has not changed, just as the enthusiasm and the courage that moved the Apostles and the first disciples must not change. The Holy Spirit who pushed them to open the doors of the Cenacle, making them into evangelizers (cf. Acts 2:1-4), is the same Spirit that moves the Church today in a renewed proclamation of hope to the men of our time. St. Augustine said that one must not think that the grace of evangelization was extended only to the Apostles and with them that source of grace was exhausted, but that "this source manifests itself when it flows, not when it ceases to be poured out. And it was in this way that, through the Apostles, grace also reached others, who were sent to proclaim the Gospel ... what is more, it has continued to call, up to these last days, the whole body of his only-begotten Son, namely, his Church spread throughout the earth" (Sermon 239, 1). The grace of the mission is always in need of new evangelizers capable of receiving it, so that the salvific proclamation of the Word of God will never diminish in the changing conditions of history.

A dynamic continuity exists between the proclamation of the first disciples and our own. In the course of the centuries the Church has never ceased to proclaim the salvific mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but that same proclamation today needs a renewed vigor to convince contemporary man, often distracted and insensitive. Because of this, the New Evangelization will have to be responsible for finding the methods to make the proclamation of salvation more effective, without which personal existence remains in its state of contradiction, deprived of the essential.

Even in one who remains linked to his Christian roots, but lives the difficult relationship with modernity, it is important to make it understood that being Christian is not a sort of uniform to wear in private or on particular occasions, but is something alive and all-encompassing, able to take up all that is good in modernity.

I hope that in the work of these days you will be able to delineate a plan able to help the whole Church and the various particular Churches, in a commitment to the New Evangelization; a plan where the urgency for a renewed proclamation will take care of formation, in particular for the new generations, and be combined with a proposal of concrete signs able to make evident the answer that the Church intends to offer in this peculiar moment. If, on one hand, the whole community is called to reinvigorate the missionary spirit to give the new proclamation that the men of our time await, it must not be forgotten that believers' style of life needs to be genuinely credible, convincing all the more when the life situations of those who see it is all the more dramatic. It is because of this that we wish to make our own the words of the Servant of God Pope Paul VI when, in regard to evangelization, he said: "It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus -- the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity" (Apostolic Exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi," 41).

Dear friends, invoking the intercession of Mary, Star of evangelization, so that she will accompany the bearers of the Gospel and open the hearts of those who listen, I assure you of my prayer for your ecclesial service and impart to all of you the apostolic blessing.