Monday, April 30, 2012

The White Pope

Today is the feast of Pope St Pius V, one of the great reforming popes of the Council of Trent.  St Pius was a Dominican and it is due to him, I believe, popes wear white: Pius continued to wear his habit after his election.  Funny though, in the debate between the Dominicans and the Jesuits (I'm sure you know all the jokes), I never heard the Dominicans boast that every pope is a Dominican since he wears the habit.  I'm sure they would say they are too humble to remind us!  Indeed.

St Pius was a remarkable man - first of all he became a Saint when many of the popes of that era saw themselves more as temporal lords than priests and had a few mistresses in their past.  Fr Michele Ghislieri, OP, later Pius V, was a holy and learned man.  He was a renowned theologian who was brought to Rome to work in the Inquisition.  For those still labouring under the Enlightenment/Secularist charge that the Roman Inquisition was the same as the Spanish, note that it wasn't.  It was far more merciful and actually run by the Church and not by the state as the Spanish one was. 

St Pius is, perhaps, most famous for two things: first the victory at the battle of Lepanto.  A good Dominican to the last, when Christian Europe was under threat from Muslim invasion, he told the Christians to pray the rosary, and it was this great programme of prayer which led the meagre Christian navy to victory over the much larger Muslim armada.  So Pius's lesson for us in Ireland in these difficult times is simple: "Get out the beads and start praying!" Yes, Saintly Holy Father, we will.

St Pius is also famous for his excommunication of Queen Elizabeth I of England, an act which infuriated the queen and led to a greater persecution of Catholics in her realms.  There are few things here.  Was he correct to do so?  A number of historians say he was not - he should have refrained in order not to provoke an already narky queen.  Interesting view - one which Pius XII may have agreed with as he was faced with the same problem (anti-Pius critics and historians please note - be consistent now!). 

One could say that Pius V was only confirming what was already a fact: that Elizabeth I was no longer in full communion with the Catholic Church - and that also is correct: in establishing her "settlement" and confirming herself as the head of the Church in England she did break communion with Rome - she was excommunicate.  One has to wonder why she was so offended?  She sounds like a modern liberal: they attack and reject "Rome" and "The Vatican", and distance themselves from it, and then when Rome confirms this they are upset, angry and sharing the pain of their rejected, broken hearts.  "It's all a mystery", as a friend of mine would say.  "They need a good slap", as another would say: I couldn't possibly comment.

In other news, I see an interesting article on Catholic Culture, concerning a bishop in Wisconsin, USA.  He appointed a number of priests of the Society of Jesus the Priest to various parishes, and it seems they offer the Extraordinary Form as part of the Mass schedule in the parishes.  Some are not happy in the parish of Platteville, however, and have said that the priests are "pre-Vatican II" and it seems they are voting with their wallets, withholding donations, so much so that a Catholic school had to be closed.  The bishop is not happy, and he must be hearing rumours that are doing the rounds in the parish because he has reminded the people of the canonical penalty for calumny and told them to refresh their memories as to what those penalties are. 

Wow!  As every priest in a parish knows there are parishioners who have nothing better to do but make up stories about their priests and spread them around as if they were true: all of us have fallen victim to such gossip.  It does not matter how small the parish is, rural or urban, there are people out there who just want to talk and gossip.   I know of cases where parishioners calumnied their parish priests for years, and then, when the priests died they were considered the best in the world and their successors are rogues etc etc, and it all starts again.  It's nice to see a bishop reminding parishioners that not only are they supposed to be Christians, and therefore charitable and supportive of their priests, but if they do make up and spread malicious gossip there are canonical penalties to deal with them in order to protect the good name of innocent priests.

St Pius V, pray for us all!  Happy feast day, dear Dominican brothers and sisters: keep up the good work!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Real Reformer

If today were not a Sunday, we would be celebrating the feast of St Catherine of Siena, Dominican Tertiary and Doctor of the Church.  In Europe, we honour her particularly as one of our patrons. 

Catherine, as you known, is one of the Church's most remarkable figures, and one of her most dynamic reformers.  Her life and career undermines the radical feminist charge that all women in the Catholic Church were oppressed.  She also shows how a woman can work and have an influential role in the Church without having to be ordained.  Interestingly in all the debates I have had with those seeking the ordination of women, they never refer to Catherine, or, funnily enough to St Teresa of Avila, or St Bridget of Sweden. I wonder why.

Anyway, as reform is on everyone's lips at the moment, and as the Holy Father has reminded us recently that authentic reform cannot come from dissent, and as some dissident priests are being investigated here in Ireland, it might be no harm to look at the life, teaching, and sanctity of one of the great reformers.  There is an excellent article on St Catherine in the Catholic World Report which is worth reading.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Modest Proposal On The Feast Of A Pro-Life Saint

The Pro-life movement doesn't have a declared Patron, though Our Lady of Guadalupe tends to be regarded as the Patroness of Life.   Today's Saint would also make a fitting patron - St Gianna Beretta Molla, the mother who died in 1962 offering her life for her child.

I sure you all know her story: born into a devout Catholic home in 1922, studied to become a doctor after discerning she did not have a vocation to the religious life.  She married Pietro Molla and they had three children in quick succession. She balanced life as a wife, mother and doctor, with work in service of the Church, particularly Catholic Action and the Society of St Vincent de Paul.  She was renowned for her holiness and charity.

In late 1961 she became pregnant again, but a growth was also diagnosed in her womb.  Offered an abortion as the way to safe her life, she refused: apart from knowing there were other options available, she would not take the life of her unborn child - abortion is murder: if she had to sacrifice a life she would sacrifice her own rather than kill the baby.  A baby girl was born on Holy Saturday 1962, Gianna died a week later from complications.  She was canonised in 2004 by Blessed John Paul II in the presence of her husband and children - I think that may be a first.

Given the uphill battle we have now to keep abortion out of Ireland, we need St Gianna's intercession.  So now I am making a suggestion, from the day you read this post until the day Ireland is free of the threat of abortion, offer three Hail Marys seeking the intercession of St Gianna.  It is a simple offering, it will no more than a moment, but that daily offering may well help the unborn of Ireland.   Pass on the word.

Saint Gianna,
Wife, Mother, Doctor and exemplary Christian,
intercede with Christ, our Lord of Life
to help us in these times to proclaim the Gospel of Life;
to bring to an end the evil of abortion
and the conversion of those who promote it;
to help and console those women tempted to do it,
and to heal those who have had one.
Watch over Ireland in these critical days.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Media Hypocrisy.....Again

I refer you to Christopher McCamley's blog for an excellent post exposing the hypocrisy which is at the heart of the Irish media: while praising a disable young woman for her marvellous achievements, violently attacking those who object to aborting children like her.

This young woman, Joanne O'Riordan is an inspiration, as are all those disabled athletes who excel in their chosen field.  A few years ago the Irish media was gushing over the Special Olympics when Ireland hosted them, but yet they still consider it a woman's right (duty, perhaps??) to abort her child if that child is disabled.   To question this rational, as did Senator Ronan Mullen, results in a witch hunt by the media for daring to "offend" the women who have aborted their children.

Indeed I note that Ryan Tubridy interviewed Joanne on the Late Late Show, the same programme which gave three women proselytising for the abortion of the disabled full reign to promote their position.

Not to be dragging a certain Austro-German dictator into the debate, but he had a very interesting term which seems disturbingly apt as a summary of this "pro-choice" position: "life unworthy of life".

The Servant of God, Cardinal Terence Cooke held an opposing view - a view which challenges that of a certain Austro-German dictator and those who see the killing of the disabled in the womb as a good thing.  In the last letter he wrote before his death from cancer, he spoke of how precious life is, and how even more precious when it is at its most vulnerable.

Because that last letter is so profound, I think it is worth quoting in full.  It is one of the finest arguments for the pro-life position.
October 9, 1983
Dear Friends in Christ:

How often we speak of " the gift of life," God's "gift of life" to us, His sons and daughters. What a beautiful phrase! How filled with meaning it is! In the Book of Genesis, we read of the origin of this gift: "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."

It is at times when life is threatened - such as times of serious illness - that the Lord gives us a special grace to appreciate "the gift of life" more deeply as an irreplaceable blessing which only God can give from conception until death and at every moment between, it is the Lord Our God Who gives us life, and we, who are His creatures, should cry out with joy and thanksgiving for this precious gift.

We are made in God's image and likeness, and this fact gives a unique dimension to "the gift of life." We have even more reason to be grateful. It is tragic that in our time, concepts which are disastrous to the well-being of God's human family--abortion, euthanasia and infanticide--are falsely presented as useful and even respectable solutions to human family and social problems. Human life is sometimes narrowly viewed in terms of being inconvenient or unwanted, unproductive or lacking arbitrarily imposed human criteria.

From the depths of my being, I urge you to reflect on this anti-life, anti-child, anti-human view of life and to oppose with all your strength the deadly technologies of life-destruction which daily result in the planned death of the innocent and the helpless. Together we must search for ways to demonstrate this conviction in our daily lives and in our public institutions. In doing so, we must never be discouraged or give up. Too much is at stake - "the gift of life" itself.

The "gift of life," God's special gift, is no less beautiful when it is accompanied by illness or weakness, hunger or poverty, mental or physical handicaps, loneliness or old age. Indeed, at these times, human life gains extra splendor as it requires our special care, concern and reverence. It is in and through the weakest of human vessels that the Lord continues to reveal the power of His love.

For the last ten years, I have served as Chairman of the Bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities in the United States. With God's help, I have tried to encourage and promote a Respect Life attitude throughout our nation. I have pleaded with you to pray and to be active in the many efforts for the enhancement and the protection of human life at every stage of existence.

In October, as we observe Respect Life Month, I call on you to rededicate your efforts for the sanctity of all human life and to work to counteract the contemporary threats to life. I urge you to increase and to strengthen the programs in our parishes and communities for the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, the rejected, the homeless, the suffering, the unwanted, the unborn. I ask you to focus attention again on the Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life activities and on the three elements of education, pastoral care and public policy which are necessary if we are to work for and defend the most defenseless members of society.

At this grace-filled time of my life, as I experience suffering in union with Jesus Our Lord and Redeemer, I offer gratitude to Almighty God for giving me the opportunity to continue my apostolate on behalf of life. I thank each one of you, my sisters and brothers in the Archdiocese of New York and throughout our nation, for what you have done and will do on behalf of human life. May we never yield to indifference or claim helplessness when innocent human life is threatened or when human rights are denied.

With you, I entrust our efforts to the care of Our Lady who, from the moment of her Immaculate Conception to the present, has been the refuge for the poorest and most forgotten among God's people. I assure you of a special share in the prayerful offerings of my sufferings to the Father, in union with Jesus and through the Spirit of Love Who is ours in abundance.

May God bless you always and give you His peace.

Devotedly yours in Christ,

Terence Cardinal Cooke
Archbishop of New York
And as for Joanne, and all those men, women and children who are disabled - they remind us that life must be served and cherished, that it can flourish even in the most difficult of situations and remind us that at the end of the day existence and significance have nothing to do with power and domination.  In this, they are our teachers and examples.  

When the life of one child is destroyed through abortion, humanity is destroyed with it. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Irish Goverment To Criminalise Seal Of Confession

Blink and you'll miss it!  The new law on mandatory report is ready to go and will be brought before the houses of parliament here in Ireland in the coming weeks.  The law will compel everyone who has received information on abuse to report it to the authorities, to fail to do so will mean time in prison - five to ten years.

Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, has confirmed that priests who receive information in the context of confession are also obliged to report what they have heard.  In other words: under this new Irish law priests must break the Seal of the Confession or face prison.  Lest any of our friends outside Ireland still harbour illusions about Catholic Ireland - it is well and truly dead.  If I may lean on W.B. Yeats, "it's with O'Connell in the grave".

No doubt there will be a challenge.  The first prosecution of a priest, if it happens (it will be extremely difficult for the DPP to prove what a priest heard or did not hear in confession), will lead to a constitutional challenge because this law may indeed infringe our right under the Constitution to religious freedom, and as confession is part of the formal beliefs and practices of our Catholic faith, to seek to desecrate it, is a direct attack on religious freedom.

We shall see where this goes.  The bill will be passed - the government has an absolute majority, and I doubt if too many of the Catholic members of either Fine Gael or Labour will object: one tends to find that party affiliation trumps faith all the time (although God will put them straight on that one day).  However, I will be hopeful, perhaps some may challenge it. 

St John Nepomuk, Patron Saint of Confessors, put to death by the secular authorities because he would not reveal what he heard in confession.

"Pray For Us"

Reflecting on the graces we received thanks to our pilgrimage, one of them has to be a heightened awareness of our responsibility for our brothers and sisters in Purgatory.  

As we travelled from Assisi to Loreto last Sunday, we stopped off at Tolentino both for lunch and to visit the sanctuary of St Nicholas of Tolentino, the great Augustinian wonder worker, and patron of the Holy Souls. 

Few known about St Nicholas today, and yet the example of his life is necessary for us.  He was a man dedicated to Christ, obedient to the Church and the Pope and always available to serve those in need, especially the poor and the Holy Souls who called out to him for prayer.

It was through a vision that Nicholas understood how important it was to pray for the Holy Souls, and so he devoted many prayers, and offered Holy Hours and Masses for them.  They came to thank him for his prayer.  In an age when many Catholics presume all the dead go straight to heaven and neglect to pray for the Holy Souls, St Nicholas has an important message for us: do not presume, but pray for the dead.

This is not a senseless pious exercise, but rather an important one.  Contrary to the prevaling spirit, we are all sinners and we have all been affected by our sins.  God does indeed love us as we are, but not because we are as we are - he urges us to do what we can to change, to become more virtuous.  Because we are sinners, most of us will end up in Purgatory - we will need to endure the purifying fires of love to be made holy.   So when we pray for the Holy Souls, we are acknowledging that one day we will need such prayers ourselves.  Now there's a sobering thought.

St Nicholas, pray for us; pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them,
may they rest in peace. Amen.

By the way, the sanctuary in Tolentino is really lovely.  The body of the saint lies in a glass fronted casket, his face covered with a silver mask.  If you ever go to Italy, make sure you drop in. And if you do, offer a prayer for the Holy Souls.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A New Friend For Our Fraternity

We got back from our pilgrimage yesterday evening, tired but happy with the days spent in Italy.  As promised, you were all remembered in prayer, and I received some messages from members around the world indicating that they were with us in spirit.

I know a lot has happened in Ireland since we left, mostly concerning abortion and the vilification of a fine senator, Sen. Ronan Mullen - a gentleman who listens and respects even the most vociferous of his opponents.  I think the attack on him, unwarranted, unjust and hateful as it is, is part of the anti-life campaign to silence the argument against the introduction of abortion into Ireland.  The annihilation of a good Christian man comes easy to ideologues who want to enshrine in law the annihilation of innocent children.

They have made their plans, they have their politicians in place and I think it is a foregone conclusion that the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly, will legislate for abortion.  The time has come to make our voices heard, and time for Church leaders to stand up and meet the challenge.  Time too to remind Catholic politicians that to legislate for abortion carries with it automatic excommunication from the Church.  And that includes exclusion from the Eucharist and other sacraments.  The Church will be attacked and vilified by the media, but it is time to bite the bullet.  Perhaps Church leaders should pop over to Rome and confer with CDF on how to respond should Enda Kenny, James Reilly and co legalise the killing of unborn babies.

We must pray and fast - as Jesus said, only prayer and fasting can exorcise such demons, and believe me, those who are working hard to bring abortion into Ireland are working for the demons.

Speaking of demons and the fight against their influence, we had a wonderful surprise in store for us on the last day of our pilgrimage: one of the Church's great Saints had a treat in store for us.  As we were winging our way from Loreto to Bologna airport, we had scheduled a stop at the Basilica of St Dominic, where the great man is entombed.  We had a slot booked for Mass.  However, our plans did not work out, and when we arrived at the Basilica, they were closing the doors for the siesta.  Everyone was disappointed, but despite that, there was no persuading.  One of our priests managed to slip in as the door was closing, so he got to the tomb and offered prayer for us all.

When he got out, we all began the lonely track back to the bus.  I was aware St Catherine of Bologna was somewhere in the city, but not sure where.  As we made our way through the streets, one of our pilgrims, Mary, was shouting at us from a side street: "St Catherine is in here!"  We jumped with joy and ran to the church for fear they would close it.  Our group got in, honoured the Lord and found St Catherine's body, sitting up in her chair, spied through a little window over an altar dedicated to her.

Then a gentleman in the church told us that the sisters might open up the door to the inner chapel to allow us see the Saints up close.  Our guide, Mario, rang the bell and, God bless those holy Poor Clare nuns, they opened the door and allowed us into the chapel, even though they were in siesta time.  We spent some wonderful moments venerating the Saint's incorrupt body.  She is perfect, apart from the colour.  I noticed her hands and feet, perfectly preserved, looking fresh as if blood was flowing through them.  Dainty hands, yet hands that worked hard for Christ.  One of the sisters opened the shop, so our pilgrims bought little biographies, medals, rosaries and prayer cards.  They were delighted, and the visit has left its impression on them.

Reflecting on it, I think Dominic and Catherine were in cahoots. St Dominic was a man who did not draw attention to himself - it was the Word which was important: and we heard the Word that day.  St Catherine was calling us to visit her, to be made aware of her life, her struggle with temptation (of which she is patron), and her trust in God: something we need to hear in Ireland today.  She was also an artist, musician and writer - how appropriate - I must sign her up as a member of the Fraternity!  May she intercede for us all.

So, if you happen to be in Bologna, go and visit St Catherine in the Church of Corpus Domini: it is a grace-filled place.  Today, I place Ireland and the unborn of Ireland in her hands, may she intercede that those who seek to destroy those innocent lives will be confounded.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

From The Shrine Of Loreto, To All Our Members

“The Shrine of the Hidden Years”

"As I offer this Holy Mass here this morning, in the silence of the moments before dawn, as our hearts rejoice in the Holy Eucharist and with the joy of being within these holy walls, my heart turns to all our members around the world who are with us in spirit.  Each day they pray a decade of the rosary as part of the Fraternity Prayers – and as they pray that decade, they meditate on the “Hidden Years” – those years Jesus spent in the midst of his family and community, living an ordinary human life and sanctifying that human life by his divine presence.  The stones of this house are the silent witnesses to those years, to the events, to the words spoken; of the love of the members of the Holy Family.

These stones hold within themselves the joyful events – the return from Egypt, Jesus’ childhood, his family and friends coming to call; they witnessed the joy of his bar mitzvah and the family prayers.  They also witnessed sorrow – the death of St Joseph, which probably took place here; the departure of Jesus when he began his public ministry.  Here Mary prayed and Joseph worked.  Here the Son of God slept soundly, here he ate, and studied.   Here, God-made-Man taught us how to live our humanity in its fullness.

Here, where the Word was made flesh, we are immersed in the great mystery of the Incarnation: may that mystery shape our lives, our hopes, our dreams and our destiny.

We are in the Shrine of the Hidden Years, and so here this morning, I wish to bring all our members into the heart of the mystery which is enshrined and remembered here.   Let us commend our Fraternity, our members, those we pray for, and all those who befriend us, to the Holy Family of Nazareth: to Christ whom we serve; to Mary, whom we love as a Mother and Teacher; and to Joseph, who protects us.  May all our members who today, and every day, finger their beads as they pray this mystery, receive from the store of his graces, every blessing and joy." 

Homily, Dawn Mass in the Santa Casa, this morning.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday: Loreto, The Home Of Our Mother

In these days of our pilgrimage, we are welcomed by our Holy Mother to her home - to the House of Nazareth transported from the Holy Land to this hill of Loreto.

These are days of silence for us, of prayer and meditation in the Holy House of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  Within those ancient walls, we meditate on the Annunciation when Mary said yes to God.  Here Mary accepted from God the role she was to play in the salvation of mankind.  So humble and loving, Mary had no thought for herself, but wanted to serve God.  For the holy Jewish people serving God is a sign of their love for him: a daughter of the Jewish people, the Daughter of Zion, Mary honours her people, and brings great glory to them as she offers herself completely to God.  May we follow her.  May we say yes to God, regardless of what he asks us to do.  May that Holy Spirit which guided and assisted Mary in her life and decisions, assist us. 

We follow her example, and so, spiritually coming into the Holy House, we make an Act of Consecration to Mary:

To you, Immaculate Heart of Mary, we consecrate ourselves – our hearts, minds, wills and lives and all those works we undertake so they may be for the glory of God, for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of souls.   Holy Mother, our Queen and our Joy, give to our hearts the dimensions of yours and form us in the image of your beloved Son.

Let us pray:

Eternal Father, you sent your Son among us to make of us one people dedicated to your will and restored through grace to sing forever of your glorious works. As he offered his life on the Cross for our sake, laying down his life for his friends, accept the gift we make of our prayer and sacrifices, offered in union with him, for those in the theatrical and cinematic arts. Grant us the grace to fulfil our obligations to you and our neighbour, building up the Body of Christ, the Church, and trusting in the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday: Assisi, Honouring St Clare

Today at our Sunday Mass in the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels, we honour St Clare, companion of St Francis, and patron of television.

Television is a great invention, it allows us to see the world from our sitting rooms.  Meaning "I see far", it is a limited medium if we allow it to dominate our lives.  There is a greater vision which awaits us, and this is the vision St Clare saw - the vision of Christ himself and the place he has prepared for us.  In her love of Jesus Christ, Clare was led to deep understanding of the mystery of the Holy Eucharist.  It is in our relationship with the Eucharistic Lord that we come to the vision of God.  As an intercessor for our Fraternity and its work, may Clare, the bride of Christ, inspire us to seek him with all our hearts in the Holy Eucharist.

St Clare, intercede for us.  Your heart was so devoted to Christ, he led you to the vision of his glory.  Hear us, dear sister, watch over our Fraternity and guide us to the Heart of our Saviour - the Heart pierced for us so its wound could become the door to eternity, the window to the vision of God.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Saturday: Assisi, Honouring St Francis

On Saturday we have Mass in the Basilica of St Francis, and on Sunday in the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels.  We visit various shrines, including the tomb of St Clare, patron of television.

We honour the poverello of Assisi - St Francis, who embraced poverty and littleness for the sake of Christ.  He wanted to decrease so Christ could increase.  Only as a peasant, as nothing could he hope to love Christ.  When he had nothing, then he could see that he could truly possess Christ, for now there was nothing in his way, nothing to stand between him and Christ.  Christ was then All to him.

Blessed Francis, look upon us with great tenderness and lead us along your way of poverty.  Help us die to ourselves, so we may follow Christ more closely and abandon ourselves to him.  Help us to strip ourselves naked of all possessions, all pride, all desires so to be embraced and clothed by Christ.  Amen.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday: Tombs of St Peter and Blessed John Paul II

This morning, coming to St Peter's Basilica, we honour St Peter, coming "ad limina" to his tomb, and for the first time since his beatification we come to the tomb of our Fraternity's co patron, Blessed John Paul II.

On this rock, Christ has built his Church - this rock is Simon Peter, the fisherman, a weak man, one who denied the Lord three times at a moment when Christ needed him most.  But for all his mistakes, Peter loved Christ, and this love made him worthy of being the rock.  In this Easter season, as we read from the Acts of the Apostles we are astonished at the transformation which has taken place in Peter.  Now, thanks to the grace the Risen Christ conferred on him, and thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, this rock is solid, determined and devoted: nothing will stop him.  Such determination for the mission and love for Christ should be desired by all Christians and especially those of us in the Fraternity.

O Blessed Peter, rock on which Christ built his Church, watch over the flock now as you did in life.  Inspire us with your love for the Saviour, and help us to overcome our weaknesses by prayer, penance and generous co-operation with the grace of God.  Amen.

In Blessed John Paul II we see a worthy successor of Peter, a Pontiff who merits the title "Great" for his work.  A mystic, he was ever practical.  Though not perfect, his love for Christ and his people urged him on to heroism in face of tyranny as priest, bishop and pope.  In his zeal for a New Evangelisation, he inspires us to push out into the deep and proclaim anew the Gospel for Christ.  May he help us in the Fraternity to fulfil his desire to bring Christ to every corner of the world.

Blessed Pope John Paul, pray for our Fraternity, and guide us in our work as we seek, through prayer and sacrifice, to assist the men and women of the theatrical and cinematic arts, and to be of service to the Church in the New Evangelisation.   United with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, and the prayers of our Holy Mother Mary, pray that we may we offer ourselves more generously as a sacrifice acceptable to the Father for the sake of our brothers and sisters. Pray that they may come to know, love and proclaim Christ and his Gospel to the people of our time and, in the life to come, share eternal life with you, St Genesius and all the saints.    Amen.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday: St Mary Major's

Today we make our pilgrimage to the Basilica of St Mary Major, a pilgrimage in honour of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the primary Patron of our Fraternity.

Consecrated to the Immaculate Heart, we in the Fraternity seek to serve her and to do what we can to bring about the triumph of her Heart.  This triumph is actually the triumph of Christ, since he is the one who occupies her Maternal Heart.  Everything she does, she does for her Son.  Mary always brings people to Christ, for he is her whole life and her joy.  Learning from her, we see that Christ must be all to us.  Everything we do must be for him, and though our efforts may seem meagre, when channelled through the Heart of Our Lady, they become great heroic works.

O Holy Mother of God, to your Immaculate Heart we commend our Fraternity.  Dedicated to your service, accept our work and our prayer and bring to the Heart of your Son the men and women of the theatrical and cinematic arts who are your children.   Take them to your Immaculate Heart and there form them according to the Heart of your Son.

Loving Father, in your mercy you give us a loving Mother in Mary.  In her Immaculate Heart we find the maternal tenderness and motherly zeal which inspires us to serve your Son with greater joy and effort.  Hear the prayers we commend to this Beautiful Mother, the Ornament of Grace.  Amen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday: Papal Audience And Tomb of St Paul

In the morning we attend the Papal Audience, and in the afternoon go on pilgrimage to the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls to venerate the remains of St Paul the Apostle.

Our union with Peter is important.  On him is build the Church, and so we look to his successor, Benedict, as the one who unites us.  He is the Vicar of Christ on earth - the one chosen to lead the Church in these times.  As our Holy Father, he deserves our prayer and our obedience.  St Catherine of Siena gives us a profound insight into who the Pope is when she calls him "our Christ on earth".

Lord God, bless Benedict our Pope, and give him every grace so he may fulfil the office you have entrusted to him.  May he always have the guidance of your Holy Spirit and the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother.  And when you call him from this life, grant to him a place among your Saints.  Amen.

St Paul is also important for our Fraternity - he is our theologian.  As we form this family of prayer, we draw on his teaching on the Mystical Body of Christ.  Where is the Fraternity to be found in this Body?  In the heart, of course!  We are in the Heart of the Church, praying, offering our sacrifices, loving.  This is where Our Lady is, and as we dedicated to her mission for her Son, we stand beside her, obedient to her.  St Paul encourages us, then, is fulfilling our duties here.  He reassures us that the cross we carry and offer to Christ for our brothers and sisters brings the grace and power of God upon those we pray for.

St Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, hear our prayer.  Preach to us, the children of God, the Gospel of Christ, so we may be immersed in the Word and follow him each day of our lives.  Guide us into the heart of the Church where we may offer ourselves in service to God for the sake of our brothers and sisters.  As you were happy to shed your blood for love of Christ, our Redeemer, obtain from the Lord that grace which will make us as generous in our sacrifices.

Heavenly Father, bless our family of prayer.  Give to each of us the zeal with which you endowed your Apostle Paul.  As he was compelled to proclaim the love and sacrifice of Christ, may we be filled with that same zeal to make Christ known to the people of our time.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday: Tomb of St Genesius

Solemn Mass of St Genesius in the Church of Santa Susanna, Termini, Rome, near the tomb of the martyr.  The relics of St Genesius were translated here in 1591 at the request of Princess Camilla Peretti, sister of the late Pope Sixtus V.  She was building a chapel in his memory, and though dedicated to St Laurence, the relics of the actor-martyr and Pope St Elutherius, also a martyr, were transfered here from the Church of San Giovanni della Pigna, near the Minerva.

Spiritual Exercise:

St Genesius, as we come in spirit to venerate your holy remains, we commend to you our prayers and our needs.  Give us a deep love for Jesus Christ, and a desire to change our hearts so to love him more.  Bless those who work in the theatrical and cinematic arts, intercede for their needs.  Those who far from God, touch their hearts and bring them to vision of the One who loved them into life.  O Blessed Genesius, as our brothers and sister come to your tomb to honour you, count us among them.  As we unite ourselves with the Holy Sacrifice offered in your church, come near to us and be our constant companion.  Amen.

Almighty Father, bless your children who today honour your martyr Genesius.  As he responded to grace and proclaimed your mercies for all the world to hear, bless them also with your merciful love.  Hear their prayers and grant them their needs.  Through the intercession of St Genesius, make their hearts a place where you may dwell.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bags Packed

It has been a very busy week, occupied with preparations for the pilgrimage.  We leave tomorrow morning at 7am.  Today the painting we are giving the Pope arrived from the framer's - the artist brought it directly.  It is a lovely piece - a basic portrait of St Genesius with the cross and masks from the Fraternity seal.  I do not have a picture of yet - one has been taken, but I do not have a copy yet.  I do, however, have a copy of the rough sketch, so I am posting it here to give you an idea of what the painting looks like.

Preliminary sketch of the Papal portrait of St Genesius:
Richard Moore, watercolour

Our itinerary is up on my blog, here, so to all of you who want to do the pilgrimage with us in spirit you can do so.  I will be remembering all the Fraternity members in our Masses; the Solemn Mass at the tomb of St Genesius on Tuesday afternoon - the heart of our pilgrimage, will be offered for all our members' intentions.  It takes place at 4pm Roman Time (3pm GMT; 10am US/Canadian Eastern; 9am Central; 8am Pacific).  

The blog will not be live, but I will schedule the daily events of the pilgrimage (if the scheduling facility works - sometimes it goes on strike here on blogger). 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Time To Say NO!

The committee charged with examining patronage of primary schools has issued its report, and, surprise surprise, it is nothing more than another attack on the Catholic Church and her patronage of schools.  In its recommendations, the report says that religious education should not be conducted in schools, prayer should be changed so as to be more inclusive ie not Catholic prayers, and religious symbols of all faiths should be on display rather than Catholic religious symbols.  Now remember they are not talking about state schools here - they are talking about Catholic schools. 

So to sum it up: the report is recommending that Catholic schools should not be allowed to be Catholic, but rather conform to a secularist, left-wing, relativist agenda.  That's objective for you in modern Ireland. 

Well, the Church's response to this should be very simple: No way, and then just get on as per normal and ignore any efforts the Minister for Education makes to force Catholic schools to conform.  But will the hierarchy and Catholic parents do that?  Certainly the parents of Ashbourne, Co. Meath, will not be impressed.  They are up in arms because the government told them they cannot have a Catholic education for their children. 

This, my friends, is actually unconstitutional in Ireland.  The constitution states that parents are the primary educators of their children and they have the constitutional right to decide what type of education they want for their children and the government is bound by the constitution to support and provide for this.  We have a very liberal constitution when it comes to education here in Ireland, and that's the best way.  Our government and their left-wing secularist allies want to de-liberalise this and force all parents of all religious traditions and none to send their children to the same types of schools - schools which will only cater for secularists and atheists.

 A friend of mine said this morning that the report is deliberately extreme so as to force the Church to compromise.  I do realise that there has been a tendency in the Church here to compromise even when she does not have to.  She relinquishes certain rights in order to reach out.  That may be noble at times, but in the present age with the attack of radical secularism, this is not the time to reach out and compromise - now is the time to fight, and fight hard.   Now is the time to stick by our constitutional rights and tell the government that we will not allow them to take away our liberty here.  The government already has plans for a constitutional convention which will aim at giving Ireland a new constitution - you can bet that the creature they bring to life will be worse than the Frankenstein monster, and the liberties people of faith enjoy in this country will be significantly diminished.  Religious schools will be high on agenda.

Is it not time for the Catholic Church to form alliances with other faith groups?  I have said this before. In Ireland in the past the Church was strong, she had power and could wield that power in the face of governments and politicians.  That was not always a good thing.  Now she has no power, and certainly not with an agressive secularist government headed by a man who wants to break the country's ancient relationship with the Holy See.  Is it not time, then, for the Cardinal, the other Archbishops and Bishops to get talking with other Christian leaders, the new evangelicals among them, with the Chief Rabbi and the Muslims, to form a grand alliance to defy the government?  The Taoiseach and Minister for Education will fob off a delegation from the Bishops, but they will not fob off a delegation of Catholics, other Christians, Jews, Muslims and other religious groups united in a defiant stand against the radical secularist agenda that wants to prevent us passing on the "faith of our fathers and mothers" to our children. 

Catholics, much to the chagrin of radical secularists, are the majority in this country.  United with other Christians, Jews, Muslims and people of other faiths, we are the overwhelming majority, and we all want to keep our schools and their individual faith ethos.  If we got together, the government would be very foolish to defy us.  Yes, I'm sure they would try, but by God, if they do not listen to us, come the next election not only can we boot them out of office, but we can wipe their parties off the political landscape.  It was almost done to Fianna Fail in the last election, it can be done again.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday: Awaiting The Resurrection

Today is Our Lady's day: with her we watch and pray, awaiting the Resurrection of her Son.  To be honest, in a parish there is very little waiting, things are very busy as we prepare for the Great Vigil this evening.  My parishioners have been doing various jobs to ensure the liturgy this evening is beautiful and fitting to greet the Risen Lord.  As I write, the parish church is being decorated with flowers.  I have just finished my homilies for tonight and tomorrow after running around like a headless chicken all day.  Guilty that I have not written a decent post, I'm taking a few minutes to drop you a line for Easter.   Next week will be as busy as we prepare for the pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi and Loreto.

There is a real sense of anticipation this year - Easter is a perfect time to begin the renewal of the Church in Ireland - many of us are hopeful.  There are great signs of renewal - the first shoots. We will pray that these shoots will grow.  Recent developments are reassuring, particularly the Holy See's beginning to deal with those who have been undermining faith here for decades - this is good.  For too long faithful priests in this country have tried to teach the fullness of the Catholic faith only to be undermined by those who reject it.  We must pray for conversion of hearts.  The usual suspects, I see, are reacting badly and attacking the Holy Father. 

In other news Cardinal O'Brien is encouraging Christians to wear crosses as a symbol of their faith.  As attempts to drive Christianity from the public square continue apace, we must not hide away.  True.  May the grace of this holy season give us all the grace and courage to proclaim our faith in these times.

Right, back to work.  Every blessing for Easter.  Pray for me this Easter, as I remember you all in my prayers.

Laudetur Iesus Christus!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

O Blessed Lord,
crucified for our sake,
look upon us and grant us your grace.
Help us to overcome our sinfulness
and conquer our pride;
give us a share in your cross
so we may embrace that same humility
which made you obedient to the will of the Father.
All praise and honour to you,
Lord Jesus,
for your going to the cross for our salvation,
may you blessed and praised forever.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holy Thursday

"The holiest of nights" - this is one phrase which describes Holy Thursday.  As we gather for the Mass of the Lord's Supper, follow the procession to the Altar of Repose, and spend the rest of the evening in vigil and adoration, the events which we commemorate are truly present: we are indeed with the Lord on this night.  I can almost imagine a child asking the ritual question: "Why is this night different?" It is indeed the Passover, the new Passover.

In the diocese of Meath we celebrated the Chrism Mass on Wednesday evening.  This year we had a large number of priests renewing their commitment to their ministry.  In this time of renewal we need to look to a renewal of the priesthood as well as that of the Church in Ireland.  Our priests need to rediscover who they are.  Priesthood is not a job, a priest is not a mere pastoral assistant or a facilitator or management.  It is a calling bound up in the mystery of Christ himself and in the Fatherhood of God. 

The Holy Father's Chrism Mass grabbed the headlines around the world - RTE here were quick to report his remarks on women priests and dissent - I'm sure they were not happen - the language they used was quite negative.  They said the Pope was reiterating the "ban" on women priests: they fail to understand that there is no "ban" on women priests in the Catholic Church - rather, as Blessed John Paul II reminded us, the Church has no authority to ordain women - after careful enquiry the Church believes that it is not the will of God. 

The world operates under the erroneous belief that if we can do something, then we should.  We can create human beings through artificial scientific processes, so if we can do it, we do it - morality does not enter into it.  So with the ordination of women - if it is conceivable, then we do it - we do not need to ask God whether he wants it: he too, it seems, is bound by secular equality laws.  However in this case if God does not want it it does not happen.  As one of my students said to me a few years ago when I was teaching: "If God doesn't want women priests, it doesn't matter if you go through an "ordination" for them, they're still not priests" - the student was a girl and it made perfect sense to her.  After all, priesthood was not a human invention, nor governed by equality laws, it is a gift from God to be governed by his will.

The Catholic priesthood, among other things, is a manifestation of fatherhood: every man is called to be a father - how he exercises that fatherhood will depend on his individual vocation.  It is easy to see this fatherhood in the men who marry and have children.  But those who do not marry nor have children, their fatherhood is expressed in different ways.  A priest is a father to those in his care: priesthood and fatherhood are inextricably linked.  Today, on Holy Thursday, priests are reminded that they are called to be fathers, to make the sacrifice that fathers must make for their children, to govern the household of God as fathers do.

This year many people will be remembering those who died in the Titanic disaster.  We all know the stories of some of the passengers - the "unsinkable" Molly Brown who was heroic in her efforts to save people - she was a Catholic, by the way, and after the disaster went on to do a lot of good work for the Church and society.  But among the silent heroes are a number of priests who refused offers of seats on the lifeboats to stay and minister to the people who were going to die.  The one scene that struck me from the movie Titanic (which I hated by the way, A Night To Remember is much better), was that of the priest absolving sins as the ship was going down.  It really happened.

We know of three priests who ministered heroically in preparing passengers for their deaths: Fr Joseph Benedikt Peruschitz, a German Benedictine.  He was on his way to take up a teaching position in Collegeville.  He was a second class passenger, who was offered a place in the lifeboats - he refused.  He went about the sinking ship giving absolution, consoling the passengers and leading them in prayer.  He was mocked by some passengers as he was going about his work preparing people to meet their God.  He went down in the midst of the faithful praying the rosary: he was 41 years old.

Fr Juozas Montvila was only 27, a Lithuanian. He had endured much persecution from the Russians in his native Lithuania.  He had been ministering to Ukrainian Catholics against the wishes of the Tsar.  Fr Juozas was prohibited from exercising his priestly ministry and eventually driven out of Lithuania.  He was on his way to the US to take up a position ministering to Lithuanian Catholics.  He too refused a place in the lifeboats and exercised his priestly fatherhood in consoling those about to die.

Fr Thomas Byles, 42, was an English priest, a convert from Anglicanism - his story is very like Blessed John Henry Newman's.  He had been a Congregationalist, but at Oxford converted to the Church of England and began preparing to enter the Anglican ministry.  However his studies led him to Catholicism, and he was ordained a priest in 1902.  He was on his way to a family wedding in Brooklyn.  He was ministering to the Catholics on the voyage, most of whom were third class, so he knew his way around the lower decks.  When the iceberg hit he refused a seat in the lifeboats and made his way down to third class, which was quickly sealed up to prevent the immigrants making for the lifeboats - the upper classes, it seems, had the right to the few lifeboats, the poor could go down with the ship.  He spent his last hours hearing confessions and praying with the passengers trapped in the ship. 

Frs Joseph Benedikt Peruschitz, Juozas Montvila and Thomas Byles

None of these priests were ever found, like hundreds of others, their bodies perished in the waters.  In these three men we see the fatherhood of the priesthood at work - a father does not abandon his children - these priests knew where they had to be as the ship went down.

What is interesting is that these three men seemed almost prepared for this final sacrifice. Each of them had been formed in heroism in their lives so when it came to the disaster, they were ready to respond as Christ would respond.  This reminds us that a priest is a man chosen even before was born, consecrated in the womb, as the prophet says.  That is consoling for us priests -God has chosen us and he will help us carry out the mission he has entrusted to us.

I'm not sure if the possibility of beatification has been mooted for these three priests, but it may be worth considering.  What wonderful examples for us priests - these men who laid down their lives for their flock, literally.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spy Wednesday

Traditionally this is the day when we reflect on Judas and his betrayal of the Lord.  For this he received the grand price of thirty pieces of silver, forever the price of treachery. 

Pope Benedict has something very interesting to say about Judas.  "Judas was neither a master of evil nor the figure of a demoniacal power of darkness but rather a sycophant who bows down before the anonymous power of changing moods and current fashions".

What an insight - Judas wanted to keep up with the crowd.  When Jesus was popular, he was in with him, at the centre of things, an Apostle.  But when the powers that be, the movers and shakers of Jewish society, had turned against Jesus, then Judas was conflicted, that conflict lead to betrayal, but one in which Judas would fill his pockets with ill gotten gains.

This has always been a problem in the Church.  The Judas in our midst is not the one who consorts with evil, but the ones who sell their souls to the prevailing fashions of the age and seek to make a name for themselves.   They may put forward all sorts of noble reasons for doing so, but a lot of the time, they are merely trying to satisfy a hunger to be liked by the world, even to be famous. 

Many Christians fall into this trap, including many clergy and religious who dilute, deny or rebel against Church teaching in order to keep in with the elite.  They may convince themselves that what they do is blessed by God, a worthy dissent for the sake of the people, or the most lame excuse of all: for pastoral reasons.

The example of Judas is a timely one for us.  We must resist the lure of those who want us to go their way in opposition to Christ, those who want people "on the inside" to help them bring the Church down.  Jesus is, and never was, popular with the elite.  He was always an outsider, and those who follow him tend to be outsiders most of the time.  We have to come to accept that and get used to it.

That said, we must continue to engage with the world, proclaim the Gospel, challenge and live in it as so as to be the salt of the earth and light of the world.

Is Judas saved?  I do not know.  The Church has never given an opinon, officially.  We do not know what happened in his heart as the rope tightened around his neck.  We shall not speculate: but rather pray and learn from his mistake.