Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Good News From Rome For The Fraternity


I received good news this afternoon.  The Protector Bishop of the Fraternity, Bishop Michael Smith, rang me to tell me that the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments have granted the Fraternity permission to celebrate the feast of Blessed John Paul II.   The letter, signed by Cardinal Canizares Llovera himself, was received by the Bishop this morning, and another has been sent to the Fraternity.   As soon as I get more details I will post them - probably when I get back from vacation.

Following Blessed John Paul's beatification, the Council of the Fraternity made the decision to make him Co-Patron of the Fraternity, since he is one of our major inspirations - we had a special Mass in May of last years, attended by many members of the Fraternity, to formally declare him Patron.  It was announced at that Mass that the Council would petition Rome for permission to celebrate the feast of the Blessed Pontiff as, according to the liturgical norms, a Blessed's feast can only be celebrated within his or her own diocese or congregation, and in those dioceses or congregations which have received formal permission from Rome to do so.  

Having done the preparatory work, assisted and advised by Bishop Smith, we had to make a request to the Irish Bishop's Conference to send a petition to Rome on our behalf.  On the 1st June of this year, Cardinal Sean Brady, on behalf of the Bishops made a formal petition to the Congregation: today it received a positive response.  

First of all, our deep thanks must go to Cardinal Canizares Llovera for granting our petition.  Our thanks must also go to Cardinal Brady for his kindness in agreeing to make the formal petition.  And of course, much thanks and appreciation to Bishop Smith who has been instrumental in helping us in this petition, and has been a great friend and supporter of the Fraternity since the first day we approached him for advice and help.  And finally, to Blessed John Paul himself - for his prayers and fatherly care for our family of prayer, a joyful "dzieki"!

So, I will post the details of the indult when I get them - but to all the members of the Fraternity I ask you to prepare for the 22nd October - on that day I request that all members of our family of prayer throughout the world will celebrate for the first time, the feast of our beloved Co-Patron. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Poacher Made Gamekeeper

So the Minister for Health has appointed the head of the Irish Family Planning Association, an ardent supporter and campaigner for abortion in Ireland, Tony O'Brien, as the new head of the HSE or what it will become when it is rebranded. The news reached me here on holiday. To say I was angry would be an understatement. 

Time for Enda Kenny to stand up and reverse the appointment. He always passed himself off as pro-life, and you know, I will believe him when he says he is. It is one thing to attack the Pope in the safety of the Dail where he cannot be sued for slander, but it is another to allow the pro-abortion ideologues take the reins and force their deathly agenda on the unborn children of this country. Now it is time to act: if you're pro-life Enda, prove it! I also lay the gauntlet down before the bishops and priests of Ireland: if you believe in the sanctity of life - now prove it: no more silence! 

Pro-life groups, get ready for the fight!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Our Beloved Titus

Today is the feast of Blessed Titus Brandsma, our Carmelite brother who was martyred in Dachau for his Catholic faith and for his work in proclaiming the truth in the face of the National Socialist tyranny.  Blessed Titus was a member of the Carmelites of the Ancient Observance, who worked as a professor and journalist in Holland.

He understood the Nazis to be pagans who were destroying not only human lives and religious faith, but ideologues who in their attempt to redefine humanity according to their ideology, were destroying humanity itself.  In the Office of Readings for today we read from his writings in which he upheld the dignity of man, a God-given dignity, and warned of the dangers of subjecting that dignity to a political or social philosophy.

Sadly what Blessed Titus fought against, and the Allies won victory over, has remerged in the very countries that opposed the Nazi ideology.  Western society has now adopted the thinking of Hitler and his minions though many deny it.  The atrocities that the Nazis carried out now have the protection of law in many of our countries, and the redefining of man and his relationships according to a pagan ideology, an ideology of false progress - also rooted in Hegelianism, is the agenda many, if not most, of our political representatives are working hard to achieve.   As with the Nazi propaganda machine our media today have an important role in promoting this new pagan agenda.

We need Blessed Titus's intercession and example in these times.  May he help us face the challenges that are now being presented to us, help us remember that Christ in our refuge and strength, and that at the end of the day the battle we now fight will be won - we need only keep faith.

Blessed Titus pray for us, pray for our media, pray for our governments.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Our Holy Jewish Forebears

"Pleasure it is to hear iwis, the Birdes sing" as the old English carol goes. Such pleasures are heightened when one has time to rest, pray and think. I have not had the chance to blog, but have been taking things easy now that I am free for a few weeks from the parish. 

I am still trying to get the hang of this iPad - I am finding it difficult to type on it and some of the features of blogger are not popping up, so forgive me if this post does not look tidy (I can't find "Justify text" for example). Though I write in paragraphs, the text all merges into one! I lost one post I had written and I'm finding it difficult to post pictures - I know, I know, I am technically inept! 

Anyway I feel I must blog today given the feast - SS Joachim and Anne, Our Lady's parents and the Lord's grandparents. First of all a happy feast day to all the Annes and Joachims out there, and to all grandparents. 

This is an interesting feast for we not only celebrate these two holy people, but we also honour the holy Jewish men and women who lived lives devoted to the covenant God made with Moses, and were sanctified by God for their love of him and their heroic virtue. We do not know most of them, apart from Joachim and Anne, we know only the famous ones whose names and deeds are preserved in the Holy Scriptures. But we must acknowledge these holy Jewish people, our spiritual forebears, our fathers and mothers in the Faith. 

Today, then, is a celebration of our Jewish roots! A moment to remind ourselves that we must love the Jewish people as our own. Though they do not accept Jesus as their Messiah, though some may not accept us as brothers and sisters in the Faith, we love them, and admire them for their fidelity to the covenant. We pray that they will embrace Jesus and enter into the new covenant, we must not presume that God has abandoned his people. 

SS Anne and Joachim were holy Jewish people. They were not Christians in the sense that they were not baptised, but they offer an example of fidelity to the Word of God. They love God, as they and all Jewish people are urged to love him in the Jewish profession of faith, the Shema, and they trusted in him in the way revealed by the Psalms. Though poor and lowly, God's work was revealed in them - they cooperated with him in the formation of the one who was holy and immaculate and destined to be the Mother of God. as we honour Mary and reflect on her virtues we cannot forget that she found great teachers in her mother and father. 

Did Joachim and Anne ever see Jesus? An interesting question. I hope they did. What joy would have filled their hearts as they looked on their little grandson and see before them the divine Lord. How humble they would have been as they stood before this mystery, like Elijah at the mouth of the cave. And imagine that moment as they held little Yeshua in their arms and embraced him and discovered that in him salvation had come to Israel. There is something for your meditation today - to embrace the Infant Jesus in your heart and know that in him salvation has come to you.

UPDATE:  I have since found out from the local Apple shop here that Blogger does not work properly on iPad - they said Blogger has not updated its programmes to take account of it.  They advised I write what I need to write on the iPad and upload it later on another computer, which I am doing now.  There you have it.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Time To Act

Things are hotting up in the abortion debate here in Ireland. The committee appointed by the government is due to report in the Autumn and many are speculating that it will be the beginning of the government's campaign to legalize the killing of our children.

Fr Gabriel Burke has an interesting post on this. He points out that now is the time for the bishops to act and begin informing those TDs who claim to be Catholic what the consequences of their support for the legalisation of abortion will mean for them. I hope they will take the bull by the horns and show our government that we will not sit down and stay silent in the face of this abuse of unborn children - we have been silent for too long. 

A friend pointed out that the government may not even allow a vote on the matter, but negotiate all party support, as they did with the civil partnership bill, and then pass the bill.  In that way they think they can stop the Church implementing canonical penalties against individual Catholic TDs who would have voted for it. I wouldn't put anything past them.

Of course God knows what goes on in the human heart: at the end of the day sly political tactics will not save those who seek to facilitate the murder of the innocent.   Perhaps reflection on King David's murder of Uriah and Ahab and Jezebel's murder of Naboath is required. 

The Fiery One

Today is the feast of St Elijah the Prophet celebrated by both Carmelite Orders - the O Carms as a Solemnity and us, the Discalced, as a feast (why not a Solemnity too?).  It is a special day for me as it is the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood - I was thrilled when the bishop picked this day.  Elijah was present at the ordination Mass, during the Litany of the Saints the heavens opened and torrential rain fell heavily on the church roof.  It was a wonderful experience. 

Now Elijah would not be renowned for his pastoral sensitivity, no more than St John the Baptist who took up the Prophet's mantle in his ministry as Precursor.  I imagine if he was priest in Ireland today he would probably be on "administrative leave" for preaching the Gospel a little too directly to the faithful.  Whether that means he was too strong, or we have become too soft I'll leave it up to you; but given that Jesus had great time for Elijah and praised the fiery John the Baptist, the second Elijah, as being the greatest born of women we might look to ourselves rather than Elijah when considering the question.

Elijah rose up to defend God among a people who wavered in their allegiance.  They were out for themselves, so they followed the god that gave them what they wanted.  The battle on Mount Carmel between the prophets of Baal and Elijah was the means through which God proved to his people that he was the stronger one, the only One.  It is a message that needs to be proclaimed today.  The word of Elijah - "How long will you waver between the two?" must be spoken to the people of our time.  We have become a comfortable lot - we want heaven, but also the pleasurable way of life even if it brings us into sin - "sure God loves anyway".  

As a priest it can be difficult to proclaim this word to people.  One thing I find most challenging is trying to answer one particular question in a particular situation.  When people who live lives contrary to the Gospel, rejecting Christ's moral teaching, and then when difficulties, tragedies or other problems emerge they fall out with God: "Why did God let this happen?"  I am tempted to say - "Why blame God?  You chose to live in a way which is contrary to his moral law, creating a distance between you and him, and now you blame him when things do not turn out well for you."  People do not see.  Elijah was very clear in his response to such questions: "Your sin has led you to disaster - only your repentance and return to God will bring you life and grace."  That is the prophetic message, our task is to preach this in a way that is pastorally sensitive, direct and opens the door for reconciliation, but it must also be proclaimed in a way that does not undermine the message.  We have had too many priests who have diluted and reversed the Gospel and the Church's moral teachings in the name of pastoral sensitivity. 

As we celebrate in Carmel today, I bring to your attention a message from the Holy Father to the Bishop of Avila marking the 450th anniversary of the reform of our Order.  We celebrate the anniversary on the 24th August next.  It is a beautiful letter and a real resource to help us mark what is essentially the beginning of Discalced Carmel.  With reference to what I wrote above, this line from the Pope is interesting: "We can say that in her time the Saint evangelised without mincing her words, with unfailing ardour, with methods foreign to inertia and with expressions haloed with light."   That's fantastic!

I see the culture of death is triumphing in Holland.   According to one article 14% of deaths in the country are actually brought about through the action of doctors.  That does not surprise me.  Holland is a country which fell for the liberal agenda hook, line and sinker, from legalised drugs, abortion, legalised prostitution and now euthanasia.  I remember a holiday there a number of years ago - I could not wait to get out of it.  In Amsterdam on a warm summer's evening there was the odor of pot in the air.  We tried to avoid the red light district, but suddenly found ourselves in the middle of it when we went to visit the Lutheran Cathedral - the cathedral square has a "mall" of brothels.  To see women sitting in windows selling themselves makes one wonder how far we have gone.  A liberal, "modern" country and it permits a culture where women sell their bodies to make a living?  Are we surprised they think it is okay to kill their sick and elderly?

That said, euthanasia is more common than we think.  I remember a conversation with a nurse during which she told me how a patient can be killed leaving no trace of the act - nothing that would stand out in a postmortem.  I was shocked.  "You'd be surprised how often it happens", she said.  "Even in Ireland?" I asked.  "Oh yes", she said.  Scary!

An interesting article here on recent events concerning the SSPX.  They say they recognise the authority of the Pope, let's hope they do and come back into the fold, accepted a Council of the Church the Popes called, presided over and have been implementing since the 1960s. 

Blogging will be erratic over the next few weeks - I am away on holidays and may not get a chance to blog too often.  Although..... I may have no excuse!  I was given an iPad for my birthday - you may remember a post where I was wondering should I or should I not, well the decision was made for me.  Over the last few days I have been experimenting with it - I feel it could become an addiction, so moderation is called for.  But at least when I get time I can do a bit of writing.  At the moment I have three books half finished, never getting time to complete them and send them off to a publisher, the iPad might put manners on me.  But then again, who wants to read what I have to say?  I torment you poor people enough as it is!  I will probably have many more years in Purgatory thanks to this blog!

Happy feast day to you all!  May St Elijah watch over you, and the ravens never fail!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Catching Up

Though often regarded as the silly season, this summer has a number of important news stories to keep the press on their toes.  The Irish Examiner notes some criticisms of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, for refusing to allow the army to participate in the Eucharistic Congress.  A former Minister for Defence, Willie O'Dea, has accused Shatter of blind prejudice.  Some people are trying to rake up a row by reference to Shatter's ethnicity as a Jew (I don't know if he is practicing or lapsed) - that should be a non-runner to start with - if Shatter is prejudiced his religion makes no difference one way or the other.  Call him to task and challenge him, but there is no place for sectarianism.

O'Dea says that the refusal may arouse suspicion among people of faith that the Coalition is becoming increasingly hostile towards Catholics.  I'm afraid O'Dea is behind the times - many Catholics in Ireland have believed for some time that this government is hostile towards the Catholic faith.  Their attempts to strike at the heart of our sacraments may be one indication that, at the end of the day, Catholics in Ireland should be very cautious and not put too much trust in the administration.  Our history teaches us time and time again that many a persecution began in similar circumstances.

Mark Shea is predicting a decision from the Holy See's Commission on Medjugorje in November of this year.  Shea claims that this is a definite indication that the apparitions will be rejected.  Well, that is a conclusion none of us can make, we cannot presume that because a date has been set (no word as of yet from the Holy See confirming this, by the way) that it means the decision is negative.  We will just have to wait and see.   Andrea Tornelli, always a good source for news from inside the Vatican, has not hinted at a definite date.  In an article on the issue he said that the Commission would conclude their work by the end of the year.  Tornelli, who has inside information most of the time, said that those on the Commission were impressed by the alleged visionaries - that drove many critics mad and they attacked Tornelli.   Medjugorje is a hot topic which divides the young/charismatic wing of the Church from the Traditionalist wing. 

And speaking of Traditionalists, I have to say I do not know what is going on in the Society of St Pius X.  Are they rejecting the Pope's offer or not?  The Internet is ablaze with statements, opinions and confusion.  The most recent statement from the SSPXers seems to indicate that they will not accept Vatican II, indeed they seem to say that Vatican II stands in opposition to the Magisterium of the Church.  Fr Z has the statement with his usual commentary on his blog which is worth reading.   If the SSPX are saying that Vatican II is an erroneous Council, then they have come to the end of the road: if they want to be received back into full communion they must accept the legitimacy of the Council. 

The Holy Father has taken serious risks to try and heal the schism with the SSPX: when he lifted the excommunications even good Catholics wondered if he was doing the right thing.  We had to trust that he was doing the right thing, and he was - he opened the door to dialogue.  However it seems to me, many in the SSPX, and perhaps most, will not return unless it is on their terms.  If that is the case, the door may well be closed - not locked and bolted for there is always hope for the future.  As Fr Z points out, the Pope may finally conclude that this ongoing discussion is a non runner.

I meant to mention Mark Dooley's latest offering on his blog, concerning gay marriage.  This is well worth reading - just because we oppose gay marriage does not mean we are bigots.  I see Scotland's cabinet has ruled out a referendum on gay marriage in the country, despite Cardinal Keith O'Brien's call for a vote.  I presume they know the vote would be lost - the people would not be behind the measure, as we see in every single vote in the US states. 

And here's an interesting story: as terrorists threaten the West, the FBI in the US, has been investigating the pro-life cause and paying a visit to one pro-life activist and threatening him with deportation. And all the while millions of US citizens are being "terminated" in the abortion clinics of the country.  It is a world gone mad - kill children and the administration protect us (and pays you), seek to defend them and the administration sends the heavies around to sort you out.  Well, people of Ireland, its coming to a parliment hear us soon.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Under Her Mantle

Today is the Patronal Feast of our Order - the Solemnity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  As we celebrate the feast, I commend you all to the care of our Holy Mother: may you find sure protection under her mantle, a loving Mother to guide you and a powerful advocate in all your needs.

Flos Carmeli,
vitis florigera,
splendor caeli,
virgo puerpera

Mater mitis
sed viri nescia
esto propitia
Stella maris.

Flower of Carmel,
Blossoming vine,
Splendor of heaven,
Childbearing maiden.
None equals you.

Mother so tender,
Whom no man did know,
On Carmel's children
Your favours bestow,
Star of the Sea.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Fall Of The House Of Schori?

Further to my post below on the state of the Church of England, it seems their American cousins are heading for a serious crisis not because they refused to ordain women bishops, but their presiding bishop, Katharine Schori, seems to be centralising power in herself.  That coupled with high living is causing some people in the community to worry and wonder if the Episcopalian ecclesial community is about to collapse.

Thanks to Fr Longenecker for his post on the issue and the link to an article by an Episcopalian lamenting the transition from democracy to tyranny.  Both of these articles are worth reading.  Perhaps Rowan Williams should read them too.

It seems the Episcopalians have passed a liturgy for the funerals of pets.  That brings me back to the para-liturgical services that took place in the Hogan family garden over the years as dogs, goldfish, terapins and other pets, having reached their span of years, were laid to rest by tearful children and consoling parents.  Over a Hail Mary and a thanks to God for the joy the deceased brought to our lives, the loved one was gently buried, and after the rites were concluded, a modest reception was held in the kitchen.  And though parents vowed never to get another pet because it was too hard losing them, they were already biding their time for the day when a new life bounded into the hall. 

Lovely memories, and lovely practices, moments for children to learn to appreciate the gifts of God, but to make it a formal liturgy in the Church - not so sure.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Christianity: A Public, Not A Private Faith

St John Wang Kuixin and his cousin St Joseph Wang Kuiju

Last Monday we celebrated the feast of the martyrs of China – a group of 120 men and women and children who were put to death for their Catholic faith between 1648 and 1930.  With such a large group we might be tempted to forget that each one of these martyrs has a personal story and made an individual decision to choose Christ and the Church knowing that it would mean death.  Among the martyrs are members of families arrested en masse for their faith and put to death in various ways. 

Today is the anniversary of the martyrdom of one of these martyrs, St John Wang Kuixin, whose martyrdom resonates with what is going on in Western society today.

St John was born in Qi County in Hebei Province in the north of China in 1875.  He was a devout Catholic who sought to live his faith as well as he could.  By the age of twenty-five he was married with children, serving his family humbly and passing on the Catholic faith to them.  In 1900 the Boxer rebellion broke out.  The Boxers were a nationalist/religious group who were trying to rid China of foreign influences including Christianity.  A fierce persecution was waging throughout China with countless Catholics being put to death by the Boxers.  Aware of the threat to their families John and his cousin Joseph Wang Kuiju (born 1863), also a fervent Catholic, decided to leave their native village and settle in another one where there was a large Catholic population. 

Loading their meagre possessions on wagons, the cousins and their families had no problem leaving and reached the safety of the other village.  Having left some stuff in their native place, the two cousins returned to collect them.  As they were on their way a heavy shower prevented their continuing the journey, and so they found shelter at an inn.  During a conversation in the inn it was discovered that the cousins were Catholic and the two had to defend their faith as the other guests were attacking their religion.  In the course of the debate, someone sent for the Boxers and as soon as they arrived, they beheaded Joseph on the spot.   John tried to escape, but he was caught and, for some reason, not killed.  He was arrested and brought before a local magistrate.

The magistrate seemed to be a kindly sort and he wanted to spare the young man’s life.  He urged John not to speak about his faith: he should keep it to himself: that way he would not offend anyone and his life would be spared.  But John could not accept such conditions – to hide his faith, to consign it to his “private life” was not what Christ asked his disciples to do.  In fact, for John, to do so was to deny Christ and the faith.  John refused.  With great reluctance, the magistrate handed him over to the Boxers.  On the 14th July 1900 John was put to death, invoking the Holy Name of Jesus as he went to his execution.

John and his cousin Joseph were canonised together by Blessed Pope John Paul II in the year 2000.

St John was asked to do what we are being told to do by our secular governments – to consign our faith to the private sphere and not allow it influence our public words and actions.  Catholic politicians, President John F Kennedy of the USA foremost among them, publicly disavow their Catholic faith and reassure the powers that be that they will not allow their “personal faith” interfere with their decisions.  We have Catholic politicians voting for abortion, civil partnership, gay marriage, euthanasia even though these contradict the moral teaching of the Church in which they claim to be in communion. And then they have the audacity to present themselves as Catholics in good standing and arrive at the altar to receive the Eucharist – and, unfortunately, clergy facilitate this by silence and giving them Holy Communion. 

St John Wang Kuixin’s martyrdom reveals the hypocrisy at the heart of this “double-think” or spiritual schizophrenia.  He also offers us an example of how we should act in the face of secularism’s pressure to make us deny our faith in public and tries to rid the public square of the Christian voice. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

"I Am God's"

Yesterday was the feast of married couples, today in Carmel we celebrate a feast for young people as we commemorate St Teresa of the Andes.  Teresa died at the age of 19, and yet she achieved more in those few short years than many do in a long life.

Born Juana Fernandez del Solar in Santiago, Chile, on the 13th July 1900, she grew up in a comfortable home where the faith was cherished, but the possibility to life a life of ease and privilege a temptation.  Already pious, it was when Juana read the life of St Therese that she was inspired to seek holiness. She began a programme of living virtue, but she found a serious and difficult barrier to overcome - her temper. She was quiet self-centred, and so humility was a struggle.  However the determination in her character helped her overcome these faults and made open to the needs of others. 

When she was 19 she entered the Carmelite monastery in Los Andes and was given the name Sr Teresa of Jesus.  Happy to spent the rest of her life, she sought to be of service to others through her prayers, sacrifices and letters.  As a novice she lived the life with extraordinary dedication and humility, impressing the sisters in the community.  The sisters were aware that they had another St Therese in their midst.  However it was not to last long.  After a few months, she contracted typhus: it was diagnosed as fatal.  Teresa embraced her death as a sacrifice to be offered.  Aware that she would not see the end of her novitiate, the decision was taken to allow her make her Solemn Profession.  Teresa died on the 12th April 1920.  She was beatified in 1987 and canonised in 1993.

St Teresa is a marvellous patron of the young - full of life and committed to her faith she offers to young people an example of joyfulness in faith.  As a young person who quickly forgot about herself in order to serve others she reminds us that many young people feel the need to do likewise.  There is a tremendous generosity in the young, and this must be encouraged.  Our culture today tells young people that in order to satisfy themselves and be who they are meant to be they have to look after themselves, fulfill their own desires.  The Christian faith, and St Teresa teaches otherwise: it is in giving of themselves that the young find themselves.

One of St Teresa's sayings was "I am God's" - realising that she was a child of God but also one called to serve God and to accept from him the wonderful plan he had for her life - this is the message we need to communicate to our young today. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Rocky Road To...

The Church of England is all in a tizzy.  The synod is debating whether or not to ordain women bishops.  They have finally made a decision - they're postponing a decision until November, or perhaps even February.  The ladies in ministry are not happy.  Melanie McDonagh has a few interesting things to say. 

The problem is that the traditionalists in the Anglican communion, who do not recognise the validity of the ordination of women, want assurances that they will not be subject to a woman bishop, but have a male bishop, ordained by a male bishop to cater for their pastoral needs.  The women who want to be priests/bishops are not happy with that and do not want the synod to make provision for it - if it does, then they will opt out - the decision to ordain women as bishops must be on their terms and on their terms only.

To be honest I don't see a problem here.  First of all, as a Catholic, I do not consider Anglican orders as valid, so there is no issue of the sacred priesthood here (see explanation here, and Pope Leo XIII's bull Apostolicae Curae).  If the Church of England has decided that women can be ordained priests of their community, then it cannot refuse to ordain them bishops - if they are eligible for two levels of Holy Orders why not the third?  This was all decided when the decision was taken to admit women to the diaconate.  I understand that there is little unity of faith in the Anglican communion now - it seems many doctrines are decided by majority votes by synods, so officially there ends up being varying beliefs in every corner of the community.   At this stage I really do not know what it is that binds them as a communion. 

The traditionalists are going to have to accept the ordination of women bishops and let the C of E get on with it and go wherever it is going.  They are, of course, welcome to come into the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate, where is a central authority and real communion in faith, even if we have members who rebel against it.  The door is open, we will be delighted to welcome them - the Church is renewing, in a new springtime, and their presence and contributions would be most welcome. 

This crisis in the Church of England should serve as a lesson to us: we must maintain the unity of faith and remain true to the teaching of Christ and the authority of the Pope as Vicar of Christ, whom the Holy Spirit guides.   The Church has no authority to ordain women, and this means admit them to Holy Orders be it diaconate, priesthood or the episcopacy, as Blessed John Paul II explained in his letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis which is binding on Catholics who wish to remain in communion with the Church.   For those who do not want to accept it, I'm sure there are denominations out there who would be glad to welcome them into their ranks.

Oh, and to head them off at the pass: for those who say that women were ordained deacons in the early Church - they were not.  Yes, there were women who fulfilled certain roles in the Church and were called deaconesses - but there was no laying on of hands - they were not ordained.  Their chief function was to assist at the baptism of women.  Given that baptism was by total immersion and the candidate was naked, it was not deemed appropriate for men to assist the lady in the baptismal pool - modesty and chastity were paramount, so certain women were on hand to help the female candidate.  Perhaps if we go back to full immersion of naked adults for baptism, the Church may well reintroduce these "deaconesses", but given codes of behaviour now I doubt it - too risky to have naked people running around the Church.

The Feast of Marriage

In Carmel today we celebrate the feast of Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St Therese of the Child Jesus.  In doing so we also celebrate the sacrament of marriage within which these two holy people were sanctified.  Indeed today was chosen as their feast day because it is their wedding anniversary. 

If ever there was a time to celebrate marriage and holy married couples it is these difficult times.  Given the attack on marriage and the legitimacy being according irregular relationship be they heterosexual or homosexual, the example and intercession of a married couple provides us with an antidote and a sign of hope.

When I was doing parish work in New York as a seminarian I befriended a wonderful married couple, Nancy and Jim - they were involved in Marriage Encounter.  They taught me a lot about the sacrament of marriage, and Nancy was always at pains to remind us, and quite rightly too, that the sacrament is lifelong - it isn't a flash of grace after the vows which is never repeated - grace is continually being poured on the couple - each being a minister of grace for the other.  That grace is given to help the couple live as one body and bring forth new life into the world.  It is there to sanctify the couple, as we see in Louis and Zelie, and to make them witnesses to Christ's love for the Church through the sacred bond which unites them.

This is a wonderful theology - a wonderful reality.  This is what we in the Church need to begin to teach again. It is for this reason that marriage is a relationship like no other: it is the only relationship which is a sacrament.   In no other relationship is grace poured out as in that of husband and wife. It goes without saying I am speaking of marriages which are conducted in Church before a priest or deacon.

Blesseds Louis and Zelie were beatified because they were sanctified through their marriage - not because they are the parents of St Therese.  In fact if we look at the writings of St Therese we see that she came to love and live her faith thanks to the teaching and example of her holy parents.  It was Louis and Zelie who are partly responsible for the great holiness of their daughter.  Holy parents can bring Saints into the world (not all the time, some Saintly parents had the cross of irreligious children).  We see other holy parents who have holy offspring - the parents of L'Arche founder Jean Vanier are being considered for beatification and their holiness had an enormous influence on Jean whom many consider to be a saint himself.

Today, then, let us commend to the intercession of Blesseds Louis and Zelie all our married couples, may the Lord sustain them in the sacrament of their marriage.  We pray for those in irregular relationships, that they may be reconciled. We pray for those trying to resist the redefinition of marriage, may this Holy Couple obtain from the Lord the grace to sustain them, give them courage and wisdom, and the skills to touch the hearts of our legislators.

Reliquary containing the bodies of Blesseds Louis and Zelie


Christopher McCamley over at the Catholicus blog has the collect and reading from the Office of Readings for today's feast.  The reading may be of interest to you, it is taken from Blessed Zelie's letters.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"Only Have Faith"

Watch this space!  After all the abuse scandals of the past twenty years, is there about to be a subtle u-turn concerning the legitimacy of paedophilia?

We know that in the Sixties and Seventies various organisations in the West, including some here in Ireland were working towards the normalisation of paedophilia in society.  The American Man Boy Love Association was one of the most prominent of these organisations.  To put it in official language, the aim of these associations was to reduce, or get rid of, the age of consent so as to enable inter-generational sexual contact.  Such opinions were uttered as recently as last year here in Ireland. It was the abuse scandals in the Church which led to a stalling of these organisations lobbying: the public were rightly horrified, so the climate was not favourable to lobbyists.  However, are they getting the campaign cranked up again?

Here is an article on CNN's website by James Cantor asking if paedophiles deserve sympathy?  It is an article looking at the nature-nurture debate.  Chelsea Schilling offers a few reflections on the article here.  The question one might ask: if they are saying someone is born that way, can we assume, then, that it is wrong?  If people begin to answer that question in the affirmative, then interested parties may well be laying the foundation for the new "civil rights issue of this generation".  Watch this space.  We may soon find ourselves trying to argue against the tide of those who believe "minor-attracted" people should be allowed to live as they see fit.

In related news, here's a good article by Michael Kelly on the abuse crisis in Ireland - how canon law was not the problem - it was not to blame for the Church in Ireland's pitiful response to child abuse, but rather its being ignored.   It was the liberal attitude that rules and laws do not matter anymore that created a climate in which a false view of love and compassion neutralised the Church's strict laws and punishments due to offenders. 

And here's another example of secularists's tolerance with regard to those who disagree with them.  Jane Pitt, Brad Pitt's mother, is pro-life and pro-marriage, as are many millions of Americans. She expresses her opinion, as is her right in a democracy, but she is attacked, reviled and even threatened, and the media hang her out to dry and paint her as a bigot.   Jane said that she will not be voting for Barack Obama because he is pro-gay marriage and pro-abortion (which he is) and she advised Christians not to dismiss Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon (which is correct and fair).   Journalism worthy of Pravda during the darkest days of Soviet oppression.

I was in a book store yesterday and I saw the pornographic novel Fifty Shades of Grey was number one in the store's bestseller chart.  I have heard a few debates about the novels and it seems some of our secular feminists have no problem with them - the books tell the story of what is, in all intents a purposes, an abusive relationship in which a man uses a woman for his own pleasure.  Some would say it is not abusive since the woman consents: well, that's the subject of the debates.  Pia de Solenni has a few interesting points to make on this issue.

And here is an interesting article on democracy, tyrants and the role of constitutions in keeping public order.  In recent years we have come to see constitutions are pliable - they can be changed.  Of course they can be amended; but as they are, we need to be careful and ask the simple question: in changing parts of a constitution are we undermining the whole?  If, as Fr Schall in this article points out, a constitution is there to help keep public order, can we constantly subject it to human whims which may, in the end, create disorder and chaos?  Have we not been a little flippant with the constitution in Ireland in recent years?  The present government has initiated a constitutional reform process in which a number of amendments will be considered among them gay marriage and the abolition of the upper house of parliament (this, I think, is a bad idea too - reform the Senate, make it more democratic, but do not abolish it - we need an upper chamber to keep an eye on the lower).

Fr Schall also reminds us of what Plato and Aristotle teach us - something which is undeniably true today because we can see it happening before our eyes: "[A] tyrant arises out of a democracy when the citizens have little or no inner principle of order other than what they will for themselves. The tyrant becomes the “leader of the people” and, finally, their master. He can impose on them his cure for their well-being. But he is seen as a savior because the people, no longer in contact with the rationale of their own tradition, have little else in their souls with which to judge him. Hence, the loyalty and enthusiasm [to] follow the “leader.”" The sidelining of religion to the private sphere coupled with the establishment of an secular "church" and a selfish concentration on individualism and personal desires is a perfect breeding ground for tyrants.

And today is the feast of St Benedict, patron of Europe.   A man who helped preserve the Christian faith in Europe, and the best of European culture and civilisation with it, he is a worthy patron of these times.  We pray that he will watch over all of us and help us in our needs; given the issues above, we certainly need his intercession.  One thing the Holy Patriarch teaches us is that we must never lose hope. Looking at the attack on the Church, and indeed on what is best in humanity, I see the devil at work, and he seems to be desperate.  He must know something great is coming, a great flowering of faith, and he is doing what he can to stop it.  As followers of Christ we must always remember that the victory is already won.  So we must not be afraid and we must have confidence.

Here's a video on Pope Benedict's visit to the tomb of St Benedict in 2009 - the Holy Father has some interesting things to say:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Time To Taze...?

You've got to love the guys over at Creative Minority Report - the Archbald brothers - there is always something interesting on their blog.  Well, today is no different. As I was briefly catching up on news on the net I discovered this article from Matthew Archbald - an overzealous tambourine player had to tazed to get her to stop her frenzied banging away during a service!  

I kid you not!   Reading it I was just thinking of those Masses I have offered when I had to endure the craziest musical inventions and raging cacophonies - if only someone had had a tazer!  I think many of my brother priests will understand my sentiments.  I love Matthew's advice for dealing with the folk group musicians:
"But perhaps we shouldn't allow this unfortunate and unique incident to go to waste. Perhaps we should make it so that some suspect it's not so...unique. I'm not saying we do anything like this but maybe a lot of us should just print out this article and hand it out to the folk musicians at your Church service who make the Mass about them. Hand it out to them and just nod while backing away slowly. And then have the usher with the lazy eye stand behind them and reach into a non-descript brown bag every time they start "expressing their individuality" with their tambourine. (Please remember to print it out in a large font because a lot of these folks were in their prime in the 1960's so they don't see as well as they used to.)"
Matthew also an interesting post on tolerance: an atheist who describes himself as only interested in justice and tolerance, is annoyed at all the religiousity.  Yep, that sounds like tolerance alright.

Catching up on news: more serious stuff.  Michael Kelly of The Irish Catholic had a report last week on Fine Gael's plans to legalise abortion in Ireland.  They had promised not to do so in their election campaign, but since taking up the reins of power, they have broken promises left, right and centre.  At one time the main political parties in Ireland were divided by many things - the Civil War had no little part to play in those divisions.  But they were also united in a number of areas and respect for human life was one of them.  Twenty or thirty years ago each party had its prominent pro-life figures.  Today, there are few, if any. 

Well if Fine Gael brings abortion into this country it will bring a curse on our heads, and for that they will be remembered in infamy.  Enda Kenny, the Taoiseach, and James Reilly, Minister for Health, will be forever remembered as the men who sacrificed the lives of innocent Irish children to satisfy the culture of death so beloved by our permissive secularist individualist ideologues. It is time for the pro-life grassroots members of Fine Gael to make their voices heard. Ironically we still hear Fine Gael ministers talk about "children first": Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Children, and Alan Shatter, Minister for Justice, are bringing in an Act to protect children, criminalising the Seal of Confession: will they support an Act that deprives the most vulnerable of our children, the unborn, of their very lives?  Will it be children or abortion first?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Our Brave New Ireland

Last year Britain faced one of its most serious challenges to public order in a generation (or two) when riots broke out all over England.  Supposedly the response to an alleged racist incident, it was quickly seen to be an anarchic melee where people took the opportunity to commit acts of vandalism, break into shops and steal whatever they could lay their hands on.  People died as human beings turned to brutes and savaged anyone who got in their way.

Last Saturday at a concert in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, young people ran amok high on drugs and alcohol, having sex in public and attacking each other.  Three people are dead, nine were stabbed, a number had bottles broken over their heads and numerous others had to be treated for a variety of injuries, including one young man who was so badly beaten he cannot now recall whether he was punched or kicked by a crowd of rowdies. A young woman is also missing.

In Britain, the political elite stood on their perches and scratched their heads, our lot here will do the same.  "What happened?" we'll hear concerned parties ask, the same people who helped create the very anarchy that broke out on the streets and in the park.  What happened?  Their permissive political, sexual and societal agenda with its emphasis on untrammeled individual freedom and attempts to distort the natural law and morality - the very "social revolution" that has been so dear to the hearts of the 60's generation and their ideological offspring - that's what happened.  A generation of naive, anti-Christian ideologues who ignored the reality of God and the existence of original sin, now have had the door swung back in their faces and they are clueless as to why it has happened.

Compare all this with an interview that took place on Pat Kenny's radio show this morning (Donum Vitae has a post with a link to the discussion).  The topic was gay marriage and Kenny had our friend David Quinn of the Iona Institute debating with Senator Ivana Bacik.  Bacik is perhaps one of our most liberal and anti-Christian public representatives.    Bacik, taking the cue from her party leader, Eamonn Gilmore who said that the issue of gay marriage was the civil rights issue of our time, was calling for gay marriage to become a reality in Ireland.  David Quinn was pointing out the damage such a measure would cause, not merely to society, but to the children of our country.  As always David quoted statistics as evidence to support his argument and, as always, Bacik ignored them and made her demands.

When asked by David and then Kenny, was it not the ideal that a child should grow up with their father and mother, Bacik's response just dismissed it - as long as children had "access" to adults of both sexes they would be fine.    Here is the very attitude which is leading to the collapse of our society - an ideological position which creates unstable relationships which benefit only adults in search of fulfilment and pleasure and says: "The kids will be OK". 

Well, the kids are not OK, the kids are miserable, unsocialised, looking for love and finding only confusion.  The kids see adults making gods of their individual freedom and desires and so they aim to do the same.  Accepting no responsibility, they do what they want to do and will not allow anyone stand in their way, after all isn't that what the adults to whom they have "access" teach them by their own behaviour?  Permissive secular individualism is a failure and it is creating a dangerous society.  What started with the coupling of free love of the sixties and the ideological ranting of the left, will end in the birth of a monster.

As serious students of history will tell you, history repeats itself, and those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.  Civilisations rose and they fell.  Rome, once a great empire, politically and culturally, fell to the barbarian which overran it.  Decadent Rome was, by then, no match for the hordes when they came bashing their tree trucks at the city gates.  It is a lesson for every civilization.  In conversations with history buffs over the years I have asked, when this civilisation falls, who will be the conquering barbarian?  Some suggested it would be the Muslims: a new Islamic empire would rise where the West once had been.  I'm not so sure.  I think the barbarian is within - we saw them in the UK last August and in the park on Saturday.  Our decadent civilisation need not fear the hordes outside the West, they are being created from within by a dangerous social experiment.

And one might ask, where is the Church in all of this?  Well, as we see from history the Church converted the barbarian and this gave rise to a new flowering of civilisation symbolised most potently by Charlemagne.  Can the Church convert the new barbarian?  Well, we might have a chance.  After all these barbarians have had little or no exposure to Christianity - the last two generations have been badly catechised, and the ideology of these times tells them they don't need God or religion, but yet deep in their hearts they are starving for something - for meaning, for the spiritual.  That hunger will grow when drugs, alcohol and sex lose their effects, when they start asking questions and the adults they have access to will not be able to answer them.   If this civilisation ends in ruins, can the Church like Our Lord walk through the broken tombs and tame the demoniacs?

I think that is what Blessed John XXIII may have seen in his calling the Second Vatican Council, what Blessed John Paul II saw as he promulgated the New Evangelisation - what Pope Benedict XVI sees as he teaches from the Chair of Peter.  The Church must be ready and full of evangelical zeal, not to waste time on fighting with the ideologues, but to present the vision of Jesus Christ and the salvation he offers humanity - to present the vision of a restored humanity at one with God in the communion of the Church - the family of faith, to the generations that are coming.  

I'm not saying we don't challenge the establishment or resign our position in the public square: we do not, we should continue to be a thorn in the side of those who try to silence us.  But we need also to stand back, take stock, and begin to plan our campaign.  We have not heard it in a long time, but, pushing all the nonsense language to one side, the Church is in the business of saving souls, and that's what she should be planning to do.  This is not heaven down here, but we need to start rebuilding a civilisation of faith and love here and now - a place, a community to capture the attention and hearts of the barbarians.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Martyred By The Mafia

Among the decrees approved by the Holy Father last week, as the Venerable Fulton Sheen took the limelight, another great witness to faith was recognised: Fr Pino Puglisi.  Fr Pino was murdered in 1993 by the Mafia in Sicily - his murder has been recognised as martyrdom by the Church and, I am open to correction on this, he will become the first victim of the Mafia to be beatified.

Fr Pino was born in Palermo, Sicily, on the 15th September 1937.  Entering the seminary in 1953 he was ordained priest in 1960.  He was appointed as curate to a couple of parishes, was chaplain to a congregation of sisters, and worked as a teacher.  He had a particular charism for working with young people.

At this time the Second Vatican Council was in full swing, and Fr Pino took a great interest in the proceedings.  Like Karol Wojtyla in Krakow, he made sure that the people in his care received the documents from the Council and were informed as to what was really going on, as opposed to the emergence of the "spirit of Vatican II interpretation". 

In 1970 he was appointed pastor of a small village, Godrano, a village torn apart by vendettas.  In the eight years he served there he managed to bring warring families together and, by the time he left, reconciliation and peace had been restored.   He worked with a number of movements in the Church including Catholic Action, Teams of Our Lady, and groups working for peace and civil rights in the face of Mafia dominance.

In 1990 he was appointed pastor of San Gaetano in Brancaccio, and here his work with the victims of the Mafia intensified.  He denounced the crimes of the Mafia and the collusion between politicians and the Mafia.  He was soon receiving threats and intimidations as the Mafia tried to silence him.  He refused to browbeaten.  On the 15th September 1993, his 56th birthday, Fr Pino was killed by the Mafia in his rectory. His killers were eventually found, put on trial and convicted; it emerged that the priest's ministry was the motivation for the killing.

Fr Pino's death was seen as a martyrdom by the people of Sicily.  His Cause was opened in 1999, and last week Pope Benedict formally recognised him as a martyr.  We await the announcement of the date of his beatification.

Here's a video of a brief interview with Fr Pino in Italian:

Monday, July 2, 2012

Inching Their Way To The Truth

I suppose I should use the metric system rather than the Imperial, not because the metric is modern, but because a millimetre is much smaller than an inch, and because Yad Vashem, Israel's national memorial to those who died in the Nazi holocaust, have only moved a millimetre in response to the now overwhelming evidence that proves that the black legend about Pope Pius XII is not true.

Those curating the exhibition in the memorial have revised the part of the exhibit dealing with Pius and the controversy surrounding his wartime record.  But the exhibit is still factually misleading and untrue, relying on ideological criticisms rather than actual historical evidence.  They need to listen to fellow Jew Gary Krupp of the Pave the Way Foundation, but so far they are resisting.  But at least, I suppose, even though it is a tiny move, it is a move in the right direction.

Personally I believe this issue will become like the Crusades, the Inquisition and the witch-burnings.  Genuine scholars will know the truth, write about it and present the complex reality which is very different from the biased history popular writers and ideologues peddle, but most people will not know the truth and take for granted that the black legends are true.

So the Holy Father should just go ahead and beatify Pius.  The Vatican conducted its own meticulous research, delaying the promulgation of the decree of heroic virtue for two years in case any of the accusations might happen to be true.  The records dealing with the Pontiff's wartime years will be available soon - the cataloguing is almost complete and then scholars can go in and research as much as they like.  I wonder, will the most vociferous of Pius's critics revise their opinion when (if??) they go in to examine the documents, or will they just claim that the Vatican is hiding the real evidence?  And then will there be more books?  Nothing sells books like good old Vatican cover ups be they real or imaginary. 

And as they peddle the lies about Pius, the world ignores the horrors which are taking place today, and this has to be one of the most awful: genetically modified people.  Yes, I'm not talking about GM foods here - they have moved on to people.  According to the Daily Mail thirty genetically modified babies have been born - thirty healthy babies - I'm sure the body count is higher than that as scientists worked to perfect the process.

Two of these GM babies have genes from three parents - two women and a man!  I would echo the words of John Smeaton of SPUC who said: "'One has tremendous sympathy for couples who suffer infertility problems. But this seems to be a further illustration of the fact that the whole process of in vitro fertilisation as a means of conceiving babies leads to babies being regarded as objects on a production line."  Indeed worse than that: scientists, people, now think they are masters of life, that they can create human beings according to they want them to be, their traits, their looks, their ablities.  This will ultimately enslave humanity to the will of the strong.  Where have we heard ideas like that before? 

I think people need to read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein which deals with the whole issue of man trying to create life - it causes more problems that it solves.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A New Solemnity

A new celebration for our diocese today - new, not in the person commemorated, but in the status of the commemoration. 

In Ireland the 1st July is the memoria of St Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop and Martyr (1629-1681).  Given that today is a Sunday the memoria would normally be passed over.  In our diocese Meath, and in the Archdiocese of Armagh, the commemoration is usually that of a feast: Oliver was a Meath priest who became Archbishop of Armagh. 

Well today, for the first time, these two dioceses celebrate a Solemnity in honour of St Oliver, the Sunday gives way to the feast.  This is unusual, though the norms provide for it.  So it was red vestments, homilies on St Oliver and veneration of his relics in both dioceses.  St Oliver's head is preserved in Drogheda, just a few miles away: there is a Mass and procession there later in the afternoon.

Oliver was a remarkable man.  Born in Loughcrew, Oldcastle, Co. Meath, in 1629, during the persecution; he left Ireland in 1647 for Rome where he studied for the priesthood and was ordained in 1654.   He was appointed a professor of theology at the College of Propaganda Fide where he served until 1669 when he was appointed Archbishop of Armagh.  Due to spies in Rome, it was thought best not to consecrate him in the city, and so as he was on his way back to Ireland, he was consecrated bishop in Ghent on the 30th November 1669.

Archbishop Oliver arrived back in Ireland  on the 7th March 1670, and he began nine years of intense labour, trying to run and reform the Church in Ireland which, when it was not being persecuted, was lax.  He faced many difficulties, considerable opposition - particularly from other Irish bishops and priests, and endured many hardships.   "Implicated" in 1678 in the fictitious "Popish plot" invented by Titus Oates, Oliver went on the run, but refused to leave his flock.  He was betrayed by a priest and eventually arrested in 1679.  Aware that he would get a fair trial in Ireland, the English authorities had him transported to London to stand before a jury that would convict him regardless of the evidence. 

Following a travesty of a trial noted for many perjuries, Oliver was condemned to death in June 1681.  On the 1st July he was brought to Tyburn where he was hanged, drawn and quartered.  He would be the last Catholic to be martyred at Tyburn. 

His body was buried first in St Giles Churchyard, London, and then secretly taken to Lamspringe in Germany into the care of the Benedictine Order - St Oliver had become a Benedictine Oblate while in prison.  His head was taken by friends who had witnessed his martyrdom - it finally came into the care of the Dominican Order.  When the Benedictines returned to England, they took St Oliver's body with them and it is now preserved in Downside Abbey in Somerset.  The head was obtained from the Dominicans in 1921 and enshrined in a diocesan church in Drogheda.  A large bone relic was given to his native parish in Oldcastle.

St Oliver was beatified in 1920 and canonised in 1975.  He is the only Irish person to be canonised since the Council of Trent.

Head of St Oliver Plunkett in Drogheda

St Oliver's tomb in Downside Abbey

Reliquary in Lamspringe, Germany, containing major relics of St Oliver

Relic of St Oliver in the parish church of his native Oldcastle

In news: things are hotting up in Liechtenstein as the abortion issue seems to be deciding the principality's fate.  The citizens are considering stripping the Prince of his powers of veto in order to bring abortion into the country.  The Hereditary Prince Alois is threatening to leave the country if they do so - he is willing to lose his throne rather than approve the killing of the unborn. 

If the Princely family leaves, then the tiny state is in serious trouble: the economy depends on the monarch who owns the biggest bank, and the citizens's prosperity may well be a thing of the past.  Well, if they want abortion then they deserve whatever comes to them.  

Given that the Prince is a man of principle and authentic Christian faith, a country looking for a monarch could do worse than invite the House of Liechtenstein in.  I wonder, would this dear, jaded republic consider a swap?  We'll take the Prince and Liechtenstein can have Enda. 

Just in: the citizens of Liechtenstein have voted to allow the Prince keep his veto

Results just out show that 76.1% rejected the proposal to strip him of the veto in order to bring abortion into the principality. 

Is this a vote for life?  Possibly not, but rather a pragmatic one - if the Princely family left, the country would go back to being a tiny backwater rather than a major economic centre.  But, at least the Prince has a chance to try and turn the hearts of his people back to respect for the unborn.