Friday, July 20, 2012

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!


  1. Happy anniversary, Father. Enjoy the holidays, and take a rest - you work hard enough. Although it would great for you to get some books out. I'll put an order in for your first one!

  2. Happy anniversary father. What a nice day to become a priest. Enjoy the break and don't overdo it on the ipad. Happy feast day.

  3. I hope you had a lovely day Fr. John and that you enjoy your holidays. You certainly earned them. Don't worry about purgatory. God will bring you straight up, otherwise how will you ever squeeze the rest of us in! Happy anniversary Father.

  4. Fr. John,

    Happy anniversary from us.

  5. Interesting bit about Holland there. The culture of death made to look like a culture of caring. I wonder who is behind it, the father of deception perhaps?