Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Greetings

Every blessing to you all
on this great Solemnity
of the Resurrection of the Lord.
The Lord has truly risen!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Shroud Authentic?

One of the last things Pope Emeritus Benedict did before abdicating was to order a brief exposition of the Shroud of Turin for Holy Saturday.  Although it will not be a major public event, I think only a selected number of people will actually view it - groups of sick people and the young among them, Benedict's order includes live transmission of the exposition and a visual recording so the whole world can join in. 
This comes at an appropriate time, not only because it is the Triduum, but a new investigation by scientists at the University of Padua has revealed that the Shroud dates from a period between 300 BC and 400 AD, increasing the chances of its being authentic.   This overturns the carbon dating tests which dated the cloth to the Middle Ages.  This is good news.  While our faith does not depend on the authenticity of any relic, the Shroud offers us a profound meditation on the passion and death of the Lord.  It is also a frontier where science and faith work together, undermining the secularist myth that the two are incompatible an that the Church rejects scientific research. 
In other news: there was an extraordinary statement from the Irish Bishops in response to the government's plans to introduce gay marriage in Ireland.  The Bishops in their submission to the Constitutional Convention (a group of people who have been empowered by the government to look at the Constitution and see what needs updating, scrapping or rewriting) they have indicated that if marriage is redefined and gay marriage introduced, the Catholic Church will no longer assist or facilitate the civil aspect of Catholic weddings
At the moment we priests conduct the civil aspects for those couples we marry in Catholic ceremonies - that will cease if the government goes ahead with its plans.  Apart from a taking a stance, it will inconvenience the State: we save the government money as we cover most weddings.   If the Church withdraws the State will have to provide more registrars as Catholic couples will have to attend a separate civil ceremony as well as the Catholic one.
I note the media, as ever, stretch to present the story in as negative a light as possible for the Church - I note the Independent describes the action as a "boycott".  It is not boycotting, it is no longer extending a favour to the State, one which, given the growing call for complete separation of Church and State, may well be long overdue.  
Despite its aggressive attitude towards the Church in recent years, the State actually depends on the Catholic Church in many areas of life.  For one thing, it depends on our charitable works to help the poor.   Working with a Catholic charity I often come across government officials sending poor people to us to supplement their income when government benefits fall short of the needs of individuals and families.   You don't hear about that in parliament.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ireland: Pro-Life Pilgrimage

I got an email a while ago from our chancery announcing that the Archbishop of Tuam will host a Day for Prayer for the Unborn at Knock Shrine on Saturday 4th May.  It will be a day of prayer and not a political event.  It would be great to get as many as possible to Knock for that pilgrimage, and to remind those that go that there will be no lobbying.   Pass the word on and start organising groups. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Church, Her Poor And Her Art

Pope Francis's election has reignited the old chestnut that the Church should get rid of her possessions, in particular her art, and give the money to the poor.   This suggestion tends to pop up a great deal, particularly among critics of the Church.  Well, William Oddie of the Catholic Herald has his view on the question and it is well worth reading.  It is a view I would largely agree with.  However, I think I'll explain my position lest I be accused of not loving the poor.
First of all if the Catholic Church was an organisation that simple horded wealth and did not help the poor, then certainly the suggestion would be one to take seriously.  However, she is one of the largest charitable organisations in the world (if not the largest).  Every year the Church and her many organisations spend billions on care for the poor.  Millions of her members are dedicated to working with the poor, and all of her religious, regardless of the particular charism of their congregations, engage in some form of charitable work usually making sacrifices to do so.  These same religious often work without pay, and those who do get a wage for their work go far beyond what is required.  The Church cares for Catholics and non-Catholics - she seeks to help anyone who needs help, she makes no distinction - she simply sees the need and responds to it as generously as she can.
In this the Church does more than her critics in her work.  Indeed she usually ends up caring for those that society rejects or polite and sophisticated society does not even see.  Most of her work is hidden because she does not want to draw attention to her charitable organisations, except when she is trying to raise money for her poor.  Someone estimated that the Vatican would get $17 billion for her art: a mere drop in the ocean: that sum would not feed all those in the Church's care for long.
Secondly, one has to ask the question - does the art serve a purpose in the Church?  Well, if we are concerned with mere financial matters, the answer is yes.  The Vatican art collections raise money for the Church's mission.  Like every other organisation the Church needs an income - she cannot exist on fresh air.  Now the excessively pious may suggest that she should rely on God's providence, and she does, but we need to ask the question: how does God's providence work?  Does God shower money down from heaven every morning like the manna in the desert?  No, he doesn't.  He will inspire people to help through donations, but he will also provide the means for the Church to raise money herself.  But God also expects the Church, as he expects all of us, to earn our keep simply because he does not want us to become loafers.  Laziness and expecting continual handouts is not the Christian way: the Church has to earn money too.  So how?  Many ways. One of them is to take the gifts of art which benefactors have given to the Church down the centuries and put them in a museum and charge tourists a fee to see them: that fee is income which will help the Church in her mission, pay the wages of those she employs, pay various bills that come up and then, with what's left over, help the poor.
If the Church did not have this income, then she would rely even more on our donations.  So next time a Catholic says the Church should sell everything and give it to the poor ask them how much they personally contributed to the upkeep of the Church - how much did they put in the Peter's Pence envelope.  When I ask that question, people tend to decline to answer and the conversation is quickly changed, or ended all together.
A third point, and an important one.  In yesterday's Gospel we read of St Mary of Bethany's anointing of Jesus.  As the fragrance of the ointment filled the room we hear that Judas was complaining - he saw the adoration but could see it only in financial terms.  So too with the critics - they see art and they only see money. In their eyes, it seems, the artistic patrimony of the world is about money, and perhaps only those with money can own these works.  Working with artists and learning from them I see that while they need to eat and live, ultimately their work is not about money - it is about things much more transcendental. It is about expression and exploration; it is about God and humanity; it is about beauty and suffering.  These are things beyond finance - to reduce art to objects to be bought and sold is to diminish it - the real place of art, ultimately, is not in an auctioneer's gallery, but in a public one where people can come and experience it; where they can listen to what the artist is saying, and to learn something about God, the world and ourselves.   To see art in terms of money is to be another Judas who not only betrayed Christ, but betrayed basic humanity in selling that which was beyond price.   W. B. Yeats used to call such people "philistines".
In preserving her artistic works - many of which are gifts, the Church first of all seeks to give glory to God - many of the works are actually artistic works of praise.  She also wishes to encourage the work of artists and ensure that this means of expression continues - hence she commissions works (in doing so she helps artists earn a livelihood - many artists are poor too).  The Church also wants to ensure that these works are available for people to appreciate regardless of their financial status.  When you listen to artists speak about their work  it is obvious they do not want their pieces to be hidden away in the private collections of the rich - and that's where Michelangelo's Pieta and various other works would end up if the Vatican sold them.  The rich should not have a monopoly on the world's art - just because they have money doesn't mean they can become the sole possessors of beauty.  Too often beauty is seen as the preserve of the wealthy, and ugliness the inheritance of the poor.  The Church does not believe that: beauty is for all.  Too many works of art are hidden away in the mansions of the rich, at least the Vatican holds her works so all the world can see them.
And while I'm on the point - should our churches be beautiful?  Often connected with the demand that the Church sells her art, is that our churches are too resplendent - they should be plainer, dare I say, uglier?  We are told that our beautiful churches offend the poor.  I think this reveals an existentialist problem: some cannot cope with beauty, or at least beauty in the service of God.   We are told that authentic, honest worship of God is naked, bare, unadorned. Well if that is the case, then our worship would be inhuman, because it is in our nature to offer what is beautiful to those we love.  If we love God, then God's house will be a place of beauty, where we praise by our words, our actions and our works - and our artistic works would be included as works of praise.  If we resent making our places of worship beauty, then we are envious of God: we do not want to give him what we want to keep for ourselves.  Remember, during the Reformation as the reformers denuded the churches to make them less Catholic, less "ornate", we can ask: Where did the art and precious vessels go?  Straight into the homes of the rich and powerful: they took the beautiful things from God's house in the name of reform and put them in their own.  So much for spiritual renewal; I'd call that stealing.  And what about the poor?  Well, with no monastries to help them and the Catholic Church persecuted, they ended up on the streets.
No, the Church should keep her art, and she will continue her worldwide mission helping the poor and outcasts: it's not either/or, but both. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Prayers Please

Could I ask your prayers for some intentions please?  An actress is gravely ill and needs people to pray for her - perhaps you might pray to St Genesius for her.
Also a prayer for someone who is ill and for their family members who are trying to come to terms with it. 
Thank you. 

Benedict: The Suffering Christ In Our Midst

Pope Francis Pope Benedict Castel Gandolfo Two Popes meeting.
Pope Francis continues to charm the world with his simple and holy ways.  Though I have not had time to blog in the last week, I have been watching the discussion around the Holy Father and it seems the political model seems to the only one many use to interpret the new Pope and his actions.  It still hasn't dawned on people yet that Francis is like Benedict who was like John Paul II.  One commentator hit the nail on the head, though I do not think they were speaking positively, when they said that Pope Francis revealed a progressive way of being traditionally orthodox.  Yep, I think that sums it up well. 
The Holy Father's style seems to be upsetting many: thankfully the myth of the "Carnival" jibe has been put to rest, Francis is just a simpler man when it comes to liturgy: this is not a condemnation or rowing back on Pope Benedict's reforms - they will continue, and should continue.  Francis has a different mandate, if I can say that - the liturgical reform has begun, now another reform has to happen and Francis will grab that nettle as Benedict grabbed the liturgical one.  But that said we must remember that a Pope is not an elected official who comes into office to do a particular job.  Yes, each Pope has his talents and abilities, and these will be used by the Holy Spirit in the service of the Church at a particular time to deal with particular problems.  But there is more to the Pope: he has been raised up to lead the Church, to confirm us in our faith and to be Peter in this time.  While it is valid to talk about reform of the Curia etc etc, Francis must be more than that - he is Peter.  He is our Holy Father.  And we thank God for him - the Lord has, once again, given us a wonderful pastor.
I watched with deep sadness the Holy Father's visit to Pope Emeritus Benedict last Satuday - I was stunned when I saw Benedict - he has failed even in the few weeks since his abdication.  He is a very frail man - I think the conspiracy theorists can give up their musings on the resignation: Benedict did not hide anything from us, he is going down and he knows it.  I could not help think that we may not have Benedict for much longer.   Reflecting on his papacy, I see what those eight years did to him - he has suffered, and he is suffering still. 
Talking with friends last week about Benedict's papacy we all agreed that perhaps part of Benedict's call in being Pope was suffering - he was to "take the hit" as the Church tried to crawl out of scandals and deal with various crises.  It was said that Benedict may well be "Benedict the martyr".  In the minds of many this holy and learned man, who always tried to do what was right, who tried to deal with the abuse crisis and take abusing priests out of pastoral appointments and out of the priesthood, was pilloried and blamed for the crisis.  Our own Taoiseach here blamed Benedict for cover up.  We know this was untrue, but those who seek to benefit from the Church's crisis don't care about truth, and sometimes those who have been hurt are, understandably, unable to see the truth in its fullness because of their pain.  In all this Benedict took the blame though he was innocent, and this has now taken its toll on him.  I believe it may well cost him his life as the burden of the Church and the difficulties claim their victim.  In this I think Benedict is Christ-like.  It was because of this that we agreed Benedict may well be Benedict the martyr.
One of the group suggested that in the last three Popes we see a fulfilment of St John Bosco's vision.  In this vision he saw one Pope who fell, but got up; but fell again  but did not get up; and a successor who, in the barque of Peter, led the Church through the pillars of the Eucharist and Our Lady to safe haven from storms and attacks.  John Paul II fell - his assassination attempt, but got back up; perhaps the second fall represents another Pope who is engaged in the same battle as the first: according to my friend this is Benedict who has fallen and will not get up; his successor Francis will lead the Church through the ever increasing storms and attacks.  I do not know - Don Bosco's vision, while I believe it is true, never identifies who the Popes were, and perhaps the vision represents the role of the Pope in times of crisis and persecution.
We should continue to pray for Benedict - this was his only request of us as he resigned: to pray for him, as he promised to pray and offer his sufferings for us.  Now, hidden with Christ in God, he continues to carry the cross.  Many of us thought he would have a blissful retirement, praying, reading his books, taking his walk - not so - now he suffers in silence, away from our eyes.   This man will be a great Saint!   
I will not be surprised when the news of his death comes: then we will mourn openly as now we mourn inwardly for losing him.  But then, I hope, Pope Francis will open the Cause for his Beatification, perhaps even dispensing the requirement to wait five years.  And I agree with those who say that perhaps one day Benedict may well be declared a Doctor of the Church.  But we shall see.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The New Pope's Defence Of Marriage

I want to share something with you which I found while doing some research on our new Holy Father.  It is a letter he wrote to four Carmelite monasteries in his diocese requesting prayers in the struggle against the Argentine government's plan to redefine marriage.  It is a good indication of his commitment to the Church's moral teachings.
22nd June 2010
Dear Sisters,

I write this letter to each one of you in the four Monasteries of Buenos Aires. The Argentine people must face, in the next few weeks, a situation whose result may gravely harm the family. It is the bill on matrimony of persons of the same sex.
The identity of the family, and its survival, are in jeopardy here: father, mother, and children. The life of so many children who will be discriminated beforehand due to the lack of human maturity that God willed them to have with a father and a mother is in jeopardy. A clear rejection of the law of God, engraved in our hearts, is in jeopardy.
I recall words of Saint Thérèse when she speaks of the infirmity of her childhood. She says that the envy of the Devil tried to extort her family after her older sister joined the Carmel. Here, the envy of the Devil, through which sin entered the world, is also present, and deceitfully intends to destroy the image of God: man and woman, who receive the mandate to grow, multiply, and conquer the earth. Let us not be naive: it is not a simple political struggle; it is an intention [which is] destructive of the plan of God. It is not a mere legislative project (this is a mere instrument), but rather a "move" of the father of lies who wishes to confuse and deceive the children of God.
Jesus tells us that, in order to defend us from this lying accuser, he will send us the Spirit of Truth. Today, the Nation [patria], before this situation, needs the special assistance of the Holy Ghost that may place the light of Truth amid the shadows of error; it needs this Advocate who may defend us from the enchantment of so many sophisms with which this bill is being justified, and which confuse and deceive even people of good will.
That is why I turn to you and ask from you prayer and sacrifice, the two invincible weapons which Saint Thérèse confessed to have. Cry out to the Lord that he may send his Spirit to the Senators who are to place their votes. That they may not do it moved by error or by circumstantial matters, but rather according to what the natural law and the law of God tell them. Pray for them, for their families; that the Lord may visit, strengthen, and console them. Pray that they may do great good for the Nation.
This bill will be discussed in the Senate after July 13. Let us look towards Saint Joseph, to Mary, the Child, and let us ask with fervor that they will defend the Argentine family in this moment. Let us recall what God himself told his people in a time of great anguish: "this war is not yours, but God's". That they may succour, defend, and accompany us in this war of God.
Thank you for what you will do in this struggle for the Nation. And, please, I beg you, pray for me also. May Jesus bless you, and may the Blessed Virgin protect you.
Card. Jorge Mario Bergoglio s.j., Archbishop of Buenos Aires

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Pope of Christ's Poor

Our new Holy Father certainly has an impressive record.  His simplicity and humility apart, he has been a staunch defender of human life, Catholic morality and social justice issues.  He is, in fact, a real Catholic, one who transcends the usual political tags of conservative and liberal: like Benedict and John Paul II, he is orthodox.  He would be considered "conservative" on moral issues, but "liberal" on social justice issues: that's just Catholic.  He also knows what is right and wrong when it comes to the struggle for social justice - he is no fan of liberation theology.  He is heroic - he has taken on the secularist government of Argentina in defence of human life and the family: he was publicly rebuked by the president.  Indeed the media have started to attack him already - that can only be good!
There are many things to delight us in this holy Pope.  First of all he sees holiness as important - the aim of the Christian life, and like his two predecessors he preaches this holiness first by the example of his life - just like his namesake St Francis.  This is wonderful because this is at the heart of the reforms of Vatican II: the universal call to holiness.  Pope Francis continues the Council's teaching in this regard.  In terms of the Popes we have had for the last 150 years, Pope Francis is a man of tremendous personal holiness: we have another Saint, my friends!
Secondly, he understands the Church's spiritual traditions.  He is a Jesuit, but not in the mould of modern Jesuits who eschew traditional spirituality, he is a simple son of St Ignatius, adhering to his founder's teaching and spirituality.  In his years as a superior in the Society he sought to bring his brother Jesuits back to the charism of their founder.  He made many of them unhappy with this.  We may well see a reform of the Jesuits on the cards.
In terms of this traditional spirituality, in Pope Francis we see the faith of the poor.  You do not hang around the simple poor without seeing the value of their faith and devotion: they are at the heart of real traditional Catholicism.  Too often in recent times traditional Catholicism has been associated with the Tridentine Mass and its various liturgies, but it is bigger than that: the holiness of the poor - that is traditional Catholicism and if we are to get the liturgy right we need to remember that piety.  I was deeply touched by Francis's prayers on the balcony - how simple, how devout, how appropriate.  And the people responded: an Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be for Pope-Emeritus Benedict.
The Holy Spirit is speaking to the Church.  He is not rejecting the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI, He is complimenting it.  As I have said before God is working to a programme and in each of the Popes we see different witnesses who fulfill various missions in the ongoing reform.  I think after Blessed John Paul brought us in and as Benedict taught us, Francis will touch us with his humility and help us see that we must all become Christ's poor.   Indeed he will confound the Church's critics by his own poverty and, perhaps, bring many back.
This will, I think, be a simpler Papacy, perhaps like Blessed John Paul's, though not as dramatic in an external sense.  I believe the young will love him - he will smile and reach out to them and their hearts will melt.   His clothing will be simple: we may not see the vestments and traditional clothing revived under Benedict, but like John Paul he'll be happy with his simple cassock.  That may frighten some who were delighted with all the traditional papal attire coming back, but at the end of the day these things are secondary.  If he keeps Mgr Marini as his master of ceremonies there may be some wonderful clashes ahead, we shall see.  Of course he will have to make changes: he is now Pope and that means he will have to reorient his life and habits.  But that's where humility comes in.  For one thing, he will not be cooking for himself any more - he won't have time!
And note the first appointments in his diary: a visit to Our Lady at St Mary Major's and a visit to Pope-Emeritus Benedict in Castel Gandolfo: a good start.
Anyway, just a few thoughts.  Let us all pray for our new Holy Father: may the Lord bless him abundantly and assist him in the task which has been laid on his shoulders.   

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Our New Holy Father: Pope Francis

Pope Francis I: Celebs Tweet About Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio
We have a Pope!    Pope Francis: the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio - we didn't see that coming.   The poor man looked stunned as he stood on the balcony - he probably cannot believe it.  He asked us to pray for him, let us do so with great joy and devotion.

Spinning The Spin

Sistine Chapel Chimney
I made a mistake last night - I skipped over from EWTN to some secular news channels to see how they were reporting the Black Smoke.  I should have stayed with Ray and the gang.  The language of the BBC, SKY and CNN was negative.  At least I did not pop over to RTE, I had too much sense for that.
The BBC reported that the Cardinals had "failed" to elect a Pope.   It seems they may well be intent on creating a crisis story for the Church.  In fact one tweeter said this morning that the media will try and use the time it takes to elect a Pope and make it feel as if they cannot come up with a candidate and so the Catholic Church is in so much trouble she cannot even get a leader.  Part of the problem is living an age when everything is instant - the media and many today, cannot cope with process, they must have an answer now, today, and not to get one immediately is interpreted, rightly or wrongly, as a sign that there is a problem. 
CNN was better, a little more objective, but then they resorted to the usual cache of issues, particularly women priests.  One reporter was interviewing Cardinal Egan, Emeritus Archbishop of New York, and her line was that the Church is near its end, sunk in a crisis it cannot get out of because she doggedly holds on to old fashioned doctrines.  Poor Cardinal Egan did his best, but I think she was unconvinced.
The media is obsessed with "crisis" - the Church must always be in "crisis".  They list scandals and problems and think the Church will crumble beneath the weight of them.  I think for some this is wishful thinking: they want the Church to crumble, or rather her adherence to Christ's teachings: a neutral, neutered Church would be no problem for them. 
Is the Church in crisis?  Yes and no.  Yes in that she is always in a state of crisis - she is trying to preach the Gospel in age of disbelief, struggling under persecution, while some of her own members resist the Gospel themselves and even sin greviously.  Crisis - yes, perhaps, although I think St Paul puts it better when he says that we are growing, labouring, coming to birth.  
The Church has dealt with some bad situations in the past - the Arian crisis may well have been worse than this, the Reformation was not easy either.  As for crisis Conclaves - that which was called after the death of Pope Pius VI was a crisis Conclave - they could not even meet in Rome and the threat of another imprisoned Pontiff hung over them.  Yet the Church and Papacy emerged triumphant: as Napoleon dragged Pius VII through Paris to humilate him at the imperial coronation, the people of France saw how their Holy Father was being treated and it led to a revival of faith and love of the Pope.  Somehow the Church always comes through, not through her own efforts, but by the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  In faith we can say that this will continue in our time.
As for this election: the process of electing a Pope, as we know, takes time - the Cardinals do not rush into a decision.  We must also understand that a Conclave is in fact a liturgy - some Cardinals have been reminding us of that recently.  During the scrutinies they do not talk to each other, they pray.  They vote, and then as each one presents his vote he prays, there is silence, a time for meditation.  Indeed during the first Conclave of 1978 Cardinal Wojtyla was able to write poetry.  So the Cardinals will not be hasty to accomodate the lunchtime news: they are involved in something important here. The fact that a candidate has to get two-thirds majority also means it will take time. 
So no rush, and no crisis.  If a Conclave lasts a few weeks, then the media can start to talk about a log-jam, but until then, just take it easy boys and girls.  Sit down, read a good book, have a Horlicks and pray with the rest of us.  Constantly spinning the spin must be exhausting.
Now, we'll settle down to watch the chimney.   We have confirmation in our parish today, so that will keep me occupied.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Image News

Well, they got the recipe for the smoke right.  It was very thick and very black: no decision.  we continue to wait and pray.

Conclave Begins

Let us keep our Father Cardinals in our prayers.  They may have the first ballot this evening; if so the result should be seen between 6pm and 7pm.  It will probably be black smoke.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Inside the Salle di Lacrime

Rome Reports has certainly been granted access to those places we often hear of in Papal elections, but never see.  Here they have a video of the Salle di Lacrime - the "Room of Tears" within which the newly elected Pope is clothed in the papal garments for the first time.  As you can see everything is laid out for the new Pope - cassocks, shoes, shirts, rochets, zucchettos, stole and mozetta (the winter one). 

Work Done, All Set


Just over twenty hours to go, and at this stage our prayers, our minds and hearts must be with our Father Cardinals as they prepare to enter the Conclave.  They are aware of the enormous task they have, and no doubt equally aware that God expects them to act in accordance with their conscience, leaving favouritism, politics, media and other influences out, but rather, in prayer, listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying to them.  A difficult task lies ahead, so let us all remember them, and in particular the Cardinals that we have adopted.
That said reflecting on the last couple of weeks I reminded of so many Conclaves in history in which  external political entities tried to control the process.  I think particularly of the veto exercised by Emperors and Kings, I see that groups today are trying to steal a veto for themselves - the most obvious being SNAP in the US who at first blacklisted twelve Cardinals, and then blacklisted the rest as they produced a "terna" of candidates which would be acceptable to them.  I also see the media trying to muscle in, even to strike fear into the hearts of the Cardinals as they resurrect old scandals and bombard the airwaves in an attempt to get the liberal Pope they desire.
Well, as we all know that will not happen.  The one chosen will be orthodox.  As Cardinal Dolan points out, the new Pope will not change Church teaching, so whenever the new Holy Father walks on the balcony, and in the first months of his papacy, there will be many bitter and disappointed people.   We must pray for them.  William Oddie thinks that the secular media will lose interest after the election and we will be left in peace (for a while) with our new Holy Father: well, as a friend of mine often says - "From his lips to God's ears!"  May it be so.   The days and months after the election will be wonderful as we get to know the new Pope. 
Indeed, in these hours my thoughts turn to him, whoever he is.  He is preparing to enter Conclave and his life will change forever in the next few days.  He will be asked to make the greatest sacrifice of his life, lay down his life in the service of the Church in the most radical way.  Not only will the burden of the Church be put on his shoulders, but he will face the attack of those who hate the Church, and it will be dreadful at times.
So let us all pray tonight for the one chosen.  He will be our Father, so now let us, as his spiritual children, ask the Lord to bless him and strengthen him, to prepare his heart and to give him the gifts of peace, wisdom and joy.  Indeed, may the Lord grant him a broad back to carry the cross, and the vision to look beyond to the vision that awaits those who are faithful, not only to be encouraged himself, but to encourage all of us in these difficult times.
I note a new practice has been added to the ritual following the election: before he comes out onto the balcony of St Peter's the new Pope will go to the Pauline Chapel to spend some time in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament - a good start. 
The American Cardinals are in good form; this photograph, taken in the bus which is bringing them back and forth to the General Congregations, is a wonderful human image.  As one would expect Cardinal Dolan, always full of fun, takes the rowdies' position at the back! 


Novena To St Joseph

As requested by Cardinal Dolan, today many of us begin a novena to St Joseph for the Cardinals, the Conclave and in preparation for the new Pope - indeed interceding for the one who will be elected.  Let us all, in that communion which unites us in the Church, join in prayer to the Patron of the Universal Church in these days.
Here are some lovely prayers which can be used in the Novena.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Polls: Catholics?

Here is an interesting poll for you: an American one on Catholics's attitude to gay marriage.  Interestingly it did what most polls on such issues do not do: it distinguished between Catholics who go to Mass and Catholics who do not.  The findings are revealing: among Catholics who go to Mass a majority are opposed to gay marriage.
Of course that is not surprising: those who practice their Catholic faith are more in touch with its teachings, are more inclined to understand them and will be more faithful to them.  Those who do not go to Mass have established a distance from the Church and her teachings, and will be less inclined to accept or live them.  That is an important point to note when it comes to issues of controversy, particularly moral issues which are at odds with the prevailing ideologies of relativism and secularism.  
So if a journalist or statistician wants to hear what Catholics think on issues, where do they go?  They are supposed to take a representative sample - but a representative sample of whom?  Catholics who believe and practice or Catholics who do not believe and do not practice?    Given the ideology which dominates at the moment they may be inclined to go to those who do not practice in order to get the results they want.  But if they are not ideologically driven and want a true picture, they may well need to begin distinguishing between those who practice and those who don't.  So perhaps the first question they need to ask in the poll is: "Do you go to Mass every week?" 
Of course this brings us to another, larger issue: what does it mean to be Catholic?  Now there's a controversial question.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

"Up On The Roof...."

Well, there is it: the most famous chimney in the world, and perhaps even in all of history.  The Vatican City workers have put it in place on the roof of the Sistine Chapel, ready for the eyes of the world to anxiously study its output from Tuesday evening on. 
Yes, as you all know the Conclave begins on Tuesday, the first vote will take place on that evening, and smoke, black or white, will pour out of the chimney around 7pm.  It is all about to begin.  The Vatican has released the timetable for the Cardinals.  If you have not seen it yet, here it is (Roman time - GMT + 1).
Tuesday, 12th March
From 7.00 am  Cardinals move into the Domus Sancta Marthae.
10.00am  Holy Mass for the Election of a Pope in St Peter's Square.
3.45pm   Cardinals leave the Domus for the Pauline Chapel.
4.30pm   Solemn Procession of the Cardinals from the Pauline Chapel to the Sistine Chapel.
4.45pm   Administration of the solemn oath and then the "Extra omnes" - everyone out, and the Sistine Chapel and environs are sealed: Conclave has begun.
Meditation by Cardinal Grech
First Ballot
7.15pm   Vespers
7.30pm   Cardinals return to the Domus for dinner and "lockdown".
Wednesday, 13 March (and subsequent days of the Conclave)

6.30am  Breakfast

7.30am Transfer to the Sistine Chapel

8.15am   Holy Mass

9.30am  Hora Media

Two ballots

12.30pm Return to the Domus

1pm   Lunch


4pm  Transfer to the Sistine Chapel

Two ballots

7.15pm Vespers

7.30pm Return to Domus, dinner and "lockdown".

Ballot results times (approx): 10.30am, 12 noon, 5.30pm and 7pm.  (GMT: 9.30am, 11am, 4.30am and 6pm).

On Tuesday we can expect smoke about 7pm, and unless they are all of one mind so soon, it will be black.  After that we can expect smoke after every two ballots if a pope is not elected as both ballots are burned together.   If a pope has been elected, then that last ballot will be burned immediately.
So that may be the pattern of our lives from Tuesday on: keeping an eye on those four moments each day.  I'd imagine very little work will be done in Rome, and many will have their coats at the door and ready to run too St Peter's at a moment's notice.  It is amazing to see how many get to the Square for the announcement - there is about 40 minutes between white smoke and the Cardinal Protodeacon coming out onto the balcony.
As with the last election, when a pope is elected, the white smoke will be accompanied by the great bell of St Peter's ringing out - discerning the colour of Conclave smoke, despite all the practice, is not an exact science.
So we'll ensure we are not far from a television for the next week, keep mobile phones on, have your iPad in your bag and make sure you are never far from free WiFi. 

On Sunday the Cardinals will celebrate Mass in their titular Churches around the city, on Monday they will meet for the final General Congregation, then an early night to ready themselves for the Conclave.   Bear in mind that this weekend will be the last weekend of freedom for one of them.  Let us keep them all in our prayers, especially the one who will be our new Pope.  May the Lord prepare his heart to be our Holy Father. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Rome: Some Tips For Bored Reporters

"You need a story...?  Well, Sr Maria Bernadina was telling us this morning before Mass that Mother Angela's hip is in much better form today so she might be able hold off on the surgery for a few more months. Oh yes, and then there is Padre Luigi's verruca...."
If you want to text your favourite Cardinal to arrange a post-Conclave lunch you had better do it soon as the Vatican Gendarmerie are installing the technology to keep the College from being contacted or contacting anyone during the Conclave.  Rome Reports has an interesting snippet on this and the security which is being put in place. 

Cardinal Pham has arrived, so all the electoral Cardinals are now in Rome, we may expect a date for the Conclave soon.   However, I think we need to be patient - the Cardinals need time to talk and think and these days of the Sede Vacante allow that. 
The media want a quick Conclave because their respective publications need a story for the day, but they can wait.  A Conclave need not start until the 20th March, and if that time is needed to really talk about what the Church needs, then it is time well spent.   Some are saying that they are taking a long time: actually they are not - this is normal.  It seems long because Benedict announced his intention to abdicate on the 11th February, and then there is no Papal funeral to fill in the time, as it were.  If the Pope had died the Cardinals would still be doing all this but we would be distracted by the lying in state and funeral rites.   I imagine that when they do go in to the Conclave we may well see a quick election and a new pope perhaps after a couple of days - which is actually the norm given the last few Conclaves.
I realise that the media is restless - apparently there are about 5,000 journalists in Rome and they are twiddling their thumbs anxiously.  So, for all of these reporters, a few ideas to fill in the time and help them resist the urge to fall back on fiction when filing their articles.
First of all, if they are Catholic and have been away from the Sacraments, they can pop into St Peter's and go to confession.  All language groups are catered for and the confessors are very good and gentle.  If they feel the need to really make amends for past failures, they can pop over to St John Lateran, there is a confessor in there and he will give them a hefty penance and get them praying for every intention under the sun (bring a notebook).  If reporters are in doubt, just go to St John Lateran!
Secondly, the Station Masses are taking place in various Churches in the city. It is a wonderful Lenten spiritual exercise which also doubles as a spiritual itinerary to some of the most beautiful Basilicas and churches in Rome.   The English Mass is at 7am, or in Italian in the evening.  To find out where the Mass is for any given day just ask an American seminarian (seen riding a bike, with cassock, helmet and backpack - bottle of water stuck in sash optional), or you can consult the NAC website.
A visit to some of the city's more unusual sites can also fill in a few hours as reporters come to terms with the new media silence from the General Congregations.  One of the more fascinating, informative and indeed cautionary, is the Museum of Purgatory, guaranteed to get one thinking.  After that visit, if you have not been to St John Lateran's, you will feel the urge to go ASAP.
Plenty of great little bars for coffee and also offering a nice selection of pastries - it's Lent so avoid them.
Then there are some wonderful bookshops.  The Ancora bookshop at the top of the Via Conciliazione offers a wide selection of books in English (in the basement).  There is also the Leonine bookshop behind the Via Concilizione on Via dei Corridori.  In either of these reporters can pick up books on Catholicism and find out what we actually believe, and they will also find some of Pope Benedict's books - perhaps they could pass a few hours sitting in St Peter's Square reading what Benedict actually wrote.
Of course when in Rome do as the Romans do: pop over to the Missionaries of Charity and offer your services - they could do with some help serving dinners, helping the homeless or doing odd jobs around the city.  Bring your wallet (they don't take credit cards, just cash).  And do not worry about missing any announcements - the nuns of Rome are the first to know all the news so they'll tell you if anything happens. 
And, of course, siesta.  When it comes to noon forget everything and go to bed until about 5pm: it is against the Romani's religion to do any work in those hours of the riposo, and when Catholics are in Rome we are all Romani, so too our Cardinals.
And last, but not least, indeed one of the most important: join us in prayer.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pope Benedict's Last Days

Hard At Work

When Blessed John XXIII was once asked how many worked in the Vatican City State he famously replied "Oh, about half of them".  Well, I think he's probably looking down from heaven with a smile on his face as people are very hard at work preparing for the Conclave. 
Rome Reports has another video for us showing what is going on.  The Sistine Chapel is being transformed - the false floor is being put in place, the windows are being tinted and the scaffold which will be used to put the chimney in place is being erected.  But the saddest images are those showing Pope Benedict's coat of arms being brushed out of the flower bed in front of the Governatorato.

A Modest Proposal

Cardinal Dolan has made an interesting suggestion on his blog.  As a means of praying for our Cardinals and the Conclave and of preparing for the new Pope, he has requested that we join him in a novena to St Joseph, beginning on March 11th and leading up to his feast day on the 19th.  It is an excellent idea: count me in, Your Eminence.
St Joseph is of course the Patron of the Universal Church, so it is apt that we should turn to him as we pray for a new Pope. Indeed as the head of the Lord's household, can there be a better intercessor for the election of the one who will watch over God's family on earth? 
I think this is most interesting.  I had lunch with a friend of mine and we were discussing potential candidates for the papacy and a certain US Cardinal was suggested and the name it was thought he might take was Joseph I.  And now a certain US Cardinal......    Interesting indeed.  And it seems Sandro Magister is thinking the same thoughts.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Desperate Measures

Some commentators are telling us that there may well be a "hung Conclave" with two strong candidates preventing one getting the two-thirds majority.  This method of election (below) may not be what the Holy Spirit wants, but let's hope it doesn't get down to such desperate measures!  Pregiamo - let us pray for our Cardinals.

Preparing For The Conclave

The Conclave of Cardinals that will elect a new pope will meet in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City.

Preparations are now underway for the Conclave: yesterday the Sistine Chapel was closed to make it ready for the election.  Commentators are suggesting that, going on how long it took to prepare the Chapel for the last election - seven days, the earliest date for the Conclave will be the 12th March.  We will see - the date may well be announced later today.
The Cardinals have announced that there will be adoration and Vespers in St Peter's Basilica this afternoon at 5pm (Roman time) which will be 4pm GMT and they have asked all Catholics around the world to join them in prayer at that time for the Conclave and the man who will be Pope.  So if you are reading this before that time perhaps you might take note of it and spend some time in prayer then.   Here is the booklet with the chants and prayers for the ceremony, it might be an idea to use it during your time of prayer.
In relation to the Conclave the CNS has some good articles which provide reliable information on what will happen before and during the Conclave.  In one article we get a description of the book which details the liturgies of the election, it also acts as a kind of spiritual guide for the Cardinals; it was compiled in 1998 and approved by Blessed John Paul II.  There is also another excellent article in which two Cardinals who took part in the 2005 Conclave speak about the experience: Cardinals Maradiaga and Napier.  They speak of "fear and trembling" as they feel the weight of the huge responsibility which has been put on their shoulders.   The Conclave, according to the Cardinals, is in fact a liturgy, a process which takes place within intense prayer - very far from the political model of election. 
One thing which resonated with me was their description of that moment when they cast their vote.  Cardinal Napier says it is "the most solemn, the most difficult, frightening" moment.  "[Y]ou go with your ballot paper in your hand and hold it up in front of the altar and say, 'I call on the Lord Jesus, who will be my judge, to witness that I am voting for the one I believe to be worthy'."  It is, the Cardinal continues, "a moment of intense emotion [and] faith".  And they realise how serious it actually is: "If I'm voting for unworthy reasons I'm actually asking Jesus to judge me, to condemn me", the Cardinal said. 
I think all of this is intensified by being in the Sistine Chapel, because at every moment, and especially as they vote - when they face the altar, Michelangelo's Last Judgement is bearing down on them and that will certainly keep them focused.    And indeed as they deliberate and pray, outside the Chapel the whole world is waiting.  Faithful Catholics trust them to give the Church a worthy, holy and strong Pope to lead the Church and to fulfil the office of Father.  Those who know little about Catholicism need to hear the Gospel from an effective witness.  The governments of the world await a new head who will represent the Church with dignity, courage, clarity and, in this time of persecution, fearlessness.   And so on....
We must pray intensely for the Cardinals.
Here are some items which may be of interest - a look at the ballot boxes that will be used during the Conclave, and a quick look at the work being carried out in the Sistine Chapel (and the famous chimney and stoves!): 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Saving Baby S

In the High Court in Dublin today an important judgement with regards to the practice of surrogacy in Ireland was made.  You can get the details here.   Surrogacy is a problem, and it creates more problems than it solves, like all alternative means of procreation. When you start to mess with nature, life gets very complicated.
And here's another complicated story for you: a surrogate mother told to abort a baby because the genetic parents did not want a handicapped child,even offering her $10,000 to do so.  This is where we are now.  Note what must be the most grotesque phrase in the article: the surrogate mother describes the reactions she got when she refused to kill the baby:
"I can't tell you how many people told me that I was bad, that I was wrong, that I should go have an abortion, that I would be damned to hell." 
"Damned to hell" for refusing to kill a child?  This is where our wonderful permissive society has led us.  Marantha!

UPDATE:  Matthew Archbald over at CMR has a post on this in which he gives a sample of the comments left on Ms Kelley's blog - pro-choicers who are upset (to put it mildly) at her decision not to abort.  As he correctly points out - they are not pro-choice, they are pro-abortion. 

Cardinals' Telegram To Pope Emeritus

The Cardinals have sent a beautiful telegram to the Pope Emeritus:
"The Cardinal Fathers, gathered at the Vatican for the General Congregations in view of the next conclave, send you their devoted greetings and express their renewed gratitude for all your illustrious Petrine ministry and for your example of generous pastoral care for the good of the Church and of the world.  With their gratitude they hope to represent the recognition of the entire Church for your tireless work in the vineyard of the Lord.  In conclusion, the members of the College of Cardinals trust in your prayers for them, as well as for the whole Church."

A Warning About The Warning

I received an interesting letter in the post today.  Well, it was not a letter really, but rather a series of photocopied pages sent anonymously with some of the "messages" from a self-proclaimed seer who calls herself "Maria Divine Mercy.  These "messages" appear in her books and website and claim to prophesy that a "Warning" is coming and the end of the world is near.  Among the messages was one which seems to have been tailored for current events. It seems, according to "Maria Divine Mercy", the next Pope will be the false prophet.
According to the "message" of the 17th February 2013: "the schism within the Catholic Church, as foretold, will now be witnessed, for all the world to see...The Masonic elite have grasped control over My Church and they will wield the most wicket deceit upon Catholics....The false prophet will now take over the Seat in Rome and My Word, just as it was in My Time on earth, will be treated as heresy."  "Maria Divine Mercy" claims Jesus is speaking through her.
So that will come as a surprise to our new Holy Father - he will be the false prophet and he will treat the Word of God as heresy.  Astonishing claims. 
Well, for the last number of months I have been hearing a lot about this woman who hides behind the title of "Maria Divine Mercy".   Meeting with various prayer groups, I see many of the faithful in Ireland are reading her book and some of them are being persuaded over to her point of view.  Indeed good, orthodox prayer groups are being torn apart as some members take this woman's line and others, aware of the difficulties in her teachings, try to stay clear.  These latter Catholics, who cherish the Gospel and union with the Pope, are being rounded on by the others and accused of not being real Catholics, of failing Christ.
For more information on this "seer" read Jimmy Aiken's recent article.  This is an excellent, concise summary and rebuttal of the "messages". 
In reality this woman is leading people astray: she is fomenting schism in the Church, and many good people who have fallen for her false teachings are now becoming enemies of the Church as they promote her "messages".  Indeed when faithful priests point out the errors in these supposed revelations they are attacked by those who were once faithful Catholics.  Now it seems these very followers will reject the new Pope, brand him the false prophet and so take themselves out of communion with the Catholic Church.  
In one of her "messages" she claims: "He [the Antichrist] will be head of the New World Religion and he, and the False Prophet, who will head up the shell of the Catholic Church on earth will work closely to deceive all of God’s children".  So, it seems, those who remain in the Catholic Church in disobedience to "Maria Divine Mercy's" call will be working for the Antichrist.
What is going on?  I think it may well be a case of a false prophet indeed - only it is not the Pope.  In these difficult times for the Church we orthodox faithful need to stick together, need to support each other and encourage each other to live the faith as well as we can in union with the Holy Father.  The devil tries everything he can to try and tear this communion apart, and it seems we may well have another attempt in these false "messages", one which is having some success.
I would ask all Catholics to stay clear of this woman and her "messages".  For one thing we cannot establish her credentials.  When the Church examines the authenticity of any supernatural events or revelations she examines the alleged seers because their lives and integrity are part of the investigation.   If any alleged seer hides behind a pseudonym, even if they claim it is for the sake of humility, their integrity cannot be established, they are frustrating attempts of the faithful to weigh up whether this person is genuine or not.  If you look at the history of the Church no authentic seer hid behind a pseudonym - they were known and submitted to the judgement of the Church.  Through her invented persona and "messages", "Maria Divine Mercy" is trying to avoid that, and that speaks volumes.
I expect a backlash.  A priest I know wrote an article exposing the heresy and inconsistencies in these "messages" some time ago and soon after she was getting "messages" condemning him.  So I presume if her followers are offended with what I have written I will pop up in the next "revelation" - this is how false prophets try to quash criticism. 
As Jimmy Aiken correctly points out: to adhere to the "messages" and supposed prophecies of "Maria Divine Mercy" can result in grave sin and lead to formal schism.  To reject the next Pope and call him the false prophet is to enter into schism, and schismatics incur an automatic excommunication.  Harsh things to end this post, but this is serious.  "Maria Divine Mercy" may well be putting her immortal soul in danger, she should not  have companions on that road to perdition, but rather people who try to bring her to conversion.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Noses Against The Window Pane?

Roman tailors Gammarellis have finished the three cassocks for the election of the next Pope, and they are now on display in their shop window.  No doubt they are like sweets in a candy store for many ambitious clerics and ecclesiastical accoutrement groupies.  I wonder if any of our Cardinals have had their noses pressed against the shop's window pane wondering.....just wondering...."What if....?" 

Hypocrisy And Mercy

Hypocrisy is a universal experience. Every human being at some point in their lives realises that in some areas of their lives they could be classed as hypocrites. Certainly every night as I examine my conscience and every time I sit in the queue waiting to go to confession I realise that I am a hypocrite – a hypocrite in the sense that I preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but I so often fall short of it: I sin and fail to live up to the standard the Lord and Master has laid down for his disciples. Am I alone in that? Not at all – every disciple of Christ fails to live up to the Gospel. But rather than dumping the Gospel and giving way to hedonism and immorality, we strive to live the Gospel more perfectly, and with God’s grace, one day we will. In this the Saints serve as wonderful examples, they encourage us and pray for us. And of course that most wonderful of sacraments, confession, helps us in our struggle.
As men and women convinced of the truth of the Gospel we proclaim it and its values as men and women who are trying to live it. We recommend it to others, we defend it and we remind society that it is true, good and just. We offer the examples of the Saints as the Gospel in flesh, and so while we fall, those we proclaim the Gospel to can see that as we struggle to stay true to the truth, those holy ones who have gone before us have won the race. To men and women of goodwill struggling with their own fallen humanity the Gospel becomes a light, and even the disciples of Jesus, human and broken as they are, also serve as examples – those considering becoming Christian can see that you do not have to be perfect, to be a saint, to join, but in the communion of the Church we all journey together and struggle together, striving to become perfect, to become saints.
Failing to live the moral law perfectly does not negate the moral law, it just reveals that there are people who fail to live up to it. As followers of Christ we believe in forgiveness and the possibility of starting again, so much so that one who once broke the moral law could in time become its defender.  
Of course the disciples of Christ are not the only ones who realise they are hypocrites in some shape or form. All men and women of good will know they fail to live up to ideals while they still promote these ideals for the betterment of society and human flourishing. Indeed the only ones who will not feel the sting of conscience in this area are those who have no ideals, or those who have deluded themselves into thinking they are perfect, or those who are just bad and do not care. A society which has no ideals is one on the edge of despair; a society that cannot embrace the idea that people can change their lives and improve is already in despair.
Why these thoughts? Well, the recent revelation that Cardinal Keith O’Brien has admitted he committed the sins he was accused of. The media have been circling and accusing him of hypocrisy: as he opposes the gay agenda now, they see him as a hypocrite given his own moral failures. Yes, he may well be – and as such he now joins the rest of the world. The media’s solution? Discard Christian teaching, get rid of celibacy and assent to the gay agenda. In other words, throw the baby out with the bathwater and embrace wild abandon: the solution of a society in despair.
But we as Christians say: no, we won’t. Not even this will distract us from the Gospel and the teaching of the Church – we just have another example of a sinner in our midst and, we hope, of another who will find Divine Mercy in his struggle. On this I would recommend Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith’s article in the Catholic Herald. Are we Catholics disappointed with Cardinal O’Brien? Yes we are, bitterly – he let us all down. He has reparation to do. Will we reject him? No, we won’t: he is still our brother and we pray for him. That does not mean we reject those he hurt.  Certainly not, we pray for them too, pray for their healing and God’s blessing on them.  He will have to face the new Holy Father and answer for what he has done to them, and rightly so.
However, if our journalists are looking for other Christians who fell, well I’ll give them a few examples:
St Augustine lived an immoral life, had a mistress and illegitimate child, was a member of a heretical sect and treated his mother badly: he was a bishop.
St Mary Magdalen was possessed by seven devils – Lord knows what she did to deserve that! She was chosen by Jesus to announce the Resurrection.  Dodgy decision on Christ's part?  Or is it a case be believes in forgiveness?
St Hippolytus was an anti-pope, he was proud and a rebel. He died a martyr with the very Pope he opposed, they were reconciled.
Here’s a bad Pope for you – stop the press! St Peter, the first – he denied Christ. And it was said he may even have considered abandoning his See during a time of persecution. He was also married and some say he may have left his wife to proclaim the Gospel.
St Simon the Apostle was a terrorist and conspired to overthrow a legitimate government. He was a bishop too.
Blessed Bartolo Longo was a Satanist – there’s a story there, boys. He founded a shrine in honour of Our Lady – now there’s hypocrisy!
St Pelagia was a debauched actress who even tried to lead a bishop into sin. He converted her and she became a hermit – but people saw her as holy and pious, but with a past!  Is there an expose there?
And another of our Catholic heroes: a murderer – Jacques Fesch who killed a policeman in the course of a failed robbery. He became a mystic on death row and many think he may well be canonised one day.
And here’s another Catholic hero, though not as well known as he should be: Oscar Wilde. He struggled with his sexuality, but sought to embrace the Catholic faith believing that her teachings would cure him of his orientation. He finally had the courage to enter the Church on his deathbed leaving behind his lifestyle and finding peace before he died. And the Church embraced him – another sinner to join the billions of us already in it, and another who saw the need for mercy.
So if the press are looking for Catholics with a past to bring down the Church, then they have plenty to choose from.  Any one of the above could be accused of hypocrisy.  Yet in spite of all these sinners, the Church is still here; why?  Because God believes in mercy - he sent his Son as the price of that mercy, and he pours it out on all and offers us a new life, a new beginning and an eternal destiny.  And that gives us great hope! A hope that is absent in much of our society.  We will not abandon the Church, or her teachings, because they speak of hope, holiness and eternal life: they guarantee that when we fall, the Lord will pick us up again and our brothers and sisters will wipe the dust off us and help us along the way.  We may have reparation to do, sometimes very serious reparation, and it must be done, but we can do it with humility trusting in God's forgiveness.
And so when people say we are hypocrites, we smile and agree, we throw our eyes to heaven and ask for mercy, and truly try to do better in future, with God's help.  If I may quote Oscar: "Every Saint has a past, and every sinner has a future" - it may come as a shock to many, but we Catholics actually believe that, not in spite of the moral law as is, but because of it.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Jews, Christians, Saints

This Twitter thing is proving to be most useful!  As you know I signed on a few weeks ago and it has kept me informed (minute to minute) of what is going on.  It also gives me links to interesting articles, and thanks to David Quinn today I read a very good article by a Jewish rabbi.  Rabbi Yitzchok Alderstein is writing about the persecution of Christians and he believes that we are now more persecuted than the Jewish people.  The article can be found here.
The rabbi is correct.   Christians are now the most persecuted religious group in the world, and that persecution is being ignored by the mainstream media and even some social justice groups. Why?  I suppose because what we believe is not politically correct for one thing, but also because Christianity is also being persecuted by secularists in the West, of which many media outlets are ideological supporters.  While the rabbi concentrated on Islamic persecution of Christians - it is only part of a larger "pogrom" against orthodox Christianity.
For one thing you need only look at the coverage of Pope Benedict's pontificate.  If ever a man had a reason to sue he had.  If he wanted he could take western media groups to the cleaners because of lies, insinuations and outright libel.  Of course those in the media know Christians strive to forgive, and so count on our adherence to that command of the Lord.   Poor media savvy among Church officials also means false articles are not rebuked as vociferously as they should be.   Of course such a defence would be difficult given the success secularism has had with ordinary people - many still believe what they hear in the media.  It is hard to overcome ideological stereotypes - the Jewish people know all about that.
On another topic - just to let you know our new series of Forgotten Heritage will air on EWTN from the 9th of this month in the US (the UK/Ireland and European airings will be later - I have no date as of yet).  Entitled Forgotten Heritage: Europe and Her Saints Fr Owen and myself look at some of Europe's great saints.  This series is a little longer than the first two - there will be sixteen episodes (it's Lent - offer it up!).   We hope to present a little taste of the holiness which flourished throughout European history, and while we try to be representative with only sixteen programmes and so many saints, we did not get everyone we wanted in. 
For your information here is the list of programmes and the saints.  We start with five programmes on the Patrons of the Europe:
1.    St Benedict, Patron of Europe
2.    SS Cyril and Methodius, Patrons of Europe
3.    St Bridget of Sweden, Patron of Europe
4.    St Catherine of Siena, Patron of Europe
5.    St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (St Edith Stein) Patron of Europe
6.    St Columbanus
7.    St Thomas a Becket
8.    St Francis
9.    St Dominic
10.  St Thomas Aquinas
11.  St Thomas More
12.  St Teresa of Avila
13.  St Margaret Mary Alocoque
14.  Pope St Pius X
15.  St Therese of Lisieux
16.  St Gianna Beretta Molla
Every time I look at that list I see names we should have included, ah well.  We were trying to cover most areas of human life and Christian experience - priests, religious, laity, missionaries, teachers, government figures, professionals, husbands, wives.  I suppose there could be another series on the saints to cover others.  If you have any ideas let me know.  In the meantime we are planning the fourth series.  
While the series can only be viewed on TV in the US, you can get it online at EWTN's website; the first programme airs on Saturday 9th March at 4pm (GMT).

È Chiuso

The First Day...

The Pope makes his last public address at Castel Gandolfo
No doubt many of you are like me and still reeling from yesterday's events.  It was a most extraordinary day - to see a Pope abdicate; the farewell in the Vatican, the helicopter trip to Castel Gandolfo - then the last words, the last blessing, the last sight of he who was our Holy Father.  It was all very emotional.
And yet, as the clock ticked and 7pm (Irish time, 8pm Roman) came and went, I could not but help think of Benedict, now Pope-Emeritus, having his dinner and looking forward to his bed.  Relieved of the burden of the Church, a contented sleep (I hope) and then this morning waking up to a quiet day of prayer, rest and some reading; a new life which many others embraced in their middle sixties as they retired after a lifetime of work.   I cannot help but feel happy for him and I hope he will have many days of this quiet life.
In his final words to us he described himself as a pilgrim walking the last days of his journey, and he is.  As I said a day or so ago, he is also entering a period of intercession for the Church.  But I hope the Lord grants him rest and peace, time for reading, for his piano and his cats, and I hope also for his friends.
So how did he start his day today?  I hope he got a lie in and perhaps a nice cup of coffee to sip while he recited his Office in bed!  Not quite liturgical I know, but after eight years of a difficult Pontificate I think he'll get away with it today.