Friday, July 26, 2013

Jesus' Granny And Granddad

The feast of SS Anne and Joachim, Jesus' Grandmother and Grandfather.  As Our Lady and St Joseph had to keep an eye on the little darling, this holy couple, like all grandparents, could afford to spoil him.  The door was always open and on the table the ancient Jewish equivalent of Coke and cookies supplied, among other treats, by loving and indulgent grandparents
Here again is another dimension to the mystery of the Incarnation: God made man living in the midst of normal and beautiful human relationships, blessing and sanctifying ours by his.  So today, as we wish all grandparents a happy feast day, let us give thanks for those the Lord has given us and through whom he reveals his love.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Way Of St James: Pilgrim Path To Holiness

St. James the Greater by Rembrandt Van Rijn
St James the Greater in prayer
I can't let this day pass without mentioning the great St James whose feast it is.  Every year as I celebrate this feast I wish I was at his Shrine in Spain, having walked the Camino.  For the past few years I have been plotting with some friends of mine to take five weeks and walk the pilgrim way.  Of course that is not possible at the moment - it would be difficult to get the time off, but perhaps in a few years should I ever be fortunate enough to get a Sabbatical. 
In the meantime we ask his prayers and reflect on his life and teaching.  A son of thunder, as Jesus called him, James was no shrinking violet, he was ambitious, but his ambition was not ordered correctly.  The Lord had to chasten his heart, but once that process was complete, James, now humble Apostle of the Lord, was happy to renounce his life for Christ's sake, becoming the first of the Apostles to be martyred.
So when I reflect on the example of St James I see that my own heart must be chasten, my will oriented towards the Lord's, and that at times the Lord may employ things and events which may seem distasteful and difficult to help the process of transformation.  When this happens (and it will for those committed to living a life of virtue and seeking holiness) we take comfort in the presence of the Lord and the example of those who have gone before us, like St James.
Today is my parents' 49th wedding anniversary, could you please say a prayer for them?   Happy feast day.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

St Bridget, Apostle Of The Passion

On a trip to Rome a few months ago I visited the Church of St Bridget of Sweden in the Piazza Farnese.  I had visited the church before, but this time I made a point of calling in to greet the sisters and request a visit to the rooms of St Bridget.  The sisters were very kind and I got a wonderful tour by a lovely German sister.  I learned a great deal about the Saint, including one snippet of information which had particular interest for me as an Irishman:  St Bridget of Sweden was called after St Brigid of Ireland. St Bridget's mother had a devotion to our Brigid and so named her daughter after her, though the spelling is slightly different.
St Bridget always fascinated me, partly because my own mother bears her name, but also because Bridget was part of that spiritual movement in the 14th century which sought to rekindle a renewal of spiritual life, one to which a later Saint, St Catherine of Siena, would dedicate her life.  At the heart of St Bridget's plan of reform was meditation on the passion of the Lord. Later reformers would take up this spirituality, notably St Alphonsus Ligouri and St Paul of the Cross.  St Bridget was credited with writing the famous Fifteen Prayers which are said to be the fruit of various visions.  Now, while we cannot prove for certain that Bridget actually wrote these prayers, we do know that they share her spiritual vision and can lead us to understand her spirituality.
We cannot escape the passion of the Lord, and it is necessary for us to meditate on it frequently.  For one thing as we pray the passion we realise that we were redeemed by the death of Christ, offered as free gift in love; a gift we cannot earn, but one we are asked to receive and live, re-orienting our lives to conform with the love that is revealed on the cross.  Why does the Church ask us to follow the Gospel? Because it is the way our Crucified Lord laid out for us, it is the way to heaven and it takes us into the pierced Heart of Christ where we will find our salvation and our eternal life.  The truth of the Gospel is guaranteed by the Suffering and Risen Saviour, and so in abandoning ourselves to the passion of the Lord, we come to understand the Gospel and we are inspired to live it, not as a daily toil, but as daily offering of love.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hail Great Elijah!

In Carmel today we celebrate the feast of our Father, St Elijah the Prophet. When the first monks made their home on Mount Carmel, they looked to this great Biblical figure and saw in him the model for their lives and their teacher in prayer.  To this day, Carmelites venerate his memory, and we honour him as a great Saint, believing that he is interceding for us and guiding us from heaven.
Elijah offers us many lessons, one of which is dedication to the truth, and to the God of truth.  In an age when many believe truth is relative, may the zeal of St Elijah touch our hearts and make us true servants of the living God. 
Of course he was a man of prayer - a real mystic, but one whose mystical experiences led him to action, to proclaim the word of God and to honour the Holy Name.  In a sense we can see in him the union of Martha and Mary: like Mary he chose the better part, sitting at the feet of the Lord in contemplation, but then, like Martha, going out to serve.  However, unlike Martha in the Gospel story, he was not distracted, but rather kept his mind and heart focused on God. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

On Carmel's Heights

Today in Carmel we celebrate our great Patronal Solemnity, Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  I will be keeping you all in prayer today, please remember all of us members of the Orders - the Discalced, and our brothers and sisters in the O Carms.
With regard to devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, one of our friars, Fr Gabriel, once wrote:
[it is] a special call to the interior life, which is pre-eminently a Marian life. Our Lady wants us to resemble her not only in our outward vesture but, far more, in heart and spirit. If we gaze into Mary's soul, we shall see that grace in her has flowered into a spiritual life of incalculable wealth: a life of recollection, prayer, uninterrupted oblation to God, continual contact, and intimate union with him. Mary's soul is a sanctuary reserved for God alone, where no human creature has ever left its trace, where love and zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of mankind reign supreme. [...] Those who want to live their devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to the full must follow Mary into the depths of her interior life. Carmel is the symbol of the contemplative life, the life wholly dedicated to the quest for God, wholly orientated towards intimacy with God; and the one who has best realized this highest of ideals is Our Lady herself, 'Queen and Splendour of Carmel'.


Friday, July 12, 2013

To Our Married Couples: A Happy Feast Day

A quick post.  Today in Carmel is the feast of Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St Therese of Lisieux.  I would like to wish all married couples a happy feast day.  May this holy couple intercede for all your needs, and be your friends and constant companions.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Deed Is Done...

 A friend of mine just sent me a text:
"Well, the deed is done. 31 opposed, 6 of them because it wouldn't kill enough babies.  So only 25 prolife TDs. Amazing."
The Bill now goes before the Senate, which will, no doubt, pass it in the same manner as the Dail - the government has a majority there and the whip will be imposed.  Then it goes to the President.  As he is a Labour president who was no friend of the pro-life cause when he was a TD himself, he may well sign the Bill quickly, introducing it into law. And abortions will begin.  Enda Kenny, will get his wish:  abortions beginning over the summer.
This is a sad day for Ireland.  But the battle is only beginning - in the legislature, in the courts, on the streets, in the hearts of the Irish.

Let us pray for the pro-life cause, for the children whose lives are now in immediate danger.  And for those TDs tonight who voted for this bill.  The Catholics among them are now no longer eligible to receive the Eucharist until they publicly repent of the evil they have done. And pray for our bishops and priests: that they may have the courage to do what the law of the Church requires.

I wish to thank and congratulate Lucinda Creighton and the other twenty-four TDs who opposed this Bill, many of them now suffering for their stand.  They are men and women of integrity and represent all that is good in Ireland and in the political profession.  As their colleagues have gone bad, they refused to violate their conscience when tempted, browbeaten and even threatened.  They are an example to us all: may God bless them this night.  Pro-life people, do not forget these TDs.

Now, time for bed.  Tomorrow is a new day, and the fight continues.  As Blessed John Paul II told us in life and now tells us from heaven: Do not be afraid!  God is on our side! 

"Don't Lose The Head"

There are many things today's Saint can teach us, and one of the most important is that we do not lose our head!  St Benedict, Father of Western Monasticism and Patron of Europe teaches us moderation and calm through his Rule and his holy life.
All of us are prey to our passions, and passion is not a bad thing - oriented in the right way it can be virtuous, nourishing zeal and making us determined to do what is right and good.  But sometimes it can take over us and we can lose the plot and even sin.  Passions must be governed by reason and charity, and the Rule of St Benedict has these qualities in abundance.  His way is a way of moderation - not boring not committal moderation, but a moderation which helps the soul live an ordered life of work and prayer and forms the personality so the person may be level-headed as well as devout.
Today let us remember all our monks and nuns, particularly those who follow the Rule of St Benedict.  I greet Dom Mark and the monks of the new Silverstream Priory, who have brought Benedictine life back to our diocese: may the Lord grant them many blessings. 
Let us also pray for Europe in these challenging times.
And of course let us not forget our Pope-Emeritus, Benedict XVI, a true model of reason, charity, and a passion for God.  Like his namesake, Pope Benedict, through his writings, preaching and holy life has rekindled in the hearts of many the fire of faith.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

It's Tonight...

Tonight the Irish Parliament, the Dail, will vote on the Abortion Bill.  By all accounts it will pass, but a minority of TDs, men and women of integrity will oppose it and face political consequences.  This may well be the saddest day for Ireland since the foundation of the state.  Let us pray for Ireland, for our unborn children, for women with unwanted pregnancies, and for our TDs and senators who stand for conscience and life despite the temptations and intimidations inflicted on them over the past few weeks: we commend them to the intercession of St Thomas More and St Patrick.
If you can, join a vigil outside Leinster House this evening. 

Something To Chew On...

The zombie thriller World War Z is in the works. Take a look at other zombies from  from movies and TV, starting with Shaun of the Dead.
Comin' right at ya!
As I enjoy these days of my vacation, I try and get some reading done - not just Scripture, theology and hagiography, but also some history and literature.  One of the books in the case, the one I am reading at the moment is Max Brooks' World War Z.  Yes, zombies!  I saw the movie a couple of weeks ago and I was intrigued, so I bought the book and I must say it is very good - much better than the movie.
Well, it seems the great Fr Robert Barron shares my view - so if a zombie apocalypse should break out there are two priests who are ready for it.  Drawing on the doctrine of original sin, Fr Barron sees the zombies as an image of that fault which is at the heart if our fallen human nature - a fault or weakness that is spread like a contagion. It is a very interesting thesis.  He writes: "Do you see now why the zombie -- a human being so compromised by the effects of a contagion that he is really only a simulacrum of a human -- is such an apt symbol for a person under the influence of sin?"    In the movie, as in the book, there are desperate attempts to escape the zombies. The Israelis, for example, build a massive wall around Jerusalem - but they cannot keep the zombies out, no physical construction can halt sin, and when it comes to original sin there is no escaping it.  There is, however, healing, and that healing is found in Christ and in his Sacrament of Baptism.
Every generation has its ghoul - that supernatural creature that strikes fear into us.  We had ghosts, vampire, werewolves, and now we have zombies.  And who are zombies?  Ultimately they are the ordinary people who surround us who have been infected by a mysterious contagion and then turn on us seeking to tear us to pieces or make us zombies too.  What does this mean?  I suppose one answer to that is that we are afraid of the other - we have become so individualised that the other is now a source of fear and a potential threat, even if that other is a close relative - no one can be trusted. And really when you get down to it, it is really a fear of ourselves - we are uncomfortable in our own skin, and such is the malaise of modern life.  And why are we afraid of ourselves, of the other? 
I would suggest it is because we have lost God.  If our Creator has been abandoned, then our humanity will not be far behind.  We have become what Sartre predicted we would be - lonely, lost, without hope, strangers to ourselves.  Interestingly, as Fr Barron points out, the World War Z movie offers a corrective, a hope: love - love of family, love of friends and the determination to protect, even to the point of sacrificing ourselves.  In other words what Jesus says: he who loses his life saves it.
Read Fr Barron's article - it is very good, particularly his reflection on how Brad Pitt's character is like Jesus.   As a friend of mine always says at our monthly film club: This film is about redemption.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Miracle

 You may have seen this, but if not, here is the account of the miracle which has led to the canonisation of Blessed John Paul.  The lady healed is Floribeth Mora, and she invoked the intercession of Blessed John Paul after she had watched his beatification ceremony on television.

It is an extraordinary healing, but I am struck by what the voice said to the woman: "Rise! Do not be afraid!"  The words of the Blessed Pontiff himself at the Mass for the Inauguration of his Papacy in 1978.

A Personal Story

Today is the feast of the Chinese Martyrs, St Augustine Zhao Rong and his companions.  While we may be tempted to think that martyrdom is a distant thing, the experience of another age, we know all too well that it is a daily occurrence in many parts of the world and we may not be too far from it ourselves.    Today's post is a homily from Fr Francis Li, a Chinese priest, who is the grandson and nephew of two martyrs.  Though his grandfather and uncle are not among the Saints whose feast we celebrate today, they suffered alongside some of those who are. 
"Today´s Gospel tells us that everyone who follows Jesus will not only receive a hundredfold reward, but they will also meet with persecution. Jesus noticed Peter´s reaction to these words. So at the Last Supper He repeated them to his disciples: "If the world hates you, realize that it has hated me before you.... If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also" (John 15:18-20).
The history of the Church informs us that the Church grows in the midst of persecution. "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians." This is the reason that the Church in China has been growing.
I feel very honoured to be able to give testimony about the martyrs in my own family and hometown. They were really martyrs for the faith.
First of all, we are happy that the Chinese government gave so much publicity to the canonizations at the beginning of this month in all the mass media. This caused everyone in Hong Kong, and in the whole world, to become aware that the Catholic Church was holding a canonization ceremony. Curiosity was aroused among those who heard the news, and they asked questions like: What is a canonization? Who are the people being canonized? Why are they being canonized? And why are people opposed to their being canonized?
Our diocese has arranged a series of talks and a Eucharistic celebration in honor of the Chinese martyr saints this afternoon. As long as we make what we hear today part of our lives, we will be able to give satisfactory answers to these questions.
The word "martyrdom" in the context of the Christian faith means to witness to one´s faith and even to sacrifice one´s life for one´s faith. For example, when speaking of the Boxer Revolution of 100 years ago, if you were ordered to support the Qing Dynasty government, and you were killed for not doing so, this would not be considered martyrdom. However, the Boxers ordered the missionaries and the Christians to renounce their faith. They were killed because they refused to do so. This is called martyrdom.
During the persecutions in the year 1900 in Shanxi Province, the names of 2,418 Christians were reported to the Vatican as giving their lives for their faith. In Taiyuan City altogether 69 persons were martyrs for the Lord. From these, only 26 were canonized as saints on October 1 this year. The 69 martyrs gave up their lives on three different days, July 9, 12 and 14. Two lay women died on July 12, and 39 Catholics died on July 14. Among them were my grandfather Li Zhongyi and an uncle, Li Shiyan. Three others were seriously wounded including my father, Li Shiheng.
What follows here is the testimony of the experiences of my mother and my father at that time.
My mother reported: "At about 4 o´clock on the afternoon of July 9, just as we were reciting our prayers, we suddenly heard beautiful music coming from the heavens. We had never heard such music before. Suddenly we saw an orderly row of large white banners coming towards us from Taiyuan City. When the banners passed over our heads the music got louder and more pleasant to the ear. Everyone clasped their hands on their hearts and knelt down. We began to encourage one another, and to think that this was certainly a sign that the bishops and priests had already given their lives for their faith. Sure enough, the next day a band of soldiers came to our place and announced that the bishops and others had been killed. Then we all thought that the time had arrived for us to give up our lives for our faith. We all began to prepare ourselves by continuously reciting prayers.
"After a little while a soldier shouted at us: ´Do you deny your religion or not?´ Not a sound was heard in response. Then the soldier shouted an order that two of the older Christian women should be strung up in the garden. He did this to arouse a fear of death in the hearts of the younger women. The two older women were not in the least afraid. They continually encouraged the younger ones, saying, ´Young ladies, don´t be afraid; now the gate of heaven is open; quickly prepare yourselves to ascend into heaven!´
On July 12 some of the officials came again and tried to frighten us into denying our faith. Again they were met with dead silence. Then the officials took down the two older women who had been strung up and brought them outside. In a little while, the soldiers brought in two bowls of blood, and told us that it was the blood of the two women whom they had killed. They did not kill us, but sent us back to the church."
The following is my father´s report:
On July 14, Yuxian, the governor of Shanxi Province, issued an order: "All male Christians who are unwilling to deny their faith must gather near the North Gate." When the Catholics heard this order they became very excited and their hearts were filled with joy. They all began marching towards the appointed place. Along the way they supported and encouraged one another.
My grandfather was one of these fervent Catholics. As soon as he heard the order, he said to my then 15-year-old father and my uncle, "Let´s go, we´re going to go to heaven today!" He then said goodbye to his family, and began walking towards the place of martyrdom. From their home to the appointed place was only about a 20-minute walk, but they had to pass through some winding streets.
When they arrived at the place of martyrdom, many Catholics had already gathered there. Most people knew one another. The place was not very large and the Christians were many. Each one was barely able to find space for himself. Everyone knelt down in a very composed manner and began to recite their favorite prayers. According to the custom of the time, the men wore the pigtail. In order to make it easier for the executioner to kill them, each one brought the pigtail forward over their heads and held it in front of them with their hands. They also bent their backs forward and stretched their necks out as far as they could. In this way there was enough space for the sword to strike them cleanly.
They waited for over three hours in the morning, and there was still no sign of the executioners. The Christians began to become agitated. Was it possible they would be denied the crown of martyrdom? Then about noon, a band of executioners, led by some soldiers, arrived at the place. The volume of the Christians´ prayers grew louder. And they stretched their necks even straighter. At the sound of the command "Kill," the executioners began swinging their swords helter-skelter.
My grandfather and uncle were kneeling along the path of the square. Their heads were swiftly and cleanly severed from their bodies. It so happened that my father was kneeling next to a large rock. Therefore when the sword came down, most of it struck the rock, and it only cut open some flesh on his neck. His throat was not damaged. Because the Christians were many, the executioners did not pay close attention as to whether the heads of everyone were separated from their bodies. In this way my father was denied the privilege of seeing God face to face, as my grandfather and uncle did.
The swordsmen had executed only about 10 percent of the Christians when the commander gave the order to stop the killing. The soldiers and executioners began to return to their barracks. The Catholics who had not been martyred were greatly disappointed. They blocked the withdrawal of the executioners, beseeching them to kill them also. But nothing could be done. The order had already been given. The executioners would not wield their swords again. The Christians fell into each other´s arms weeping.
My grandfather and uncle were among the 39 martyred for the faith that day. My father was wounded but survived. He would later say, "When the sword of the executioner came down upon my neck, the only thing I felt was the coldness of it. Then I lapsed into unconsciousness. I lay in a pool of blood for two days and two nights. I do not know how much blood I lost."
On the morning of the third day, that is, July 16, a non-Christian was passing by, and he noticed a slight movement among the corpses. He went closer, and saw that it was someone he knew. Then he heard my father whisper, "I am thirsty." This good-hearted person, realizing that (my father) had lost a lot of blood, took some rainwater from a puddle in a piece of broken crockery, and drop by drop poured it onto his lips. He then ran to my grandmother to report that her son was still alive. She brought him to live temporarily in another village located about 10 miles from the city.
No medicine was applied to my father´s wound, nor did the family have any money to have injections or to buy pills. My grandmother just entrusted my father to God´s care. God will arrange everything, she thought. Miraculously, the wound closed and became completely healed. Later, when my father narrated the story of his near-martyrdom to others, he always said: "From the time I received my wound until it was completely healed, I never felt any pain. Doesn´t that prove that God is always with me?"
Hearing about the experiences of the martyr-saints causes us to feel that what Saint Paul wrote was right: "No creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus Our Lord" (Romans 8:39). Through the intercession of the martyr saints of China, let us ask the Lord to help us follow their example and witness to the Gospel in our daily lives by loving God and loving others. May God bless you!"

Monday, July 8, 2013

St Michael, Our Protector In These Times

Last Friday was an extraordinary day - so much happened.  One event which passed over many heads was the inauguration of a new statue of St Michael the Archangel in the Vatican Gardens, attended by Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict.  It was an extraordinary event because the Holy Father is drawing our attention to the great Archangel who has played an important role on the devotional life of the faithful for many centuries.  While devotion to him should never really wane, it has in the past few decades, yet of late devotion to him is growing again, and this event highlights the need for his intercession.
Here's what the Holy Father said at the dedication:
In the Vatican Gardens there are several works of art. But this, which has now been added, takes on particular importance, in its location as well as the meaning it expresses. In fact it is not just celebratory work but an invitation to reflection and prayer, that fits well into the Year of Faith. Michael—which means "Who is like God?"—is the champion of the primacy of God, of His transcendence and power. Michael struggles to restore divine justice and defends the People of God from his enemies, above all by the enemy par excellence, the devil. And St. Michael wins because in him, it is God who acts. This sculpture reminds us then that evil is overcome, the accuser is unmasked, his head crushed, because salvation was accomplished once and for all in the blood of Christ. Though the devil always tries to disfigure the face of the Archangel and that of humanity, God is stronger, it is His victory and His salvation that is offered to all men. We are not alone on the journey or in the trials of life, we are accompanied and supported by the Angels of God, who offer, so to speak, their wings to help us overcome so many dangers, in order to fly high compared to those realities that can weigh down our lives or drag us down. In consecrating Vatican City State to St. Michael the Archangel, I ask him to defend us from the evil one and banish him.

We also consecrate Vatican City State to St. Joseph, guardian of Jesus, the guardian of the Holy Family. May his presence make us stronger and more courageous in making space for God in our lives to always defeat evil with good. We ask Him to protect, take care of us, so that a life of grace grows stronger in each of us every day.
As indicated in the speech, the Holy Father dedicated the Vatican City State to the Archangel, a necessary gesture I think given the nature of the attack which is constantly being unleashed on the Pope and the State.
I think we Catholics need to recover our devotion to St Michael, and entrust to his help the difficulties and challenges we face in these times.  There is little doubt that the evil one is running riot at the moment - he seems to have ensnared so many souls and it seems many have given themselves over to his service either knowingly or unknowingly.  As preternatural forces are at work, we must call upon the supernatural forces of the God, Our Lady, the Angels and Saints.  Given that St Michael is the great defender of the Church, we must have particular recourse to him.
Michael assures us that evil can be overcome because it is already defeated thanks to the victory of Jesus Christ.  The evil one wants to delude us, mislead us into thinking that good and evil are equals in the battle - they are not - good, God, is the strong, and he has already triumphed: we need only fly to find refuge in the ranks of his army.  Michael, seen most often crushing the devil, offers us great confidence in this victory, and he is there to stand by our side as we too fight the wiles of evils, offering us the benefit of his strength, protection and wisdom.
So let us all entrust ourselves to the protection and intercession of St Michael.  I hope all of you have a statue or image of him somewhere in your home - if not, get one, have it blessed and consecrate your family and home to him.  Pray the prayer to him every day, particularly after Mass, as we do in our parish here.
As I have found myself so many times, St Michael is powerful, he loves us and he sees his protecting us as his expression of his deep love of God.  So let us shelter in his wings and have confidence. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ciao Carissimi!

As of this morning I am officially on holiday, and then on retreat.  My supply priest is in place, and everything is sorted for the next few weeks.  I will have a few scheduled posts over the weeks, so pop in now and again.  I may not be able to post on events that may happen as all I will have is my iPad and as you know there is a compatibility problem. 
The biggest event may well be the passing of the Abortion Bill, and that will be a moment for sorrowful prayer, reparation and intercession for its reversal.   We keep the flame of hope alive in our hearts.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Maria, Perfecta Fidei Icona

In his first encyclical, Lumen fidei, Pope Francis has given us many beautiful things to meditate on. But he has also given us, I think, another lovely title for Our Lady: "Perfect Icon of Faith" (Perfecta Fidei Icona). 
In paragraph 58 he writes:
In the parable of the sower, Saint Luke has left us these words of the Lord about the "good soil": "These are the ones who when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience endurance" (Lk 8:15). In the context of Luke’s Gospel, this mention of an honest and good heart which hears and keeps the word is an implicit portrayal of the faith of the Virgin Mary. The evangelist himself speaks of Mary’s memory, how she treasured in her heart all that she had heard and seen, so that the word could bear fruit in her life. The Mother of the Lord is the perfect icon of faith; as Saint Elizabeth would say: "Blessed is she who believed" (Lk 1:45). 
Beautiful stuff!   As we mull over the Holy Father's words, we can keep Our Lady before our eyes and ask her to help us in our struggle to love and serve her Son.

At the end of the encyclical, the Holy Father offers a prayer to Mary for faith, it serves as a fitting invocation to Our Lady as Perfect Icon of Faith:
Mother, help our faith!
Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call.
Awaken in us a desire to follow in his footsteps, to go forth from our own land and to receive his promise.
Help us to be touched by his love, that we may touch him in faith.
Help us to entrust ourselves fully to him and to believe in his love, especially at times of trial, beneath the shadow of the cross, when our faith is called to mature.
Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One.
Remind us that those who believe are never alone.
Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, that he may be light for our path. And may this light of faith always increase in us, until the dawn of that undying day which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord! 

Mary, Mother and Perfect Icon of Faith, pray for us

Pope Emeritus Benedict Makes An Appearance

We had a wonderful surprise yesterday as the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, made an appearance alongside Pope Francis.  The Holy Father was dedicating the Vatican to St Michael the Archangel and blessing a new statue in the Vatican Gardens.  Video above.
Pope Benedict looked very good, I must say, much better than he did during the Holy Father's visit to him in Castel Gandolfo a few months ago.  Many had feared for Benedict's health, but it seems he is bouncing back, although his frailty is obvious.  Let us continue to keep him in our prayers.

Some reports on the event: Catholic Culture, Catholic World Report, Zenit.

More Joining The Ranks
The Venerable Alvaro del Portillo and the Venerable Nicholas d'Onofrio
While Blesseds John Paul II and John XXIII dominated the news yesterday, the Holy Father advanced the Causes of a number of others also.  For a quick look at these men and women who are on the way to beatification see the Vatican news service here.
But taking a few of them.  First of all the Holy Father signed the decrees of the miracle for the Venerable Alvaro del Portillo, Bishop and first successor of St Josemaria Escriva as leader of Opus Dei. Venerable Alvaro was one of St Josemaria's first companions and proved himself a humble servant.  He was renowned for his holiness, gentleness and zeal.  
Pope Francis has also recognised the martyrdom of various groups of men and women martyred in Spain during the Spanish Civil War: I presume all of these will be included in the large group being beatified in October.
Then the Holy Father signed a number of decrees of heroic virtue, raising some Servants of God to the rank of Venerable.  Among them is the young Camillian seminarian, Nicholas d'Onofrio.  Nicholas has been growing in popularity among the young. He died at the age of twenty-one as he was preparing for priesthood within the Camillians: he was never ordained, but like many young Saints before him he achieved great sanctity in the few shorts years that were allotted to him.  Now he needs a miracle if he is to be beatified.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Lumen Fidei

An edition of Pope Francis' first encyclical entitled 'Lumen Fidei' on July 5, 2013 at the Vatican.
More wonderful events today.  Pope Francis has promulgated his first encyclical, Lumen fidei, The Light of Faith.  He took the unfinished encyclical of Pope Benedict and based his first on it: he said that four hands worked on it: his and Benedict's.
I have had a quick look at it - it seems to be a marvellous piece of work.  With holidays coming, I shall be able to read it at my leisure.


Well, the Holy Father has signed the decree for canonisation: Blessed John Paul II, beloved Pope and co-patron of our Fraternity is to be canonised!  The quickest Cause in modern times.  What a day!  The Holy Father has yet to announce the date - he wants to consult with the Cardinals first (why, I wonder?).  So we'll keep our eyes and ears open. 
Blessed John XXIII is also to be canonised in the same ceremony - the Pope has dispensed with the requirement for a second miracle, as is his right.  Some may not be happy with that particular with such a controversial figure as John XXIII.  Yet we need to bear in mind that the same Papal privilege was invoked in the cases of St John Fisher, St Thomas More and St Maximilian Kolbe, so it is not unusual.  We already had a miracle for Blessed John's beatification, so we can take it that it is God's will that he be glorified.  That said, with the joint canonisation we have an opportunity to look at who Blessed John really was, not a screaming liberal, but an orthodox pontiff who sought real reform in the Church to prepare for the great mission which lies ahead.  In this Blessed John and Blessed John Paul are of the one heart and one mind.
We await the details of Blessed John Paul's miracle, but we know it concerns a Costa Rican woman, Floribeth Mora, who was suffering from a cerebral aneurism who was suddenly and inexplicably healed after prayer to the Blessed Pontiff in the hours after his beatification on the 1st May 2011.  Reports from the Vatican say that the details of the miracle will astound.
So now, friends, get packing!  We're going to Rome.  I can hear the engines revving in Poland already.   JesteŇõmy na naszej drodze!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Oink, Oink?

In a report last week the leadership of the ACP (Association of Catholic Priests), which claims to represent a thousand priests in Ireland, having made a round of the councils of priests in the dioceses, said that a "substantial number of bishops, and some priests" believe people in Ireland have become pagan.  The report raised the ire of the media and some people.  What was most astonishing was that the media did not ask the bishops if they actually said this, but took the word of an unofficial group of priests who dissent from Catholic teaching without question.
Well in The Irish Catholic this week, staff reporters have consulted the councils of priests in Ireland to see what they actually said, and it seems that in the discussions, while secularism was discussed in some, the word "pagan" was not referred to at all.
So, did the ACP take it up wrong or are they telling porkies to get more publicity? 

The Faithful Few

I keep a statue of St John Fisher on my desk - he's looking at me now as I write this post.  I bought it on a visit to London, and I did so for a particular reason.  As Henry VIII was attempting to get rid of his faithful wife to marry his mistress, when he turned to the bishops of England to support him in his task to force a divorce (annulment) out of the Pope, only one stood his ground and remained true to Christ's teaching on marriage and the communion of the Church: Bishop Fisher of Rochester, all the other bishops folded.  This statue on my desk is to remind me that even a successor of the Apostles may not have the courage, virtue or even decency to stand by Christ and his Church when fear and threats assail him.  
It is also a timely warning to me: I may well be found wanting (as I often am, God forgive me!) at a moment when real witness is required, so I must beg God for his grace, the gift of courage and seek to be faithful to him and to his Church for the sake of the flock that he has put in my care.   I am all too aware that human weakness can at times make traitors of us all. 
Remaining faithful to what is right should be no problem, after all to do so will create harmony and justice in our world and confer peace in our hearts.  But when what is right is muddied and confused by subtle evils and distorted human desires, it can be difficult to discern what to do, particularly if we have not had proper education in the ways of morality and virtue.  Many Catholics today, having been raised without solid formation in the faith, exposed to radical secularism and taught by the example of public figures to give precedence to their desires and to seek pleasure as one of the highest goods, find themselves in a mire when it comes to evaluating what is right and true and then choosing the morally good and virtuous.  That many of the clergy have taught a diluted Gospel in which the individual has been put centre place and the highest virtue and means of salvation is said to be nice to others and good to oneself, has led many astray.  And so many members of the Church live and choose in a manner contrary to Christ's teaching all the time actually thinking that what they are doing is morally right.  God loves them and so he endorses all they do so long as they do not kill anyone, or so they think.
Why this reflection?  Because I think this may partly explain what happened in the last couple of days when Catholic TDs in our parliament voted to support Taoiseach Enda Kenny's Abortion Bill.  I do not think that all of them were acting out of a secular, anti-Christian, anti-life ideology (some were, but not all).  Many of them, I am sure, thought that what they were doing was right and good and the only way to save women's lives.  Now that is not true, there is no need or justification for the Kenny Abortion Bill as consultants, GPs, psychiatrists and legal experts have explained, yet in the moral mire than now exists, professional opinions can be dismissed in favour of the sentimental which now has greater influence in moral evaluation.  And I believe that state of affairs exists for a number of reasons, one of them being the failure of the Catholic Church in Ireland to catechise effectively.  In the catechesis that I and many after me received, the truths of the faith, faithful adherence to the Gospel, participating in the Liturgy, all of that had been reduced to sentiment.  And so when it comes to moral difficulties and vital questions of life and death, pure emotion is often the basis for decision making.  And so we see that pure emotion - blind emotion, has led to the deaths of over 2 billion children in the last forty to fifty years.  Can that be right or good?
I have to say I was deeply saddened that only twenty-four people voted against the Kenny Abortion Bill.  I know it is double the "twelve good men", and more than the one who stood against Henry VIII.  But to think that in our parliament the unborn child can only find twenty-four human beings to defend their right to life is shocking.  Now I know some voted for the Bill in order to get amendments through and save lives, and at this stage there is some moral justification for that, their intention is not to endorse but to get it to a stage to change it.  But now that those amendments were rejected at meetings of the Dail Committee yesterday, more TDs will stand against it, but I fear, not enough to stop its passage.  The Minister of Health will present more amendments on Wednesday next at the Report Stage, but they will not change the tenor of the legislation nor remove the offending articles.
That said I have to congratulate those TDs who stood for life.  Those in Fine Gael defied the party whip and for their troubles have now been expelled ("excommunicated") from their party.  I know from sources that these pro-life TDs have been subject to appalling pressure and intimidation, some of it, I am told, from the Taoiseach himself.  That they stood their ground to do what is right, true and good, is a testament to their courage and integrity.  They deserve our respect and support.  The Taoiseach has informed them, as revealed in an interview yesterday, that these TDs will not be selected as candidates for the next General Election.  I would call on pro-life voters in the constituencies of which these TDs are representatives to put aside party affiliation, and consider voting for them in the next election should they decide to contest it as independent candidates.  That they respect human life at its most vulnerable stage reveals that they can be trusted. 
Let us pray for these good men and women who support life.  May St John Fisher and St Thomas More stand by them in this difficult time.
Let us also pray for our government, that they have a change of heart.  That they may see that there is another way, a way that respects life, a way already made clear by doctors and other professionals. 
And let us pray for those in government and parliament who are immersed in the ideology of the culture of death, that the Lord may touch their hearts and convert them.
And we pray for the pro-life movement.  May the Holy Spirit guide us, support us and give us the wisdom we need.  For it is not flesh and blood we fight, but powers and principalities.