Friday, October 25, 2013

The Pride of Wales

Richard Gwyn.jpg
St Richard Gywn, martyred for his adherence to the Catholic faith
and his opposition to married priests.
Until recently today was celebrated in England and Wales as the feast of Athe Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, among them is St Edmund Arrowsmith, one of my own patrons, so today is his official feast day. That feast is now celebrated on the 4th May, but Wales still celebrates her martyrs on this day.
Among the companion martyrs today we have St Richard Gwyn, a Welsh schoolteacher who was martyred in 1584.   Richard had suffered from religious discrimination in his university years - as a Catholic educational possibilities were limited particularly at university level, so after losing his place in Cambridge, he went abroad to the University of Douai.  He married and raised a Catholic family and worked as a teacher, teaching Catholic children otherwise deprived of an education.  His adherence to the "old faith" was noted by many, including the local Anglican bishop - so he was a marked man.  He was constantly paying fines for not going to Protestant ceremonies and once when dragged there, he was fined for his "brawling" - his efforts to escape his captors.  He was arrested in 1583 and brought to trial.  One of the indictments made against him was his speaking against married priests.  He was hanged, drawn and quartered for his faith on the 15th October 1584. 
The other martyrs commemorated today are: St John Jones, a Franciscan from Clynnog Fawr, who was put to death for his ministry in England in 1598; he was notable as a spiritual advisor and had sustained many persecuted Catholics including the future martyr St John RigbySt John Roberts, a convert and Benedictine who founded and had been prior of the Abbey in Douai.  St John worked among the plague victims in London, he was martyred in December 1610.  St Philip Evans was a Jesuit working in Wales, arrested during the Titus Oates affair he was executed in 1679.  Arrested with St Philip and dying with him was St John Lloyd, a Welsh secular priest.  He had been on the run for twenty-four years, exercising his priestly ministry under the constant threat of betrayal and arrest.  As he stood on the scaffold when told he could make a final speech St John said "I never was a good speaker in my life".  That said his heroic life and death were an eloquent testimony to the Word of God.  St David Lewis died a month after Ss Philip and John.  A Jesuit, St David converted to Catholicism during a visit to Paris when he was sixteen and was ordained priest in Rome before joining the Jesuits.  Arrested under accusations of involvement in the Popish Plot invented by informed Titus Oates, St David was in reality executed for his priesthood in August 1679.
Worthy Welshmen!  Happy feast day to all our friends in the Principality.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Zeal, Suspicion And The Hermeneutic Of Prejudice

Roma women in Romania
The whole area of child protection is an absolute maze.  Given failures in the past, people are now hypersensitive in some areas (I say "some" for a reason), and procedures have been put in place to protect children from abuse, and rightly so, but sometimes you wonder: who will protect the children (and their families) from the 'protectors'?
In the last week or so we have had a media frenzy over Roma gypsies and their "supposed" children.  In Greece there is a case in which a child, not biologically related to her supposed parents, is being investigated.  The little girl has blond hair and blue eyes and so, we are told, could not be a Roma child.  We do not know what happened, we should keep an open mind.  The investigation continues.
On the back of this, however, we had two cases here in Ireland: one in Dublin and one in the midlands, where two children, blond hair and blue eyes, were taken from Roma parents as it was thought these children were in the same situation as the Greek girl.  However both accusations were found to be untrue.  The little boy at the heart of the midlands case was returned after a day to the Roma couple who are his real parents, and last night, after investigations and DNA tests, the little girl in Dublin was returned to the gypsy couple because, despite her "Aryan" looks, the child is their daughter. 
The Minister for Justice has ordered an investigation.  It seems that despite assurances at the beginning that a sound investigation had taken place before the State intervened, simple questions were not asked like: when the woman had the child in the Rotunda maternity hospital, as she claimed, might she be recorded under her maiden name rather than her married name?  If that question had been asked and investigated this sorry mess would not have happened. 
People are now upset.  The liberal faction of Irish society tut-tutted as the children were being taken into care, and rightly so, but let us not forget it was the same faction and their political representatives who, over the last couple of decades, have sought to increase the State's powers over the family to enable even draconian measures be taken to 'protect' children.  I do not condone abuse or maltreatment of children, and yes there are times when the State must intervene, but I do ask the question: who will protect the innocent from the protectors, from false allegations, from crazy suspicions?  I fear the answer to that is: no one, and we shall many more cases like these in the coming years, and more innocent people will suffer; more innocent children will suffer as they are needlessly taken from loving parents.
In the first paragraph I wrote that "people are now hypersensitive in some areas", emphasis on the some.  Why are some in modern Western society held in suspicion and others not?  Do the above cases have anything to do with the fact that we are dealing with Roma gypsies?  If a middle class, left-wing couple with dark hair and features have a blond haired child, are suspicions raised, alarm bells ringing all over child protection offices?  Usually no, we just think it may be a genetic throwback to an ancestor who had those features and it usually is - or, if not, perhaps the child is legally adopted or one spouse wandered into other pastures at some point in time.  We never think initially that this child might be abducted.  Perhaps child protection officers might actually advise us to be more suspicious as a norm and actually consider abduction as a possibility whenever we see children with genetic traits at variance with their parents.  But where would that continual hermeneutic of suspicion lead us and lead society?
But I wonder if these recent events are not just another manifestation of the old fears about gypsies - they steal your children etc etc?  Whether we like to admit it or not old prejudices do not die because we now think we are sophisticated, we just dress them up in language and attitudes we think are enlightened, reasonable and modern.  Secular ideology rarely if ever exorcises prejudice, it usually affirms and normalises it as we saw in 1930s Germany and today in the secular west as, for example, people of Orthodox Christian faith are now the pariahs.  We might think we love the gays now, but walk down a street in Dublin, London or any other European city and see the righteous indignation at the Roma ladies selling the Big Issue.  Yes, professional begging is one thing, and we can discuss alleged petty crime another time, but none these serve as reasons to turn our noses up at the Roma nor suspect that they have abducted children.
I found this interesting article on the Roma, it is worth reading.


The Minister for Justice defends the actions of the GardaíCatholicus Nua disagrees and parses the actual legislation. He also raises the issue of the recent children's referendum which gave the State even more power over the family. 

And apparently the Greek case is not as simple as it seems.  Recent developments appear to suggest that this is more a case of informal adoption with money changing hands rather than abduction.                     

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Remember Our Military Chaplains

As regular readers of my blog will know I have a great regard for Fr William Doyle, Jesuit priest and mystic who died as he was serving as a military chaplain during the First World War.  Almost a century after his death devotion to him is growing and favours are being granted, however no Cause had yet been opened (don't get me started!).  We can only hope and pray that one will be opened soon.
Well today is the feast of the patron of military chaplains, St John of Capistrano.  St John initially trained as a lawyer and worked for a while as a judge, but the call to priesthood and religious life led him to the Franciscan Order.  As a friar he spent his life travelling around Europe as a preacher - a missionary in effect, preaching against the various heresies that were distracting people from the faith.  He was a military chaplain and proved himself to be very heroic on the battlefield, tending to the needs of the wounded, maimed and dying.  He himself died following battle, though not of wounds, succumbing to fever contracted at the Siege of Belgrade in 1456. 
Today, then, let us pray for all our military chaplains: our heroic priests who offer their lives to care for those who serve in the armed forces and their families.  These priests are often found in the midst of conflict, dodging bullets and bombs on the battlefield to bring the sacraments and comfort to the injured and dying.  I would ask you to remember in particular a brother-priest of my diocese, Fr Robert McCabe who is presently in the Golan Heights on peace-keeping duties with the Irish army.  And while you're at it, you might say a prayer that the powers that be may get the finger out and start Fr Willie Doyle's Cause!  For more information on Fr Doyle follow this link.
Fr William Doyle, SJ, Priest, Military Chaplain and Mystic

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Evening News

A couple of pieces for you this evening.  First an article on Pope Francis and the media on the Aleteia blog.  According to Russell Shaw the media are actually quite accurate in reporting what Pope Francis says, some simplification aside, it seems, they are not missing the point.   Shaw tells us that we in the Church are in for an exciting ride.  I just hope the heart can take it!
Secondly, the CDF has issued a document on the matter of divorced and remarried Catholics, essentially reiterating the Church's position (Catholic Herald reports here). The document can be downloaded here.   It seems the Prefect of CDF, Archbishop Muller, is attempting to stave off undue expectation that Pope Francis will change the Church's teaching on who can receive the Eucharist.  Archbishop Muller points out that "An objectively false appeal to mercy...runs the risk of trivialising the image of God, by implying that God cannot do other than forgive".  “The mystery of God" he continues, "includes not only his mercy but also his holiness and his justice. If one were to suppress these characteristics of God and refuse to take sin seriously, ultimately it would not even be possible to bring God’s mercy to man.”  This is an important point: the mercy of God is deep but not limitless - there is a limit and that limit is that line drawn in the sand by lack of repentance - a limit set, not by God, but by those who refuse to repent.  As I said before, Pope Francis, like every other Pope, even Peter, is only the Pope, he cannot change the moral law.  The Holy Father, in his humility, knows that all too well even if many of his new-found supporters do not.
I also note with interest what Archbishop Muller says about the Orthodox Church's approach to divorce and remarriage.  He writes that “This practice cannot be reconciled with God’s will, as expressed unambiguously in Jesus’ sayings about the indissolubility of marriage”.  For a very good and clear article on this issue I would recommend Jimmy Aiken's most recent post.
All that said, the Church and her shepherds must continue to show love and compassion to those who find themselves in irregular unions and include them as much as possible in the life of the Church even if full sacramental and administrative inclusion is not possible.  For one thing greater resources and time should be given to marriage tribunals.  In the US, I believe, bishops and diocesan curiae are quite efficient in this area, but in other parts of the Church, including Ireland this pastoral work does not have the priority, funding or staffing it needs. 
And finally, hearty congratulations to Michael Warsaw and Doug Keck of EWTN who have been promoted.  Michael has been appointed Chairman of the Network's board, and Doug is now President; worthy appointments.  May the Lord bless them in their work, they can be sure of the Network's support and good wishes.

Feast of Blessed John Paul II


Today is the feast of Blessed John Paul II: so happy feast day to you all.  I was reading some excerpts from his writings and one piece in particular struck me.  Given the battle that is going on, our attempts to defend human life and dignity, and the faith in this aggressively secular world, this quotation had great resonance for me.  It gives me hope while recognising the reality of what is going on.  Here is the passage for your meditation:
We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think the wide circle of the American Society, or the wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the Gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. This confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is, therefore, in God’s Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously…

We must prepare ourselves to suffer great trials before long, such as will demand of us a disposition to give up even life, and a total dedication to Christ and for Christ. With your and my prayers, it is possible to mitigate the coming tribulation, but it is no longer possible to avert it, because only thus can the Church be effectually renewed. How many times has the renewal of the Church sprung from the shedding of blood? This time too, it will not be otherwise. We must be strong and prepared and trust in Christ and in his Holy Mother and be very, very assiduous in praying the holy rosary.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


A few articles and issues for your consideration.
One of the big Catholic stories over the last couple of weeks was the document coming from the German diocese of Freiburg in which the Archbishop seems to have decided to allow divorced and remarried Catholics receive the Eucharist.  This was coupled with the off the cuff comments of Pope Francis that the Church will have to look at this pastoral issue and his calling of a Synod for next year to discuss marriage and family issues.  Now it seems that document was not official, but leaked.  Marie Meaney in Crisis magazine has an interesting article on the issue.  She asks: is a formal schism with German Catholics coming? 
David Quinn also an interesting piece in this week's Irish Catholic. I think we all recognise that the Church will have to tread very carefully on this issue.  Church law is one thing, but the moral law another.  At the end of the day the Church and the Pope cannot change the moral law.  As Pope Benedict XVI once said: "I'm only the Pope, there are some things I cannot change".  I'm sure Francis is aware of that too, though many in the Church are not - they think the Pope has power to change the moral law at will.  While there is reference to the position of the Orthodox Church's practice, I think it is based on a particular reading of Matthew 19 and in essence the meaning of the word porneia in 19:9.  Much controversy surrounds the meaning of this word, so the theologians will be delving into that controversy over the coming months.  That said one has to wonder why Jesus would allow for an exception when the whole thrust of his teaching is to close off the exception Moses introduced.
Further to the controversy of the pro-abortion Fine Gael TD no longer permitted to act as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, a letter to The Irish Catholic asks if politicians should be allowed serve in such roles at all - given their position as public members of a political party.  An interesting question worth discussing.
Another controversial issue was the funeral of the Nazi Erich Priebke.  The Diocese of Rome announced earlier this week that he was being refused a Catholic funeral.  As the week went on we discovered that he went to Confession and, we presume, he was reconciled with the Church before he died.  Interestingly the schismatic Society of St Pius X decided to give him a funeral, however protests prevented the body being brought to the church and so the funeral is on hold.   I offer for your consideration Fr Ray Blake's interesting blog post on the issue.  What Priebke did was horrendous, and the crimes of the Nazis deserve absolute condemnation, so I understand and accept that this man should not have a public funeral nor full public Catholic rites, though I note they have been given to mass murderers and terrorists before; such an action would be a public scandal (cf, Canon 1184).  It seems from later reports that the Diocese permitted a service in a private home, reiterating that prayers for dead can never be denied. 
And finally it seems the Church has successfully applied to gain control of the .catholic domain and she may well allow institutions and communities with canonical recognition to use it.  I wonder....??

Rome 2014 Confirmed

Wikimedia Commons
We have finalised details of our pilgrimage to Rome for the canonisation of Blessed John Paul II.  We are taking a few days in San Giovanni Rotondo before the trip to Rome for some quiet prayer, and we are visiting the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompei and the Shrine of the Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano.  All are welcome to come on the trip.  Details on the link at the top of the page.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Broken Healer

I have been doing a little research on some of our new Beati - the martyrs of the Spanish Civil War.  Some of us Discalced Seculars joined up with some Daughters of Charity for a  Mass of Thanksgiving on Monday evening, so I was swotting in preparation. 
As you know 522 people were raised to the altars on Sunday (not without the usual controversy from secular sources) and while we applaud the beatification of such a large number, we cannot forget that 522 individuals were glorified for their individual witness to Christ and the Gospel.  Lest we get distracted by such a great crowd of witnesses, it is good for us to learn about the individual stories, the individual heroism, the individual overcoming the fear of death and generously offering his or her life for love of Christ and his Church.
Today I would like to share with you the life story of one of our Discalced martyrs, Blessed Angel of St Joseph.  My American readers may be happy to hear that Angel lived in the US for a few years, in Tucson, Arizona.  His life is very interesting and offers inspiration not only to those who struggling for faith in an age of disbelief, but also for those who may be battling with personal problems, particularly personality problems.
Blessed Angel was born Juan Fort Ruis in Espulga de Francoli near Tarragona in Catalonia, Spain, on the 20th October 1896.  He was the only child of his parents, and shortly after his birth his father abandoned his wife and the new-born.   He had a difficult childhood and various personality problems emerged as he grew up.  He was restless, impulsive and inconsistent and these traits remained with him throughout his life making that life very difficult for him and for others.  That said he was not a bad child, he possessed a profound goodness and a tremendous generosity for others.  These virtues endeared him to others and allowed them to endure his personal difficulties.
Juan trained as a baker from an early age but following visits to the Carmelites in Tarragona he began to discern a religious vocation.  When he was twenty-two he entered the Discalced and began formation as a Brother taking the name Br Angel of St Joseph.  In 1916 he was sent to the United States to work in the parish of Santa Cruz in Tucson, Arizona.  While there he made his first profession in 1921 and his Solemn Profession in 1924. 
While in Santa Cruz he found he had a charism for working with young people, and so he made time to minister to them in midst of his other duties.  He formed a youth group under the patronage of St Joseph, built a hall for them use for their meetings and founded an annual magazine for them.  These years were very happy ones for Angel.  In 1934 he returned to Spain, assigned to serve as porter in the monastery in Tarragona.  He threw himself into his duties and was soon known throughout the city for his joy and enthusiasm.  Everyone knew Br Angel and he was held in high regard - a fame which would actually cost him his life. 
When the Spanish Civil War broke out in July 1936 the Prior of the community took the decision to abandon the monastery and hide the friars in various locations throughout the city.  Angel was safely hidden in a warehouse.  However, given his restless nature and his sense of duty to the community, Angel could not sit still, he had to be out doing something, helping someone.  Blessed Fr Vicente of the Cross, a priest of the community, had found refuge with a member of the Secular Order, and on the 25th July Angel made his way to the house with news that the militia were to carry out a house inspection.  Unfortunately, though in lay clothes, Angel was well known in the city, and so he came to the attention of a patrol and they were spying on him and following him every time he left the warehouse.  On that visit to Fr Vicente he was under surveillance, and as soon as he arrived at the house, the patrol apprehended both friars.  Angel and Fr Vicente were taken to the headquarters of the Workers Party of Marxist Unity.  It was decided that the friars should be transferred to a prison ship. On the day of the transfer, however, the 31st July, the hatred of their captors was too much to be contained and so as the two were being led to prison they were taken under a railway bridge and shot.  Their bodies lay for three days before being found and buried in a common grave.
Angel struggled with his personal demons but did so in the context of his faith and of his sense of duty to his brothers in the Order and the young people he served.   A true son of St Teresa he found the humble place, the place of simple service, and he found joy there.  His death was tragic and some may say that his restless nature, his impetuousness, led to his martyrdom.  However it was also his fame - he was well known as porter of the monastery, and well loved among the faithful.  Like Christ he could not hide from those who hated him and like the Lord he embraced the sacrifice that was awaiting him.   Among the many lessons we can learn from Blessed Angel one of them must be this: that we cannot run away from being known to be Christian, we cannot hide, nor seek to slip into the crowd and remain anonymous so we can be left alone to live our lives privately.  We cannot try to hide our faith by surrendering to the values of the world, we must stand apart, we must be the light of the world, the salt of the earth, and as Jesus said, a light cannot be hidden, it must be seen in order to dispel the darkness.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Damien Hirst's Pro-Life Art

Yes, I know, that headline may have shocked you.  And let's face it, when it comes to Damien Hirst the natural reaction is shock.  But thanks to Matthew Archbald over at Creative Minority Report (great guys the Archbald brothers),I was made aware that Hirst has created a series of sculptures which reveal the progress of life within the womb.  See Matthew's article here.  Looking at the photographs of the statues they seem to be very beautiful and made with great respect and even affection.  So kudos to Damien Hirst for that.
And if you are keen to see what the Archbalds are up to you could do worse than follow Patrick's struggle with his chickens.  It seems they are taking a long time to get into the laying game and Patrick is beginning to threaten them with a deep fat fryer.  However hope is on the horizon as an egg was found: a single, solitary egg.  As one Irish Churchperson would say: "Ah, a great sign of hope!"

New Pope-Emeritus Benedict Video

RomeReports has filed this video recording the visit of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to Pope Benedict's home.  We get to see the chapel in his monastery.  I must say he is looking well. 

Madre's Day

Today in Discalced Carmel we celebrate the Solemnity of our Holy Mother, St Teresa of Jesus - Madre as many of us call her.  In Carmelite houses all over the world extended liturgies will be succeeded by a festal meal and, for those who drink, a little glass of wine, and perhaps even a little pudding!  Yesterday, according to tradition we observed the fast in preparation, and, in true Teresian spirit, now we observe the feast. 
To celebrate, perhaps a few of her poems. St Teresa is famous for her mystical writings, but she was also an accomplished poet.  First something sublime:
If, Lord, your love for me is strong
As this which binds me unto you,
What holds me from you Lord so long,
What holds you Lord so long from me?
O soul, what then do you desire?
Lord I would see you, who thus choose you.
What fears can yet assail you now?
All that I fear is but lose you.
Love’s whole possession I entreat,
Lord make my soul your own abode,
And I will build a nest so sweet
It may not be too poor for God.
A soul in God hidden from sin,
What more desires for you remain,
Save but to love and love again,
And all on flame with love within,
Love on, and turn to love again.
There is the famous one, beloved by so many:
Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
     no hands but yours,
     no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
     Christ's compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
     doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.

Then there is the lovely hymn she wrote asking the Lord to deliver the community from lice.  Apparently, having led a procession of the sisters through the house singing this song, the community no longer had problems with lice, a deliverance, I'm told, lasts up to today.  Teresa believe the Lord worked a miracle, and he might have seeing that lice were a constant problem for all classes in Spain at the time.  In response to the miracle the sisters gave the Lord a new title: the Christ of the lice.  No comment!  Here's one translation of the hymn.

You clothe us with apparel new,
Heavenly King!
Should creatures vile invest our frieze,
Deliverance bring!

These tiresome creatures much disturb
in time of prayer
Minds which are ill established
in things of God.

Should creatures vile infest our frieze,
Deliverance bring!

You who've come here prepared for death,
Yield not one whit,
And such vile creatures great or small,
Fear not at all.

You've clothed us now in livery new,
Heavenly King.
Should creatures vile infest our frieze,
Deliverance bring!

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Time To Choose

a023ht_MoneyChangers.jpg - 62553 Bytes
No doubt many of you in Ireland will have heard of the TD (member of the Irish parliament) who has been told by his parish priest that he can no longer serve as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion following his support for the recent abortion bill.  The TD, as has become the norm now, has gone to the media to express his woes and pain.  In one article he is quoted as saying that he is horrified by attempts to intimidate him by "ultra right-wing elements in the Church" (by which I presume he means Catholics who reject abortion).  It also appears that the same TD was using Church premises to hold his clinics (where a TD meets constituents) and he has now been told that he can no longer do so.
First of all no TD should be permitted to use Catholic Church property for meetings.  Given we hear so much of the separation of Church and State, Catholic parishes should never facilitate politicians in their political work regardless of who that politician is, upstanding parishioner or not.
Secondly, I understand why the TD in question does not realise why he cannot be pro-abortion, or at least support the introduction of an abortion bill, and not continue to be a Minister of Holy Communion.  Given that the Church representatives in Ireland, and many other places, have dodged the issue of abortion and the consequences for Catholics who support and facilitate it, it is understandable that there is a lot of ignorance out there. 
Thirdly, what this TD's parish priest has done is entirely correct: this TD, having facilitated the introduction of abortion into this country, can no longer serve as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion at Mass nor should he be receiving Communion at all, not until he has made a public repudiation of his position having sought the Sacrament of Confession and perhaps even after doing some public form of penance.  The same goes for all Catholic TDs in the Dail who supported the bill.  Whether they like it or not they had a choice and they made the choice to support the bill and that has consequences for their souls and for their place in the Church.
Reading what the TD has to say I get the impression that he thinks he has a right to be an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and that the priest has no right to exclude him.  This attitude is not unknown in Ireland today as some of those who are Extraordinary Ministers do actually believe it is their right.  This again is not always the fault of lay people who serve in this role, but rather reveals another failing at the heart of the Church in Ireland - another failure of catechesis.  No one has a right to be an Extraordinary Minister, it is a role whereby lay people may assist the priest with the distribution of Holy Communion at the priest's request if he honestly recognises that the distribution of the Eucharist will take an inordinately long time.  There are a lot of conditions in there you'll note.  But they are the conditions laid down by the Church for this role. 
Finally I note with interest, in the Irish Independent's article on this issue, what the spokesman for the Irish Bishops had to say - there is no diktat with regard to politicians and Communion nor to their current relationship with the Church i.e. excommunication.  There is a terrible fear in many Churchmen today to confront and challenge, a fear of offending people and a fear of the media.  Walking the tightrope between pastoral charity and defence of the faith can sometimes be a precarious thing, but it is certainly made more difficult when it is being conducted down in the trenches with heads held as low as physically possible. 
There are times when the truth most be proclaimed and action taken even if it offends people, even if people leave the Church, even if it means the media are going to drag you through the newspapers - that's the price we have to pay for proclaiming the Gospel.  If Jesus had stayed in the trenches he would never have been crucified, and we would not have been redeemed.  And today, how many souls are being lost because Churchmen and women are afraid to proclaim the truth?  If that TD had heard the Gospel of Life properly proclaimed he may well have been aware of the choice he was making on the day of the vote and the consequences for him with regard to the Church.  He may well have made the same choice but he would have been under no illusion that things could dandy along as per usual unchanged.  But then again he may have thought twice about it and may have chosen life instead of death.
On this issue I would suggest a good meditational reading of St Augustine's Sermon to the Shepherds (Office of Readings, Monday Week 24 to Thursday Week 25).

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Another Excuse For A Party!

One of our new Beati: Blessed Joan of Jesus, OCD
Today two great events are happening in the Church - opportunities to celebrate.  First the Holy Father is renewing the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Rome - the statue of Our Lady of Fatima has been brought over from the Portugal for the event.  I hope this renewal will bring many blessings and graces.  Following the definitive consecration in 1984 we saw the gradual dismantling of the Iron Curtain and the fall of communism in many countries, most notably Russia.  It is to be noted that first real swipe was in Poland, Blessed John Paul II's home country - the first domino to fall. 
Also in Spain, 522 martyrs are to be beatified today, among them eleven of our friars: from Lleida four friars: the Venerables Joan of Jesus, Bartomeu of the Passion, Silveri of St Aloysius Gonzaga and Francesc of the Assumption, together with Francesc's brother, the Venerable Pau Segala Sole, a diocesan priest.  From Tarragona seven friars: the Venerables Vicente de la Cruz, Elipio of St Rose, Pedro of St Elias, Angel of St Joseph, Carlos of Jesus Maria, Jose Cecilio of Jesus Maria and Damian of the Most Holy Trinity.  Four Carmelite Brothers from a congregation founded by one of our friars, Blessed Francis Palau, the Tertiary Carmelites of Education, will also be beatified: the Venerables Julio Alameda Cameraro, Luis Domingo Oliva, Isidro Tarsa Guibets and Buenaventura Toldra.  That congregation has since been integrated into the Discalced friars.  Friars from the Carmelites Ancient Observance are also being beatified in the same group: the Venerable Alberto Maria Aleman, O Carm, priest and eight young Carmelite brothers in formation, and the Venerable Carmelo Moyano Linares, O Carm, priest and nine companions - Carmelite priests, clerics and postulants.  So both branches of the Carmeite Order have reason to celebrate today.
I also note that last week Pope Francis canonised the Franciscan Secular Order mystic, Angela of Foligno by equivalence. Another great Saint, so great news. The Holy Father is certain going at saint-making with hammer and tongs.  In his short pontificate so far he used Papal privilege twice, dispensing with the need for a miracle for canonisation in the case of Angela and John XXIII, and I believe he will also do so for his fellow Jesuit, Blessed Peter Fabre.  Benedict used the privilege once, I believe, to canonised St Hildegard, and I think Blessed John Paul also only used it once to canonise St Maximilian Kolbe.  There are rumours that Francis may use it again for Pius XII, dispensing with miracles and beatification and going straight to canonisation.  If he did so it could raise a rumpus, although I think he might be the one who would actually get away with it.  He certainly loves his Saints does our Holy Father!
While I love new Saints, as you all know, I do think equivalence and dispensations kept to a minimum and the norms and process adhered to strictly.  One of the accusations often thrown at the Church when it comes to Saints is that is a purely political process and popes canonise their own cronies for ideological reasons.  The requirement for bona fide miracles knocks that accusation on the head.  As regards the time taken to process a Cause, well the quicker the better.  I'm not one of these who thinks every Cause should  be left for fifty year before even looking at it: if the work is done quickly and it is done right and in accordance with the canonical legislation, and there is a miracle, why wait? 
All that said we delight in the canonisation of St Angela and offer congratulations to the Franciscans.  And if he is so inclined, I might have a few candidates for the Holy Father - our own Matt Talbot, Fr Willie Doyle (he would have to dispense with the need for process there since the Jesuits have not decided to open a Cause there yet) and we have a lady, a member of our Fraternity, who was known for her holiness; we'd be delighted if the Holy Father would give us our first Saint!
Have a good Sunday.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Something For The Long Winter Nights

Well, the winter is coming, and with the prospect of dark evening we might be thinking of some books to read.  If there is one thing the Year of Faith teaches us it is the necessity of reading and learning about our faith.  I haven't written a post on good books to read in a while (if I have ever!), so I thought I might do so as a few new books have caught my attention and they may well be worth reading.
The first has to be John Allen's new book, The Global War On Christians.   Intrigued by a conversation with Cardinal Dolan in 2009, Allen went off to do some research on the present persecution of Christians.  He uncovered some startling facts.  It seems, for example, that in the first decade of the 21st century eleven Christians were being martyred every hour.   It seems to be a fact that Christianity is the world's most persecuted religion, some of it being carried out by Muslims and some by secularists in the West.  For more information on this book see CNA's interview with the author.   And here is an article by Allen on the subject of his book.
Another book which has caught my attention, and one I have ordered, is Ben Urwand's The Collaboration: Hollywood's Pact with Hitler.  The Alive! newspaper here in Ireland did a review of the book (see page 10) and it was this review which caught my interest.  Hitler, the Nazis and the Second World War continue to fascinate, and every year new books are published about the various figures and examining various dimensions of that awful period.  According to the author Hollywood executives collaborated with the Nazi regime in the 1930s, shaping movies to meet Nazi propaganda roles.  It is well known that various figures in the US and elsewhere had deep admiration for Hitler and given that Hitler was, at the start, improving the plight of many Germans and rebuilding the country that admiration may be understandable in part.  Though Hitler's ideology was loathsome, some will put such things aside for pragmatic reasons - human beings have often endorsed dreadful things to achieve certain goals as we have seen all too clearly here in Ireland in recent times.
Apparently Urwand details how Hollywood executives persecuted Jewish employees in order to curry favour with the Nazis.  Now I have yet to read the book (it's on order), but we will have to see how that actually happened because many of those who ruled Hollywood were Jews themselves, many of them refugees from Eastern European pogroms.
Finally, a book series for you: C. J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake series.  I have just finished reading the series so far and I can highly recommend them.  The books are historical detective fiction, the protagonist  being a Tudor lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, who finds himself in the middle of various murders, political intrigues and religious disputes.   Set during the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in England we see the effects of the English Reformation on the people of the time. 
Sansom is both a lawyer and a historian and he has done his research so as to present as accurate a picture as possible of the time.  He is not Catholic, nor does he completely accept some of the conclusions new Reformation historians like Eamon Duffy are coming to, so his narrative is not influenced by a "Catholic revisionism" and that is good because when he exposes the negative fallout of Henry VIII's break from Rome you see he does not have an axe to grind.  And what fallout!  As the monasteries are dissolved, the properties and possessions are usurped by the King and his cronies and the poor and sick, once cared for by the monks and nuns, are turfed out onto the streets of London and other cities and demonised as leeches.  These books can serve as an interesting introduction to Reformation history and I would recommend you dipping into Eamon Duffy and Jack Scarisbrick afterwards for further reading.
Quite apart from this insight into Reformation England, the books are a cracking good read.  The first is Dissolution and while a little like The Name of the Rose it lacks Eco's brilliance but also his ideological slant.   Dissolution is Sansom's first novel so we give him space, but to be honest not much is required because the characters and plot draw you in.  The second novel is Dark Fire and the third is Sovereign which is set against Henry VIII's northern progress in 1541 and the romantic intrigues beginning to surround his then wife, Queen Catherine Howard.  Revelation is the fourth and this one is addictive, you won't be able to put it down: it deals with a Tudor serial killer set against Henry's wooing of the just widowed Catherine Parr.  And the fifth is Heartstone which is set against the failed French invasion of England in 1545 and again it's addictive.  Sansom has indicated that more Shardlake novels will be forthcoming, but no word yet of the next instalment.  But if you are looking for some good crime fiction which will get the historical juices going, then curling up with a Shardlake novel on a cold winter night might just be the thing.  And lest you think I'm on commission I'm not.
Any books you would like to recommend?  If so, you are welcome to leave a review in the combox.

The Genteel Doctor

Blessed John Henry Newman - A pillar of Conscience

Today is, of course, the feast of Blessed John Henry Newman, so happy feast day to you all! 
Much has been said about Newman, at this stage there must be thousands of books and doctoral theses.  But one of the things which impresses me about him was his precision and subtlety.  He realised that the mysteries of God, while fulsome and magnificent, need to be understood in truth, in their accuracy, if I may say that.  Newman was no slob when it came to theology or spirituality, he was genteel and careful.  I suppose his study of the Arians will have helped him see that at times there is a fine line between the truth and heresy, between the responsible proclamation of truth and the wobbly misinterpretation and misrepresentation.   Newman teaches us that we must be careful. 

Being careful and accurate does not make us prudes or inauthentic, rather it reminds us that even in exploration and teaching of the faith we must adhere to virtue, in particular prudence, and reason.   Newman never involved himself in verbal or theological jujitsu, faith was too important, too deep, too adventurous for that.  He certainly basked in the mystery and sought to bring others out from beneath the umbrella into the full light of the blazing Son.  Nor does this care undermine passion and love - Blessed John Henry was a passionate lover of Christ.  And it does not undermine zeal - John Henry had zeal in buckets - just read his letters.  No, it helps us keep our heads so when we give our hearts we can do so with even greater understanding and generosity.

By the way, for those of you interested in relics, as you know Blessed John Henry's body disintegrated, so the only relics we have are locks of his hair preserved by friends, his clothes and his possessions.  However, one piece of bone survived the quicklime and is now preserved in the Oratory in Birmingham. 


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Slippery Slope

No laughing matter: the growing spectre of euthanasia.
During the recent debate on the abortion bill here in Ireland we were promised faithfully, indeed even scolded by some proponents of the bill, that it would not open the floodgates to abortion on demand.  We were to accept that Ireland would not be like every other country in the world and every other example of restricted abortion laws "evolving" into very liberal abortion laws.  After all, isn't Ireland different?  Well, personally, if anyone believed the proponents on that point they were very naïve.  As experience shows when one step is taken in the direction of the culture of death, one finds oneself quickly pushed into a trolley and plummeted further and further down the road.
And there is no better example of this than the progress of euthanasia laws in the Low Countries.  After hard-case campaigns pleading to allow so-called "mercy killing" on a voluntary basis saw the introduction of limited euthanasia, we soon began to hear of hard cases which required some involuntary "mercy killing", but only in the most extreme cases and after a number of criteria were fulfilled.  After all, there is no desire to trivialise this decision. 
Well, the trolley is well and truly gone out of all control now.  After the voluntary euthanasia for twin men who were facing blindness was carried out to save them from psychological pain, another case has surfaced - a woman who has just become blind has been euthanized.  Apart from her blindness, it seems she was perfectly healthy in every other way.   Then there was the woman who was euthanized because a sex change operation went wrong.  And now the Belgian parliament is about to vote on the question of allowing children decide if they want to be euthanized voluntarily.  We do not allow children marry, vote, drive or drink, but it seems Belgium may well let them decide whether they want to live or die.   Things have gone too far, death has been trivialised and is now, in some places, in the service of the health industry. 
This disturbing development raises many questions, one of which is: when it will become a duty to die should a person develop an illness that requires continuous care or one which will require a major transformation in one's life like blindness?  Given that some of the above persons were euthanized because of mental anguish or associated conditions, could we see a time when people diagnosed with mental illnesses will be expected to die rather than suffer and battle the condition?  Or, as the above cartoon suggests, if people cannot afford medical treatment would they be better off being euthanized?  Or even more disturbingly: as populations age and fewer are being born to replace and support them, thanks to contraception and abortion, will governmental economic problems see pressure eventually being put on the more needy of elderly citizens to make a decision to end it all in order not to be a burden on society and the economy? 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Rome 2014

A picture of the late Pope John Paul II is held up as Pope Benedict XVI leads the Angelus prayer from his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/Files
In case any of you are interested, the Fraternity is looking at the possibility of organising a pilgrimage to Rome for the canonisation of Blessed John Paul II in April.  We have contacted a travel company, so as soon as we have details and a price I will let you know. 
If you are interested, please let me know. 

The Shutdown Thing

US politics can be very interesting, and the structure of American democracy has its positive points worth reflecting on by us Irish as we look to the reform of our political system.  I personally think that as we consider the reform of our Senate, we might look Stateside and get some ideas.  Perhaps change the Senate into a house freed from the Dail, directly elected every five years, not falling when the Lower House falls.  Other ideas like staggered elections is also interesting - why not have half the senators go out every two and half years so the House is refreshed?  Perhaps that might be too democratic and uncontrollable for the Irish system.
However, some things in the US have me scratching my head, one of them is the shutdown.  Why close everything because a budget fails to pass?  Yes, I understand civil and public servants's salaries are included in the budget, but I think the intelligent people on Capitol Hill or in the West Wing can come up with some arrangement to keep the country running while the parties fight it out in the Houses.
One of the silliest aspects of the shutdown was this law preventing priests from saying Mass on Sunday.  Now that has been sorted - the House of Representatives has passed a resolution permitting religious services for the military during a shutdown.  However, as I think about this I have to ask a question.  If the shutdown has been so strict I presume the President and his family have been cooking for themselves since the shutdown? After all the staff in the White House are government employees.  I presume Obama and his kin can eat since, I think, they pay for their own food.  I would also presume that he or the First Lady would have had to pop out to do the shopping.  After all, if soldiers can't get Mass because of the shutdown, why should the President be exempt?
So, my dear US readers: have any of you seen Barack or Michelle trolleying down the aisles of K-Mart or Walmart in the last week? If so, let us know. 

He Was What He Wore: A Faithful Witness

Lest you think I'm dead, I'm not.  The last few weeks have been extremely busy and while eventful on the news front, when time became available to blog I was just too tired.  I had better get back into it.  Someone said to me that blogging is a habit, get out of it and it can be hard to get back into it.  That is true.  So I had better get back into this ministry.
Well some good news to report: the heroic young seminarian, Rolando Rivi, has been beatified.  On Saturday the young seminarian murdered by communists out of hatred for his faith in 1945 was inscribed among the Blessed as a martyr.   I know a number of seminarians and priests will be delighted.
Rolando was an extraordinary young man, he was only fourteen when he was martyred and already studying for the priesthood - he had entered the junior seminary at the age of eleven.  An interesting dimension to this martyrdom was his refusal to divest of his clerical clothes.  He lived in an area of Italy which was, and still is, quite socialist, and there is a great hatred for the Church prevalent among certain groups there.  It was because he wore his cassock that Rolando came to the attention of the communist partisans who kidnapped, tortured and killed him.  Rolando had been advised to take off his clerical clothes, so as not to draw people's attention to him: Rolando refused.  He was martyred on the 10th April 1945.
I'm sure some would say that Rolando's attitude did not help and may have led to aggravating his killers - the more prudent thing would have been to take off his clerical clothes and lie low until trouble passed.  Yes, many did that in times of persecution, we may need to do it ourselves should persecution come to Ireland, the US or other countries in the West.  Heroic and faithful priests had to minister in difficult situations in "mufti": St Oliver Plunkett, St Edmund Arrowsmith and other priests in post-Reformation Britain and Ireland passed themselves off as layman, dressing as such, in order to move freely and undetected. 
But we cannot dismiss Rolando's witness either.  The Church in Italy at that time was not going through a period of persecution, priests and seminarians did not need to go underground in order to minister.  However then, as now, there were people who hated the Church and hated priests and religious, and clerical garb merely identified these consecrated souls, as it should.  Rolando did not give his killers an excuse to kill him, his wearing of his clerical garb identified him as a servant of Christ and it was this which led to his death. 
The lesson for us is clear: we should not be afraid to be identified as servants of Christ and we should wear some emblem of our adherence to Christianity.  For laity a cross or a medal suffices, but for priests and religious it should be their religious clothing.  Often we hear that clerical clothes or religious habits are a barrier to ministry, well I have found from my own experience and the experience of many others that it is not a barrier.  In fact, it is an invitation, an invitation for people to come to you.  Some of those who come will be believers, and some not.  Some will come for help, some to encourage and some to admonish and, yes, some will even abuse you.  We consecrated souls are not meant to fade into the background no more than Christ did.  Blessed Rolando encourages us to take this simple witness seriously.