Friday, February 28, 2014

Such Joy!

Have a good look at these photographs and ask yourself: what is going on here?

Perhaps you might think that the first is of two friends, one a soldier, posing for a photograph on a fine sunny day.  And the second is of a worker in the fields, a handsome young man, enjoying his youth and the fresh air, a young man invigorated by his work.  He is relaxed, his eyes full of joy and peace; his hands are leaning on his hips.  In the first photograph he is laughing.

If you have seen these photographs before you will know the story behind them.  If not, then time for an explanation.  The young man in both photographs is twenty-five year old priest Martin Martinez Pascual.  The day is 18th August 1936, and a few moments after these photographs were taken the young priest was martyred for his Catholic faith.  The photographer was Hans Gutmann, a supporter of the Republican cause and he wanted to capture the priest's last moments.  Fr Martin was fully aware that he was about to die, and yet he stood calmly beside one who was about to shoot him and smile for the camera.

Martin was born on the 11th November 1910 in Valdealgorfa in Aragon, Spain.  He discerned a vocation to the priesthood at an early age and entered the seminary in Belchite. In 1934 he joined the Diocesan Worker Priests of the Sacred Heart, and was ordained on the 15th June 1935.  He was appointed Prefect of St Joseph's College, Murcia and professor at the seminary in San Fulgencio.  

The following summer, he went to his home for his vacation when the persecution of Catholics began in July 1936.  He hid out in a friend's house, and later moved to a cave for safety.  In August he heard that his father had been arrested, so he left his place of refuge to try to save him.  On the 18th August Martin went before the committee that was examining Senor Martinez and there they discovered that the son was a priest. He was immediately arrested, and that same day brought out and shot with other priests who had also been captured.   Just before he was executed, a moment after those photographs were taken, he was asked if he wanted to turn away so he would not see the guns.  He refused, saying he wanted to ask God's forgiveness for those who were killing him and to give them his blessing". 

Blessed Martin was beatified on the 1st October 1995. His feast day is the 18th August.

Why did I choose to share this with you?  Look into his eyes, see the joy.  That is the grace of martyrdom. Do not be afraid!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Warning Regarding Certain Comments

Over the last couple of months I have noticed that some people have been leaving comments in the combox promoting and advertising occult practices, including the casting of spells to achieve various ends.  Whether these comments are generated by a system which leaves them automatically on blogs or by individuals I do not know, but these comments are not welcome, and I advise those tempted to leave them to refrain from doing so.  As soon as they are detected they are deleted.  

Regular readers of this blog will know that such practices are dangerous, deeply sinful and contrary to the Christian faith.  I would ask you, dear readers, to be vigilante, as some of you have been.  Some of you have even gone to the trouble to ring me to tell me such advertisements and comments have just been posted, and for that I am most grateful. 

May the Lord protect us from such evil, and let us remember in our prayers those who engage in such practices: may they be brought to their senses and delivered from them.
St Michael the archangel, defend us in the hour of conflict, be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil: may God restrain him, we humbly pray. And do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust Satan down to hell and with him all the wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sterilization In Ireland

Did you know that the Irish government is putting a bill through parliament in which it will allow courts decide to sterilize people who are of diminished mental capacity? The Act, the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013, gives the High Court the jurisdiction with regard to non-therapeutic sterilization on "a relevant person who lacks capacity" (See part 1, section 4, article 2).

Non-therapeutic sterilization is sterilization not required to treat a serious condition, but rendering a physically healthy person sterile.  In essence, it is a eugenic/contraceptive act.

As far as I am aware, and I am open to correction here, until this Act is passed, I'm not sure if Ireland permits involuntary non-therapeutic sterilization on the mentally ill or those of diminished capacity.  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pope Francis's Letter To Families: Text

Here is the text of the letter the Holy Father has written to families, released today.

Dear families,

With this letter, I wish, as it were, to come into your homes to speak about an event which will take place at the Vatican this coming October. It is the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which is being convened to discuss the theme of "pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelization". Indeed, in our day the Church is called to proclaim the Gospel by confronting the new and urgent pastoral needs facing the family.

This important meeting will involve all the People of God – bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful of the particular Churches of the entire world – all of whom are actively participating in preparations for the meeting through practical suggestions and the crucial support of prayer. Such support on your part, dear families, is especially significant and more necessary than ever. This Synodal Assembly is dedicated in a special way to you, to your vocation and mission in the Church and in society; to the challenges of marriage, of family life, of the education of children; and the role of the family in the life of the Church. I ask you, therefore, to pray intensely to the Holy Spirit, so that the Spirit may illumine the Synodal Fathers and guide them in their important task. As you know, this Extraordinary Synodal Assembly will be followed a year later by the Ordinary Assembly, which will also have the family as its theme. In that context, there will also be the World Meeting of Families due to take place in Philadelphia in September 2015. May we all, then, pray together so that through these events the Church will undertake a true journey of discernment and adopt the necessary pastoral means to help families face their present challenges with the light and strength that comes from the Gospel.

I am writing this letter to you on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. The evangelist Luke tells us that the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, in keeping with the Law of Moses, took the Baby Jesus to the temple to offer him to the Lord, and that an elderly man and woman, Simeon and Anna, moved by the Holy Spirit, went to meet them and acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah (cf. Lk 2:22-38). Simeon took him in his arms and thanked God that he had finally "seen" salvation. Anna, despite her advanced age, found new vigour and began to speak to everyone about the Baby. It is a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. He is the one who brings together and unites generations! He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self-absorption, solitude, and sadness. In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support… Nevertheless, if there is no love then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. He offers us his word, which illuminates our path; he gives us the Bread of life which sustains us on our journey.

Dear families, your prayer for the Synod of Bishops will be a precious treasure which enriches the Church. I thank you, and I ask you to pray also for me, so that I may serve the People of God in truth and in love. May the protection of the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph always accompany all of you and help you to walk united in love and in caring for one another. I willingly invoke on every family the blessing of the Lord.

From the Vatican, 2 February 2014
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord


Prophet Of Life Moves Closer To Beatification

In the past few days it has been announced that a miracle has been approved by the theologians in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for the Venerable Paul VI.  The documentation now passes to the Prefect and members of the Congregation and then to the Pope, but as the medical experts and now the theologians have passed it, the final steps should be a formality.  We could see Pope Paul beatified by the end of the year.  If there is a possibility of a repeat of the Humanae Vitae crisis following the synod in October, that beatification would be timely and providential.

Many people have difficulties with Pope Paul, particularly those who disagreed with his decisions with regard to the liturgy.  As I have said before it was a crazy time, not every decision made was a good one, not every reform was implemented faithfully and Pope Paul did make mistakes, as does every Pope.  We do have to remember, however, that though he was a complex person, highly sensitive, perhaps overly optimistic and maybe at times a little naive, when it came to the crunch with regard to the issue of life, not only was Paul not found wanting, but he was heroic and nothing less than a prophet. Humanae Vitae is one of the most prophetic documents of the contemporary Church in which we see that Pope Paul could join the dots when even some of the great theologians failed to, and he could foresee serious pastoral and human problems down the road when even the most pastoral and astute bishops could not.  He had good people around him to support him - Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, whose influence on Humanae Vitae can be easily discerned, and the English language editor of Osservatore Romano, Fr Lambert Greenan, OP, an Irish Dominican.

I remember spending a whole afternoon with Fr Lambert when over in Irondale, AL, having finished recording a series of Forgotten Heritage.  He was living with a congregation of sisters helping them write their constitutions.  He spoke of those turbulent years and his own struggle to defend the Pope's teaching on life.  Many English speaking bishops rejected Humanae Vitae and their statements in response to the encyclical were less than faithful to the successor of Peter.  Fr Lambert refused to publish many of these statements, raising the ire of these bishops.  He told of one encounter in which a bishop stood in the office of Osservatore Romano tearing strips off the friar, and threatening him.  It was like water off a duck's back to Fr Lambert - he told the bishop that as long as he rebelled against the Pope no statement or article from that bishop's pen would ever be considered for publication.  Fr Lambert stood by the Pope, and Paul was grateful for such fidelity.  In that conversation Fr Lambert shared his observations, revealing the extent of the Pope's suffering, his lonely journey to Calvary, and they certainly deepened my appreciation of the pontiff.

Of course though some faithful souls supported him, it did not diminish the weight of the cross Paul had to carry, and if Fr Lambert was being regularly abused by unfaithful bishops we can imagine what Paul was getting.  That suffering would eventually kill him, the last straw was the murder of his friend Aldo Moro, now Servant of God himself.  Virtue is perfected in suffering and the diamond which emerges from the furnace of suffering is holiness: this is the legacy Pope Paul leaves us.  

With the benefit of hindsight we see the prophetic truth in Humanae Vitae, though many still continue to deny it as the fruits of the culture of death diminishes the value of human life, promiscuity is destroying more and more lives and the bodies of millions of dead children pile up in abortion clinics all over the world.  With all that still to manifest itself clearly, and with, it seemed, the whole world against him, sensitive, poetic, gentle Paul, must have been tempted many times just to give in to ease the burden: but he didn't. He knew what was right and if he had to let them crucify him in order to witness to what was right, then so be it. 

I see Paul as the suffering pontiff of the 20th century, that is where his greatness lies.  I have no doubt that his beatification will raise the ire of many in and outside the Church, but for the faithful, those committed to the Gospel of Life, his elevation to the altars will a sign from God that one day those working and suffering for the cause of life will be victorious.  May the Venerable Paul VI pray for us all and may his beatification strengthen us and fill us with joy: God will have indeed raised up a Prophet for Life in our midst.

A worn out Venerable Paul VI at the funeral of his murdered friend Aldo Moro on 13th May 1978, a few months before the Pope's own death.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Update On Maria Divine Mercy

Kudos to the Archebald brothers, they have an interesting update on the Maria Divine Mercy thing.  You may remember the lady who claims to be a visionary was exposed last year.  It seems things are starting to unravel. Pop over Creative Minority Report for details.  Faithful Catholics, stay clear of her.

Thanks for the update, Pat.

Vatican Matters

I am a little disturbed by some news coming from Vatican City: it seems there will be a halt to hiring new workers and a pay freeze is to be put in place.  The country is tightening its belt because of financial pressure.  That's fair enough - if the money is not there, then measures have to be taken.  But I do have to question these measures (remember Vatican workers are not the best paid in the world) when the Holy Father has engaged a number of top consultancy firms to help him reform the Curia and carry out other tasks. These firms are charging the Vatican top dollar rates for their services.  

There is also the issue of the car park on the Italian side of the Italian/Vatican border which is situated just under the Domus Sancta Martha.  Because the Pope is not living in the secure Apostolic Palace but in the Domus, part of the security arrangements was to close off the car park (for fear of car bombs), to the fury of Roman locals who use it, and pay parking fees for every hour of every day every week.  That is bleeding thousands from Vatican coffers. I have been told that the locals are taking the Vatican to court to get their car park back.  Anyone who has lived in Rome will know how difficult it is to get parking space and locals are desperate to get a space within walking distance of their apartments. How can the Vatican defend restrictions on loyal workers when so much money is being wasted?  

Perhaps such issues will fall to Cardinal George Pell as he now heads a new department within the Curia to regulate financial matters, the Secretariat for the Economy.  This is part of the reform process, and a most welcome development.  It is in reality a department of finance and with Cardinal Pell running it, it will be in good hands.  Of course the Cardinal will be coming to Rome to run the Secretariat.  While that is good in one way, he will be a serious loss to the Church in Australia. Cardinal Pell has been a strong advocate for reform and fidelity in Australia, and I am sure orthodox Catholics and priests will miss him should he have to leave.  Australia's loss will be the Church's gain as having him in Rome will certainly be a bonus for the cause of authentic renewal.  But I would urge him to tackle the car park issue.

John Allen, now working for the Boston Globe, addresses the issue of a repeat of '68 - the Humanae Vitae crisis, following October's synod on the family.  You may remember I addressed this issue a few weeks back.  It seems that senior Vatican staff agree with me and fear that we may well see history repeat itself.  Allen is not so sure. He says that Pope Paul VI never enjoyed the popularity of Francis, and with his moral authority already established, Francis would weather a storm better than Paul and people may well think that the decision that is made may may have been made in spite of him.  That is a good point.

Allen also says that the issue of Communion for the divorced and remarried is really an internal issue, and does not carry the same symbolism as the pill did in the 1960s.  That too is a point, however, we must remember that one of the major issues today is that of marriage and the Pope's decision will hinge on the question of what the Church recognises as marriage, its indissolubility, its exclusive nature.  In broad terms a reiteration of that may well anger many inside and outside the Church, and given that many Churchmen are already fixing their colours to their masts, there may well be the possibility of a schism. Some German dioceses, for example, may well decide that if Francis will not endorse their point of view and what some of them are already doing, they may well decide to go alone and reject the Holy See.  That did not happen in '68, but it may in 2015 or whenever the post synodal exhortation is promulgated.  Hopefully not; we must pray.

Blessed Alojzije Stepinac on trial under the communists

And finally, I'm not sure if you saw this: the way is almost clear for the canonisation of Blessed Alojzije Stepinac, the martyr Cardinal of Croatia.  It seems a miracle is progressing and has been passed by medical experts.  I think it remains for the Holy Father to pass it and issue the decree of the miracle.  Cardinal Stepinac is a controversial figure, particularly in the Balkans. He is accused by Serbians of working with the Nazis in a puppet regime which had been set up in Croatia during the Second World War.  These accusations were used by the communists to imprison him and ultimately kill him.  Historical investigation, however, has proven these accusations to be without foundation, but like Pius XII, the mud has stuck and certain quarters will not accept that he was innocent.  Serbians opposed his beatification, and will no doubt also oppose his canonisation.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

New Cardinals

Today the Holy Father will create nineteen new cardinals, the first of his pontificate.  The consistory will take place at 11am (Roman time; 10am GMT).  Here is the booklet for the consistory.   From 4.30pm to 6.30pm  this evening the new Cardinals will be in the Paul VI Hall and the Apostolic Palace for the traditional courtesy visit.  

We will await to see what Titular Churches they are given. Among those vacant at the moment are the  three famous churches in Trastevere: the Basilica of St Cecilia in Trastevere where the tomb of the martyr is preserved; San Crisogono where the body of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi is venerated, and the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere.  The Basilica of San Anselmo on the Aventine is also vacant.  San Anselmo, a Benedictine church, is the seat of the Abbot Primate of all Benedictines and is famous for its school of liturgy. I notice Pope Benedict's first titular church, Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino is also vacant.

In case you're interested, Blessed John Paul II's titular church when cardinal was San Cesareo in Palatio, situated at the start of the Appian Way. It is now the titular church of Cardinal Antonio Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants. Pope Francis's former titular church was the Jesuit parish church of San Roberto Bellarmino on the Via Panama.

And while we're at it, the titular churches of our two Irish cardinals.  Cardinal Desmond Connell's titular is San Silvestro in Capite, just off the Via Del Corso and in the care of the Irish Pallotines - a head purporting to be that of St John the Baptist's is preserved in a chapel there.  Cardinal Sean Brady's titular church is Santi Quirico e Giuletta on the Via di Tor di Conti.  Dedicated to a son and mother who were martyred; it was the parish church of the old Irish College and some students of the Irish college who died during their studies are buried there.  It was appropriate to give Cardinal Brady that church since he was rector of the Irish College for a time.

Friday, February 21, 2014

St Edith Stein On Women

Foremost among Christian feminists has to be the great Edith Stein: philosopher, teacher, convert, nun, martyr.  Her writings on women, not as well known as they should be, are deeply insightful and offer an antidote to the atheistic, relativistic, even permissive feminism which seems to have grabbed hold of the world in the last few decades. As a philosopher and observer of the human person, Edith has much to say about what it means to be human, to be a believer and to be a woman in the modern, secular world.  

A few days ago I came across a wonderful article exploring what Edith has to say, and I thought it might be worth sharing with you.  Edith is not easy to read.  As Carmelites we try to familiarize ourselves with the writings of our Saints, but Edith offers us an unique challenge.  When we come to tackle her major works we all become phenomenologists and at times struggle with what she is saying.  It is a relief when we turn to her spiritual writings and her autobiography which are beautiful, intimate and profound. Anyway, here is the link to that article.  It is by Elise Italiano.  

One point which has stayed with me is one concerning the single life.  Too often people who do not marry are considered to have been left on the shelf.  I remember a single parishioner, a lady, discussing the need for a spirituality of the single life, and more emphasis on that way of life: "Not everyone is married or in vows", she said.  That's true.  Sometimes we can forget those who live their Christian life in the single state.  On that St Edith has certainly raised some issues.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ukraine: A Pawn In The Struggle For Power?

The scenes from Kiev are deeply unsettling.  All out war seems to have broken out in the Ukraine and the Churches there are doing their best to keep peace.  We have all seen the photographs of the Orthodox priests putting themselves between the combatants. 

From what I have read and seen on the news it seems that this is, ultimately, a struggle between the European Union and the US (West) and Russia led by Vladimir Putin (East). The citizens of the Ukraine seemed to have developed loyalties to either one of these powers and now they are fighting on the streets to push for deeper ties and an alliance with whatever superpower. This may well lead to civil war, one caused by external powers. Or so it seems. 

But then this whole thing is very complicated, and internal problems do not help.  There is a lot of poverty, as as is the case with many of the post-Soviet and former Iron Curtain countries.  There is a huge gap between the rich and the poor.  And the present global economic crisis probably does not help matters. And then there is nationalism and political alliances, and as in every government, corruption of one form or another.

We must pray for peace.  And we must pray that the superpowers who have their eyes on what is a strategic country will pull back and leave the people of the Ukraine to decide the future of their country.  We do not want another Cold War, or worse, another World War.  In this decade we will be commemorating the First World War, surely nation states have learned the lessons of that disaster?   

Preparing For Divorce?

One of the issues which is being suggested for discussion at the Synod on Marriage and Family next October is that of annulments - I have already reflected on that in a previous post.  But one topic which has hit the news in the last couple of days concerns pre-nuptial agreements and their effect on the validity of a Catholic marriage.

A pre-nuptial agreement is a legal agreement made between an engaged couple which seeks to protect the assets of one or both of them should the marriage break down.  While not accepted by courts in every jurisdiction, they are becoming more common and some legal systems are starting to accept them as legally binding.  In Ireland pre-nuptial agreements are being entered into by people in the farming community as a means of protecting family farms.  With the rise in marriage breakdown, separations and divorces, farming families are afraid a farm may well be divided as the spouses negotiate a financial settlement.

But do such agreements affect the validity of Catholic marriages?  After all, when a couple is being prepared for marriage they are (or should be) informed that validity can be undermined if one or both of them does not consider marriage to be a life long and indissoluble commitment.  In making a pre-nuptial agreement a couple is laying down provisions for an end to the marriage, for divorce, and so does that signal an attitude which may well  reveal an impediment?  This is a question for canon lawyers, and speaking with one he told me that pre-nuptials may not necessarily invalidate a marriage, they are problematic.

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury believes that such agreements undermine marriage - they are a preparation for divorce he says.  He is responding to the possible enshrining of pre-nuptial agreements in law in England and Wales.  He says:
“Pre-nuptial agreements may soon become enshrined in civil law on the recommendation of the Law Commission. Our society would be proposing to couples seeking marriage that they prepare their own divorce settlement before making the life-long promises of marriage. It is a legal provision which would surely empty the words of the marriage promise for ‘better for worse … to love and to cherish till death do we part’ of all meaning. 
“Pre-nuptial agreements would render these promises provisional by the legal preparations which anticipate divorce. We must ask ourselves today, what message does this send to couples considering marriage? What message does this send to the young at a moment when the institution of marriage stands at such a historically, low ebb? Should we not be putting our efforts into guarding and building-up the institution of marriage rather than steadily undermining it?”

This is a difficult issue, but an important one, one which may well need to be explored at the synod and certainly by Bishops not only in the UK but here in Ireland as pre-nuptials are becoming more common in farming circles. Certainly guidance for priests on this issue is vital.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Pope On Confession

Further to yesterday's post on John Cornwell's attack on Pope St Pius X and the Sacrament of Confession. The Holy Father was speaking about confession at his General Audience this morning.  He offered a lovely reflection on the sacrament and its importance for us.

The text of the Pope's catechesis:
"Dear Brothers and Sisters: Through the Sacraments of Initiation, we receive new life in Christ. This life we carry in earthen vessels, however, and we still experience temptations, suffering, and death. Because of sin, we can even lose this new life. Jesus therefore willed that the Church continue his works of salvation for her members, in particular through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which flows from the Paschal Mystery. The forgiveness we receive is not the result of our own efforts, but is the gift of the Holy Spirit reconciling us to God and to each other. While the celebration of the Sacrament is personal, it is rooted in the community of the Church, in which the Holy Spirit is present, uniting us all in Jesus Christ. When confessing our sins then, we confess to the priest who represents not only God but also the community of the Church that accompanies us on the path of conversion. Though this Sacrament is a great treasure, we may be tempted to dismiss it, perphaps due to laziness or embarassment, or because of a diminishing sense of sin and its effects. Too often, we see ourselves as the centre and measure of all things, and our lives can go adrift. The Sacrament of Reconciliation calls us back to God, and embraces us with his infinite mercy and joy. May we allow his love to renew us as his children and to reconcile us with him, with ourselves, and with one another."

Living According To The Script

Last night at the St Genesius Film Club in Dublin we watched director Peter Weir’s movie The Truman Show starring Jim Carrey.  It had been a while since I saw it last, and it holds up to repeated viewing.   

In the discussion afterwards a number of interesting opinions were offered.   Now the movie is not a distinctly Christian movie, indeed some atheists have argued that it may well be a movie which critiques belief in God, seeing the character of Christof as a figure of oppressive religion (a God figure) which controls people’s lives, and Truman’s gradual realisation of his situation as the rational move away from religion to a life of real freedom.  It is interesting to note that in the last scene Truman leaves the set which is filled with light, to walk into the darkness, perhaps an image of rational man leaving the artificial light of religion to enter the real work of ambiguity, shadow and the unknown.

Of course that is just one interpretation, the movie can also be interpreted in another way: the oppression of human beings by a system or society which seeks to control them: a living according to the script.  It was that interpretation which was being explored in the post-viewing discussion.  A number of parallels with our own situation here in Ireland were noted, in particular the current attempts at social engineering, the creation of a new society, a new way of life, by dominant forces prepared to use anything to enforce their will.  This new society, though artificial, would be a little haven, a perfect place where everyone is happy, though controlled.  Anyone who protests and resists this plan, the script, someone suggested, is to be taken off the air, removed out of society’s consciousness.  Once you have the right opinions, right attitudes and live according to the script, life will happy, bright and sincere.  

The emphasis on consumerism was also very interesting.  Truman's life was consumerist in the sense that the artificial world around him was built on marketing: he was living in a supermarket surrounded by actors whose main task was to promote products. Even his life was a product - a human being who was reduced to a commodity to be consumed by the viewing public.  It is also a good critique of the media and of course the reality shows which were to reach their heyday in the decade following the movie's release.

One has to be careful when reading a movie because we can read a lot into a film and make connections which may be tenuous at best.  However, that said, this movie is one about control and the quest for freedom and the truth in a place where neither exists and are so brutally smothered by a created view of reality.  And if I were to consider a work which may well be a parallel, I think The Turman Show is a most interesting reflection on Huxley's Brave New World.  If you haven't seen it, I'd recommend a viewing.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

As The Truth About Pius XII Is Slowly Coming Out, Cornwell Goes For Pius X


I was not going to comment on the latest offering from John Cornwell, but I want to link to a great article by Ed Peters which will be a handy resource for dealing with another batch of lies about the Church, our faith and our popes.

Cornwell, famous, or infamous, for his inaccurate account of Pope Pius XII's activities during World War II in Hitler's Pope, has now moved on to St Pius X and is connecting him with child abuse.  How so, you might ask?  Well he maintains that Pope Pius X facilitated the abuse of children by requiring children from the age of seven to go to confession.  I know, it's crazy, but there will be people out there who will latch on to this and run with it in the hope of having yet another stick to beat the Catholic Church. It is also a snide attack on the sacrament of confession, a sacrament much despised by many "progressives" in the Church.

Anyway, here is the link to Ed Peter's response to Cornwell and the Daily Mail which published extracts from his book.  Cornwell's hypothesis is, as I suppose we have come to expect, littered with inaccuracies. Sadly I note what Dr Peters says at the beginning of his piece: "It always takes longer, sometimes much longer, to correct mistakes than it takes to make them".  How true.  As Cornwell laughs all the way to the bank yet again, we Catholics are left for years trying to undo the lie.

Of course attacks on Pope St Pius are not new.  Liberals and "progressives" have been complaining about him for decades for his clarification and condemnation of modernism, the mother of religious relativism.  Even as recent as when I was in seminary a theology lecturer was making snide remarks against him. Interestingly Pius has a good deal in common with Pope Francis - both came from humble backgrounds, and both lived a ascetic, simple life embracing radical poverty.   

Monday, February 17, 2014

The King's Dilemma


The new King of the Belgians now faces the first serious moral dilemma of his reign as the newly passed euthanasia bill will soon be brought to him to be signed into law.  The bill, as most of you know by now, removes all age limits with regard to euthanasia, thereby allowing children to be killed if they are seriously or terminally ill.  The Belgian parliament passed the bill last week and it is said that the bill has the support of the  majority of Belgians.  One report has indicated that the King's assent is likely.

Euthanasia in Belgium, as with its neighbours Holland and Switzerland, has become a fact of life. Originally presented as voluntary, the practice was supposed to allow those who want to die to do so if they were suffering from a terminal illness.  Since being passed, euthanasia has now become involuntary and no longer carried out in situations where the person is terminally ill.  It has become a practice which is starting to "weed out" the weak and vulnerable.  This new law which will permit the killing of children will, no doubt, go the same way.   At the moment there are a number of safeguards in the bill to prevent it being abused, but as experience has shown, these safeguards will ultimately become a legal fiction, a constitutional knob of butter and sugar to allow the legislation pass easily and will eventually be superseded by hard cases and loopholes in the name of compassion.

Now King Philippe, is facing a dilemma - what to do?  If he is anything like his uncle King Baudouin he will refuse, indeed he will even be prepared to renounce his throne rather than sign into law an act which is clearly evil.  But will he?  

His uncle Baudouin was a Christian king who was committed to the Gospel of Life. He and his wife, Queen Fabiola, also a committed Catholic, were childless, and it was this cross that deepened their respect for human life particularly at its most vulnerable stages.  Famously in 1990 he refused to sign an abortion bill into law.  In order to avoid a constitutional crisis the government allowed him to temporarily be deemed unable to reign so as not to sign the bill into law.  Some would say that that was not an ideal situation, that he should have  refused to sign the bill and stick to his guns.  And perhaps he should have, but we are not privy to the king's conscience and how he came to this decision.  He did, however, take a stand.  Other Christian monarchs did not take such a stand but assented to evil laws, Elizabeth II of England, head of the Church of England, among them: she assented to and signed Britain's abortion bill in 1967.

Other Catholic monarchs have taken more radical stands - Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein (who in effect reigns for his father Prince Hans-Adam) refused to permit the easing of laws banning abortion in the Principality, using his right of veto to do so.  He threatened that the princely family would leave the Principality if the government attempted to remove his veto.  The people, however, backed the Prince.  In Luxembourg, the Grand Duke Henri took a similar stand against euthanasia. The Luxembourg government had to change the law which required the Duke's assent and signature to enact legislation.  It was a loss of power for the Duke, but he was prepared to lose that rather than sign or approve the bill.

Will Philippe take such a stand?  Philippe was very much favoured by his uncle Baudouin who prepared the young prince for the throne.  Philippe inherited his uncle's deep Catholic faith and for this he is not very popular among the Belgians who, for the most part, have abandoned orthodox Christianity.  There were many Belgians who did not want Philippe to succeed and had urged him to renounce his claim in favour of his sister Princess Astrid who is perceived to be more liberal.  Philippe refused.  They had hoped that he would not marry; however, he did, marrying late in life a woman who is also committed to her Catholic faith, and they have since had four children who are being brought up in the Catholic faith.  Philippe in his life has endured a great deal of mockery for his religious convictions and was branded as a conservative who is out of step with the times.  He once tried to introduce a bill to parliament banning pornography but it was laughed out by members of parliament who chastised him for his illiberal opinions.  His quiet and serious personality has also irked some.  It is interesting to note that both Philippe and his wife, Queen Mathilde were conferred with knighthoods by the Pope, a knight and dame of the Holy Sepulchre.

So, what decision will he make? Will he sign the bill, or remain true to his Catholic faith and to the common good and refuse?  No doubt the liberal elements in Belgium who dislike their King and his principles will be watching carefully: "will this king create problems for us as his uncle did?"  Or will he finally come into line?  Will he give in to pressure?  No doubt his people will love him more if he gives in, so the temptation of finally being accepted by the liberal faction in Belgium will be hanging over him.  We will have to see.  We must pray for him.  The modern world needs men and women of principle who will be prepared to do the right thing regardless of the consequences for them.  The right thing for Philippe is to refuse, the wrong thing is to assent.  

A Witness to Hope In These Times

Fr Willie Doyle & World War I

It is a known spiritual fact that in an age of darkness and even persecution, God raises up holy men and women to inspire the Church and to remind us that Good Friday will always give way to Easter Sunday, even if Holy Saturday seems long and relentless.  Though it may seem so, God is not silent, he is always speaking to us in the "still, small voice": if we cannot hear him, we must listen more intently.  In such a time of difficulty, St Gregory the Great, for example, wrote his Dialogues to offer to the people of his time recent examples of holiness to inspire them and to remind them that the Holy Spirit is still at work, and though surrounded by infidelity and craziness, there were men and women who heeded God's invitation, embraced the Gospel and made it their way of life.

In these times, God is raising up holy men and women, more than ever before.  During the pontificate of Blessed John Paul II an unprecedented number of Saints and Blesseds were declared.  Though his critics see this as John Paul indulging a personal interest in Saints, it was not so.  For every Saint canonised there was a miracle, for the non-martyr Blesseds there were miracles: the pontificate of Blessed John Paul was truly an age of miracles in which God communicated to the Church that it was his will that these numerous Servants should be raised to the altars.  Why?  To inspire us and assure us that the Holy Spirit is as busy now as he was in the past.  Note that many of those John Paul, Benedict and now Francis raised to the altars are recent models of holiness.

Why these thoughts?  Well, in the midst of our current difficulties, recent models of holiness are being raised up to help and inspire us, to encourage us, to keep the fire of hope burning in our hearts.  Over the weekend I read a new, short biography of one of these recent models of holiness: a new CTS pamphlet on Fr Willie Doyle.  Now, if you read this blog frequently you know I have mentioned Fr Willie a number of times and I have expressed my admiration of him.  That admiration is growing, particularly as I read more of his writings, as I read more of his war letters and diaries.

This little pamphlet is a very accessible work and I recommend it highly as an excellent introduction to Fr Willie's life.  In essence it consists of two parts, intermingled: there is the biography written by the author, K. V. Turley, which gives the bare facts of his life.  However it is the second part which is most valuable: extracts from Fr Willie's writings, and with respect to the author of the pamphlet, it is these which make the pamphlet such a little treasure.  Fr Willie was an extraordinary writer, one whose personality and spirituality jump out at you from the page.  Like St Teresa of Avila he emerges as a living and breathing person for the reader: to read his writings is to encounter him. 

What also emerges, quite unintended by Fr Willie, I'm sure, who sought to live a hidden life, is his tremendous sanctity. Reading his writings you are astonished by the work of grace in him and by the fruits of that grace.  Suffering the deprivations of the trenches, he fulfilled his priestly ministry as a military chaplain during the First World War in an extraordinarily heroic way, bringing joy to dying soldiers as he risked his own life to give them the Last Rites.  For any priests suffering in this time of trial, Fr Willie Doyle is an inspiration, a priest who reminds us that our priestly vocation truly comes to life in a dynamic way in the midst of persecution and suffering.  Fr Willie is certainly a witness to hope for us in these times: a witness for all Christians, but in particular for us priests.

As we in Ireland, and in other countries, face an uncertain future as, it seems, all hell has broken loose as anti-Christian elements have launched an all-out frontal attack, Fr Willie has much to teach us.  He threw himself into the battle of his time, relying on Christ.  He realised that the real battle is the one with ourselves, within, and if we fight that one, drawing on the grace God gives us, then the external battle will be seen as no more than a skirmish.   The victory within is the greater victory, and that victory will give us confidence to face the external battle and, in hope, know that there too we will be victorious, or rather Christ will be victorious.   So, as Julian of Norwich famously wrote: "All will be well, all manner of things will be well". Taking this as expression of hope, rather than a naive denial and delusion, we will keep our peace. 

The CTS pamphlet biography can be purchased online here. More information on Fr Willie's life can be be found at his website:   Please say a prayer than one day a Cause will be opened for Willie's beatification.  As you will discover the more you read about him, he is a great Saint, one who deserves to be venerated as such.  However, no Cause has been started, despite the fact that devotion to him is growing throughout the world.  

Friday, February 14, 2014

St Albert's Ecce Homo

Given that it is Friday, and further to my post yesterday, I thought I might offer a few reflections on St Albert's painting of the Ecce Homo.

First of all, no reproduction can capture the beauty or intensity of the original.  This is a painting I am familiar with and have loved for a number of years, but finally seeing the original I was overwhelmed.  It seemed to me that it was lit with an interior light that drew me in.  It is a work that is meant to inspire meditation painted by a Saint over a number of years as he progressed in holiness and was drawn deeper and deeper into the life and Heart of Jesus Christ.  This is a work of love, of intimate love, by a poor man seeking refuge, strength, wisdom and peace in his Saviour.  It is work by a man who met the crucified Christ every day, first in his prayer, in the Holy Eucharist and then in his work as he served the poor, the abused and the lost.

The subject is that moment when Jesus, having been scourged, is brought out by Pilate to face the people who are clamoring for his death.  Wrapped in a cloak, a crown of thorns on his head, a reed in his hand, Jesus is a pitiful sight, his back and chest torn open from the scourging, his eyes blinded by the blood flowing from the wounds in his head.  Pilate intended to present Jesus to turn the hearts of those who wanted him dead.  Fearful of doing the right thing yet also afraid of condemning an innocent man, Pilate wanted a way out, and he thought moving the hearts of the Lord's accusers to pity might provide one.  It didn't.  Their hearts were closed.  And so confronted with the pitiful sight of the once beautiful Jesus, they close their eyes and shout even louder: "Crucify him!"

St Albert intends us to see him, his beauty still intact beneath the agony he bears.  We see the marks of the lashes on his chest, the wicked thorns bearing into his head, piercing it.  Are our hearts open enough to be moved to pity, even to love?  It is love that has the Lord here, suffering his passion: love of the Father who sent him, love of us who need to be redeemed.  This is an encounter with suffering, it is meant to make us uncomfortable, make us think.  Albert could not escape the sight of suffering - the suffering of the homeless and the poor on the streets of Krakow.  It was that suffering which opened his eyes to the sufferings of Christ, and that was the moment of his conversion.  This is what Pope Francis is doing when he draws our attention to the poor - we are to see them and see Christ; we are to serve Christ by serving them, and in this service come closer to Christ.

In this painting we see that the Lord is a captive, his hands are tied, there is a rope around his neck, he can go nowhere and he is brought before us. This painting is meant to provide us with a confrontation - we are not meant to escape no more than he can escape. Though we may try, we cannot escape the reality of God, his love and what he has done for us.  He has bound himself to us, not merely as our Creator, but as our Redeemer and as our Divine Lover.  He is, as Francis Thompson discovered, the "hound of heaven" who lovingly pursues us.  Paradoxically, he is the one who allowed himself be caught in order to come to us, so we might see his loving Heart open to receive us.

Reflecting on this painting, I am always drawn to the face of the Lord and what an astonishing vision it offers us. Though he is suffering, his body torn with wounds, bound and being mocked by the crowds, he is serene; his face is the vision of peace. It does not register pain, but rather it is meditative, loving, seemingly content. His eyes are closed, his lips are closed, his brow is not furrowed.  This is one at peace with himself and the world.  This is one who knows he is doing what is right and good, there is no doubt, no agonizing, just acceptance.  This is the Christ of the Father's will.  This is the vision of the joyful Christ who understands exactly what is happening and what its fruits will be.  This is the suffering Christ who offers hope to all who suffer themselves.  Just thinking about St Albert as he painted it, we cannot fail to see that it was painted by a man who was himself at peace with God, a man who himself suffered but understood the significance of suffering, a man who knew the hope that Christ offers through his passion and death. Indeed I often think that in painting the face of Jesus as he did, St Albert had already seen the Face of God and wanted to communicate what he saw so we too will seek that Face and find Christ.

The Ecce Homo is an unfinished work.  Yes, it is modern - looking at some of his later paintings I think St Albert was way ahead of his time artistically. As a brother and founder he would come back to the painting every now and again, sometimes urged by his friends, and do what he could to complete it; he never did. It was the only work he kept, and he eventually relinquished it to a friend who asked for it.  In a sense it is apt that it should be unfinished- there will never be a last word when it comes to Christ and his passion - these are eternal mysteries.  When we look at the suffering Christ we are led to understand the work that has to be completed is that which must be done in us, in our souls.  God's artistic work is the creation, redemption and sanctification of men and women, and that is the most important work.  Albert's Ecce Homo was completed when he himself, sanctified, entered into the house of the Father where Christ presented him to the Eternal Father: "Here is the man, the brother Albert, in whom I am well pleased".  As each one of us reflects on this unfinished painting we are to understand that Jesus wishes to do for us what he did for Albert, we need only surrender to him who surrendered himself to us.  

And perhaps another thing we might discern from the painting's unfinished state: we have to encounter Christ for ourselves in the intimacy of our own lives.  St Albert leads us to the Lord, but we have make the decision to go to him and until we do we will not have the complete vision or knowledge of him.  If we stand back the image of Christ will always be incomplete.  We have to enter, we have to say yes, we have to engage with him.  This painting, then, may well be a proposal, an invitation, to come closer and seek him who already stands before us.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Our God's Brother

File:Brat Albert.png

One of the few places I was determined to visit when in Krakow was the shrine of St Albert Chmielowski, the artist turned religious brother who devoted to life to serving the poor and homeless in Krakow at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.  He was a friend and spiritual child of one of our Carmelite friars, St Raphael Kalinowski, and he was canonised with him by Blessed John Paul II.  The same pontiff wrote a play about St Albert, Our God's Brother.

St Albert's shrine is in the outskirts of the city, at the Ecce Homo Sanctuary which is run by the congregation of sisters he founded, the Albertine Sisters.  His original place of work was Krakowsa Street and his Brothers still live and work there.  I managed to visit both places.  Krakowska Street is in the Kazimierz area of the city, and the mother house of the Albertine Brothers is there.  There is no public shrine, the brothers quietly continue St Albert's work, housing the homeless, caring for the poor and working with alcoholics and others enslaved by addiction.  One of the brothers, Br Pawel welcomed me to the house and gave me a little tour, included in which was some moments in prayer in the little community chapel where St Albert prayed with his first brothers.  It is still the community chapel and when I visited some brothers together with residents and homeless people were spending time in adoration.

St Albert was born Adam Chmielowski in the outskirts of Krakow in 1845 into a wealthy and aristocratic family.  Losing his parents at a young age, it fell to Adam to prepare to take over the estates, and so when old enough when to university to study agriculture.  However, a Polish nationalist, he got involved in politics and when the insurrection against the Russian occupiers in 1863 took place he was in the thick of it, losing a leg in the fighting.  With the failure of the insurrection, Adam had to flee Poland, settling in Ghent in Belgium where he took up studies in Engineering.  At this time he discovered he had a talent for painting.  Travelling to Paris and Munich he furthered his artistic studies and began to produce competent paintings.

St Albert (on the left) with his siblings

In 1874 he was able to return to Poland, taking up residence in Krakow where he worked as an artist and gained a considerable reputation.  He also found himself getting involved with work for the poor and homeless in the city, and this would lead him to a deeper reflection on his  life and to a conversion.  His work began to take a religious turn.  Among the works he produced, he began a painting of the Ecce Homo, one informed by his conversion, his meditation and his work with the poor.  He would spent a number of years working on this painting and to this day, while it remains unfinished, it is a masterpiece, a powerfully moving meditation on the suffering Christ.

St Albert during his years as a painter in Krakow

In 1887 Adam decided to give up his artistic career and devote his life to the poor.  He joined the Franciscan Third Order, changed his name to Br Albert, donned a grey habit and took up residence in a shelter for the homeless.  The following year he professed the vows, this would be the beginning of a new religious congregation.  Working among the homeless and alcoholics, he inspired many with his wholehearted dedication, his faith and simplicity.  Young men sought to join him, and professing vows and donning the habit, his congregation was born.  A young woman, Maria Jablonska was also inspired and she with some other young women joined Albert in his work.  They also professed vows forming a congregation of sisters; Maria, now Mother Bernardyna as co-foundress was appointed superior.

Blessed Mother Bernardyna

With the congregations growing, with the advice of St Raphael Kalinowski, Albert founded contemplative houses for the brothers and sisters in the mountains so they could go for periods of time for retreat and recuperation.  Aware that he and his followers were religious in the service of the poor and not social workers, facilitation for prayer and spiritual development was vital.

Albert died on Christmas Day 1916, and was already venerated as a saint among the people of Krakow. He was beatified in 1983 and canonised in 1989.  His feast day is the 17th June.  Mother Bernardyna was beatified in 1997.

Brother Albert (Chmielowski), MOB WB 397
St Albert in his later years

Albert was devoted to the poor.  Once he was criticized for feeding alcoholics who would spend their whole day drinking.  Albert's response was simple and decisive.  Yes, he fed them: he gave them their breakfast so that they would not drink on an empty stomach.  He knew he could not start preaching to the person as soon as he met them, first he had to save their lives - prevent them from drinking on an empty stomach and save their liver.  Then, he said, when the liver is saved it is time for the head, the heart and the soul.  He was a practical and pragmatic man.

St Albert's relics are enshrined in a little chapel at the Ecce Homo shrine at Woronicza Street in the north of Krakow.  The sisters there gave me a wonderful welcome.  Sr Michaela showed me around and, with not a word of English, explained everything and me with not a word of Polish!  I didn't understand a word she said, but I understood the sentiments, the signs and the hospitality, and it was brimming with kindness and goodness.  The spirit of St Albert is alive and well in his Sisters and Brothers.  So if any of you are planning pilgrimages to Krakow, go to the Ecce Homo Sanctuary.  There, above St Albert's reliquary, hangs his painting of the Ecce Homo and it is a sight to behold; it draws you in.

Ecce Homo Sanctuary, Krakow

Ecce Homo Sanctuary: tomb of St Albert (in the altar) with his Ecce Homo painting

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Marriage Matters

<p align=left><B><I>First Ecumenical Council - Nicea, Asia Minor, 325 A.D.<br> Formulated the First Part of the Creed. Defining the divinity of the Son of God.

I'm not sure if you are following this topic - recent discussions on the recent rediscovery of a decision by the Council of Nicea to permit "second marriages" and allow those in them full participation in the sacramental life of the Church.  Some commentators, among them Sandro Magister, have been saying that this reveals that the ancient Church forgave and normalised second marriages for those who were separated or divorced.  As you expect with the Synod on Marriage and Family coming in October, some will seek to use this to push for a change in the Church's teaching on divorce, remarriage and the Eucharist.

However, things are not as they seem.  Given that the Church has not permitted second marriages for people with living spouses without an annulment, it would seem strange that if one of the most important Councils in the history of the Church permitted them why that decision was not implemented.  Well the answer to that is simple: the Council was not referring to the divorced or separated, but the widowed.  The rigorists corrected by the Council were those who believed that only one marriage was permitted for Christians and if widowed they were not permitted to marry again.  The Council of Nicea's decision on "second marriages" was to permit the widowed to remarry with the full blessing of the Church.  The only ones excluded from this was widowed priests who, not permitted the "use" of marriage since ordination (i.e. they were not permitted to have sex even though still married to their wives), were not permitted to remarry should their wives die. 

For more information on this see Ed Peter's blog.  Prof. John Lamot also offers a clarification.  This should serve as a warning to us in these days of debate and dialogue: be careful when it comes to citing Church history, ancient customs and Councils - they tend to be more orthodox and Catholic (and stricter!) that we moderns think.  I remember having a discussion with a young lady on the issue of the ordination of women. She had done a course on Church history, taught by a husband and wife team.  She learned from them that the ancient Church Catholic had ordained women as priests and they had had an active ministry in the Church for some time before being repressed.  I explained that some heretical groups may have had women in a ministerial role, but not the Catholic Church.  No, no, she insisted, it was the Catholic Church.  When I asked her to cite references she had none - but the husband and wife team were competent scholars.  When I asked her to tell me who they were she refused to do so.  

Moral of the story: do not take what dissidents say for granted - look for references, evidence, not in popular works, or the opinions of certain scholars with a particular ideology - evidence in standard historical works, and insist on original sources in their original context.  So many have been led astray by people with a notion relying on scholars with unsubstantiated opinions.

Unsung Hero

File:Jan Tricius - Portrait of John III Sobieski (ca. 1680) - Google Art Project.jpg

During my recent visit to Krakow, in the first couple of days before I took ill, I managed to visit a few places of note.  The first had to be the Wawel Cathedral, Blessed John Paul II's cathedral when he was Archbishop of Krakow.  It wasn't my first visit to the cathedral, but this time I had a few things I wanted to see in particular.  Of course the tomb of St Stanislaus, the martyred Archbishop, and the tomb of the holy queen St Jadwiga whose relics rest beneath her miraculous crucifix.  The crypt of St Leonard is also a must for devotees of Blessed John Paul because it was there that he offered his First Mass on the 2nd November 1946.  It was in that crypt that one of those I can come to honour was buried: King Jan III Sobieski.

Now Jan Sobieski may not be a historical figure familiar with many Europeans today, but in fact he should be one of the most honoured Europeans of all time.  He was King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1674 until his death in 1696.  He was one of Poland's great monarchs who brought stability and peace to a troubled nation.  However, his greatest achievement in European terms was his role in the Siege and Battle of Vienna in 1683.  It was Jan Sobieski and his small army who defeated the invading Turks and saved Europe from invasion.  Had he failed, not only would the various European kingdoms have fallen, but so too Christianity in Europe.  Blessed Pope Innocent XI, who had urged Sobieski and others to go to the defence of Vienna, called him "the Saviour of Vienna and Western European Civilisation".  

Sobieski was born in 1629 to a noble Polish family.  He attended the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, graduating from the school of philosophical studies there in 1646.  After two years travelling around Europe he got involved in the wars in Poland where he learned his trade as a soldier and displayed abilities as a future commander.  Following the invasion of the Swedes, Jan initially swore alligence to the conquering Swedish King, but soon repented of it and joined the struggle to oust the Swedes from Poland. Loyal to the King of Poland he fought in various campaigns and was promoted up the ranks until he was appointed Grand Hetman of the Crown, the highest military rank in the Polish-Lithuanian army.

On the 11th November 1673 he achieved a notable victory over the Turks in the battle of Chocim, capturing the fortress there.  His victory concided with the death of Michael I King of Poland.  His abilities were noted by the Commonwealth, and in May of the following year, Jan was elected King of Poland, as was the custom at that time.  He was crowned as King Jan III in the Wawel on the 2nd February 1676.

Given that Poland was at war for the last half century, the country was in a bad state, and there was almost nothing in the treasury.  Jan set out to rebuild Poland, raise money and bring peace.  He forced the Ottomans to sign a peace treaty which brought peace to southern Poland, though he would be involved in various wars throughout his reign. Despite machinations within his court and spies from foreign courts, Jan managed to restabilise Poland, bring some prosperity and reform the army.  He allied himself with the Holy Roman Emperor and sought to unify Europe as a means of resisting invasion from the ever vigiliant Turks. He joined the Holy League set up by Blessed Pope Innocent XI, an interesting ecumenical alliance of European monarchs and princes, Catholic and Protestant.

His great claim to fame, as I mentioned before, was his role in the Siege and Battle of Vienna.  The Turks, led by Kara  Mustafa Pasha had advanced to the gates of the city and  lay siege.  Vienna was vital to their campaign - if it fell, then Europe was there for the picking.  The importance of the city was also appreciated by Sobieski and the Holy League.   The Polish, Austrian and German armies were under Jan's command, and at 4am on the morning of the 12th September 1683, he led 81,000 troops into battle with the besieging Turks who numbered 130,000 soldiers.  The battle lasted the whole day.  At 5pm Jan led another charge, and in the next half hour the Turks were defeated and fleeing.  At 5.30pm Jan entered the tent of Kara Mustapha and took possession of it as the symbol of victory.   In memory of the victory, Blessed Pope Innocent declared the 12th September the feast of the Holy Name of Mary - the victory had been attributed to her intercession.

Honoured as a hero for the rest of his life, Jan Sobeski died peacefully on the 17th June 1696 and was buried in state in the Wawel Cathedral.  His devoted wife Queen Maria Kasimira died in 1716 and was buried near him in the same crypt.

So where are the monuments to Jan Sobieski in Europe?  Of course the Poles honour their great king, but throughout Europe, are there statues erected to his memory, streets named after him or other monuments reminding the citizens of this continent of what this man did for us?  I don't honestly know.  But I do know that Jan Sobieski has been erased from the history of Europe in many places.  Why so?  Surely he needs to be remembered as one who saved European civilisation and, of course, European Christianity.  It might be no harm for us to learn more about him.  If ever we need Christian heroes in Europe it is now when our native Christian civilisation is under attack again, this time from within.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Last Few Weeks

Lest you think I have fallen off the face of the earth, I assure you I haven't.  Forgive my silence these last few weeks, but they have been pretty difficult weeks and I had little time or energy to blog. Sad events, ill health and a last minute break to Krakow (at the insistence of parishioners who said I needed to get away) ended up with me in bed sick in a hotel!  It has been eventful. 

Indeed the events of the last four weeks have really overwhelmed many of us here in Ireland.  The brutal murder of one of our great advocates for the pro-life cause here in Ireland, Tom O'Gorman, has winded us.  And the violent outpouring of invective and bile from the enemies of life and marriage in Ireland at the very time we were mourning Tom has left us stunned.  I had thought that opponents in any campaign would respect a time of mourning and at least stay silent and let us bury our friend in peace.  Not so, it seemed certain activists in Ireland actually used this moment of grief and weakness to intensify the attack, aided and abetted by the media.  And indeed, from the safety of parliamentary chambers, certain elected members joined in the attack on certain pro-life and Catholic figures. It has been a ugly few weeks and has given us valuable insights into the nature and tactics of our enemies.

There was the whole "homophobe" saga which, strangely enough, broke on the night Tom was murdered.  In defending themselves against defamation, those accused of being homophobes took legal advice and won a paltry victory, but that was then attacked and denounced.  It seems to me that the media and powers that be believe that it is okay to defame Catholics and pro-life, pro-traditional marriage advocates.  It is obvious in this saga that the same sex marriage activists wanted to silence all opposition through their branding opponents as homophobes and so, perhaps, force the people of Ireland to give them what they wanted for fear of being accused of discrimination.  That one failed, and they are furious. 

It looks like the campaign leading up to a referendum on same sex marriage next year will be vicious and controversial.  I would urge all those opposing the referendum to practice restraint and resist the tactics of opponents.  We can expect that they will try to taunt us and create flashpoints to force a reaction, we must resist and stick to calm and rational debate.  I would urge the various groups involved in the campaign for traditional marriage to control their more extreme members - they will be the ones the media will use to demonise us.  Remember, we are the underdogs here, though we may represent the majority opinion in Ireland.  Our opponents will have the media, the government and most of our elected representatives, as well as numerous NGOs.  They will also have a huge budget.  But we must pray, reflect carefully on what we do and say, and commend our campaign to the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth. 

The UN report into the Vatican's handling of child abuse was another notable moment.  As expected in some quarters, the UN used the opportunity to attack the Church's teachings on issues of life and morality.  As one Vatican spokesman said, it seemed the report was written long before the Vatican officials came to testify.  That is obvious, since the report took no account of the measures the Holy See has put in place and has been trying to have implemented in every diocese. 

Some good news.  Last Sunday afternoon I was at a ceremony in Silverstream Priory where two aspirants were received into Noviciate and donned the Benedictine habit.  Dom Mark Kirby, the founder of the new Benedictine congregation, and prior of the community, presided.  His homily was magnificent, as his writings and speeches tend to be.  The two new novices, one American and one from our diocese here in Meath, were given the names Br Elijah Maria and Br Finnian Joseph.  They now begin at least a year of preparation for their first vows.  Please keep them and the new community in your prayers.  Dom Mark is working hard to establish the new congregation, however he needs financial help both to meet the community's bills and to help buy the house.  If you can help please contact him, and if you have been blessed financially, or know someone who has, large donations to help buy the property would be appreciated.   This new priory is a blessing for us, not only in Meath, but also for the Church in Ireland.  It is and will be a place of prayer, silence and pilgrimage for all of us in the years to come.   Indeed, perhaps even a haven and refuge in the wars to come.