Monday, March 31, 2014

"Today I Lost My Nobel Prize"

"Death to Lejeune and his little monsters!"  This was the slogan the Servant of God, Dr Jerome Lejeune had shouted at him by "pro-choice" women and men many times during his lifetime.  Those considered "little monsters" by these enlightened humanitarians, were people with Down Syndrome.  As you know, Dr Lejeune had discovered the gene which causes DS and while he spent the rest of his life not only looking for a cure to DS, but also caring for those men and women who had the condition, his life's work was used by doctors, scientists and those in the pro-abortion movement to identify children with DS so they could be aborted as soon as possible.  

As one would expect of a man who loved humanity, not just as a concept, but also those who make up humanity, regardless of their race, colour, ability or condition, the fact that his work was used for this evil caused him great distress, but also led him to speak up for people with DS, defend them and work against the pro-abortion movement.  It was following one of  his speeches, at a ceremony in which he was honoured for his work in genetics, that he told  his wife that his condemnation of abortion would mean he would never get the Nobel Prize.  He was right: his major discovery was ignored by the Nobel committee who, for many years also refused to consider Pope John Paul II despite numerous nominations for his work for peace. In Blessed john Paul's case the reason was, according to a Lutheran minister who sat on the committee (as I heard in an interview on RTE radio as number of years ago) the Church's teaching on sexual issues: "When he changes Catholic Church teaching, then we'll consider him".  With regard to Dr Lejeune I believe there is now a claim by some that one of those who worked with him actually discovered the gene, and they him Lejeuene of stealing this scientist's work and passing it off as his own.

Dr Lejeune is on the way to beatification, and I would like to share an interview with carried out with his Postulator in the National Catholic Register. It would be great if we could all keep his Cause in our prayers. Jerome Lejeune is a major pro-life figure, a man who endure hatred and physical attack for his defence of life, and in the midst of it all not only kept his peace, but grew in virtue. He is a model for the pro-life movement.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Annunciation Day: Day For Life

In the midst of Lent, solemnities are most welcome, and here in Ireland, all in the space of a week and a half, we have three: St Patrick, St Joseph and the Annunciation of the Lord.  One might ask how can a body do any fasting in the middle of Lent with all these feast days popping up? Well that's just the hard task of being Catholic - we fast, we feast and sometimes we feast in the fast; isn't it great?!

Today's solemnity is, after Easter and Christmas, a most momentous one: the feast of the Incarnation of the Lord in the womb of the Virgin Mary. On this day we mark that most mysterious event when the Word was made flesh. This feast is bridged to Christmas and begins, for us Christians, a nine month programme of prayer and reflection on God's becoming man as part of his plan to redeem us.  Today, we might say, a great novena to Our Lady of Expectation may well begin.  There would be no Christmas without the Annunciation. 

This feast brings us to reflect on many things: the fulfillment of God's promise to his people; the willing participation of Our Lady in God's plan of salvation; and of course the wonderful mystery of the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son, the Word, being conceived in a human womb and growing there for nine months before being born.  For this reason we can regard today's feast as a pro-life feast, one which reminds all Christians that they must be pro-life.  To be pro-abortion and Christian is not only contradictory, but almost heretical for to deny that a unique human being exists at the moment of conception is to deny that God became man in the womb of Our Lady at his conception: that at the first stages of life the embryo was not human and not God.  

Today, then, we can celebrate life - the Incarnation of the Lord of life in the womb of Our Lady, and the beauty of life in the womb sanctified by the Word's becoming flesh, transforming humanity by his entering into it.  Let us pray, then, for the cause of life; for the unborn; for expectant mothers; for women contemplating abortion; for women who have aborted their children so they may find reconciliation and healing.

Happy feast day!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Cardinal Caffarra on Communion Issue

I'm not sure if you saw this: Cardinal Caffarra's interview dealing with Communion for the divorced and remarried; just in case you didn't I'm posting a link to it - Zenit has a translation into English

It seems the cardinals are slowly being divided on the issue as the Synod on the Family draws closer. Cardinal Kasper's speech may have thrilled many liberals in the Church, and the media have been delighted with it, many in the Sacred College it seems were deeply disturbed.  Cardinal Burke has even gone as far as to say in a public interview on EWTN that Cardinal Kasper's position is erroneous. There are certainly many difficulties with what he suggested as a solution to the pastoral problem of the divorced and civilly remarried.

Many have serious apprehensions over what is happening in the Church and how the Synod will go.  We must trust in the Holy Spirit - he will guide the Church and protect her from error.  As I said before, we must pray for the Pope; let us commend him to the intercession and wise counsel of Blessed John Paul II and the Venerable Pope Paul VI.

Pope Francis Preaches An Inconvenient Truth

A few months ago someone said to me that the Holy Father reminds them of an old parish priest in the way he preaches. These pious old souls who had spent a lifetime labouring in the vineyard of the Lord, would get up on a Sunday or weekday and offer lovely little meditations on the Gospel, sometimes flavouring them with little stories, or spicing them up with a few denunciations.  And then there were times when, on a roll, they would give out and bang the pulpit before retreating to a pious thought to help the last of the medicine go down. Well, we might see some similarity with the Holy Father.  He is well able to offer nice reflections, but has often metaphorically thumped the pulpit.  And he certainly did it a few days ago when he tackled the Mafia, doing something that would horrify many of our enlightened pastors today: he threatened them with hell.

Are the old hell-fire and brimstone sermons back on the agenda, we might ask? Well, I do not know, but Francis has certainly proclaimed a truth that many today do not like to hear: that hell is a reality and if people live a certain way of life, they may well be on the road to hell.  Here is what the Holy Father said to the Mafiosi:
This life you have now, it will not give you pleasure, it will not give you joy, it will not give you happiness. The power, the money you have now from so many dirty deals, from so many Mafia crimes, blood-stained money, blood-stained power – you will not be able to take that with you to the other life.There is still time not to end up in hell, which awaits you if you continue on this road. You had a papa and a mamma. Think of them, weep a little and convert.
I'm not so sure the Mafia will take note, this is the third pope in a row that has denounced them and their activities, but what Francis said needed to be said. So if members of the Mafiosi find themselves plummeting down to hell fire they cannot say they were not warned.  But then again all of us need to keep such warnings in mind too.  Hell is not reserved only for the Mafia or serial killers or people who commit sins that are considered by modern men and women as being outside the toleration/justification of political correctness.  As St Teresa of Avila told us after her excursion to hell in one of her visions - Satan has a place reserved for each one of us and he does his damnedest (pun intended) to ensure we check in to the Hotel Infernal after we throw off this mortal coil.  And oftentimes he has no better accomplices in the task than us. It would be a mistake for us to get up on our high horses and look down our nose at the Mafiosi, we must have care for our own souls.

For an interesting article on Pope Francis's words see Francis Phillip's piece in The Catholic Herald.

As regards the Mafia and organised crime in general, the Church now has an unofficial patron in the recently beatified Blessed Giuseppe Puglisi - or Blessed Pino as he is more commonly known.  Blessed Pino was parish priest of a Mafia-ridden parish in Palermo in the early 1990s.  He fought the local Mafia dons, trying to keep his young people away from their influence and seeking to help his parishioners escape the cage of fear these dons had constructed. Warned by the dons that his life would be in danger if he did not desist, Fr Pino was martyred by Mafia hit-men in front of his parish church on 15th September 1993, his fifty-sixth birthday.  He was beatified on the 25th May last year.  Let us ask his intercession that the scourge of organised crime, not only in Italy, but all over the world, will be overcome, and that those involved in it will be converted and leave the path which is leading them to hell.

Blessed Pino Puglisi

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Papa Giuseppe!

The Solemnity of our Holy Father, St Joseph, patron of the Universal Church, protector of the disciples of the Lord.  A happy feast day to you all.

I found this beautiful painting of St Joseph which I find to be a most wonderful image of him.  First of all it shows him as a young man.  There is no evidence to suggest he was an old man, he may well have been just a few years older than Our Lady.  It is an image which shows him as a strong man; as one who watches with a keen eye, a man who is trustworthy.  It is also an image which offers his heart for veneration - the loving, fatherly heart of St Joseph: a heart which was dedicated to Christ in love and service, and is now dedicated to us as he prays for us and helps us.  

May St Joseph watch over us all, protect us and lead us to Christ our Saviour.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Legacy Of St Patrick: An Important Appeal

As you celebrate the feast today, I would like to draw your attention to a project that is continuing the legacy of St Patrick in our land.  As you know secularism is growing in Ireland and the faith is struggling.  But despite all the bad news you hear, there are shoots of a new springtime for the Gospel in Ireland, and St Patrick is nurturing, once again, new means of evangelising the people and land of Ireland.

One of these new shoots is the foundation of a new Order in Ireland, in our diocese of Meath.  Many of you will know of Dom Mark Kirby and his new Benedictine Order of Perpetual Adoration. Based at Silverstream, near Stamullen in County Meath, he and his young monks are planting a precious seed that will, we pray, grow into a great tree for years and centuries to come.  There are a number of young men who have applied to join the Order and Dom Mark is anxious to receive them into a programme of discernment. Given the number of those interested, a strong, young community would not be long in forming.

However, as always, money is scarce, and the monks are in need of financial help not only to buy and restore the priory, but also to meet the day to day bills of the community.  Things are very tight at the moment. I would now like to appeal to readers and to all who come across this post to consider sending a donation to this new Order, as much as you can afford. To do so will help not only the foundation of a new Order in the Church, but will help provide a place of prayer and refuge for those in Ireland who are working for the New Evangelisation and for priests, for whom the new Order has a particular concern. If you have a credit card, or PayPal, you can easily donate at the Priory website here.  

If you have been blessed with wealth, I would ask you to consider contacting Dom Mark to discuss making a foundational donation - a sum which would help them buy the priory and restore it.  This is a work for the Church Universal in assisting a new Congregation, and also a act of charity towards the Church in Ireland for which this new community of monks will be offering their lives in prayer and reparation.  

If you know someone who has been blessed with wealth, I would ask you to approach them and, as above, ask them to contact Dom Mark to help him and his new community.

Thank you for reading this.  As a priest here in Ireland, and I speak for many priests here, I see the hand of God in this new Order and their being in our midst - Dom Mark and his monks, few though they are now and many they could be, have brought hope to us after what has been decades of darkness, suffering and scandal.  We are doing our best to help financially, but such projects need major benefactors, as the history of the foundation of monasteries, Orders and congregations show us.  Please help: whatever you can give, please give.  Donations can be send to the monks through their website here

Happy St Patrick's Day

I wish all of you a happy St Patrick's Day.  May the great Apostle of Ireland, he whom we Irish call our Spiritual Father, intercede for all your intentions and watch over you and your families.  May he keep you in his heart and guide you in your daily living of the Gospel of Christ.

Yesterday at Mass, as I announced the schedule for today's solemnity, I reminded our parishioners that on this day we do not celebrate being Irish, we celebrate being Christian.  Patrick did not bring Irishness to these shores, he brought the proclamation of the Gospel, and he probably doesn't care what nationality we are as long as we are faithful disciples of Christ. To take St Paul's point: there are neither Jews nor Greeks nor Irish for we are all [to be] one in Christ Jesus (cf. Gal 3:28).  But of course I'm not saying we don't aim to have to good time, or to use those things which are Irish to celebrate this solemnity, just to bear in mind what this feast is all about: being Christians.  That said, have a great day and feast, insofar as Lent allows.  

For all our friends overseas, please say a prayer for Ireland and for the Church here.  

For all my readers in Ireland, you're welcome to join us here in Rathkenny for a special Holy Hour of prayer for Ireland followed by Holy Mass at St Patrick's Church, Rushwee, beginning at 6.15pm.  You can find the church on Google maps.  It starts early and it will finish leaving people time to spend some [more] time to celebrate the feast.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Not Your Average Saint

Is there such thing as an average Saint?  I suppose for many Saints are distant figures; people the Church has put on pedestals to intercede for us and to admire as those who achieve heroic virtue and sanctity in their lives on earth and now reap their reward in glory in heaven.  However, as I constantly remind my parishioners, they are not remote figures at all.  They were flesh and blood men and women like us, who faced many of the same difficulties that we do, but they often responded in ways that were more graced: graced, yes, but easier, no.  For them sin and temptation was as real as they are for us; the trials of life took their toll on them too.  Yet they abandoned themselves to God and strove hard to overcome these difficulties. 

In this Lenten season the prospect of Sainthood is put before all of us. The reason for this season is holiness - this is our annual retreat when we take stock of our lives in a more radical way and see that each one of us is called to heroic virtue, to great sanctity.  As Blessed John Paul II reminds us: holiness is God's plan for us, and the ordinary way of living for a Christian.  The trials and difficulties of life are the means through which we are sanctified, and we meet these with an ardent life of prayer, a radical renunciation of all that which hampers God's work in us and with a daily offering of ourselves to God so his will may be done in us. The road to holiness can often be a lonely road, but we do meet others along the way, some walking in the same direction, others trying to test us, and of course the ones whom we are meant to assist for Christ's sake, and for their own, so to perfect charity within us.

As we reflect on this we must also remember that those who have gone before us, the Saints, were all different and unique people, and sanctity manifests itself in different ways in each of them.  We have the obviously mystical and we have those who slogged their way through life with not such much as glimpse of a vision.  We have the gentle and patient, and then we have those who did not suffer fools gladly, like St Pio who was as famous for his gruff ways as his holiness.  We have people from every walk of life, and of every age; from those who lived long lives to those who lived very short ones. Many of these Saints lived in ordinary places doing apparently ordinary things and their heroism emerged there, others found themselves in the midst of turbulence, persecution and history's most traumatic moments and their holiness was formed in heroic deeds.  There is a Saint whose life mirrors yours.

For your Lenten reading today, I suggest an article from The Catholic Herald on G. K. Chesterton. There is an investigation going on at the moment to see if a Cause should opened for him.  Many of us are convinced that he should be canonised, but sometimes Mother Church and her leaders tend to take the long road on making decisions on whether to open a Cause or not.  Some would suggest they are taking the scenic route on this one.  Prudence, I suppose.  This article is good because it explains that Chesterton does not fit the mould of a conventional Saint (maybe that is why things are progressing slowly).  But then again, as I have said, there is no such thing as conventional holiness. If I may be Chestertonian for moment: holiness is wild, untamed, radical, unconventional - it is by its very nature heroic, and there is nothing common or conventional about heroism. Holiness breaks moulds, not fit into them, nor even make them.  Each Saint is unique in his or her holiness, they emerge from the crowd not slip behind it.  And let's face it, no one would ever accuse Chesterton of slipping quietly behind the crowd, he was no shrinking violet.  And perhaps it is for that reason, for his sheer (and perhaps even shocking) unconventionality that he is well placed to remind us all that we too are called to be Saints. 

So, as Chesterton would say, this Lent, let us begin the great adventure.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Our Lady's Life

I'm not sure if you saw these articles, but I would recommend a read.  Thomas McDonald offers a two-part series on the life of Our Lady after Pentecost, drawing mainly on ancient works by St Melito of Sardis and St Maximus the Confessor

It is interesting that McDonald does not accept the Ephesus tradition but is inclined towards the Jerusalem tradition.  

If you are looking for some good Lenten reading the work by St Maximus would be good.  It very much shows Our Lady as being active in the early Church, continuing, in a sense, the role she embraced at the Visitation - going out to those in need bringing Christ with her.  The book is available. I got a copy in CTS in London some time ago, but it can be ordered from Amazon.

A Good Lent

At midnight in New Orleans the call was heard: "Fat Tuesday is over!" and, I hope, the party-goers returned to their homes, to begin the Lenten season (what were the chances of that, do you think?).

Well, the Great Fast has begun.  May the Lord grant us every grace in this holy season as we perform works of prayer, penance and alms-giving, and seek to grow in holiness.  That is what this season is all about: growth in virtue and holiness.  Many people speak of giving something up for Lent, but I sometimes wonder if they know why?  Not to lose a few pounds or get rid of a habit, but to offer penance for our sins and bring our bodies and minds under control so we can be more faithful in our observance of the Gospel. 

Let us pray for each other, that what God wishes for us in this season may come to pass through our generous cooperation with his grace.

I wish you a good Lent.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Seeking His Face

One day more, as the song says, and Lent will be upon us.  Today is the traditional day to celebrate before the fast begins: Mardi Gras or Carnevale in the Latin tradition, or Shrove Tuesday here in Ireland and the UK.  As the Latins have parties, we have pancakes - there's a difference in culture for you.

But today sees another celebration: the feast of the Holy Face of Jesus. In 1958 Pope Pius XII approved the observance of the feast on this day, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, and a Mass was approved for use in what is now the Extraordinary Form.  As today is a ferial day in the Ordinary Form we can observe the feast, though there is no votive Mass proper, as of yet.  I know the Sanctuary of the Holy Face in Manoppello have a votive Mass used there, but the texts are quite specific to the Sanctuary.  It would be great if the Congregation for Divine Worship and Sacraments would approve a more generic text, drawing on the rich Biblical texts which speak of the Face of God and the Incarnation.

Devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus has been growing for a number of years, and the recent expositions of the Shroud of Turin have intensified people's interest in the devotion.  The glorification of two devotees of the Holy Face, St Gaetano Catanoso and Blessed Maria Pierina De Micheli has also drawn the faithful's attention to the devotion.   And of course Pope Benedict's visit to the Sanctuary of Manoppello in 2006 brought the mysterious cloth imprinted with an image of the Face of Jesus to the attention of the world.  With another exposition of the Shroud next year I'm sure the devotion will continue to grow.

What did Jesus look like?  That is a question people have been asking for centuries.  We have in our mind a particular image of the Lord, and while that image is often subjective, it may well be based on ancient images, some of which are, it has been suggested, based on the mysterious image of the Lord on the Shroud and the Veronican towel.  Traditional icons of the Lord bear a remarkable similarity to the image of the Shroud.


A few years ago a project based on the Shroud of Turin sought to create a 3D image of the face of the man imprinted on it to see what he looked like.  The project yielded the image at the top of this post (and see the video below).  Is this the face of the Lord?  Whether it is or not, the project reveals the desire of all the disciples of the Lord: to see his Face, to gaze upon him whom we love.  This is the longing of the Saints, it is also part of the Beatific Vision - to see God face to face, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and taking Jesus' words to heart, "When you see me, Philip, you see the Father", we long just to catch a glimpse.

Jesus told St Thomas, "You believe because you have seen me, but blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe".  We have not seen yet we believe, and yet we also long to see.  Ultimately, on this earth, we shall see him through the eyes of faith, and we live his way so one day that faith will yield to the eternal vision of him.  This is what devotion to the Holy Face seeks to inspire: a virtuous life lived in imitation of Christ so that one day we will gaze upon his glorious Face.  A devotion which also urges us to see the Face of Christ, the wounded Face of Christ, in our wounded and poor brothers and sisters: for what we do for them is done for Christ.

And of course we will also see him, through the eyes of faith, in the Holy Eucharist.  In his last encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia Blessed John Paul II spoke of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus.  So when we spend time in adoration and gaze on the Sacred Host, we gaze upon the Face of Jesus; yes hidden, but there.  As we gaze on him he gazes back at us.

Happy feast day.

Monday, March 3, 2014

King Philippe Approves Children's Euthanasia Bill

Sad news.  It seems King Philippe, King of the Belgians has signed the children's euthanasia bill into law. According to news reports the King signed the bill yesterday, on Sunday, the Lord's Day.  Those news outlets carrying the story in English are not the usual mainstream media: here are the reports: on RT, on The Voice of Russia,, The Bulletin. Here is the report in French in Le Soir. Vatican Radio also has a report in French. 

Many had hoped King Philippe, who was up to now a traditional, orthodox Catholic, would do as his uncle King Baudouin did when he refused to sign an abortion bill.  A petition signed by about 200,000 people had been sent to the Royal Palace pleading with him.  However, it seems those hopes were misplaced: another Christian leader has capitulated to the culture of death.  

I am personally disappointed with Philippe, up until now he had been an example for Catholic leaders, standing by the truth.  But then all men are weak, and as I write the words of the psalm come to mind: "Put not your trust in princes" (Ps 146:3).

We must pray for him, for Belgium and Europe.  

Sunday, March 2, 2014

New Saints

Three future Saints:Blessed Jose de Anchieta, SJ, Blessed Marie de l'Incarnation 
and Blessed Francois de Laval

I see Pope Francis has decided to canonise three new Saints next month, bringing the number of those enrolled in the canon of Saints in that month to five.  While Blessed John Paul II and Blessed John XXIII will be canonised in a public Mass, the other three will be canonised in a simple ceremony in which the Pope will sign the decrees of canonisation.

The three new candidates are Blessed Jose de Anchieta, a Jesuit missionary considered to be the Apostle of Brazil; Blessed Marie de l'Incarnation, an Ursuline nun who went as a missionary to Canada; and Blessed Francois de Laval, the first Bishop of Quebec.  As far as I see all three are being exempted from the requirement for a miracle.  All three had also been exempted from miracles for their beatifications in 1980. 

A Pope can exercise his  prerogative to beatify and canonise individuals without the need for a miracle.  So far in his pontificate, the Holy Father has canonised two Saints without miracles, St Angela of Foligno and another Jesuit, St Peter Favre.  Blessed John XXIII is also being canonised without an approved miracle.