Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Shocking News

I was at a meeting in Dublin this evening when shocking news came through: the Blessed Sacrament has been desecrated in a suburban Dublin church. The Eucharist was reserved in an adoration chapel, the Host was taken out, torn apart and stamped into the ground, while satanic slogans were written on the altar cloths. It is a terrible turn of events, one which causes all of us deep distress. Please pray for the priests and parishioners of this parish, and for those responsible for this heinous act: for their conversion. Sadly, it is an extreme expression of a growing anti-Catholic hostility here in Ireland.

Could I ask you to offer a prayer in reparation for this incident. I include a lovely litany of reparation if you have a moment to pray it after reading this post. Such incidents are happening all over the world, it might be a good idea for us to make space in our prayer life for regular offerings of reparation be they prayers, holy hours or acts of charity. 

How much the Lord loves us, he becomes so vulnerable so as to be with us in the Holy Eucharist.

Litany of Reparation in honour of the Blessed Sacrament
Lord, have mercy on us;
Christ, have mercy on us;
Lord, have mercy on us;
God the Father of Mercy, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Mediator between God and man,
Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, the Enlightener of hearts,
Have mercy on us.
Holy and undivided Trinity, Have mercy on us.
O Sacred Host! Victim of reparation for the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.
O Sacred Host! Annihilated on the altar for us and by us, Have mercy on us.
O Sacred Host! Despised and neglected, Have mercy on us.
O Sacred Host! Neglected and abandoned in Your temples, Have mercy on us.
Be merciful unto us: Spare us, O Lord.
Be merciful unto us: Hear us, O Lord.
                     (Response: We offer You our reparations, O Lord)

For so many unworthy Communions
For the irreverence of Christians,
For the continual blasphemies of the impious,
For the infamous discourses made in Your Holy Temples,
For the crimes of sinners,
For the sacrileges which profane Your sacrament of love,
For the coldness of the greater part of Your children,
For their contempt of Your loving invitations,
For the infidelity of those who call themselves Your
For the abuse of Your grace,
For our unfaithfulness,
For our delay in loving You,
For our tepidity in Your Holy Service,
For Your bitter sadness at the loss of souls,
For Your long waiting at the door of our hearts,
For Your loving sighs,
For Your loving tears,
For Your loving imprisonment,
For Your loving death,

                      (Response: We sinners beseech You, hear us) 
That You spare us, that You hear us,
That You will make known Your love for us in this most
       Holy Sacrament,
That You will vouchsafe to accept our reparation, made in
       the spirit of humility.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world:
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world: Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world:
Have mercy on us, O Lord.

Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, Who has chosen to expose Yourself to all the outrages of the impious, rather than withdraw Your Sacred Body from our Churches, grant us the grace to bewail, with true bitterness of heart, the injuries and sacrileges committed against you, and to repair as far as lies in our power, and with sincere love, the many ignominies and contempts You have received, and still continue to receive, in this ineffable mystery, Who lives and reigns with God, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

Inherit The Earth

Regal tenant: Elizabeth I claims the world for herself

In our Gospel today we are told by Jesus that he has come to save the world, not to condemn it. It is an interesting teaching that should lead us to reflect on our place in the world. We often hear about the "values of the world" and how we should not make them the foundation of our lives, and that is true. The "values of the world" are those grounded in the merely materialist, eschewing the divine and transcendent, fallen human values rather than those of God. But, in a way, these "values of the world" are actually alien to the world, since the world was made by God and he has impressed his divine artistry on it. The world is passing away, but rather than turning into itself, as the "values of the world" do, it points to something greater than itself, to the Creator whose signature we see in the beauty of nature, in the wonder of the stars, in the fascinating host of creatures. 

As Christians we can tend towards shunning the world, we keep to ourselves in order to be pure - we might think we have to sit it out and await the Second Coming. Well, St Paul tackles that attitude in his letters to the Thessalonians - we cannot and should not withdraw from the world, we must live in it. And living in it, we are to change it. Let us not forget that the world belongs to us - it was made for the children of God and so it is ours - Jesus reminds us of this in the Beatitudes when he says that the meek shall inherit the earth. We do not make the world our basket (again, the meek - they are the ones who can see things correctly), but we make this world a better place, a forum in which our souls are prepared for heaven and all those wonderful gifts given to us by God can be used for his glory and the encouragement of our fellow pilgrims. We never forget that we are passing through, but as on every pilgrimage, the journey is important too.

Of course we cannot forget that the tenants have taken over the vineyard and many many times down the centuries the tenants have tried to dispossess the children of God. The tenants are themselves children of God, but in their way of life they have turned their back on him and so renounced that status. They take the world for themselves and seek to change it to suit themselves and those who still adhere to God's plan and way of life are alienated. It is through these tenants that the "spirit of the world" and the "values of the world" come into being. On conquered land they establish the city of the world while the children of God struggle to maintain the city of God, if I may use Augustinian terms. But our task, as children of God, is to reclaim our inheritance, our world, and Jesus announces this mission in our Gospel today. However we have to  be careful and discern as we engage in a mission of reconquest - it is not for the sake of the world, but for the souls of the tenants. They have built their cities, their fortresses, but they are more akin to prisons where they hold themselves captive lest the transcendent get them. It is like a gang of pilgrims who hijack the bus on the way to Lourdes and won't let any of us proceed to the shrine because they want to stay at the roadside cafe, but nobody gets anywhere then, and we'll eventually run out of tea!

Why such thoughts today? Well, looking around us in Ireland I see the tenants are building walls to keep us all in their fortress. The children of God are being dispossessed and alienated, there is now an insistence that we conform to the values the tenants have devised for themselves. 

I am reminded of Queen Elizabeth I's religious revolution. She said at the beginning of her reign that in terms of the religious question, she could not see into the consciences of men, nor did she intend to. It seemed as if she was going to tolerant of Catholics, but not so. She established the Church of England and then expected all of her subjects to conform regardless of their conscience, those who did not paid for it either through fines that impoverished them or with their lives. She replaced the Virgin Mary with herself, establishing the cult of Gloriana, and everything was to revolve around her and her desires, secular and religious. We see the same today. The tenants tell us that we can believe what we like as long as it is private, yet they do not mean what they say: they will expect us to conform in every way to what they decree, even at level of our conscience which must be violated if they see fit. This is how they mean to dispossess the children of God.

But the meek shall inherit the earth, the Lord has come to redeem the world, and our task is to participate in that mission. We are not cower in the trenches or privatize our faith and values, but we are to go out into the world and live them and live by them even if it challenges the tenants, even if it means we may have to suffer. This will require a good dose of courage (cardinal virtue!), stamina (they will try to break us down), love (for we do it for love of them, for the salvation of their souls as much as our own) and ingenuity (the wily wisdom of the serpent married with the innocence of doves), but the Lord will give the grace to do this. Of course prudence is important, but we must be careful not to turn prudence into a vice, an excuse to feed our fear. There are too many Christians in the trenches cowering beneath a white flag, trying to appease the tenants and announcing peace in our time for the sake of a quiet life. 

At prayer this morning I remembered that Archbishop Oscar Romero will be beatified on the 23rd May, the day after the gay marriage referendum here in Ireland. Is that a coincidence or a God-incidence? The ballot takes place on the feast of St Rita (a necessary patronage there), but if the tenants win, then Oscar Romero's life and struggle may well be an example and inspiration for us: he too had to stand up to a corrupt regime and unjust laws, he had to defy them. He knew that the world belonged to the children of God and they should not be dispossessed of that which God has given them. Yes, they are pilgrims, but they do not walk on another's property, they tread the path their Father laid for them. We should never forget this. May the soon Blessed Oscar intercede for us in these times and obtain from the Lord the courage, wisdom, prudence and zeal we need to face the challenges that lie ahead.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

If You're Not In Kansas Anymore, Then....

The media are starting to make a thing of the Irish Bishops's suggestion that should the gay marriage referendum be passed, the Catholic Church here may no longer carry out the civil aspects of weddings, The reason for this, as stated by the Bishops in 2013, will simply be the differing views of marriage held by Church and the State. The Irish Times refers to it as a threat, no doubt trying to paint the Church as the bad guy holding a gun over the heads of those in favour of the referendum. It is not a threat, it is an honest recognition of a serious rift and an abyss that cannot be bridged and so instead of limping along in denial, the Church will conduct her own affairs and let the State conduct theirs. Nor is it a matter of signing a form, as the Irish Times inaccurately suggests: it is about a priest serving as a solemniser of a civil marriage. This cannot continue should things change. If I may remodel a famous quote: If you're not in Kansas anymore, then do not expect things to stay the same... All will be changed utterly, as Yeats wisely wrote.... 

Of course should this happen you can expect the media to launch an attack on the Church. We will hear of lots of poor couples in a quandary, put out, having to spend more money and make arrangements in now over-crowded registry offices to solemnise a civil marriage on top of a religious one. We will probably not hear about how many countries in Europe already have separation of religious and civil weddings and no one gets upset, they just accept it and get on with it: they have the civil wedding first and then head straight to the Church for the sacramental wedding. That's what will happen in Ireland should the Bishops stick to their proposal if the referendum is passed. 

This decision by the Bishops might also stave off attempts by some to force the Church to conduct gay marriages. I can see some sort of challenge emerging if the referendum is passed, a priest or minister who refuses to carry out a gay wedding being sued under equality legislation and the new position of the Constitution. In a conversation yesterday with friends it was suggested this would never happen since we have freedom of religion, however as we have seen equality legislation tends to overrule all other rights and freedoms nowadays, including religious freedom, so I would not be so optimistic. If we no longer carry out the civil aspects of marriage, the State may well no longer recognise Catholic marriages and so a case against the Church may not be able to proceed. But we shall see.

That said, it all depends on the outcome of the referendum, and given the serious issues which will arise should it be passed - not only for the Church, but for families and children, a no vote is not only prudent but better. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Heroic Priest And Witness To Hope

The Parish Priest of St Helen's in Ongar, Essex, Fr Graham Smith, is among those proposing that a former parish priest, Fr Thomas Byles, be put forward as a candidate for canonisation. Fr Byles is, of course, the heroic priest who prepared the doomed passengers of the Titanic for death, twice refusing a place in the lifeboats so to be with those who were going to die, hearing confession, giving absolution, encouraging them and praying for and with them. In the midst of all the panic - and indeed apathy of some, he offered hope to those about to die, commending them to the care of Our Lady as he recited the rosary. Here was an example of a priest who did indeed have the "smell of the sheep" about him and a perfect fulfillment of the Gospel's man who lays down his life for his friends.

I wrote a little piece about him a few years ago on the centenary of the Titanic's sinking, and there is a wonderful article on him in the Catholic Herald from the same time, well worth reading. Rereading that Herald article I am filled with admiration again for this man: here was a true priest, a courageous priest, a priest who manifested all that is good, heroic and holy in the sacred ministry. A priest who is indeed worthy of being raised to the altars. 

As I mentioned in a post a couple of days ago, Pope Francis is open to suggestions that arrive in the post, and he is keen to offer new Saints to the Church - he holds the record and has invoked his right to dispense with miracles in order to beatify or canonise individuals in order to give the Church heroic examples of the Gospel - surely Fr Byles would inspire him in this regard? So let us support Fr Smith and his colleagues in their efforts to have a Cause started.

Now, the question: was Fr Byles a confessor or a martyr? When he heard of Fr Byle's heroic sacrifice, Pope St Pius X said that he was "a martyr of the Church", could a Cause be introduced to have him declared a martyr and thereby dispensing the need for a miracle for beatification? Traditionally his death would fall under the category of "martyr of charity" and in the past such figures were put among the heroic virtue Causes and so required a miracle before glorification. That may well apply to Fr Byles, as Fr Smith suggests. So prayer for miracles and favours would be needed. That said, a Cause for a group of nuns, six Sisters of the Poor, who heroically offered their lives to treat victims of the Ebola virus in 1996 has been introduced as a martyr Cause, so things may be shifting with regard to categorization.  

Fr Joseph Benedikt Peruschitz and Fr Juozas Montvila

If Fr Byles's cause is introduced, surely the other heroic priests of the Titanic should also be included, the Benedictine Fr Joseph Benedikt Peruschitz, who had to endure the mockery of some passengers as he was administering absolution to those about to die, and the young Fr Juozas Montvila who, by the time he arrived on the ship, had already endured persecution for his faith in his native Lithuania. My proposal would be to form one Cause for the three as a group. If permitted to go forward as martyrs then a group Cause would be normal, but if a heroic virtue Cause, then, taking the cue from the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order, they could be put forward as group of confessors and a single miracle needed for beatification and another for canonisation.

Let us remember this intention in our prayers. Given the scandals and the difficulties many priests face, Fr Byles and his companions offer us priests and laity an edifying example of holy priesthood and faithful Christian discipleship, a discipleship immersed in faith, hope and love even in the face of panic, horror and anguish. How many of those Titanic passengers died in peace thanks to the sacrifice of these holy men? Many I am sure.

Here is a website dedicated to Fr Byles.

Armenia, Turkey And Europe

The Holy Father seems to be drifting into a diplomatic incident with Turkey following his remarks on the Armenian genocide: the Turkish ambassador to the Holy See has been recalled for "consultations".  The Pope spoke of the genocide during the ceremony yesterday in St Peter's Basilica, when he declared St Gregory of Narek a Doctor of the Church.

For a hundred years Turkey has lived in denial, refusing to admit the genocide, though historians are generally agreed that it happened. Indeed it was a martyrdom, one similar to what is happening in Syria and Iraq.  It is ironic, then, that the Turkish foreign minister should accuse the Pope of being "out of touch with both historical facts and legal basis" - in reality the delusion lies with Ankara. 

Such comments from an government official will not help matters. Turkey is still looking to enter the EU, denying what is obvious to all will not  help their case. Many Europeans have serious concerns about Turkey's accession to the Union, these concerns are heightened by Turkey's refusal to admit the sins of its past as they are by reported human rights abuses in the country. 

That said Europeans can hardly take the high moral ground on human rights abuses what with the prevalence of abortion and the growing persecution of Christians: we need to get our own house in order. Indeed Europe needs to face up to its current sin: the mass extermination of pre-born infants in the name of "choice" - more children have died in the clinics of Europe that Armenians in the genocide - that is not to lessen the horror of the genocide, but to make us realise that the horrors continue to this day in a different form, and there are many who are in state of denial.

The full text of the Holy Father's speech can be found here.

A Martyr For Truth

After Holy Week and the Easter Octave the feasts begin again, and what a wonderful feast today for us in these times: the martyr, Pope St Martin I. Pope St Martin died in exile in the Crimea in the year 655, the last pope (to date) to be martyred.  St Martin died from the harsh treatment that was meted out to him by officials of the Roman state which, though it considered itself Christian, had embrace the Monothelite heresy. As the defender of orthodoxy, Pope Martin fell foul of the emperor, Constans II, and because he refused to change Church teaching to accommodate the heresy he was arrested and exiled. It is also interesting to note that St Martin's election was not approved by the emperor.

There are many lessons to be drawn from St Martin's life and suffering - endurance being one of the most important. But there is also another which is of relevance today and it concerns the unwelcome interference of the State in matters of doctrine and moral teaching. Martin suffered because he would not allow the secular state to redefine who Jesus Christ was. The Monothelite heresy emerged out of a disbelief in the fullness of Christ's humanity, the State approved of that and so sought to coerce the Church to adopt it as official teaching. Martin stood firm. 

Today the state often interferes in matters beyond its competence, the recent push to redefine marriage, family and gender, not just theological issues, but issues of natural law and biology, being a case in point. I have no doubt that if the state is successful in this it will bring untold suffering - not just to Christians who remain true to God and nature (I have no doubt that certain lobby groups will use the full force of the law to persecute orthodox Christians to annihilate all opposition), but also children and even the very people who are pushing for these changes.  While God is forgiving, nature isn't - mess with nature and it will come back at you with devastating results.

The great theologian St Maximus the Confessor was arrested with Pope St Martin and shared many of his trials and sufferings.  As is always the case those who are most articulate, the great defenders of truth and orthodoxy, tend to be taken out, silenced so they cannot speak - Maximus had his tongue cut off. Again we are seeing that today. In Ireland, for example, in the campaign for the gay marriage referendum the articulate defenders of the family, nature and truth are being rounded on by proponents of the change and the media in attempt to silence and demonise any opposition. We are in a very bad place at the moment, the pillars which hold up society are being pummeled by ideologues, if they keep at it, they will crack and collapse and fall down on us all. 

Let us ask Pope St Martin and St Maximus to pray for us in these times.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Dottore Subito!

St Gregory of Narek is now officially a Doctor of the Church, following a ceremony in St Peter's today. I note with interest a post by Fr Z, in reality a petition to Pope Francis, to declare St John Paul II a Doctor of the Church. Father is certainly zealous and daring: he asks for it to be done on Divine Mercy Sunday next year, and even suggests a doctoral title: Doctor Misericordiae, the Doctor of Mercy.

This time last year I was at the canonisation, and after it I sent a tweet saying that now we had him canonised, the next process is to get him declared a Doctor, so I am in total agreement with Fr Z on this. 

So, dear faithful, what can we do? Well, Fr Z has shown us: we petition the Holy Father - that's how it starts. The faithful, and then of course theologians, preferably groups of them, send formal requests to the Pope that a particular saint be considered for the honour. If there is merit in the requests, an investigation is opened in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. As we know from incidents since his election, Pope Francis takes great interest in his post, so we have no excuse. Off we go. 

Dottore subito!

The New Doctor Formally Declared

Today in a ceremony in St Peter's, the Holy Father will formally declare St Gregory of Narek a Doctor of the Church, members of the Church in Armenia will be present, including the head of the Armenian Orthodox Church.

Divine Mercy Sunday

A happy feast day to you all.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Holy Year of Mercy: The Papal Bull Of Indiction

Here is the link to the text of Misericordiae Vultus, the Pope's Bull promulgating the Jubilee Year of Mercy. I note with interest the title: the Face of Mercy, from the first sentence of the Bull: "Jesus Christ is the face of the Father's mercy". Wonderful! 

A year to celebrate Mercy, so a great opportunity to promote the devotion to Divine Mercy.