Friday, 13 December 2013

The Beatitudes: Blessed are the Meek and Gentle Part 2

We reviewed what being meek was definitely not, and hopefully this will help us to perceive correctly the true meaning of being meek. This Beatitude hinges on seeing God in all things, people and situations, good or bad, and relies on denying self in order to make spaces for God. True acts of obedience include forgetting the acts of people who hurt us and offering instead kindness and our prayers.

 
To see Pope Francis embrace lovingly the embarrassingly tumour-ridden head of a man, so blighted
in his life by shudders and probably rejection, is an object lesson of seeing God in all things. What was the reaction of this poor man and can we all learn something from what he said? 

"In an exclusive interview with Mail Online, the brave man has described meeting the head of the Catholic church, saying that being caressed by Pope Francis made his heart beat so fast he thought he 'would die'. The pontiff's hug was 'like paradise', he said, adding: 'He didn't even think about whether or not to hug me. I'm not contagious, but he didn't know that. But he just did it: he caressed me all


over my face, and as he did I felt only love,' Mr Riva recollected: 'He came down from the altar to see the sick people. He embraced me without saying a word. I felt as though my heart was leaving my body.' "



Pope Francis preaches the Beatitudes by his very actions and his following Jesus Christ, and this what he says about being meek: "Only by contemplating the suffering humanity of Jesus can we become meek, humble, and tender like he is. There is no other way". Certainly, we have to make an effort to "find Jesus; to dwell on his passion, how much he suffered; to think of his meek silence". That is our effort; then "the rest is up to him, and he will take care of everything that is missing. But you have to do this much: hide your life in God with Christ".

Thus, to be good Christians you have to contemplate the suffering humanity of Jesus. "How to bear witness? Contemplate Jesus. How to forgive? Contemplate Jesus suffering. How not to hate your neighbour? Contemplate Jesus suffering. How to avoid gossiping about one's neighbour? Contemplate Jesus suffering. There is no other way."

True meekness instils a virtue of character which is brave and enduring, coupled with tranquility, serenity and unselfishness. We are brave in the bearing of hardships, especially shame, ridicule and rejection. We are brave in exercising true courage by overcoming our fears, self-control, refusal of revenge and gentleness when insulted. Those who win the Victoria Cross are all normal people who, for the sake of their comrades' lives, overcame deep and inhibiting fears, which most admit to having, and performed incredibly heroic acts in the near certainty face of death.

To see meek people we would note that they are not prey to anger, count nothing as an injury, sorrowing over the misfortune of others, and are not envious, are patient under adversity, always exhibiting kindness, benignity, lack of any evil, acceptance of their own unworthiness, refraining from self ambition, but rather are ambitious for the right thing at all times, no matter what cost to themselves and bearing all things bravely. They are truly safe from the slightest despair and never broken. Rejoicing always in the truth, they are free from delusive error, so the world passes by them having no impact: they have renounced the world, seeing it clearly for what it is.

Their faith is such that it enforces utter absence of any right for esteem or deference, lacking any desires and ambitions. They in fact decry any rights for themselves, reputation, consideration, independence, honours and liberty. They yield all to God and are as firm as a rock in adhering to the rules of the Church, especially in matters of doctrine and faith, always practicing obedience. These are not easy attributes to attain, especially in a world that questions everything, believing in nothing but in itself.

If, on the other hand, we desire that which makes us proud, independent, and our self will or confidence ensured, allowing too uncontrolled anger or lust, we end up destroying any peace, happiness and prospects we have. In the worse cases, we turn our faces against God, making ourselves into a god and reaping the whirlwind of insanity. Those who win millions in lotteries often find misery and division, ending up like the prodigal son eating the husks of swine, so why do people gamble their lives away?

The greatest practitioner of meekness is Jesus Christ who taught by his example and requires us to following in his footsteps if we are to reach Heaven. Gandhi greatly admired Jesus but could never become a Christian because of the example set by Christians who seemed incapable of following Christ and establishing themselves as true Christ-following Christians. Gandhi advocated the practice of non-violence to achieve freedom from colonial masters in India.

According to Richard Gregg, who studied this method, it requires tremendous self-discipline not to hit back under the harshest of conditions, including certain death, and at the bottom-line is the ability to love. We should concentrate as much possible of our attention, energy, thought and time upon creative, constructive good and letting the evil, so far as possible, die from lack of attention, from being ignored, or crowded out by good. If we find our efforts snubbed or repulsed, treated with contempt or exploited, returned with injury or ill-will, we must not allow ourselves to become resentful or self-pitying. This will be a test of our persistence, our sincerity, our will, our love and our imagination and skill. It is a modern application of Christ's exhorting us about the necessity for seeking the Kingdom of God importunately.

To recap using the words of Gerald Vann OP: "We will fail if we are glum, and never have a word of encouragement, or gratitude or praise, or even a word at all, for those around us; on the other hand we will fail if we are garrulous and boring, producing a constant stream of meaningless small talk which swirls about the heads of others until they feel submerged and stifled. Untidiness can become a sin, because it causes real discomfort and inconvenience to others; there is on the other hand the finicky tidiness, the passion for quite unnecessary exactitude, which can never bear to see anything a millimetre out of its proper position". There should be moderation in all things and to reflect on others and the World God's love for you and all His creatures.

We are to be meek and gentle, living in the world, but like Jesus, we must never be afraid to correct and rebuke the evil in this world and those responsible for it. If such wrong-doing does not touch us or we are unmoved by it there is something seriously wrong with us. This leads us to the ability to mourn over our sins and those of the world and for that we must have made progress in climbing up the steps of Poverty of Spirit and Meekness which will pull away the blindness from our eyes with regard to our inner selves and the world about us.

References:

The Public Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Preaching of the Beatitudes, Henry James Coleridge, Burns and Oates 1876.

The Power of Non-violence, Richard B Gregg, George Routledge and Sons, Ltd 1935.

The Divine Pity, Gerald Vann OP, Sheed & Ward, 1946

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Second Beatitude: Meekness part 1

Blessed are the meek; for they shall possess the land
Matthew 5; 4
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lack of Meekness
 
To recap: at the bottom line poverty of spirit is to have a child-like trust in God and therefore to be free from all fears, a virtue so necessary in a world increasingly dominated by true fears or propaganda-generated fears, on a par with Orwell' s 1984. We should not fear any person, thing or situation since all that we have and are have been placed in God's hands in secure trust. We therefore don't worry, facing real problems head on, thinking through them as best we can, praying, obtaining advice and, on deciding, leaving the rest to God. We should refrain from returning to the problem, again and again picking its scab: this is detrimental to us.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Obedience forms the backbone of the Beatitudes and is fundamental to them. This is why God is so severe on disobedience within the Church and with those placed in just authority over us. Only through obedience can we gain true freedom as children of God as in the case of our road system: only with adherence to the Highway Code can we expect to roam freely with minimum risk of accident, especially if everybody is obedient to them too.  
 
 
 
 
Disobedience by anybody disrupts life and can be detrimental to it by adversely affecting or terminating the life of others and ourselves. Those who exhibit disobedience within the Church are in double jeopardy, firstly from their own arrogance and secondly from the severe judgement of God. Adam and Eve must remind us continually of the consequences of disobedience. Therefore if Jesus advocated adherence to the Beatitudes to his followers who are we to disagree or disobey?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
If we think that mastering poverty of spirit and emptying ourselves of all worldliness is tough, then gaining this virtue will help in cracking an even tougher nut of meekness. As has already been pointed out, to understand Pope Francis we need to become embedded in the Beatitudes and approach his advice and homilies within this context. We should apply the mind of a child rather than our intellect or theological knowledge. Dissecting his words within or out of context, looking for hidden meanings, deep theological controversy or points for criticism because of perceived departure from Tradition, in his case will leave us puzzled, confused or worried.
 
 
We have to stand back and hear what is said with the clarity of the mind of a child. For example the word "good" to a child means not hurting somebody, including himself, and obeying those in authority, especially parents and teachers. So we should not look for depth or hidden content where there is none. We have to be meek, putting aside our self, preconceptions, prejudices, preferences and the safe and solid that we hold dear. This a time of personal challenge.
 
 
 
To be really meek or humble is extremely difficult, requiring courage or guts. We can never

know when we
are truly meek: the moment we feel or declare ourselves meek is the moment when are most certainly not. Only others can pronounce on and judge our progress: a confessor or spiritual director. We just have to accept that in gaining the virtue of meekness we struggle blindly in our faith and in the knowledge that God will help any of our genuine attempts. This virtue of meekness is the sure remedy for pride, arrogance, disobedience and anger in our make-up.
 
Let's make a start along this difficult road upon which all of us have to travel in this life or in purgatory, for without the virtues of a child we cannot hope to get into heaven. We need to first begin to understand what a lack of meekness is in terms of our deficiencies of personality and our relation with, and especially impact on, others.
 
 
We all suffer from a degree of selfishness at the centre of our very being: we exhibit self-love or even self-hate (both are detrimental), we want honours or in the inverse, degradation, rights or self-pitying nothingness, reputation of all kinds, consideration or admiration or attention, independence and liberty to do our own thing no matter what or the consequential impact on others. 
 
 

We desire free-choice over our lives and over others who affect us or get in our way.
Coupled with this list is our lacking in the qualities of meekness as we are proud, impatient, angry or irritable, and resentful of slights or injuries no matter how small. It all comes down to a single letter "I" or word "Me"; these two have to removed from our lives as irrelevant, unimportant and even dangerous. We should try to count the times each day that we use or think "I" or "Me" in conversation to discover our dedication to self and not others.

 


If at this stage we feel that we are not that deficient in meekness, then we have to confront head on imperfect or false meekness by the real impact we are having on others, especially our family: are we building or deconstructing by our lack of zeal, gentleness or control over our tantrums or fury due to not getting what we want? Are we touchy , choleric, swift to take offence in small matters, slow to forgive, nurse injuries, harbour grudges or brood over getting our own back one day for petty or imagined injuries? All of these, no matter how small or slight, can act as a slow poison over time.
 
 
Other destructive attributes, or more correctly sins, include vulgarity, ingratitude, insularity, cutting speech, sarcasm, bitter irony, being picky, spiteful and cruel humour, all vices, envy, jealousy and anger which can be easily corrected such as quarrelling, contention, loudness in talk and behaviour including brashness, coarseness and abuse of anybody. The bottom line of this lack of meekness is that we don't recognise God as the motive for all our actions including our real lack of love for our neighbour, especially our enemies many of whom are to be found within our family and work environment.

A good help to achieving meekness is to keep the following five truths in front of the mind:

Life is hard.
You are going to die.
You are not in control.
You are not important.
Life is not about you.

Let us honestly digest and reflect our failures in being meek, making good and humble use of the Sacrament of Confession to progress and maybe we might use the following prayer, seeking God's help in achieving the progress that hopefully we will never know about:

Litany of Humility
(for private devotion only)
His Eminence Cardinal Merry del Val recited the following daily:


Response: deliver me Jesus.
O Jesus meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed:
From the desire of being loved:
From the desire of being extolled:
From the desire of being honoured:
From the desire of being praised:
From the desire of being preferred:
From the desire of being consulted:
From the desire of being approved:

From the fear of being humiliated:
From the fear of being despised:
From the fear of suffering rebukes:
From the fear of being calumniated:
From the fear of being ridiculed:
From the fear of being wronged:
From the fear of being suspected:

Response: Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be loved more than I:
That others may be esteemed more than I:
That in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I decrease:
That others may be chosen and I set aside:
That others may be praised and I unnoticed:
That others may be preferred to me in everything:
That others may be holier that I, provided that I may become as holy as I should:


References:

The Preaching of the Beatitudes, H J Coleridge, Burns Oates 1876
The Eight Beatitudes, George Chevrot, Sinag-tala 1981.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Poor or Poverty in Spirit


Matthew 5, 1-3. Now Jesus seeing the multitudes went up into a mountain: and when he had sat down, his disciples came to him. And opening his mouth he taught them saying: Blessed are the poor in sprit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.



This first Beatitude is a vital beginning; failure to consider this step means failure to get anywhere spiritually. Without emptying ourselves we are unable to progress to meekness, mourning, justice and mercifulness. We will always have some personal motive, known or hidden to ourselves for what we do or are doing. Until we make some progress in Poverty in Spirit, giving up all for God, we remain like the disappointed rich man in the Gospels. How could we be really meek seeking only God's will and the love of our neighbour if we are loaded up with personal worldly attachments - merely wanting the "feel-good factor" will suffice to dampen our progress.

 
How are we really to understand Pope Francis' recent interview emphasising the mercy of God without progressing from poverty in spirit, through meekness or humility before mourning for sins, those of our neighbour or country and the Church itself, and confront the dual Beatitudes of justice and mercy? In recognising our own sinfulness and lack of humility and sorrow for our own sins we are in a better position to treat with empathy those who suffer and weep under the weight of their own serious sins, looking for a way of obtaining forgiveness.

 
Pope Francis has not gone soft on the mortal sins of abortion, contraception and so on but is warning us not be so rule-blind that we fail to see the wounded, suffering from their sins in this spiritual battlefield, that is we fail to see the true illness of the fallen and seek to help them without ignoring the sins that caused the terrible wounds from which they are suffering. Those of us who can see and are not blinded by past sins, prejudices, pride and rules of life are able to be just and merciful to the fallen. If we are to discern and understand the path Pope Francis appears to be encouraging us to take, we could do no better than attempt to understand the Beatitudes and make these our way of life.

 
Those who have tried living the Beatitudes will know that it is the journey of life and progress requires the intervention by God to help us as we cannot advance under our own steam. If we but try He will meet us more than half way. The stripping process will be most painful at times and we will probably hate some of the losses, being tempted to give up and retire to the broad way, leaving it to Purgatory, if we are lucky enough to get there, to strip us until we become at one with God. As we progress we will find that poverty in spirit, meekness and mourning are both interactive and supportive of each other: as we reach increasing meekness or humility we recognise the seriousness of more and more of our sins and as we mourn for them, seeking forgiveness, we become detached from those worldly attachments which led us to sin seriously and are strengthened to give them up. We go repetitively or cycle through these Beatitudes towards perfection, most probably achieved in the next life.

 
So let us now make a start by being open-minded about ourselves and try live a life of poverty in spirit which is, with God's grace, within the reach of all of us irrespective of skills or situation. We now have to develop awareness, understanding and the virtues of honesty, giving of self, time and skills, enthusiasm in all situations we find ourselves, kindness, forgiveness, compassion, friendship with all-comers, gentleness in our interactions with others, lending willingly with no expectation of return, large-heartedness, open-handedness, carefree about our success, failures, gains or losses, free from any fears, living in the eternal present, free from human respect, not being anxious, accepting losses and avoiding thinking "what's in it for me?", not grasping for anything or anybody, free to always discern and answer God's calls, and carefree about all things and all situations. Can we rise to these challenges, accepting failures along the way and never giving up? If we act as God's stewards using prudently the graces, talents, mind, body, and health for God's purposes and accepting that God may take any of these away with our permission, we are on good ground.

 
As we progress we need to remove any false judging of others and remove the false self or the mask behind which our real self hides, like some sociopath. We need to really try to become what God wants us to be and not what we want or desire. We will be led along some out of the way paths but it will not be a dull journey.

 
At the higher levels of progress we seek to remove all inordinate spiritual desires for self-seeking comfort or self-enhancement in spiritual methods, prayer, fasting, pious practices, devotion, religious books, meditation methods, contemplation, virtues, marks of heroism or sanctity, recollection, interior peace or sense of the presence of God. When we feel that we are detached totally in our spiritual and temporal actions we are at the threshold of sanctity and Heaven. The devil will ensure that he does all he can to dissuade our advances.

 
Through our increasing detachments and self-denial we will begin to see God in all things and situations even the most cruel, despicable and barbaric ones. This is why Pope Francis sees us as wrong in complaining about the barbarism of the world today: we fail to see God's work going on in the middle of it all. We need to discern God in the ugly, the marginalised such as gender-confused people, mentally sick, poor and destitute and even in ourselves. We will love only according to God's will and have and give peace thereby drawing all things and people to ourselves through the love and homage we give out.

 
As we progress, our trust in will God deepen and thereby we will achieve freedom from worry and insecurity from which our Western World is suffering so acutely. Then we will achieve infinite freedom to have perfect wealth or riches by owning nothing but having everything. At the end of this supremely difficult journey we will, with God's grace, achieve total abandonment to Him such that God is in all and all is in God.

 
To close this topic we have the perfect model in Jesus Christ who according to John Nicholas Grou's Maxims:

 
Constantly united to the Father.

Entirely devoted to His glory and to His good pleasure.

Infinitely beyond all perishable pleasures, riches and honours.

Chose and embraced poverty and obscurity, toil and suffering, humiliations and opprobrium in the extreme.

Detached from all natural affections and feelings, always and in all things dependent on grace.

So submissive to grace's workings as never to think or will or desire or do anything apart.

Never thought of his own interests or own glory.

Never attributed anything to himself.

He maintained a state of perfect devotedness to His Father's interests.

 
 
We can do no better than keep this model before us.

The next topic will be the Beatitude of Meekness and an attempt will be made to define what it is not. It is impossible for us to measure our progress in meekness, for the moment we think we are meek is the moment when we are not meek. But to discern our attachments and associated sins we need to progress in this Beatitude. Pride gets us to the point of saying "I have not sinned and therefore don't need to go to Confession or require God's forgiveness!".

 
 

 
References:

The Preaching of the Beatitudes, H J Coleridge, Burns Oates 1876

The Eight Beatitudes, George Chevrot, Sinag-tala 1981



Sunday, 15 September 2013

The First Beatitude - Poor in Spirit: What it is not






Matthew 5, 1-3. Now Jesus seeing the multitudes went up into a mountain: and when he had sat down, his disciples came to him. And opening his mouth he taught them saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.



 
The first fundamental rung on the Beatitudes Ladder to Heaven confronts us with achieving poverty in spirit; we cannot skip this stage in our journey to Heaven, for we cannot serve both God and mammon.

It is wonderful how Pope Francis is placing emphasis on the Beatitudes because, as mentioned in a previous blog, these are the very rules by which men lived who saved Europe and the Church from destruction, and painfully built up a new civilisation. A revival of the Church in the West, as in the past, can only be achieved by a mass return to living the Beatitudes. It would be a glorious time should Pope Francis, through his lifestyle and preaching, become known as the Beatitudes Pope: then the Church would be in a state of certain revival, saved from the secular abyss into which the West is tumbling with accelerating speed.

We shall start our journey by attempting to define what poverty of spirit is NOT, so that we don't imagine we are attaining this virtue when we are not. A key test is the Job Test: what are our reactions when something we value, such as health, partner, children, home, riches, etc, are suddenly taken away from us? The outrage and pain we suffer is a measure of our attachment to such things of this world and detachment from the will and love of God. He owns all that we are attached to and we are only temporary stewards of them. This is why poverty of spirit is a very tough virtue to attain and progress will always be slow and difficult unless God intervenes to strip us of our worldly attachments.

We are not poor in spirit if:
  • We are not voluntarily poor or impoverished or, if we are, we don't accept God's will in the matter.

  • We choose those parts of God's will to accept or to ignore: we decide our family size, our job or vocation, our need to do more interesting things than worshipping God, our need when and how to pray, those who we will relate to, our style of life including pre-marriage and post-marriage liaisons or affairs and so on.

  • We are rich or relatively so and would fight to keep all that we have against all-comers including God; we belong to a we-want and must-have-now culture.

  • We don't accept that we are nothing, men of mud with muddy eyes, and that God is the source of everything we are and have: He owns everything, especially us and our family.

  • We take pride in our intelligence, status, skills, bodily attributes, life-style and don't accept that these are given to us for the purpose of serving God and not satisfying our own personal ambitions or ego.

  • We pay lip-service to the Faith, picking and choosing that which pleases us most or brings the most social kudos or apparent psychological comfort, rather than accepting it, warts and all, for the love of God.

  • We and our needs are paramount over the life and needs of others, and we don't accept that our own life is given us to serve God, especially through others, and this gift of our life or another's is not to be squandered or given away to avoid personal suffering or the suffering of others: we are all owned by God and He decides, not us.

  • We don't accept that life can be hard, that we are going to die sooner than we imagine and held to account for our sins and impact on others, we fail to see that we are not important, we in reality are not in control and life is certainly not about us.

So let us perform an inventory of all that we have and enjoy, looking at each item and reviewing our reactions should God take them away here and now; then decide what needs to be done to cure this addiction. Here is a starter list: good health, excellent job, intelligence, holidays abroad, fine children in fine schools, small family costs, wonderful house and garden, enjoying all sorts of sports, high status in the community, goods - plane, car, boat, jewellery and riches of all kind, little debt, pleasures such as TV, Internet, ipad, iphone, Blackberry, Video Games, DVDs, books, good food restaurants to enjoy, wonderful friends and close family and so on. One day we will have to face a situation in which in order to save our souls, God through love for us will strip us of many and, in the end all, of our attachments. freeing us to enter His world.

So now after this review we may humbly admit we have a problem caused by our inability to proceed further due to our attachments or indeed addiction to the things of this life or world or the reactions from others if we tried. Hopefully we will even mourn or repent over our spiritual situation which we can either start correcting or at least accept that God will lovingly force us to in his own time and way and not ours. We cannot proceed further without God's help and so fervent prayer is now necessary and a conviction that we are in a bad way. To be honest, most of us in the West are in a bad way.

We may now start to get a grip of ourselves and start small by ridding ourselves of items we don't need, or giving up holding on selfishly to others, recognising that one day we all have to part company in this life. We may value our time so why not give a little to help somebody today.

If we have the audacity to attempt to really start living in poverty of spirit then we will find out who our real friends are and must expect opposition or even persecution with comments such as: "You and your faith", "if we all tried to be like you where would the country be?", "saints are difficult people to live with", "you are being inconsiderate", and so on. The greatest opposition will come unfortunately from our close family, friends and those we respected. It is then that we must not give up but take small bites when opportunities arise, and if our intention is indeed to achieve this virtue, God will most certainly intervene on our behalf so that opposition is cleared away. 

Look at Pope Francis' attempts to break out of the cage where he has been placed in order to practice poverty of spirit, to be greeted with joy by many, but derision and scorn by others, saying that he is dumbing down the office of pope or bringing the church into disrepute, rather than representing Jesus as a true vicar should do.

So we have to accept opposition to our attempts to practice poverty of spirit, especially in this materialistic world, even in small mundane ways as we travel along the narrow way Jesus marked out which leads to Heaven. Jesus never claimed that it would be easy but said that He would help us if we try and ask Him for it. On this first rung we will practice many of the other rungs of the Beatitudes, paving the way to each of them.

To close, we should try giving up something we are fond of today by taking a small step which we know about and not others; for example, we may be keeping something that we feel that we might need: well, maybe somebody else might need it now and more than we do. We shouldn't cause aggro in our homes or with our friends but just back off from our attachments or addictions bit by bit, using stealth if necessary. If we start stripping ourselves quietly and voluntarily now, this will leave God less to do when He has to finally prepare us for our heavenly home and we will suffer much less and avoid the temptation to despair.


References:

The Preaching of the Beatitudes, H J Coleridge, Burns Oates 1876

The Eight Beatitudes, George Chevrot, Sinag-tala 1981

Monday, 26 August 2013

The Penultimate Times and the Beatitudes


We often hear and read dark forebodings about living in the final last times. This is discussed at length in the "Heralds of the Second Coming, Our Lady, the Divine Mercy, and the Popes of the Marian Era from Blessed Pope Pius IX to Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI", by Stephen Walford: Forward by Cardinal Ivan Dias and Imprimatur by Bishop Egan of Portsmouth. Now we learn that on 12/13 October 2013 Pope Francis is to re-consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady. Surely we must sit up and take note?


We have been warned many times to stay awake and discern the signs of the times. Surely our loving God, the Father is reaching a point when He will do something to halt the global descent into the abyss? Many shrug their shoulders helplessly at more than 60 million babies, or one billion since the 1960s, murdered before and up to birth each year, the millions denied the gift of life through contraception and IVF, the emerging demand for the murder of babies after birth, the use of embryos in research, genetic modification of natural life, attempts to clone humans and designer babies within the test tubes of so-called science, and the overpowering desire to create and control life itself from the beginning to the grave. We have reached a state in which God is denied and evil is increasingly declared good and good declared evil, coupled with the legal condoning of the corruption of manners and the vices of the soul. Worse still, our children are being educated to accept the new man-made norms.


Followers of Christ are increasingly treated as freaks and worse still threatened on all sides globally by psychological and physical life-threatening persecution and destruction. The storm in the Middle East might be the birth pangs of global anti-Christian culture and even a global war on a scale never seen before. Do we have to remember WWI in this way and thereby betray all those who died for a better world for their children: us!


Added to this are the freak skies, weather patterns, famine and floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the burying of crime through under-reporting, crime and corruption condoned by weak courts, ineffectual world leaders, old conflicts refusing to die and new ones arising daily, with the world peace-makers at a loss for what do to damp down the fires of hatred. Are the emerging changes in nature and weather a sign of nature's very rebellion against man's global sinfulness?
In the 1950s our streets and byways were reasonably safe for children and murder was infrequent; now we have CRB/DBS to worry about and our children, especially the most vulnerable, remain continuously threatened, and we adults are reluctant to even smile at a child in case it is taken the wrong way. We live in increasingly isolated worlds fed by the media with pap to keep us happy according to their definition of happiness.
On top of this sorry brew is the flood of fear and filth poured out by the secular media into the eyes (souls) and ears of our society, thereby attempting to blot out from our minds what is good, with politicians aiding and abetting with their own brand of propaganda serving their own hidden agendas. So many are now predicting that the times are indeed ripe for the "Man of Iniquity" to emerge.
According to St John, there are many anti-Christs in the world, not just one at any time, and perhaps we are seeing legions of them emerging into our midst with vast numbers of christian tares aiding and abetting them. Evil leaders need followers and accomplices to do their evil global work. These followers soften up society to accept and condone increasingly evil ways or methods. From this unholy cauldron a new order of evil comes forth. Perhaps the growing fear and perversity in every era signals a new era of widespread inhumanity.
As there is one "Body of Christ" with Christ as its Head, surely it is not unthinkable to hypothesize that there might be one "Body of Satan" with Satan as its Head? The members of the Body of Satan comprise those who rebel against the good and love that is God Himself by choosing evil, against truth by lying, and against life itself by denying it and trying to control it for their own ends. They cry out in so very many and not-so subtle ways that "God is dead and all of those who believe in such nonsense are un-intelligent myth believers". Dorothy Sayers wrote that the Devil is crafty, or intelligent, but has a stupid core. So wisdom is much to be preferred to a coat of intelligence covering inner stupidity.
Turning to the one and only true Church following Christ through His passion and crucifixion, yes crucifixion, we see leaders of the world at many levels causing havoc and death using hidden means of influence, scourging humanity with multitudes of wounds, suppressing life, education, marriage, family life and encouraging all forms of disparate behaviour redefined as good, wholesome and desirably acceptable. Satan's lackeys everywhere are adding their individual and group contributions to the emerging new barbarism never seen before in the history of mankind. 

"Thousands of ethicists and bioethicists, as they are called, professionally guide the unthinkable on its passage through the debatable on its way to becoming the justifiable, until it is finally established as the unexceptional." (Richard John Neuhaus, 'The Return of Eugenics', Commentary, April 1988, p.19)
A very sobering account of the period between the World Wars is described by Paul Brendon in his book, "The Dark Valley", which leads to the conclusion that World War II just had to happen. The world has got worse since then as the errors of Russia have fuelled the rapid march away from God and decline in worshipping Him. World War III-IV, as things currently stand, is likely to be the default result of the "Ever Darkest Valley" we have trapped ourselves in, with the world powers poised to inflict far greater inhumanity on us all. Just as in the 1930s, as noted by George Orwell: Everyone was 'sleeping the deep, deep sleep of England from which I sometimes fear that we shall never wake till we are jerked out of it by the roar of bombs'. So it was then, so it looks likr today.
Frightening words, but even worse now emerges with the apparent suppression of the Mass going on in our very midst. It is being suppressed by priests and people who no longer really believe and just act as if they believe. It does not take much to spot these unfortunate individuals, just a little understanding of behavioural psychology. The result is that the efficaciousness of the Mass declines, leaving the people with a feeling of emptiness and lack of joy so they drift away, believing that today the Church has little to offer. Most noticeably in churches with suppressed or no Masses there is an apparent feeling of cold emptiness or lack of peace (Christ's).
With Mass suppressed and dwindling parishes, real love grows cold, and we appear to no longer know what love is and how to recognise it when we have it; the killing of the vulnerable in Belgium and the Netherlands are markers of a world without love. Love is God and without God you cannot begin to have or appreciate love: you are left with a chrysalis of hyped-up experiences, or personal needs, masquerading as love. With suppressed Masses we are left with Christ absent from our villages and towns, and consequentially these are enveloped in an impenetrable darkness. The Book of Revelation is opening up before our very eyes, driven open by legions of anti-Christs. This is why the call for re-evangelisation and the Year of Faith are so important to us.

Without doubt a Contraceptive Catholic Church will die out: no children, no people and no priests equate to no church. A Holy Catholic church is slowly emerging out of this darkness from the remnant who live for life in its abundance: this truly Holy Catholic Church will have the awesome power of God behind it, and its enemies will not prevail against it as its members adhere to its doctrines and the true Mass without dissent. 
What should we do in this difficult period so that we don't become overwhelmed? We surely want to belong to the one and the true Holy Catholic Church wherever we can find its roots among us here and now. However, without living the Beatitudes to the best of our ability, we shall not be able to discern it. We have to stay very close to the Pope and to all of those who support him. All of us of child-bearing age should trust the gift of life to God and welcome, without worrying but with joy, however many children He grants us, for He will provide for them so that we can rebuild the Body of Christ in the way God meant it to be. 
Each of us must move forward in faith: to stop still is to go backwards. We have to become centres of prayer and Eucharistic adoration, attending and living the unsuppressed Mass wherever we find it; from this will emerge beacons of love and hope as lights to those embedded in the escalating darkness. We need to keep before our eyes that, no matter how much this evil darkness spreads, Satan and his lackeys will never be allowed to conquer the world or us if we hang on in there, loyal to Christ and his true disciples identified by their adherence to the Beatitudes. Our little lights must become brighter and stronger, so that we shine out in this darkness like lighthouses guiding those who really wish to find the one and only safe harbour created by God through Jesus Christ.
For this to happen, each one of us has to grasp the nettle of understanding and living the Beatitudes: without doing this our progress will be stunted and to no real avail. We have to follow Christ along His narrow way and so become Christ-like or continue to drift at the mercy of the storms we are facing which are forcing us to accept so many different ways to keep us away from Christ's narrow way. This background presents my introduction to the Beatitudes, and is why we must do all that we can to live the Beatitudes so that they become second nature to us, and we will then, with God's help, overcome the darkness now swirling as a Satanic-driven fog enveloping the world and above all to help others out of this maze of despair.
The first blog on the Beatitudes of the Mount will start with the most important, and to many of us the most difficult, rung of the ladder to Heaven: Poverty of Spirit. It will concentrate on what Poverty of Spirit is not so that we don't delude ourselves.


Finally, if you remain unconvinced that we are in the penultimate last times, in "The Heralds of the Second Coming", there is a reference to Doctor of the Church St Hildegard's revelations which paint the period we live in as the Fourth Epoch - the Black Pig. St Hildegard's previous three epochs have come to pass with uncanny accuracy. I do recommend this book to you to find out that our era has been accurately foreseen. Our era will be followed by a relatively short and final epoch of the Gray Wolf or reign of the man of iniquity, Satan himself facing his final destruction by Christ.  We have been warned!

Monday, 5 August 2013

A server's view of the Traditional Mass


Recently, after Mass at the Cathedral, I was asked “What attracted you to the old Mass?”

A good question, and answered in the first instance by "Ummm...." It's a deceptively simple question at first glance, but it took me a moment to marshal my thoughts.

To put the question into a little more context, the question really amounted to "You're nowhere near old enough to have experienced it first time round, so after 32 years attending nothing but the Novus Ordo and 24 years serving nothing but that, how did you come to have been in the sacristy having just served Mass in the Usus Antiquior?"

Well….. I suppose it all started in 1985, when I made my first appearance east of the Altar Rails. Or, I would have, if there were any. Back then, there used to be two weekday Masses each day at the Cathedral, and over the week eight servers were rostered in pairs to cover them, with spares. We were allowed out of school for that- it’d be hard to believe that happening these days - and we were even let out to serve at funerals too. Over time, as servers move on, you find yourself moving up the pecking order, until eventually I ended up being the one at the back of the gaggle of servers on a Sunday Morning and directing the proceedings, and I found that all of a sudden, those bits of red text in that Very Large Book on the Altar were actually quite important! Say the Black, Do the Red, and all that.

Now, once you start looking into what we have to do, you start having to think about how we’re to do it, and why. For a while, the “we've always done it like that 'ere” line of reasoning will satisfy, but if you know that there was something else before, you have to cast your eyes further back in time.

Around that time, a certain Rev. Stephen Cross appeared in our parish, wearing a cassock, a biretta, and complete with chalice veils, burses, amices, Latin and a whole load of other things not seen for many years. I realised over a period of time that it’s possible to be entirely faithful to the Novus Ordo while still still being faithful to the care and reverence of the Usus Antiquior, but his obvious passion for antiquity lead to me being more aware of the fact that what went before wasn't that different after all, and what we have now is clearly derived from that, and so treating that like "the elephant in the corner" will only leave you adrift in a sea of speculation. My assistant and I used to have a phrase for it. "Liturgical Innovation". (NB this is a very useful phrase in another context. We don't make "mistakes", we have "Liturgical Innovations". Not that we ever get anything wrong, of course...)

A little more reading around on the subject will certainly give you an insight into it, but out of context it all seems a little unreal, like pictures in an illuminated manuscript.

However, one Sunday morning many years later, I found out two things:
  • Bob Latin (well done, that man) had arranged that there was to be a Mass in the Usus Antiquior in our parish in Morecambe;
  • There was space in the sanctuary for me if I fancied a go.
Of course, I said yes. So, it came to pass that Fr Cross said Mass, and Bob and I served under the watchful eye of The Oracle that is Michael Massey.

And there it was, real, actually happening, and there in front of me. We didn't do badly for a first try either. Since then, I've repeated the feat a few times, at Hornby, Lancaster and also in the chapel at Sizergh, and I've also served Mass on my own a couple of times. I still get caught on the hop by “sed libera nos a malo” though.

So, back the the question “What attracted you to the old Mass?”

Well, some of it is of course a matter of personal preference, but over the years I served Mass at the cathedral (18 years of it) I saw some weird and wonderful things at various functions, a number not very relevant, some completely trivial, many indulgent and very few reverent. It’s ironic, isn't it - traditionalists are often accused of being inflexible, intolerant and set in their ways, and yet when we attend the Novus Ordo we take a deep breath, let it pass and get on with it, but if you suggest singing the Gloria in Latin, well…..! Anyhow, after a lifetime of liturgies where, as someone once said “the only thing missing wur t’pantomime ‘orse!” several things struck me.
  • There was a lot less “going on” with everything done in a neat and timely way. No excessive “extras”, but when something needs doing you simply do it - none of this business of the Priest hanging around waiting while the Missal is solemnly carried out to read the collect!
  • It’s “Something” rather than “something derived from something else” and it wasn't so different that you watched, clueless and confounded.
  • The focus really is towards the altar, the tabernacle and God, and everything is directed towards that, not us.
I think it’s something I've realised through sitting to the side of the altar for many years, but that space between the altar and where the altar rails used to be (where you’d read the gospel at High Mass and carry out multifarious activities at Easter in the Usus Antiquior) has become physically the focus of things; sanctuaries have a large empty space - the people face it, and so does the priest, albeit over the Altar and the focus is…. nothing, while with the Usus Antiquior there is a progression ever more eastward and upwards, approaching God. Approaching, but never surpassing: even the priest is to the west of the Altar and after the consecration to the west of the Blessed Sacrament. Closer than the servers and congregation, but on the same side. On the other hand, facing each other over the Altar raises a question…. Are we on one side and the Priest on the other, or is the Priest on one side and we’re on the other? Which side is better? Does it make a difference which side we're on? Have we got God surrounded? (“Stick’em up, cowboy! We got ya surrounded!”….. I think not !) And then, you have the Blessed Sacrament on the Altar in front of the Priest, and in the Tabernacle behind him! And, as we all know, you never turn your back on the… Oh never mind….

You don’t get that ambiguity in the Usus Antiquior!

And really, I think that’s it, we’re doing what people have done, nothing less, and nothing more, with the same end and with the same focus: God , not us. What more is there? Liturgical Dancing anyone? No…?

John Rogan


Sunday, 14 July 2013

The struggle within

A wise old sage, years ago, in some Eastern religious tradition, was educating his young disciples about life and he told them a story.

It is a story that tells of a dreadful battle that goes on in every person between two great lions.


One lion is wicked: he is fear, rage, jealousy, sadness, greed, pride, self-pity, shame, hatred, weakness, lies, rivalry and superiority.

The other lion is good: he is happiness, harmony, loe, trust, sharing, peace, modesty, gentleness, compassion, friendship, understanding, charity, truth, kindness and loyalty.

The sage was asked, "Which lion will win?"

He replied, "The one you feed the most."

Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Paradox of Our Time


We have taller buildings but shorter tempers; wider motorways but narrower viewpoints; we spend more but have less, we buy more but enjoy it less. We have bigger houses but smaller families, more conveniences but less time; we have degrees and qualifications but less sense, more knowledge but less judgement; more experts but more problems; more medicine but less wellness.

We have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom and hate more often. We have learned how to make a living but not a life; we have added years to life but not life to years. We have been all the way to the moon and back but have trouble crossing the road to meet a new neighbour. We have conquered outer space and cleaned up the air but polluted the soul; we have split the atom but not our prejudice.

We have higher incomes but lower morals; we have become long on quantity but short on quality. These are times of taller people and short character; steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace but are places of terror, ill-treatment and domestic warfare; more leisure but less fun; more kinds of food but less nutrition.

These are the days of two incomes but more divorce; of fancier houses but broken homes. It is a time when much is on show in shop windows and nothing in the stockroom; a time when technology can bring a letter to you by email, and a time when we can choose to either make a difference or just bin it or delete.

This is the time to increase our Bible readings, but its contents are ignored and we make our own rules.

(Taken from a student at Columbria High School, Colorado, USA, scene of the mass shooting of students by a classmate)

Sunday, 23 June 2013

The Altar Boy - A Reflection



Various items concerning the LMS Local Representative's job were passed on to us and amongst them was a small notebook in which our predecessor, Christine Ackers (RIP) had made a collection of writings that had obviously moved or inspired her. It wasn't clear what she intended to do with them, but we felt they deserved a wider audience so will share them with readers of this blog over time.


The Altar Boy

We had a rapid advance across Northern France from the Normandy beachhead. (Historians say it was the fastest opposed advance in the history of modern warfare.) Now, our 105-millimeter howitzer battalion was bivouacked in an abandoned castle on the outskirts of a small Belgian town. The exact locations of occupied and unoccupied territory were not well known, and due to an error in map reading, we learned at daybreak that we were close to a German infantry unit. Watching our battalion attempting to act as infantry was laughable, but we had no choice. Using our pieces at close range with time bursts, we caused the enemy to retreat.

Later that morning, I ventured away from the Castle and observed the local townspeople walking to the centre of the village to the sound of church bells. I realized it was Sunday and people were on their way to a Catholic Mass. I followed them.

Inside the church, when the priest appeared from the Sacristy, I saw that he was without an altar boy. I was only nineteen years old, not too far away from own altar boy days Philadelphia. So almost by rote, I went onto the Sanctuary, knelt down next to the priest and, still in my uniform, started to perform the normal functions of an acolyte in Latin. The priest and I went through the whole Mass as if we had done it together many times before, through Epistle, Gospel, Consecration, and Final Blessing.

As prescribed, I preceded the priest into the Sacristy and, as is the custom, stood apart from him with my hands in the prayer position while he divested. He removed the Chasuble, then the Cincture. When his arms lifted the Alb, I saw that he was wearing a German uniform. My heart stopped: the priest was a German officer!

The man was a German chaplain and though he had realized immediately that he had an American sergeant as an altar boy, during the entire twenty minutes of the Mass he had given no outward sign of recognition.

My German was rather rudimentary and the only thing I could put together was "Gut Morgen, Vater" (Good Morning, Father). Evidently his English was non-existent, for somewhat flustered, he only smiled at me, Then we shook hands and I left.

I walked back to the castle strangely exhilarated. Two strangers, enemies at war, had met by chance and for twenty minutes, without any direct communication, had found complete unanimity in an age-old ritual of Christian worship.

The memory of this incident has remained with me for over fifty years. It still brings the same elation, for I know first-hand that, even in war, our common humanity, under the same God, can triumph over hatred and division.

Richard H Kiley



Friday, 7 June 2013

The Sermon on the Plain










Recently we were fortunate to visit the Mount on which Jesus instructed the apostles and disciples on the Beatitudes. The little church is set in lovely gardens overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the whole embraces you with an atmosphere of great peace. We could have just stayed there the whole day, quietly comtemplating the meaning of the Beatitudes. As we looked down onto the plain which gently stretches out to the Sea of Galilee, somewhere down there Jesus later instructed the Apostles, followers and a multitude in matters which have become known as the Sermon on the Plain (Luke Vi 17 - 38).

 

The conditions under which Jesus taught had changed as it was now becoming increasingly dangerous to be associated with him. Present at the Sermon on the Plain were the Apostles who had only recently been elected as such, a crowd of disciples or professed believers and followers, and finally a very great multitude of people from Judea and Jerusalem, and the sea-coast of Tyre and Sidon, including many self-interested, sceptics and those influenced by the calumnies against and opposition to Our Lord. We may see many parallels between this latter group and those who attend churches today, influenced by the World: cafeteria christians. So Jesus was addressing a very different audience from His Apostles and followers when on the Mount. Moreover, this sermon was divided into two parts: in the first He was instructing the Apostles on how to approach an audience un-receptive to divine truths and in the second He addressed Himself to the multitude.

The Sermon on the Mount and that on the Plain are to a degree identical; however the latter sermon was modified from that on the Mount: with poor rather than poor in spirit, those who weep rather than those who mourn over sins, hunger for food rather hunger and thirst for justice, while the blessings on the meek, merciful, clean of heart and peacemakers are omitted. Taking a modern secular view, the latter blessings are not truly understood today.

Also Jesus added to each blessing, woes:

Blessed are the poor for yours is the kingdom of God; woe to you that are rich, for you have your consolation. Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be filled; woe to you that are filled, for you shall hunger. Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh; woe to you that now laugh, for you shall mourn and weep. Blessed shall you be when men hate you, and when they shall separate you, and shall reproach you and cast out your name as evil (increasingly happening today) for the Son of Man's sake.

In this first part Jesus seems to be saying to His followers, don't waste your time trying to educate those who are not true followers with the divine truths contained in the Sermon of the Mount; rather concentrate on this modified set which will be easier to explain and to understand. Or please do not cast pearls of divine truths among a promiscuous audience.

Then Jesus addresses the crowd:

Turning to the multitude, Jesus echoes the Sermon on the Mount in the precepts of charity: love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you and pray for them, turn the other cheek and give your other cloak; all these form part of the general principle, accepted by all, that we are to do to others as we would have them do to us. The precepts of mercy follow by Jesus emphasising the mercifulness and all forgivingness of God and therefore we are not to judge others and accordingly we won't be judged. Finally, he warned about following false prophets who will be known by their fruits (our world is full of false prophets of doom, secular and religious, and other threats from nature or government itself, especially against those who live their faith in the public square: know them by their fruits and treat with them accordingly).

If you want to be a true follower of Jesus head for the Mount.

If anyone wishes to be His follower, then a much higher state of perfection is demanded. While addressing a wide variety of people, Jesus keeps back or hides the more exquisite and lofty truths by which perfection can only be achieved. So perhaps priests today should refresh their minds about what divine truths they should really preach from the pulpit, recognising that within their audience there will be but a very few, if any at all, interested in reaching the high states of perfection demanded by Jesus of His true followers, especially today: for example, giving up everything to follow Him, totally pro-life in thoughts and deeds, avoiding any contact with sin especially through the eyes which are the windows into the soul (eg. television), being meek in all situations, mourning or even weeping over your sins and the sins of the world and in the church and so on.



(Reference: The Public Life of our Lord, V, The Training of the Apostles Part (II),

H J Coleridge SJ, Burns and Oates, 1882)