Monday, 1 December 2014

Advent: The Return of the King

These revealing and in many ways prophetic extracts from Fr James Henry Coleridge's homilies for Advent, given in the period from 1868 to 1881, should make us sit up and keep very much awake for our personal spiritual survival. The "Return of the King" is much closer at hand than hitherto thought.
............"Some old Christian writers tell us on the subject of the future restoration of heathenism. There is a mysterious vision in the Apocalypse, of a beast that was wounded, and, it seemed, slain, but which is brought to life again by the power of the false prophet, and adored by all on earth whose names are not written in the Book of Life. This vision is interpreted, by these writers, to be heathenism, which has been, as it were, put to death by the Christian religion, but which will hereafter revive and reign for a short time...............
This revival [or more likely modern heathenism] of which the prophecies speak is around us on every side. Mankind are in many senses far mightier, and the resources and enjoyments at their command are far ampler, than in the days of old. We are in possession of the glorious but intoxicating fruits of that advanced civilisation and extended knowledge which has sprung up from the seeds which the Church of God has, as it were, dropped on her way through the world. Society has been elevated and refined, but on that very account it has become capable of a more penetrating degradation, of a more elegant and a more poisonous corruption. Knowledge has been increased, but on the increase of knowledge has followed the increase of pride. Science has unravelled the laws of nature and the hidden treasures of the material universe, and they place fresh combinations of power and new revelations of enjoyment in the hands of men who have not seen in the discovery increased reasons for self-restraint or for reverence for the Giver of all good gifts.
The world, the home of the human race, has been opened to civilised man in all its distant recesses, and he has taken, or is taking, possession of his full inheritance; but his onward path is the path of avarice and greed, of lust and cruelty, and he seizes on each new land as he reaches it in the spirit of the merchant or the conqueror, not in that of the harbinger of peace, the bearer of the good tidings of God.
At home, in Christendom itself, we hear, as our Lord said, of wars and rumours of wars, nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. In the Apostles' time, it was an unheard of thing that the majestic peace and unity of the Roman Empire should not absorb and keep in harmony a hundred rival nationalities. In our time it is not to be thought of that the supernatural bond of the Christian Church should be able to keep nations which are brethren in the faith from devouring one another.
Let us turn from public to private life. Look at social life, look at domestic manners; consider the men and women of the present day in their amusements, their clothes, the amount of restraint they put upon the impulses of nature; compare them at their theatres [or social media] and their recreations, compare them as to their treatment of the poor and the afflicted classes; compare them, again, as to the style of art which they affect, or the literature in which they delight, with the old heathen of the days of St. Paul.
I do not say, God forbid! that there is not a wide and impassable gulf between the two, [unfortunately this gulf no longer exists in many parts of the world today] for that would be to say that so many centuries of Christendom had been utterly wasted [sadly again this waste has happened], and that the Gospel law has not penetrated to the foundations of society [it has but now heavily diluted by secularism], so that it is not true that our Lord rules, as the Psalmist says, in the midst of His enemies, even over the world, which would fain emancipate itself from His sway [unfortunately in many countries this is now true].
If a Christian of the first ages were to rise from the dead, and examine our society, point by point, on the heads which I have intimated, and compare it, on the one hand, with the polished refined heathen whom he may have known at the courts of Nero or Domitian, with the pure strict holiness of his own brethren in the faith, who worshipped with him in the catacombs, he might find it difficult [not so today] indeed to say that what he would see around him in London or Paris was derived by legitimate inheritance rather from the traditions of the martyr Church than from the customs of the persecuting heathen [unfortunately the latter now prevail]. He would [a century or so has passed to make these words ring hollow] miss the violence, the cruelty, the riotous and ruffianly lust, the extraordinary disrespect for humanity and human life which distinguished the later Roman civilisation [not so today] but He would find much of its corruption, much of its licentiousness, much of its hardness of heart [indeed he would]..............

[We have exchanged the ten Commandments and eight Beatitudes for a virtual world of freedom imprisoned within a legal tower of Babel: an illusion and delusion]
The unregenerate instincts of human nature are surging up like a great sea all around us, society is fast losing all respect for those checks upon the innate heathenism of man which have been thrown over the surface of the world by the Church. It is becoming an acknowledged law that whatever is natural is right, and by nature is meant nature corrupted by sin, nature un-illuminated by faith and unassisted by grace that is, the lower appetites of man in revolt against conscience, looking for no home but earth and no satisfaction but in the present, having no hope of the promise, and without God in this world.............
What can resist it? One force alone, the force of God, Who sets bounds to the sea, and can check the raging passions of a whole race. We hear little in the very last days of heresies and schisms, of isolated communities and partial forms of Christianity. These things will have had their day and have done much evil in it, but they are too frail and miserable in themselves to live on the surges of that last tempest of humanity the Church alone can ride out the storm.

How does the Church deal with such assaults as those we are contemplating? She works by the sacraments and the other means of grace, by the word of God preached and taught in the sanctuary, and the like. But the strongholds of the Church are in the family and the school. Her battlefields are those on which such questions as that of the sanctity of marriage and that of the purity of Christian education are fought out. Give her the forming of her children, and she will train up the Christian youth and maiden, she will join them in a holy bond to form the family, of Christian families she will compose Christian communities, Christian nations, and out of Christian nations she will build up Christendom, a Christian world. She can cure nature, and nothing else can. [These are the very areas that Satan and all his forces are attacking today]
Give the true Church free scope, and you will hear little of that long list of heathen vices, little of men being covetous, contentious, slaves of avarice and licentiousness, there will be no complaints of the decay of mercy, or of natural affection, of human kindness, honesty, faithfulness. [Unfortunately because of the abuses within the Church, its scope has been restricted and civilisation is suffering the consequences of impoverished families, schools, clergy and lay people]

So then, in these our days [late 1800s], can we too often remind ourselves of the points of attack chosen by the enemies of faith and of society?
Can we forget with what a wearisome sameness of policy the war is waged year after year, first in one place and then in another; how certain it is that as soon as we hear that some nation hitherto guided by Catholic instincts has become a convert to the enlightened ideas of our times, the next day will bring the further tidings that in that nation marriage is no longer to be treated as a sacrament,
and that education is to be withdrawn from the care of the Church and her ministers? And, indeed, my brethren, we know not how soon we ourselves may be engaged in a deadly conflict, on one at least, of these points. Up to this time we, at least in England, have been able to train our children for ourselves. And, to give honour where honour is due, we have owed our liberty in great measure to the high value which certain communities outside the Church set upon distinctively Christian and doctrinal instruction.


But we know not how soon the tide of war may come to our homes. We hear a cry in the air: it says that the child belongs to the State, and that it is the duty of the State to take his education to itself. The cry is false; the child belongs to the parent, belongs to the Church, belongs to God. In that cry speaks the reviving paganism of our day.
Surely it should teach us, if nothing else can, the paramount importance of Christian education. If we give in to that cry we are lost [we have allowed this to be diluted away] Train up your children, my brethren, in the holy discipline and pure doctrine of the Church, and they are formed thereby to be soldiers of Jesus Christ [when did these words ring out at Confirmation] in the coming conflict against the powers of evil.
Train them up in indifference to religion and Christian doctrine, and if they are not at once renegades from their faith, at least they are far too weak and faint-hearted in their devotion to the Church, to range themselves courageously among her champions in her terrible battle against the last apostasy. [This has all come to pass and the terrible battle to come is clearly visible in the signs of the times]
Another sign is the Great Apostasy which is defined by Fr Coleridge through his interpretation of St Paul and others as: "the apostasy of the latter days will be a return to heathenism, understanding by this word that godless system of life and manners which is the fruit of the unrestrained development and reign of the lower instincts of human nature. ................"
Then there is the abomination of desolation: "whenever political power and the secular State invades the sanctuary, whenever the State takes upon it to claim obedience in matters of faith and religion, to lay down laws as to sacred things or sacred persons in relation to sacred and spiritual functions, then we have some kind of repetition of the Jewish Temple abomination of desolation, some kind of anticipation of the dreadful reign of Antichrist, whom our Lord shall destroy with the brightness of His coming....... Whenever the supremacy of the State is acknowledged, there is no longer any safeguard for faith or religion, and the logical issue of such a condition of the world would be the State enthroned in the sanctuary, the civil ruler drawing to himself the homage and obedience which is due to the Spouse of Jesus Christ."
You should draw your own conclusions about the present day, keep awake and study the Signs of the Times as the hour glass is fast flowing out of time.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Looking to the east

His Excellency Most Reverend James Conley has determined that
Holy Mass in the Cathedral of Lincoln, Nabraska, USA will be ad orientem.

From the Bishop’s Column, Friday, 21 November 2014

Jesus Christ will return in glory to the earth.

We do not know when he will return. But Christ promised us that he would return in glory, "as light comes from the east" to bring God’s plan of redemption to its fulfillment.

In 2009, Bishop Edward Slattery, of Tulsa, Okla., wrote that "the dawn of redemption has already broken, but the sun —Christ Himself—has not yet risen in the sky."
In the early Church, Christians expected that Christ would come soon—any day. There was hopeful expectation. They were watchful—they looked to the sky in the east to wait for Christ. And because they did not know when he would return, they proclaimed the Gospel with urgency and enthusiasm, hoping to bring the world to salvation before Christ returned.
It has been nearly two thousand years now since Christ ascended into heaven. It has become easier to forget that he will come again to earth. It has become easier to forget that we must be waiting, we must be watching, and we must be ready.

In the season of Advent, as we recall Christ’s Incarnation at Christmas, we are reminded to be prepared for Christ’s coming. In the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent this year, Nov. 30, Christ tells us his disciples "to be on the watch."

"You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming," Jesus says. "May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping."

We remember that Christ is coming whenever we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In the Holy Mass we are made present to the sacrifice at Calvary, and to the joy of Christ’s glory in heaven. But we also remember that Christ will return, and we remember to watch, to be vigilant, to wait for him, and to be prepared.

The Mass is rich with symbolism. The vestments of the priest remind us of the dignity of Christ the King. We strike our breasts, and bow our heads, and bend our knees to remember our sinfulness, God’s mercy, and his glory. In the Mass, the ways we stand, and sit, and kneel, remind us of God’s eternal plan for us.

Since ancient times, Christians have faced the east during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to remember to keep watch for Christ. Together, the priest and the people faced the east, waiting and watching for Christ. Even in Churches that did not face the east, the priest and people stood together in the Mass, gazing at Christ on the crucifix, on the altar, and in the tabernacle, to recall the importance of watching for his return. The symbolism of the priest and people facing ad orientem—to the east—is an ancient reminder of the coming of Christ.
More recently, it has become common for the priest and the people to face one another during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The priest stands behind the altar as he consecrates the Eucharist, facing the people. The people see the face of the priest as he prays, and he sees their faces. These positions can have important symbolism too. They can remind us that we are a community—one body in Christ. And they can remind us that the Eucharist, at the center of the assembly, should also be at the center of our families, and our lives.

But the symbolism of facing together, and awaiting Christ, is rich, time-honored and important. Especially during Advent, as we await the coming of the Lord, facing the east together—even symbolically facing Christ together at the altar and on the crucifix—is a powerful witness to Christ’s imminent return. Today, at a time when it is easy to forget that Christ is coming—and easy to be complacent in our spiritual lives and in the work of evangelization—we need reminders that Christ will come.

During the Sundays of Advent, the priests in the Cathedral of the Risen Christ will celebrate the Mass ad orientem. With the People of God, the priest will stand facing the altar, and facing the crucifix. When I celebrate midnight Mass on Christmas, I will celebrate ad orientem as well. This may take place in other parishes across the Diocese of Lincoln as well.

In the ad orientem posture at Mass, the priest will not be facing away from the people. He will be with them—among them, and leading them—facing Christ, and waiting for his return.

"Be watchful!" says Jesus. "Be alert! You do not know when the time will come." We do not know when the time will come for Christ’s to return. But we know that we must watch for him. May we "face the east," together, watching for Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in our lives

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Some reflections on the sanctity of Marriage

CDF official affirms teaching on absolution, Communion for the remarried

Catholic World News - November 14, 2014

In a letter written three days after the conclusion of the recent Synod of Bishops, the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith affirmed St. John Paul II’s teaching on absolution for those who have remarried outside the Church.

Asked by a French priest whether a priest may "grant absolution to a penitent who, having been religiously married, has contracted a second union following divorce," Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer responded that "we cannot exclude a priori the remarried divorced faithful from a penitential process that would lead to a sacramental reconciliation with God and, therefore, also to Eucharistic Communion."

He continued:
Pope John Paul II, in the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (n. 84) envisaged such a possibility and detailed its conditions: "Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples."
Archbishop Ladaria then outlined the steps in the penitential process:
"Verify the validity of the religious marriage in the respect of truth, all the while avoiding giving the impression of a kind of ‘Catholic divorce.’"
"See eventually if the persons, with the aid of grace, can separate from their new partners and reconcile with those from whom they had separated."
"Invite remarried divorced persons who, for serious reasons (for instance, children), cannot separate from their partner to live as ‘brother and sister.’"

"In any event, absolution cannot be granted if not under the condition of being assured of true contrition, that is, ‘a sorrow of mind, and a detestation for sin committed, with the purpose of not sinning for the future’ (Council of Trent, Doctrine on the Sacrament of Penance, c. 4)," Archbishop Ladaria concluded. "In this line, a remarried divorcee cannot be validly absolved if he does not take the firm resolution of not ‘sinning for the future’ and therefore of abstaining from the acts proper to spouses, by doing in this sense all that is within his power."

Archbishop Ladaria’s letter was published in L’homme nouveau, a French Catholic biweekly entrusted by the Vatican with the distribution of the French edition of L’Osservatore Romano; and an English translation appeared on the Rorate Caeli blog. The Catholic daily La Croix also reported on the letter.

Why the need for an Annulment Review 
L'Osservatore Romano, 7 November 2014

This may be of interest because in this country expenses for annulments are not charged but a donation of a certain sum is suggested, and paid if affordable by the parties concerned. Read the following from the Pope's address:

"I have not prepared a speech, I would like simply to greet you. In the Extraordinary Synod, the procedures, the processes were discussed, and there is a concern for streamlining the procedures for reasons of justice. Justice, so they may be just, and justice for the people who are waiting, as His Excellency the Dean has just said. Justice: how many people wait years for a ruling. And for this reason, even before the Synod, I constituted a Commission to help prepare various possibilities along this line: a line of justice, and also of charity, because there are so many people who need a word from the Church on their marital situation, for a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, but that it be just. Some procedures are so long or so onerous that they do not facilitate them and the people leave. For example, take the Interdiocesan Tribunal of Buenos Aires, I don’t recall but I think, in the first instance, it has 15 dioceses; I believe the furthest is 240 km away…. One cannot, it is impossible to imagine simple, common people going to the Tribunal: they have to travel, they have to lose work days, also the bonus … so many things…. They say: "God understands me, and thus I go ahead, with this weight on my soul". And Mother Church must do justice and say: "Yes, it’s true, your marriage is annulled — No, your marriage is valid". But justice has to say it. This way they can move forward without this doubt, this darkness in their spirit."

The Pope went on to say "I had to dismiss a person from the Tribunal, some time ago, who said '$10,000 and I'll handle the two procedures for you, civil and ecclesiastic'. Please, not this! In the Synod a few proposals came up which discussed that they be given gratis. We shall have to see."

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Some Food for Thought - an extract from L'Osservatore Romano

From time to time we shall include an excerpt from L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO
Excerpt from L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO, Friday, 17 October 2014, number 42

The Lord will give you a sign

Professor of Philosophy at St Michael’s Abbey, California

"These signs given by God point beyond ordinary human life to a higher, supernatural life. The Gospel also teaches us that the things in the natural world are also intended by God to be signs of the supernatural"

In the beginning of creation, God blessed each day and called it good. But on one occasion, it was not good: it was not good for the man to be alone. Yet once woman was made from man, God said that it was very good. Every artist has his favorite work of art, and God’s favorite is the human family. From all eternity, in fact, He understood himself as the Son of Mary, as a member of a human family. The reason

for God’s predilection is that more than the other parts of His creation, the family reflected His own goodness and beauty. Hence, we cannot know God, we cannot love Him, without knowing and loving the natural human family. To do so would be tantamount to considering someone beautiful whose accurate reflection in a mirror we consider ugly.

Consider how the modern distortions of the family can lead to distortions in faith. The indissolubility of marriage is intended to be a sign of God’s eternal and unique love for His Church. Is it any surprise then that religious pluralism and the denial that there is one Church is widespread in a society in which divorce and remarriage are widespread?

The natural begetting of a child through the loving union of husband and wife is intended to be a sign that God creates each human soul immediately and with love.

This reality is obscured in a society which accepts in vitro fertilization or other artificial means of procreation.

The eternal and natural procession of the Son from the Father is signified by the natural begetting of a child, yet this significance is lost to a society which accepts cloning or other non-natural modes of reproduction. In such a world, God, if one believes in Him at all, will simply be viewed as a technician, a maker who stands apart from and indifferent to His creation. And in households where, by design, there is no father or there is no mother, how will the children come to understand God as Father or what it means for God to love us like a mother?

Or how shall the spiritual motherhood of the Church or the Virgin Mary be valued in a society which teaches that mothers are expendable, a non-essential part of a family, which can be replaced by a man?

And when the natural relationship between husband and wife is denied, the purpose of a male priesthood is misunderstood or rendered meaningless. Pope Francis underlines the significance of a male priesthood when he wrote that it is "a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives Himself in the Eucharist," (Evangelii Gaudium, n. 104).

C.S.Lewis put it this way in God in the Dock: "One of the ends for which sex was created was to symbolize to us the hidden things of God. One of the functions of human marriage is to express the nature of the union between Christ and the Church. We have no authority to take the living and semitive figures which God has painted on the canvas of our nature and shift them about as if they were mere geometrical figures." Examples could be multiplied but, suffice it to say, a lack of love and esteem for the goodness of the natural family entails a lack of love and esteem for God and the things of heaven.

From this we can see that the natural relationships within a family are not simply a matter of necessity or competence to carry out a function. They are also indispensable signs of higher realities. The case of the Holy Family is a striking example of this. If ever a father and husband were unnecessary and expendable in a family from the perspective of functionality, it was in the Holy Family. St Joseph was not necessary to beget or even educate the child. God was the child’s Father and the Holy Spirit was the Spouse of the Virgin Mary. St Joseph was not necessary as a moral or intellectual guide to his spouse who was conceived without original sin, and is acclaimed by the Church as Virgin most prudent, and Seat of Wisdom.

The power of miracles or angelic protection could have sufficed to provide and protect the child and His mother. Yet in spite of all this, God willed the Holy Family to have a husband and father, and it was through St Joseph that He guided the Holy Family in the early years of the life of Jesus. In the one case where God could have done without a husband and father, He chose not to. Grace builds upon, preserves and perfects nature, even in its most extraordinary manifestations.

The Lord Himself has given us the sign of the human family: the almah, the maiden under a guardian, who shall bear a Son and call Him Emmanuel, "God is with us." Indeed, if we cherish and believe in his sign, God shall be with us, and we with Him.


Sunday, 19 October 2014

Correcting some of the misinformation from the Synod

There has been an awful lot of rubbish, lies and misinformation reported about the Synod on the Family in Rome, which is very sad because the truth is really very encouraging. Here are some references for good reports of what was actually said and some pertinent quotes:

What the Vatican Really Said About Homosexuality by Elizabeth Dias in Time Magazine
October 13 2014

"First, here’s what the document actually is:

The relatio is a mid-Synod snapshot of 200+ Catholic leaders’ conversations that happened in the Synod hall last week. It is a starting point for conversations as the Synod fathers start small group discussions this week. It is a working text that identifies where bishops need to "deepen or clarify our understanding," as Cardinal Luis Antonia Tagle put it in Monday’s press briefing. That means that the topic of gays and Catholic life came up in the Synod conversations so far and that it is a topic for continued reflection.

Second, here’s what the document is not:

The relatio is not a proscriptive text. It is not a decree. It is not doctrine, and certainly not a doctrinal shift. It is also not final. "These are not decisions that have been made nor simply points of view," the document concludes. "The reflections put forward, the fruit of the Synodal dialogue that took place in great freedom and a spirit of reciprocal listening, are intended to raise questions and indicate perspectives that will have to be matured and made clearer by the reflection of the local Churches in the year that separates us from the Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of bishops planned for October 2015." "

The Great Catholic Cave-In that Wasn't by George Weigel in National Review Online
October 14, 2014

"For the better part of a half century, the New York Times, and similarly situated purveyors of news and opinion, have eagerly awaited the Great Catholic Cave-In: that blessed moment when, at long last, the Catholic Church, like many other Christian communities, would concede that the sexual revolution had gotten it right all along and would adjust its teaching and practice to suit. A Times "breaking story" on October 13, under the headline "Vatican Signals More Tolerance Toward Gays and Remarriage," might have struck the unwary or uninformed (or those equally committed to the Times agenda in these matters) as a signal that Der Tag, the Day, had finally arrived.

Thus Elisabetta Povoledo wrote that "an important meeting at the Vatican used remarkably conciliatory language on Monday toward gay and divorced Catholics, signaling a possible easing of the church’s rigid attitudes on homosexuality and the sanctity of marriage." It would be hard to cram more misinformation into one sentence.

1) The notion that the Catholic Church approaches suffering people who struggle with chastity, failing marriages, or both with "rigid attitudes" is slander. Yes, there are priests and bishops who sometimes display a lack of pastoral charity in these difficult circumstances. But they are a distinct minority. As any serious Catholic with experience of the Church’s confessional practice knows, confessors are far more compassionate and understanding than this kind of Dan Brown caricature suggests.

2) Moreover, what the Catholic Church believes about the ethics of human love and about marriage is not a matter of "attitudes." It’s a matter of truths. Many of those truths can be demonstrated by reason, if people are willing to work through a reasonable argument. Some of those truths, especially those pertaining to the permanence of marriage, come from the Church’s Lord himself. To suggest that any of these truths are matters of "attitude" is another form of slander.

3) And then there’s the slam implicit in that phrase, "rigid attitudes . . . on the sanctity of marriage." Does the Times now espouse flaccid attitudes toward the sanctity of marriage? Would a culture further corrupted by marital breakdown and divorce be more to the Times’s liking?

4) Beyond these typical bits of Times-speak, Ms. Povoledo utterly misrepresented the document on which she was putatively reporting. It was not issued by "a meeting" or by "the Vatican." It was not an authoritative document in any sense; it was an interim report on themes that had been raised in the previous ten days of debate and discussion at the synod. It had absolutely no legislative weight — synod documents are consultative, not legislative — and I am told by those who were there that various formulations in the report were seriously criticized in the synod debates. Moreover, the interim report will be chewed over in the ten synod language-based discussion groups — where, one suspects, further criticisms will be aired — before any final report is issued. To turn this kind of interim report into the virtual equivalent of a papal encyclical is ludicrous on its face."

Has the Catholic Church Changed Its Teaching on Sex and Marriage? by Robert P George in The Witherspoon Institute Public Discourse
October 15th 2014

"Marriage is indissoluble.

Catholics who attempt marriage following a divorce—without a declaration that the first bond wasn’t after all a valid marriage—enter a (presumptively) adulterous relationship. So long as they maintain a sexual relationship with their new partner, they cannot judge themselves to be in a state of grace and therefore cannot worthily receive Holy Communion.

To return to the sacrament, the partners must repent—which requires ending the relationship—and be absolved.

Marriage is the conjugal union of sexually complementary spouses—husband and wife.

Non-marital sexual acts, including all same-sex sexual acts, are seriously sinful.

Same-sex sexual desires are intrinsically disordered: that is, not ordered to the good of conjugal union. Experiencing such desires or inclinations is not sinful, but acting on them is....

So was there an earthquake? A seismic shift? Hardly. Rather, there was a reaffirmation, as one would have expected, of the Church’s moral teachings in their wholeness: sin is sin and must be rejected. That teaching is untouched. Sinners are precious human beings, who must never be rejected. That teaching is resoundingly reaffirmed. Sinners—which means all of us—must always be loved. Thanks be to God for that."

Language Groups ask for more Christo-centric focus on the family by Joan Lewis in Vatican Insider
October 17th 2014

A good summary of what the Small Language Groups discussed.

Finally here is Vatican Radio's translation of Pope Francis' speech at the conclusion of the Synod in News.VA
October 19th 2014

"[I]t has been "a journey" – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say "enough"; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

- One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – "traditionalists" and also of the intellectuals.

- The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the "do-gooders," of the fearful, and also of the so-called "progressives and liberals."

- The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

- The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

- The temptation to neglect the "depositum fidei" [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them "byzantinisms," I think, these things…"

We do encourage you to read the full reports.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Beatitudes of the Persecuted

"Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice sake for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven" Matt 5: 10 -11

"We can take special pride in you for your constancy and faith under all the persecutions and troubles you have to bear. It shows that God's judgement is just and the purpose of it is that you may be found worthy of the Kingdom of God; it is for the sake of this that you are suffering now" 2 Thess: 4-5.

Turning to our mentor Fr Henry Coleridge, he explains that "It is a distinguishing feature of the Catholic Church in all ages, that (following Jesus' way) she is to yield to persecution and not resist ill-treatment and injury, and for the same reasons for the sake of her enemies' salvation yield by retiring from the field of conflict, that is in some cases flee, leaving it up to God to rectify the injustices in such a way as to save souls."

In fact persecutions of all forms occur along each step of the Beatitudes and many are from family, friends and fellow Catholics without considering the secularists or other religions.

If we have been climbing up the ladder or mountain of the Beatitudes we will have suffered all the consequences and worldly losses and become so purified and close to God to have achieved the noble role of true Peacemakers. In reaching this peak base camp we may consider that with the pinnacle of our climb in sight there is little left to be done but to complete the easy final climb to the top. However, we cannot stand still for to do so is to slide back down the mountain: onwards we must go progressing towards the ultimate.



Unfortunately, in achieving such a level of holiness and knowledge of God, we will have been accompanied on our journey by an increasing number of enemies and will have drawn the special attention of Satan himself. Perhaps he will utter in a loud cry "let us lie in wait for this virtuous person who annoys us and opposes our way of life, reproaches us for our breaches of God's Laws and accuses us of playing false. Let us test this person before us with cruelty and with torture, and thus explore this gentleness and put any endurance to the proof.

Let us condemn this person to a shameful death and see whether God will save such a person who we might even encourage to crumble by utterances against God or giving into grave sins." Familiar words heard by Jesus who was tested in his obedience to God to the very limits in order to make him sin; not one micro-second of his passion and agony did he give in to sin. This was the true triumph of the Cross because Jesus was the only person ever to have beaten Satan back into Hell by not sinning even until death. Because of this Satan remains defeated to this very day, and his only revenge is to acquire only those who sin mortally without repentance: what a worthless quarry (Book of Wisdom 2:12-22).



Even if we are not put to the ultimate test, we will have to endure and thereby overcome many obstacles: there are thorns and pitfalls including mines strewn along our way. However if our intentions are right and we keep going, graces will always be given in abundance to endure even the smallest of crosses. Such graces will help us to also maintain a cheerful countenance, knowing deep inside ourselves that we must be getting closer to God.

All the above leaves us to ponder more on why God permits this suffering in our lives. It is because in achieving, through suffering, increasing virtuous perfection, the reward will be rapid or even immediate access to Heaven, without enduring the purification required by God's justice in Purgatory. Let us now step back and review the process of being persecuted, and a few of the very many forms that define persecution.


Those who, like Jesus, are severely persecuted are personally chosen by God because they have the willingness to serve and obey God, coupled with the necessary faith and charity buttressed by the preceding Beatitude stages. If they are lacking in any of the prerequisite virtues they will not be allowed to be persecuted, as they would fail or compromise their faith. Not everyone is chosen to be such a victim by God. There is a risk that we might believe that we are chosen victim souls and by doing so fail to adhere to our faith: the folly of pride.



Those attacking us as we climb up through the Beatitudes to the pinnacle will do so out of ignorance, envy or hatred of God, His Laws and truth or His Church. In the case of the latter, persecutions are more often inflicted against bishops, priests, religious or the laity at prayer, hence the bombing of Masses.



Many types of persecution are less physical and involve placing barriers between the Pope, bishops, clergy, religious and laity, and the most pernicious is criticising openly the Pope, bishops and clergy by disagreeing with them, ridiculing them or encouraging disobedience against them or church laws and practices. A notable example is provided by those who rebel against the recent reform of the Mass, demand women priests or deacons, encourage contraception, even abortion and so on.



These shrill sirens end up erecting barriers between the laity and their rightful religious leaders. Other barriers are erected by interference in Catholic education and the practising of the true Catholic faith especially the Catechism, and worse still today is the dumbing down of all forms of moral virtue including virginity and purity which are scoffed at.

Coupled with the above assaults will be the suffering brought about by evil tongues, reviling slander and calumny. Sometimes we will be received with an up-turned nose as if something smelly entered the room. In spite of all this we must always remember that the persecuted and persecutors are ultimately controlled by God, and limits are placed to the extent that those trusting sufferers will endure and not fail.


Mothers when refusing abortion today may be rejected by society without regard for their courageous mothering, being left to fend for themselves; those who have more than two children are persecuted by financial penalties inflicted by government; those who to stick to the Catechism on homosexuality and adhere to God's definition of "marriage" may be imprisoned. At the other end of the spectrum those who suffer prolonged illnesses or protracted old age will be pronounced a burden and unnecessary to society, and if they don't kill themselves as an act of civil loyalty are declared selfish and immoral; failure to do so could leave them uncared for and destitute. A notorious professor has declared it immoral to have too many children or to have a handicapped one. These are examples of the many forms of persecutions God's children face.



Within the family trying to obey the Church's teaching on the sanctity of marriage, not practising contraception and bringing up the children in the true faith, especially in mixed marriages, can be a life-long form of hidden persecution suffered daily with sorrow and anguish. Often there are too few people who can provide advice or be called upon for help or sympathy. Often the response can be, "everybody is doing it, what is your problem?" Yet those who stick to God's laws with courage will not be neglected by God, Who when the time is ripe will make all things good, confounding all.


More subtle forms of persecution involve placing a psychological barrier between people and God. These include chatting or being noisy in church, destroying the concentration of others or distracting them in their prayers. Masses which do not follow the laid-down rubrics but are turned into a priest's own invention can be most distressing to some and even discourage them from going to Mass.

How many lapsed Catholics result from placing a barrier between them and the sacraments by the dumbing down of the divinity of Christ, the adoration due to Him and the laws of the church?


Bad behaviour in church or elsewhere by Catholics, especially those who should know better such as bishops, clergy, religious and extraordinary ministers so that they become viewed as hypocrites, hurt the faithful and place barriers between the Church and outsiders. The abuse of children is a case in point. Politicians are notorious for leaving the practice of their faith at the church doors; outside they support all sorts of grave sins within society including abortion, embryo research, IVF, designer babies, mercy killing including assisted suicide, marriages against God's Laws and so on.


They bring a scandal on the Church and erect massive barriers towards evangelisation. Worse still, many have a reputation for being so-called "devout Catholics", whatever this might mean, which in itself is a declaration of ridicule on followers of the Catholic Faith which is difficult enough to adhere to in these times. Added to this brew is the Catholic media which spreads the news of dissension between the reigning Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Religious and Laity giving the impression of a secular rather than spiritual uprising within what should be hallowed halls of worship and charity: they serve the church badly.



The dumbing down of God and the divinity of Christ is the most pernicious psychological persecution and is a form of Communism by stealth. Once the Church was seen as the Portal to Heaven through which only those who had confessed and repented of all sins might enter in holy fear. Instead today, the Church is seen as having little to offer the disenchanted and lapsed followers of Christ or secularists; the Church is seen a irrelevant bundle of mythological rituals out of tune with modern times, following 2000 year old rules: an anachronism.



Today the many personal gods always understand their inventors and accommodate their mistakes (always mistakes and never sins), and no matter what they do in life the doors of heaven will be immediately open to them on their death. Their god cannot support hell or purgatory and is never ever capable of chastisement for the sake of their souls which many don't believe they have. So when funerals occur these are a "celebration of a life" without accepting that the poor person, by some miracle, might be in Purgatory, crying out for prayers instead of emotional words of achievements irrelevant to God. All these erect barriers to belief and are forms of persecution.


So when a person enquires why are our churches emptying, one might respond by saying what is there to go for? The vacuum is being filled by Moslems, and we the see the consequences all around us in the world today. Perhaps the Islamic State is a reminder from God of the fate of the loss of faith in Europe leading to the spread of Islam from 666: a wake-up call for us to return to our Catholic roots now that we have still the freedom to do so?



Turning to the more violent physical forms of persecution leading to red martyrdom, rather than the white martyrdom we have been outlining above, these occur in every generation and this century is seeing more Christians martyred than during the Roman persecutions. These confessors of faith give the highest honour to God which can be rendered to Him. It requires a robust and well-exercised faith to stand firm in the face of torture and a cruelly inflicted death for the faith. Those who suffer such must be extremely close to God whose graces strengthen them in their hour of need so they do not fail.

Persecution has always given rise to the practice of more barbarous demonic malice, more refined and even diabolical ingenuity of torture and death, so familiar during the Inquisition and Reformation, and now by the supporters of the Islamic State bringing in its wake more unfaithfulness, treachery and greater combinations of diabolical cruelty and cunning, than people have had to suffer under other forms of affliction. It is a form of hellish sport in which the powers of evil delight.


Notice the way that Islamic State supporters pervade the world's media gloating over their hellish activities. Perhaps they are the resulting manifestation of the "Culture of Death" so much promoted in the West and Asia. The virtue which withstands such trials requires a very strong faith indeed and immense self-mastery. The people who can bear such fury in peace, resignation, fortitude and without sinning, must indeed have already the Kingdom of Heaven firmly rooted within them; such persecution rightly borne makes them saints in a short time. Peacemakers often have to win the peace by enduring commensurate levels of persecution, and that is why so few exist in the world today.

God always has complete claim on us and all that we possess including life itself. He may in justice exact His claim at any moment. He practically forces on us the choice of obedience even unto death and frequently asks this of whole populations which are asked to choose between death and apostasy, the sacrifice of Catholic laws or the sacrifice of all that makes life dear and pleasant. It may even be God's will for the persecuted to flee their persecutors sacrificing their very livelihood and become refugees in foreign lands as Joseph and Mary had to do and, as in their case, bring many blessings on those who welcome them and by their presence and lives spread the Catholic faith.


We are all called to suffering in this life, but not all publicly for the faith obedient unto death. We however have to suffer in being obedient to the least of God's Laws and such is white martyrdom; this is a life-long and often hidden trial. Obedience and love are what God desires of us, and wherever lack of obedience exists, even in the smallest way, God is diminished in the sight of man as well as His Church.



So we come to the end of this series on the Beatitudes which is such a struggle to follow as it is to write about. It is a largely uncompleted script: only to be completed by each one of us, struggling often alone or with others up the Narrow Way, as Jesus did before us.

That is why life is a pilgrimage and that is why there will be so much joy for those who successfully complete it, adhering to faith in defiance of Satan and his world. It will be our triumph of our cross as Satan is vanquished once and for all from our lives as we enter the Kingdom of Heaven to be greeted by the words "Well done my good and faithful Servant!"



God bless you one and all; may Jesus, Mary and Joseph always accompany you on your journey, and may you greet with joy each and every obstacle you overcome to reach Heaven, where God in the beginning wished us all to be.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Seventh Beatitude: Blessed are the Peacemakers


Those of us who have managed to struggle up the steep slope of the Mountain of the Beatitudes to this penultimate stage will have achieved the qualities needed to become true peacemakers.
The first three stages will have made us capable of disciplining and controlling our demands and desires to free us from all worldliness, an extremely difficult thing to do these days. Then we become more fully capable of seeking God's righteousness and will in the world that surrounds us by enacting the many acts of mercy to so many unfortunate sinners and sufferers. Then through enormous effort, with the help of God, we progressively remove the remaining dross from our souls which inhibit us so that the debit due to God's justice is paid back before we reach purgatory in the next life. Progress results in us being increasingly capable of contemplating God without that blindness which prevents us from discerning the ways of God.
We have now reached the stage of being governed by God's Law of Perfect Purity which forbids all impurity of intentions and perversity of action, thereby activating the soul by removing the clouds which blind it and opening up to it new and immense fields of action through which the practice of mercy is manifest. As a consequence such purity is followed within its wake the virtues of peace, security and true freedom.
Leaders of and in the world and their peace-brokers can be but non-starters in peace making and indeed are not just a waste of time but exceedingly dangerous, blindly meddling, driven by their own interior uncleanness, hidden motives and un-Godliness. For without God they can do nothing and in general make matters worse. We might well ask did these people undergo the long process of interior training, practice of many virtues involving tremendous effort and steely resolute self-discipline coupled with being strengthened by the Eucharist and closeness with God in prayer? Indeed have they succeeded in winning the peace of their own heart and soul?

Nothing short of purity can permit a person to be a true peacemaker, without passion and self-interest, prejudices, especially the deeply buried ones, narrowness of mind, rigidity of character and all that would in any way detract from active and energetic charity upon which true peace depends. A peace which keeps in tranquil order and perfect harmony elements, which left to themselves, may adversely interfere with one another so that the forces released cause shocks and harmful collisions. The worldly "peacemaker" - the world is saturated with them - is incapable of creating conditions in which conflicting elements or parties or forces are capable of working smoothly together with perfect balance. The world today knows only one way of maintaining "peace" and that is through guns, aircraft, drones and rockets or through the nuclear threat: the United Nations stands as a monument to failed peacemaking.

Peacemakers must be capable of ruling themselves in absolute peace, being masters of themselves so as to keep peace with neighbours and then being capable of taking on the office of reconciling conflicts even to the point of spreading peace throughout the world. Making peace not as the Romans did and governments do today by force of arms which enforce their particular laws, agenda and culture. Instead the peacemaker cures the diseases of the soul, removing from it the deep roots of conflict.

Has force of arms provided peace within the Middle East or are we now reaping the benefits of bungling ineptitude with the emergence of ISIS? Are we facing the just war situation because of this demonic threat? What would a peacemaker do with such evil that thrives on spreading evil in increasingly innovative, barbaric ways which take us back to the pagan world prior to Christianity? Perhaps we are faced with a mission of world prayer to God for His help and through Our Lady fight another battle of Lepanto? When ISIS then sues for peace, then is the time to avoid all retribution and to resolve the issues allowing peace to prevail. Only a true peacemaker can advise us what we should do.
So let us now examine ourselves and our lives. Anything that is strained and exaggerated in our relations with others causing discord has to be removed: exceeding our rights and abusing others physically or mentally, especially children and the sensitive or vulnerable, being a tyrant over our spouse or children or as an employer or manager over employees, if having political power using this harshly and selfishly generating conflicts and having preconceived racial, religious or personality models which discolour our perception and limit good amicable relations with others. People are always awkward and difficult to live with: we are too! This is no excuse to prevent us from trying, for to do so our rewards will far exceed our meagre efforts.

Anything we can do to soften manners and introduce more just, equitable, charitable relations in our families, at work, among our neighbours and contacts is the work of a peacemaker. We could make a firm resolution to master the practice of cordiality in all that we do. This is probably a more indirect way of being a peace maker brought about by our way of living rather than direct interventions to bring about peace with our enemies of conflicting parties. Unfortunately it takes two to dance and peacemaking does fail because the other party or parties are stubborn in their self-righteousness or evil ways. Then this has to be left to God to resolve alone rather than with us as His instruments.

We Catholics should all be peacemakers. It is our mission to reconcile others to God and their consciences so as to achieve peace of soul and utilise the means of grace. We should be peacemakers because by our lives, practices or work we should be teaching the truths which remove the restlessness from people who are always failing to solve the problems in their lives and their world, peering into the darkness hiding the mysteries of the past and the future. By bringing them into the true light they come to more accept their lot as God given by their gaining an understanding about that which appears at first sight unjust and hard, and so soften the blows of adversity. By coming to rely more on God and understanding His ways more readily accepting pain, misery, bereavement, afflictions in a spirit of penance and resignation to the Will of God, and by calming gloomy or rebellious anticipation or expectation of the future, so feared by unbelievers and sceptics, opens the mind of true Christians to the rewards due to them in the next life following the cross of Christ.
We all have the duty and blessings to be the messengers and propagators of peace around us by our example and whatever influences granted to us.

Today the media aids and abets us to commit grave sins of detraction by enticing us to take onto ourselves the unlawful assumption of the right to judge and condemn others or accepting the trials and condemning as guilty by the media without questioning their right to do this. In fact this right of judging and condemning belongs to God alone and therefore detraction is a distinct violation of the Law of Peace and we must always be aware of the unhealthy media influences to bypass the principle embedded in the laws of our country; "Innocent until proven guilty".
When expressing in words to others our unkind thoughts, uncharitable judgements, evil wishes or malicious desires we by influencing them sin grievously against peace and our neighbour. Instead we must foster and preserve peace in our lives and those around us and to do so we need to practice truthfulness, faithfulness, the keeping of secrets, hospitality and charity to all. The keeping of state secrets by the Bletchley Park code-breakers was such that that married parties who had worked there did not violate their vow and even discuss their work with each other. How much of this is missing today and we dare to wonder why peace is such a rare thing to find.
As Catholics we are bound to avoid schismatic or heretical disobedience to the Church. Disobedience to the Magisterium is one of the most worrying and serious mortal sins prevalent within the Church today: God loathes disobedience of any form no matter how small. Rather than disobey we should always obey the Fathers of the Church, especially the Pope of the day. To do otherwise is to forfeit our salvation.

God attaches enormous importance to the virtue of obedience and, as history so often highlights, disobedience is the most vicious of sins causing turmoil, conflict, schism and great suffering in the world.

God is sorely provoked by disobedience to His Laws and the excuse too often given, "God understands" cuts no ice with Him, and to these Laws He sets over each one of us, answerable to Him alone for our stewardship, He expects total adherence. Our reward as a true peacemaker may be to face the same forces which slayed Jesus Christ who came to bring peace in this troubled world.

Should we come face to face with evil such as ISIS we have to decide whether to capitulate, compromise, fight or flight. As a Catholic under such persecution we have a further option to die for the Faith should God will it or on the other hand to flee as Our Lady and St Joseph were advised to do. Under the right circumstances dictated by God we may have to stand and fight, with the graces and means provided as in the Battle of Lepanto. This leads us to the final Beatitude of Persecution which will be discussed in due course. May the Peace of God be with you and go with you all!


"The Life of Our Life - The Public Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ -
Preaching the Beatitudes", Henry James Coleridge, Burns and Oates, 1876.
"The Eight Beatitudes", George Chevrot, Sinag-tala, Manila, 1998