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.