Catechism of the Catholic Church (675)

Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh. ~ Catechism of the Catholic Church (675)

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Pray for a Dying Priest

I ask readers to pray tonight for Fr Norman Wrigley of the Archdiocese of Westminster, the holy, kind, gentle, and very much-loved Priest of the Archdiocese who so exuded charity, love for Christ and His Church, and his brethren, as well as a rare sincerity and simplicity of heart and manner that I decided I wanted to become a Catholic more or less immediately.

I have tonight heard that he is dying. May the Lord Jesus strengthen his servant and Our Blessed Lady intercede for him before the Throne of her Divine Son. May he receive the crown of life everlasting.

Pray for him.

Update: Please pray for the repose of the soul of Fr Norman Wrigley. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Friday, 21 August 2015

"That Book Has Done Me a Lot of Good!"

Fr Raymond De Souza asks the question in the Catholic Herald to which all Catholics would like an answer, despite the unfortunate fact that Pope Francis, not a week into his pontificate, delivered the answer when he recommended Cardinal Kasper's book, entitled 'Mercy', to the Faithful gathered in St Peter's Square.

Depending on which side of this debate you fall - whether it be that of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Successors of St Peter until now - or some another side entirely, it has - in terms of the 'Kasper Proposal', been either 'uphill' or 'downhill' since then. With the benefit of hindsight, this was Pope Francis's public, and very early endorsement of Cardinal Kasper and the contents of his book. If I recommended 'Mein Kampf' to you, you might just think I was a Hitler sympathiser or in some way supported Hitler's beliefs if I said, 'That book has done me a lot of good.'

Similarly, if I I told you to read 'The Communist Manifesto' because that book has 'done me a lot of good', you might just think I was, in fact, a communist or some kind of Marxist. You might think these are terrible comparisons but, in both of these cases, if I do not follow this 'recommendation' of toxic books with some kind of caveat by way of saying, '...because I realised just how erroneous and mistaken the author was/is,' then you can pretty much guarantee that I agree with the contents.

For many it is fear and for many it is love that motivates an abundence of Vatican watchers who seem to be in denial as to our reality, to the point that despite the fact that in his first week as Supreme Pontiff, Pope Francis recommended the Kasper agenda as reading material for the Faithful, many cling onto the hope that Pope Francis, somehow, does not personally back the Kasper proposal, even though it contains such profoundly poisonous errors concerning the inseperable teachings and disciplines of the Church that such willful ambiguities and glaring errors make it ideal material for the fireplaces of that same Faithful.

The loyal Faithful, that is, those loyal to the Lord Jesus Christ and to His Vicar on Earth, have gathered over half a million signatures to Pope Francis to 'clarify', to make plain His Holiness's position on such matters as divorce, remarriage and the reception of Holy Communion, as well as the other 'thorny' issues to be debated in a spirit of parrhesia at the Synod in October.

As time goes by, and as we approach with not a small degree of trepidation the great 'debate' within the Church in October, are Catholics to pretend to ourselves and, in defiance of the known reality, to others, that the Pope is somehow secretly against the position of Cardinal Kasper and on the side of the Magisterium of the Holy Catholic Church as well as that of his venerable predecessors, despite no such clarification being forthcoming?

Are we to assume this in good - or rather blind faith - when instead of the clarification sought by the deeply confused Catholics in question, such recent unhelpful and utterly confusing teachings, such as 'the divorced and remarried are not excommunicated' appear to nudge the Church a little further towards an endorsement of the Kasper proposal?

I would have thought that even if the divorced and remarried are not formally, canonically, publicly 'excommunicated', some kind of term such as 'excommunicated' might just be applicable - in some manner - to those who, because of an irregular marital situation that involves the sin of sustained and continuing adultery, can neither receive Absolution, nor receive Our Blessed Lord in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, and as such are unable to communicate.

I don't know what a Catholic who wants to be loyal to Christ, loyal to the Church and loyal to the Pope says or does in these current circumstances, other than to pray that the crisis within the Church is well and truly ended as soon as is humanly and, moreover, divinely possible for He for Whom nothing is impossible. What I don't think Catholics loyal to the Christ, His Church and His Vicar on Earth can do is to pretend its all (a) okay, no problem here and (b) going to be okay. To say this would not be in keeping with the thought of the once Cardinal Ratzinger who had the following to say on a difficult but glorious future for the Church:

'From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity.'

To loyal Catholics, Pope Francis has, consistently behaved like a fiance who can't quite bring himself to tell his bride to be that he doesn't love her, doesn't like her, never really did, but keeps dropping huge hints every week that he has no intention of marrying her whatsoever. Pray for His Holiness, but accept it. He's just not into you and your beliefs. He's into something else entirely. That doesn't mean we stop praying for him or loving him as Our Lord has taught us.

Of course, if Pope Francis caps off a glorious Synod by donning the Tiara and publicly excommunicating all those who argued against the Infallible Teaching of Christ and His Bride, the Church, I apologise profusely in advance and take most of it all back, but I cannot be blamed for thinking - nor for being honest and saying - that in a little over two years, Pope Francis has, with a little help from his friends, taken the Church to the precipice and looks not a little bit afraid of the craggy rocks and rushing waters below. Given his public statements and his refusal to unendorse Cardinal Kasper and his proposal, we should by now be no longer at all surprised if he takes the Church over the edge. Unless something completely unexpected occurs, we can be forgiven for thinking quite sensibly that not clarifying, nor ceasing to promote Cardinal Kasper's agenda within the Church is, in fact, a clarification. It's just not the clarification you were looking for.

According to recent reports, we can be sure, 100% certain in fact, that eleven Cardinals definitely oppose Cardinal Kasper and have, in defence of the Truth, written a book detailing exactly why they have written against his proposal. You are worried. They are equally worried but not, it seems, His Holiness. According to exactly zero news reports can we ascertain that the Pope, the Supreme Pontiff, Successor of St Peter and Guardian of the Deposit of Faith shares their concerns. That is how serious this crisis is.

Our survey found that out of 219 Cardinals in all the world, only one believed that Pope St Pius X would recommd Kapsper's book entitled, 'Mercy'. The name of that Cardinal was Cardinal Wal...Oh, sorry, that information is confidential!

A demoralised clergy, laity and more than a handful of Bishops and Cardinals still hope - against all the evidence - that the Pope is going to protect the Deposit of Faith and teach that saving Faith at the Synod when for two years he has not done so through public statements, interviews, appointments, and by organising and overseeing this farcical Synod showdown in the first place, a showdown that weakens the Pope's most loyal natural supporters and strengthens those who seek the end of the Catholic Church as founded by Christ. For if Cardinal Kasper and his friends get their way, the Church will not be One, but many national Churches, it will not be Holy, but will endorse sacrilege and all that is unholy, nor will it be Catholic.

Will it, in the prospect of such a radical reversal of the Church's understanding of Herself, in such circumstances, be Apostolic? Would it not rather be anti-Apostolic? We have to accept that, somehow, since the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI, the Good News of Jesus Christ has become bad news and the bad news of Cardinal Walter Kasper has become good news. What that means for Catholics who cling to Jesus Christ and His Teachings in the midst of this madness I have no idea, but it is now far more unthinkable that Pope Francis will publicly and forcefully reject Cardinal Kasper's proposal than it is that he will, in some manner, legislate it into the life of the Church. The last two years have shown us that if - and it remains a big 'if' - Pope Francis throws the Kasper doctrine into the blazing fire at the end of the Synod it will be in spite of, not because of, Pope Francis's best efforts.

What Pope St Pius X makes of the present crisis in the Church, only God, Pope St Pius X and the entire Court of Heaven know. Pope St Pius X, ora pro nobis!

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Notes on the Shadow Synod Part II

Nicholas Bellord's latest piece detailing the events and speakers at the recent Shadow Synod is enlightening. His latest piece for the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma can be read here.

Happy Feast of St Pius X for tomorrow!

Ora pro nobis!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Swimming, Against the Tide

Swimming, Against the Tide

You feel unnerved
And you can’t sleep at night
Is it something else you read online?
You’d put your trust in the Prince and now
Your sole refuge is with the Most High
Once you would swim with such confidence
With no need to grow weary and tired
Full of worry now!
‘When will this darkness end?’
‘When will the day be bright?’
‘When will we see light?’

Many waters cannot quench love
As sings the Bridegroom to the Bride
Many waters cannot quench love
But now you start to realise
Many waters cannot quench love

When every day brings another blow
And your hopes don’t materialise
Between the lines of a release from Rome
One, long recycled tissue of lies
As Mother Church praises ‘Mother Earth’
When Our Mother in Heaven resides!
O full of sorrow now!
And you take a breath
And you just roll your eyes
Turn them to the skies

Many waters cannot quench love
But now your Love is being denied!
Many waters cannot quench love
While their plans are finalised
Wherever that Sea dreams to send us

You are swimming, we are swimming, we are swimming, you are swimming against the tide
Because we’re swimming, we are swimming
You are swimming,
Where the Tiber meets the Rhine

(Let all Israel sing)
For when men rose up against us
They might have skinned us all alive,
The foaming waters couldn’t end us
They think they’re winning,
they think they’re winning, they think their winning,
But it’s the King who will decide!

They think sinning, they think that sinning,
they think that sinning
is just a another way of life!
We know that,
Many waters cannot quench love
So when Deep calls to the deep, calls you to rise
Star of the Sea, hear and defend us,
From the City, from the City, from the City,
Crowned at thy Divine Son’s side
In thy pity, in thy pity, in thy pity
Gird thyself upon thy thigh,
(O mighty one)
In thy comeliness and beauty,
Shed the brightness of thy rays
Thou hast loved justice, evil hated
Proceed prosperously and reign!
Because of justice, truth and meekness

Free thy city, free thy city, free thy city, free thy city, make thy city yours again!
Let thy city, let thy city, let thy city, occupied
Become your most loyal domain!

(O mighty one)
Many waters cannot quench love
To every Prince, be the splendour of our race
In honour of your glorious Assumption

Monday, 10 August 2015

Happy Feast

Happy Feast, everyone, and don't forget to put the 'World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation' into your calendars. It all gives a different perspective to Pope Pius IX's rallying cry, “Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world.” It also makes me think that Rome has perhaps reached a new understanding with the powerful of this World about just what constitute grave sins against nature.

St Laurence is still praying for the Church of Rome, let us rejoice in that today. May his prayers aid the Pope and the Bishops to proclaim that Faith that saves, that Life which is eternal, that joy that cannot be robbed from man, that truth which sets us free: Jesus Christ.

Laurence's witness to Jesus Christ is still relevant, particularly today, because he shows us, like so many martyrs, that there is no 'easy road' to heavenly glory. His witness puts paid to the idea that mortal men are incapable of doing, with God, that which is impossible by nature.

The martyrs don't, it seems, suffer from 'Kasperism' however. If Our Lord Jesus Christ is and was pure and chaste, with His help, I can be pure and chaste. If the Lord Jesus loves with a love that is Divine, I can love with a love that is divine. If Our Lord Jesus Christ is and was merciful, with Him, I can be merciful. If the Lord Jesus Christ can face anguish, torture and humiliation and cruelty, I can suffer it too, but more, it is a joy to suffer it, for Him. Faith in Jesus Christ means we can become like Jesus Christ, think like Jesus Christ, live like Jesus Christ, love like Jesus Christ and die, if we are so privileged to be so persecuted, like Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, because He is Lord, makes all this possible to me and to all who believe in Him. It is only I who can stand in the way. Jesus Christ can enable me, if I beg Him to, to imitate Him and be united to Him in this life and for all eternity because Jesus Christ is Lord.

This is what the Catholic Church believes. We are called to become by adoption what Christ is by nature. We have a living relationship with God in His Church. We do not proclaim a dead Faith about a dead God but the the Living One. We are called to be like Jesus Christ, to become adopted sons and daughters of the Father Almighty. Of course, if you don't believe Jesus is truly Lord, the Eternal Word made flesh, none of that is remotely possible, not in a million years. I don't know how long it took St Laurence to die having been placed upon his grill, but he can certainly speak to us today about patience in suffering, holy perseverance, forgiveness of our enemies and the love which conquers all.

If One Peter Five's very interesting post on Bishop Athanasius Schneider's latest interview is anything to go by, we are going to need all the holy patience and perseverance, and Laurentian bravery, in this most harrowing and arduous of times, that, by God's grace, we can obtain.

St Laurence, pray for us! Pray for the Church of Rome!

Friday, 31 July 2015

Rising and Falling

Bl. Titus Brandsma, before a 'tricky time' for Catholic
Damian Thompson has posted on The Catholic Herald website an article about 'The Rise and Fall of Catholic Blogs'. Some of the points he raises are really about his personal Telegraph blog, 'Holy Smoke'.

I do also recall that due to some changes at The Telegraph a host of widely read blogs - some of which were written by Catholics - quickly and inexplicably were no more, including James Delingpole, who has since found work at Breibart, Damian Thompson, who went to The Spectator, and Christina Odone. Tim Stanley still works at The Telegraph, but it is notable that his Telegraph blog has been inactive since October 2014. Nobody was ever told why this decimation of widely read blogs occurred.

In the Catholic blogging world, a critical exception was the very popular Nick Donnelly whose personal blog, Protect the Pope was forced to close. Nick now posts in other forums. I and many others enjoyed Linen on the Hedgerow's Richard Collins. May he rest in peace.

It goes without saying that while some have stopped blogging or cut down dramatically on blogging, new blogs have emerged, such as One Peter Five and others. The passion of many Catholics to write about the Faith is matched today by the readiness with which bloggers will speak out to defend those fundamental Catholic teachings which are, like all Catholic teachings contained in the Magisterium, utterly non-negotiable. Damian raises points about other Catholic blogs and the Catholic blogosphere which I felt warranted some kind of response. I suggest that you read Damian's thought-provoking article. I have written a response to his article since it touches on issues so close to the hearts of many bloggers, some of whom are members of The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma.

My response can be read here at 'The Courtyard', a joint blog named after 'The Court of the Gentiles' vision espoused by Pope Benedict XVI. This Guild still seeks faithful Catholics who wish to defend and proclaim the Catholic Faith as members. If you have not considered doing so, do consider joining the Guild. It is certainly a good time to ask what purpose Catholic blogs now serve, at a time when the initial wave of optimism for Pope Benedict XVI's exciting vision of Catholicism in the 21st century was brought to an abrupt and sad end, a vision that was not to be continued by his Successor. I expect we shall receive the answer as to the 'post-Benedict XVI' purpose of Catholic blogs in the not too distant future. Undoubtedly forces outside of the Church in the West seek an end to the freedom of speech Catholics have long enjoyed on the internet. I wouldn't be terribly surprised if some inside the Church thought that kind of 'control' of the voices of the dissenters is desirable. We leave everything in God's hands. Let us allow Him to use us, and let it be for all for Him.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Happy Feast of Blessed Titus Brandsma...

Today is 27th July, the Feast of Blessed Titus Brandsma and I am happy to announce as chairman that we have a new member of the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma, the composer and classical pianist, Matthew Schellhorn. I look forward to reading Matthew's interesting contributions to the Guild in the future. A small biography of Matthew can be read here, on his website.

It is very encouraging that the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma is able to attract Catholics who are do not have their own Catholic blogs to the Guild, as contributors. The Guild serves Catholics and the Church, as well as making a contribution to the evangelisation of the world through the internet and I would like to remind all of our readers that we are happy to accept contributions to the Guild from those who do not have active blogs of their own. Recently, we have had two excellent contributions by a Catholic layman, Nicholas Bellord, on the concerning developments that surrounded both the 2014 Synod and the highly controversial preparatory document for 'Synod 15'.

I'd like to take this opportunity as Chairman to wish all members and readers of the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma a very happy feast, in these challenging times for all Catholics faithful to the Magisterium of the Church and to thank all who contribute to the Guild, members who continue through their own blogs or who contribute to the Guild blog, as well as those who support the work of this Guild with their prayers. Do keep the Guild and Catholic bloggers in your prayers. We do not know for how long the freedom of speech we have long enjoyed will remain a right, rather than a privilege granted by Government. On this subject, as well as the other challenges we face today as Catholics in an increasingly hostile secular society, I have written a post on the Guild site on this, Blessed Titus Brandsma's feast. The following video appears on that blogpost as well...Blessed Titus Brandsma, pray for us...

Friday, 24 July 2015

Snakes in the Grass

It takes time and effort sometimes to find the 'snakes in the grass' and as a follow up to his piece on the 2014 Synod, Nicholas Bellord has written another fine piece for the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma, which makes a commendable and recommendable read, together with 'On the Side of the Angels' excellent recent post on the hugely problematic Instrumentum Laboris, for the Guild.

The indomitable Fr Z has picked up Nicholas Bellord's clear-minded, sober analysis as well and I am pleased to say that Nicholas's new post can now be read here.

If only such clear and sober thought, faithful to the Truth of Christ, were more evident among the movers and 'shakers' rattling behind these concerning Synod 14 and now Synod 15 documents.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Definite Proof of Your Love

'Someone has been the cause of pain; and the cause of pain not to me, but to some degree – not to overstate it – to all of you. The punishment already imposed by the majority on the man in question is enough; and the best thing now is to give him your forgiveness and encouragement, or he might break down from so much misery. So I am asking you to give some definite proof of your love for him. What I really wrote for, after all, was to test you and see whether you are completely obedient. Anybody that you forgive, I forgive; and as for my forgiving anything – if there has been anything to be forgiven, I have forgiven it for your sake in the presence of Christ. And so we will not be outwitted by Satan – we know well enough what his intentions are.
~ St Paul, 2 Corinthians 1:15-2:11

Readers will know that I am deeply concerned that Pope Francis can, for instance, issue an exhortation to the 'coal-mining community' calling for a 'paradigm shift' within this industry, but cannot bring himself to speak directly to the hearts of men and women in the heat of a crisis in human sexuality, nor call to repentance, or espouse the need for a 'paradigm shift' among those in other kinds of 'communities' that promote lifestyles completely opposed to the Gospel. The crisis in human sexuality directly attacks the sanctity of marriage, the institution of the family and lead souls into an abyss of misery in this life and eternal punishment in the next. The eloquence with which Pope Francis's predecessors were able to defend the family and marriage without coarse and deliberately provocative language is well-known.

His Holiness may indeed not have a real understanding of the homosexual crisis in the clergy - even in the Vatican. We are really left wondering whether - at any point - His Holiness believes this is an issue that needs to be addressed 'concretely' in some fashion. I believe His Holiness received a detailed report from his predecessor about the extent of the homosexual crisis in the clergy and must surely have been briefed over the extent of what appears to be some kind of network - though by no means a network that all clergy of a homosexual orientation 'tap into'.

At times, one can easily begin to wonder whether, far from attempting to meet this enormous challenge that he has as the Successor of St Peter 'head on' - a task that would have been beyond a frail and isolated figure such as Pope Benedict XVI, His Holiness's appointments - or even statements, as well as those times when he has kept silent, instead promotes this insidious agenda within the bosom of the Church.

There is no doubt that there is a grave crisis in the clergy - and possibly in the Hierarchy - how deep it is, we do not know - a crisis of formation, faith and a crisis in priestly identity as well as a lack of paternal and fraternal care for the spiritual and psychological state, or indeed maturity, of the Church's clergy. Quite what His Holiness is to do about that situation - a situation that spans Dioceses across vast parts of the World, I do not know, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed and the addressing of this issue is long overdue.

It needs to be restated that far from all clergy who have this condition of homosexuality form alliances with the 'gay community' and that they serve by their ministry, their prayer, their sacrificial life as 'alter Christus' and by their example serve the Lord and His flock in an exemplary fashion. It is also very true that 'heterosexual' priests too suffer grave temptations and this has been made clear from recent news in England and Wales. Every Shepherd, every priest is first in line of attack from the Enemy of God and mankind, since if the Devil can topple a priest, or a Bishop, he can ruin the faith of many and cause the sheep to scatter. Our Enemy prowls around, like a lion, seeking him who he may devour. When a marriage breaks up, people really do wonder whether it is possible to stay with one person for life. When a priest gives up, people really do wonder whether it is possible to be celibate and offer ones life entirely to God alone. Both have very devastating effects.

Looking at The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma's website, I was reminded that...

...the anger of man worketh not the justice of God. ~ Letter of St James, 1:20

St Paul sets above before us a challenge that may require our serious reflection as to how we show forgiveness to an offender. It is certainly something that caught my eye as I was reading today. There are things we do know about what has happened in the case of the priest much discussed on blogs and social media over the weekend. There are also things we don't know and it would be gravely sinful and calumnious of us to say we do know things about this individual that we simply do not know. My previous blog post on the subject concentrated on the fragility of that chain that binds us to the Lord, how that can be mended by the Sacraments and prayer and how we must do what we can to be held in bonds of Communion with Christ, His Church and our brethren. These bonds of Communion are tenuous indeed but can be strengthened only by the grace of God and with each other by bonds of fraternal love. I do not with to speculate in a calumnious fashion on the activities of the individual, even if the proclivities, or at least those of his associates have been made more apparent on social media. We should, including myself, examine ourselves as to whether we are serving Christ if we knock a man down when he is already thoroughly down.

Nor do I know the full truth about what took place over the past months in this individual's parish, the nature of the support he had from those around him and the nature of the support he received, or didn't receive from his Bishop and brother priests.

Having had a quick look at the individual's social media activity, I can see before me absolutely no evidence of Faith, but whether that individual has Faith, or if he lost it, how he lost it, it is not my business to investigate. What has taken place in this saga is tragic indeed and nobody can deny that, but we must remember that we are called by Our Lord to treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated and to forgive. We are not called to pass judgment or to condemn individuals, we are not to assume things about that person's lifestyle of which we are completely ignorant and we are certainly not called to issue decrees on the state of that person's soul before God.

While the whole Catholic Church waits with baited breath as to how Pope Francis intends to take a break from matters of social inequality, the environment, economics and the need for reform in the coal-mining industry to meet the challenges in the Church that have been created by the homosexual movement and the crisis in human sexuality and gender within and without the Church, it is surely vital that the Church in England and Wales, and in particular, in the major Diocese of the priest who has resigned suddenly and 'broken the chain', makes serious efforts to ensure that fraternal charity and fraternal correction, as well as paternal charity and paternal correction, out of love for its clergy, is made a high priority. Perhaps after its reflection and discernment, that major Diocese can take its wisdom to other Dioceses, or even to Rome itself. Charity covers a multitude of sins, but what has happened should not simply be brushed under the carpet. Many of us are left 'in the dark' about events in this parish. Most cannot be certain what happened. Those in authority who are in a position of certainty regarding this tragedy must surely learn from it. Ministries seeking the spiritual welfare of homosexuals, such as Courage must surely be encouraged.

The bonds of our Communion with God are fragile and the bonds of Communion within the Bride of Christ are fragile. They are fragile within marriage, as we know and they are fragile within the Church Herself. They can easily be broken by the violence of anger and hatred as much as by the dangers posed by the untamed and unrestrained expression of our sexuality. The Lord will not be pleased with us if we savage those who fall short in even priestly Christian duties or if we fail to show any kind of mercy to them.

Pray for Priests, pray for Bishops, pray for the Pope and if you can show 'give some definite proof of your love' to the individual that we should pray for, who has so sadly decided to leave his priestly ministry, do. We are called by Christ to love until it hurts. Even if it hurts, therefore, we can do nothing but love and if we wish to be forgiven, Our Lord tells us that we simply must forgive. Many, if not all of us can say that;

'My past is a trail of mortal sins, my present trail may very well be in the grace of God, but then, it's Monday.' 

Let us never tire of seeking God's mercy and implore His grace. We are fragile creatures. Therefore, let us not pass judgment on others. It doesn't serve us well and it doesn't serve the Lord Jesus and if we are in the state of Grace we will only stay there if we are humble.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Broken Chains

If ever a Catholic needed a reminder of just how much the stain of Original Sin affects our view of Almighty God and the Moral Law, a parish priest who has given up the priestly ministry for a 'new life' as a teacher has provided us with one. The striking symbolism used by this priest to publicly announce his feelings about leaving the Sacred Priesthood was a picture of broken chains with little regard to any broken hearts that may be created in the wake of his departure.

The truth is that we are offered holy freedom or slavery to our passions, to our vices, to the Devil and to our selfish inclinations, that we become lovers of the World and the flesh or lovers of God and our neighbour. We can seem at many times to inhabit both worlds but we cannot really serve two masters. We will eventually have to choose. Of course, it is very easy for us to see obedience to God, upholding and abiding by the moral law and living the Commandments as burdensome. Without God's grace, we easily fall into snares of the Enemy promising us some kind of freedom, if only we would throw off the shackles of God's laws. It is part of our fallen, fragile nature to see obedience to God as some kind of terrible imposition upon our freedom, rather than to seek the grace of God to live in holy freedom as children of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our 'escape route' from God can look so attractive, but we know as Catholics that in reality it is not at all. We know that the implications of this distortion of the truth from the father of lies has many terrible implications for us both in time and eternity.

The implications are social as well as personal. For instance, we can easily mistake people as a burden when in fact what we really see as a burden is the moral law itself. This will almost certainly inform the philosophy behind the assisted suicide debate. We can easily see the poor as a burden on society, or the elderly as a burden, or the terminally ill as a burden when in fact what we really see as the burden is the moral duty we have towards them, by showing them our compassion and care and doing what we can do to alleviate their plight.

Our entire vision of the meaning of our lives and even those of others, when we throw off the 'shackles' of the Divine law on which we will be judged by God, can be truncated, twisted, turned upside down until the lives of others, as well as ourselves, are rendered meaningless by our own quest for personal freedom, satisfaction and pleasure. And this is the way of the world. We can end up, quite easily seeing others in terms of our own freedom, using and abusing them in the process.

The real 'escape route', as we know, is the Sacrament of Confession in which we are healed, restored, absolved and forgiven by Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our real happiness lies in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ Who alone can satisfy our desires, which find their absolute fulfilment in the Godhead. The real escape route is in holy prayer and union with God. The dazzling attractions offered to us in the name of freedom by the Devil are distractions from our union with God, which he wishes, through great cunning and malice, to deprive God's children of. 'I want to break free' may express in music how so often we feel, but we will find ourselves chained in other ways, in manacles of iron placed on us by mortal sin, if we sever our Communion with God. Our Saviour tells us that the truth will set you free and for Him to set us free is to free indeed. The false kind of freedom of that we embrace through sin makes us slaves and creates victims of individuals, marriages, families, wounding the Church and society itself. This false conception of freedom is at the heart of the ongoing controversies and scandals of abortion, same-sex marriage, artificial contraception, IVF, assisted suicide, euthanasia, embryonic research, divorce, remarriage and every aspect of the culture of death.

We can easily fall into the trap of thinking that the love of our own wills and the indulgence of our passions or pleasures are the decisive factor in defining where our own happiness lies. Yet that which looks so appealing can so easily enslave us, wherein the irony of a fallen priest announcing his own feelings of leaving the secular priesthood to live a more 'secular life' altogether in terms of the 'breaking of chains' becomes tragically evocative and richly symbolic.

I've been reading some of the writings of St Louis De Montfort recently and - more than anyone I have read - the language of slavery appears in his writings. He actively promotes, with no hesitation at all - the slavery of the soul in holy love to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is there in his 'Consecration Prayer' after the 33 Days Consecration to Mary. Time and again his prayers, his meditations call the reader to a devotion to Mary and, through this Heavenly Mother, to Jesus, that is one of holy and devoted slavery.

How much we need priests - and Bishops - to promote devotion to Our Blessed Lady and the Blessed Sacrament, to be holy and dedicated clergy and bishops, whose love for God and zeal for souls leads them to proclaim that for Jesus and Mary to reign in the hearts, the souls and the bodies of Christians is to extend holy freedom everywhere and that to embrace our own desires in such ways that offend our Creator leads not to freedom but quickly to our enslavement to the Enemy of God and our Salvation. Let them lead us to pray, with the Psalmist, the acknowledgement that to devote oneself entirely to the Lord, through the loving heart of His handmaid, Mary, is to live in freedom, the freedom of God's grace, grace which is entirely unmerited on our part, but which, through the hands of Mary Immaculate, through the Sacraments of His Church, He desires to lavish on His children. Let us also pray for priests who are tempted, or who have left the priesthood in the pursuit of a false and perhaps immensely destructive ideology which they associate with freedom, that they, and we, can say...

'O Lord, for I am thy servant: I am thy servant, and the son of thy handmaid. Thou hast broken my bonds.'

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Ite Ad Joseph

St Joseph: Protector of the Universal Church
I've been wanting to write a post like this for ages, because it seems to me there is something profoundly wrong with the various proposals that are emanating from Rome recently and the kinds of noises that are being made. The primary noise that I hear is a call coming from Rome that says that the Church is the answer, or has the solutions to the many problems affecting people in 'difficult' pastoral situations.

I hope I know my faith, I'm no expert on prayer, nor am I any kind of expert on theology, my faith, I think is quite simple, but one thing I do know is that in every situation - in every personal conflict, Jesus Christ has the answer because He is the answer. He may not be the answer I always want, but the Answer He Is. No Pope, no Synod can possibly pull a rabbit out of the hat that will solve the difficult 'pastoral situations' faced by a number in the Church. All we can give people is Jesus.

I cast my mind back to - and perhaps forward to - the many obstacles and problems I have had - and may in future have, spiritual problems, life problems, career problems or even difficulties with a particular doctrine or duty of my state in life. I recall times in my life when I have been to see a priest to talk about my 'problems' - in great distress - and received comfort from that, but even more than that I am thankful to God that the Catholic Church has never, yet, attempted to change its fixed - 'inflexible' - positions especially on sexual matters to basically make my life, my 'Christian walk' easier.

Take, for example, the Catholic Church's position on homosexuality. Most readers will know that this is an issue of which I have plenty of knowledge and experience. As a married Catholic man, married - that is - to a woman, I am so thankful to God for my wife, even though marriage is both beautiful and demanding. Marriage is not always easy but is so wonderful to have someone to love - a very wonderful person - and somebody - another human being - to live for and, actually, to die for, since if there is a 'secret to happiness', we Catholics know that to live for ourselves brings us misery and to live for God and others - especially a special someone you cherish - brings great happiness. I know I do not do it well enough, but I know that to die to ourselves is to rise with Jesus Christ. The more I die, the more I rise, and if only I would let myself die to myself so completely that Jesus Christ may live in me fully. The Christian vocation to be re-made into the image of Christ is not easy but for us to follow Christ is to be on the path to true fulfillment and happiness.

The World gives us a completely different message which is the antithesis of the Gospel; that self-satisfaction, self-gratification, self-contentment, even to the point of self-adoration and glorification, will bring us happiness and it needs to be said that this is absolutely not true. It's a total lie born out by the experience of 100% of human beings who have tried it because even if it comes naturally, we know, deep down that it can't make us happy.

We cannot act purely out of self-interest and generate happiness for ourselves, at the same time, nor everybody, indeed, most likely not anybody else. And, as we have learned from various Communistic regimes that have unambiguously attacked the dignity of human life, the State can never solve this problem, much as it tries to, in the human condition of selfishness. Only God, Whom the State tries to replace, can help us to become selfless creatures, united to Him, living for Him. For all of us who are Catholics, to be made more and more into the image of the Son of God is a lifetime's work of daily Cross-bearing that may involve a multitude of falls and failures. Yet, we do know the Way. We cannot say we do not. It has been traced for us by Jesus Christ, yet not by Him alone. He is made manifest in the lives of His Saints and Martyrs.

The most obvious case is the life of Our Blessed Lady which we believe is one of complete self-abandonment to God and complete docility to His will and we can never point to her enough. Another example - and we do well to remember to pray to him as we run up to the Synod, is St Joseph, who the Church honours as Protector and Guardian of the Church, just as he was protector and guardian of the Christ-child and Our Lady. If we look at St Joseph, we see this strange - this unique - marriage to the Blessed Virgin in which there is seemingly nothing - absolutely nothing - in it for him. We honour Mary as the Mother of God, the Immaculate one, but St Joseph fills this other unique role as a father - a foster-father yet a true father figure - to the Incarnate Holy One and though we really don't know much about him, we know a few things which stand as an affront to modern conceptions of manhood and male behaviour especially.

We do not know how old St Joseph is when he enters into this mysterious marriage to the Blessed Virgin. We cannot be certain when he knew that this would be a unique marriage and that his role would be unique, but we can ascertain from his dream and from his responsiveness to God that this man is in this marriage for reasons that the World today simply could not recognise as normal or even comprehensible. It is doubtful, in my opinion, that Joseph enters into a marriage to a Virgin unaware that this marriage would never be consummated, since we believe that Our Lady had already consecrated herself to God entirely in the Temple. Yet, God still calls him, by the message of the Angel, to marry this most beautiful, this most holy, this most Immaculate Virgin. Immediately he is summoned to chastity and continence within Marriage. We don't know how much Joseph knows about what his role will be, nor how much the Blessed Virgin tells him of it, nor how much God tells him of it. All we do know is that he trusts God, listens to God and is obedient to God despite the fact that he, unlike Mary, is not sinless. It may be that, as holy tradition tells us, he was 'the most just man in the World at the time' - for how could God entrust the Virgin and His Son to a fool? - but the Church teaches that he was by no means Immaculate.

St Joseph's life tells us its never the right question...
Our Lady's holiness, even her sublime humility and her self-abasement may well have been almost effortless because she was unique as a creature. See with what simple love she responds to the message of the Angel Gabriel and says, 'I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you say.' Let is never be said that she responded with any anger or malice or even doubt towards God at any point in her life. We can imagine though, that St Joseph's sanctity will not have come without something of an interior struggle. We can say that much.

We say that Jesus is a man like all men - in all things but sin. We say that Our Lady was a woman like all women - in all things but sin, but we cannot say the same of St Joseph. Not being 100% 'full of grace', St Joseph will have faced a profound, perhaps ongoing, recurring 'interior struggle' - a battle between his own will, his own natural inclinations and thoughts of contentment and of doing God's will, living by faith and abandoning himself to God's Providence. His love is shown to be true and pure love, his faith purified as if in a furnace. He may even have suffered great anxiety at times as to what he was to do and think, inhabiting some of those blind spots and shades of grey that we, as imperfect creatures, do from day to day, lacking the constant light of God's own light held ceaselessly before the eyes of Our Lady. Yet this person - this mortal man like you and I - is entrusted with this incredible task of being a chaste husband and protector to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the sinless Queen of Heaven and Earth, and her Divine Son, Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Universe.

Consistently, the Church has pointed towards the Holy Family as the model of family life, the model of family prayer and of sanctity in marriage. The very life of the Son of God, the Eternal God entrusted to a mere man, as well as the protection of His Blessed Mother. So much at stake, so much entrusted to one man! And yet this marriage of perpetual continence is the model of happiness beyond our comprehension, despite the fact that involves no sex whatsoever while Joseph was a man like us - including original sin. How baffling the World would find that and even some in the Church. Just how relevant that is to the homosexual and the divorced and remarried, and to a great many in 'difficult pastoral situations', cannot be overstated.

That situation may not be what the vast majority of Catholic married couples are called to and yet - yet - St Joseph shows us by his obedience to God, by his life of virtue, by his faithfulness and loyalty, by his great charity and self-sacrificial love, that marriage is truly sacred and God has blessed and sanctified it by being born into it for our Salvation. "What's in this marriage for me?" does not appear to be a question that St Joseph asked, yet we might ask whether - and I mean not to slander him at all - he might have thought it at some point because, apart from protecting and honouring the Blessed Virgin Mary, serving her all the days of his life, adoring, reverencing the Lord Jesus Christ, teaching Him who is the Teacher of all mankind and the incomprehensible spiritual benefits of being the foster-father to the Incarnate God, in earthly terms, there was absolutely nothing in it for St Joseph.

Indeed, love wins, but only if you are truly interested in real love. Catholic men and women need to recover a sense of devotion, certainly, to our wives if we have them, and, if we have them, our families. We need to abandon the idea that the Church will 'concretely solve' every issue in our lives, our marriages and our 'difficulties'. St Joseph teaches us that we need to abandon ourselves to God's care, to the will of God and to prayer. We need to recover a sense of devotion to St Joseph. Catholic men in authority in the Church also need to recover devotion to St Joseph because, like him, they have been called as custodians and guardians and protectors of the Lord's Church and yes, the Lord Himself in the Eucharist. The heavenly reward of St Joseph and his great merits are known, though not widely spoken of in the Church today so much as they once were. So much of this debate over homosexuality, homosexual unions, divorced and remarried persons, concubinage and the rest goes straight to the heart of the matter about what does and what can and what cannot and does not make us happy in this life and blissfully happy in the next. If we desire to see what a just and virtuous man looks like, if we are still interested, we will look at the model of St Joseph and seek to imitate him. He had faith when not a great deal made much sense and yet he trusted God and was not put to shame.

If we trust in God's promises we, too, will not be put to shame. If you are attending the Synod in October and you are unsure where to go, what to say and what to do, if you feel called to be a wise, prudent and faithful steward, then go to Joseph. Even when everything seems completely opposed to Him, the World needs people - prelates, priests and laity, who will defend and protect the family, marriage and Jesus Christ. Was it much different in St Joseph's day? Let us think of the costs to what he may once have considered as his own contentment Joseph's vocation involved - a constant, daily, dying to self, becoming 'the spouse most chaste', to serve and protect the Lord and His Mother. Great things are demanded of us too - that we have faith even when confronted by the incomprehension of the world and its unholy demands which oppose Jesus Christ.

Remember and meditate on the blessed happiness of the Holy Family and the selfless service, the self-sacrificial love, the ardent charity that created this beautiful, happy, joyful and most blessed domestic life. It may not have been a marriage quite like 99.9% of marriages, but this was a marriage made in Heaven and it was 100% valid. What seems impossible to us is made sweet by God. The family - and marriage - under sustained attack in the Church and torn apart outside of it, have been sanctified, hallowed by the Son of God and through His Blessed Mother, yet St Joseph - too - co-operated in that sanctification. He said 'yes' too. His role can never - should never - be forgotten and if you are attending the Synod in October and you are unsure where to go, what to say and what to do, if you feel called to be a wise, prudent and faithful steward, then go to St Joseph. Indeed, whoever you are, pray to St Joseph for your needs and the urgent needs of the Church.

The Church, by and large, simply does not possess nor can possess the 'concrete solutions', to the myriad difficult pastoral situations that Catholics get involved in, but Jesus Christ does. It is a relationship with Him in His Church. We must be reminded by the Synod that our relationship with God is more important than anything else on the face of this Earth. God's mercy and His truth is what we must proclaim. Most likely, our situations require our radical transformation, not that of the Church's teachings and disciplines. Right now, the Church on Earth needs all the protection She can get, so as we approach the Synod, go to the Blessed Virgin Mary, but also, ite ad Joseph! I need him, you need him, we need him, marriage needs him, the family desperately needs him, the Church on Earth urgently needs him, his intercession and example. Family is in crisis, marriage is in crisis, gender is in crisis, the Church is in crisis. It may confound the expectations of most people but in the Holy Family, there was no internal crisis at all, only harmony, mutual respect and love of God and neighbour.

St Joseph, Protector of the Universal Church, ora pro nobis!

Friday, 10 July 2015

A Bad Day at the Office

There simply are no words.

The Communist Crucifix was designed by a Jesuit.

What a surprise...

Shall we just say a bad day at the Office?


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