Saturday 27 December 2008
Matthew Parris, who describes himself as a 'confirmed atheist', today writes a Times article on how his impression of Africa's need for Christianity has been changed by witnessing the work of Christian missionaries. Fr Ray preached at Midnight Mass about how much of the aid relief organisations were started by Christians because God was made man and dwelt among us. I wrote a sarcastic comment on the article online suggesting that you didn't have to go to Africa to see Christian love in action, but just pop down to the local SVP soup run and that the 'rich' West also needs God!
Anyway, click here for the full article.
'I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.
But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.'
...and so, it seems, is my ability to consume all types of 'Boxing Day' booze.
Just before Christmas I was having conversations with my band about the Universe, thinking to myself and saying to them: "Well, how big is the Universe? If the Universe is this round table, then what is on the other side of the ledge? If you had a spaceship and flew it as far as you could from the centre of the table, how far could you go and would you ever hit a 'wall'? What is on the other side of the 'wall'?" None of us had the answer as you can imagine! But if you believe in God you do start to marvel at His Creation a little every now and then and think, 'How on earth did all this happen and where does His Creation end!?'
We look at the stars, we stare out to space and we wonder, 'How far does it go?' I suppose what I was saying was, does the created Universe have an end and if it has an end, where does it end, and if it ends, what is there and if nothing is there, what is nothing in comparison to something? The main driving force of what I am saying is that, for all we know it could be infinite.
I read an excerpt from a CTS booklet on St John of the Cross recently which really struck me. Then I have read recently a few quotes by Saints on love which have struck me again and again. The Saints in question were basically saying in a nutshell that God's love is infinite, therefore whatever we think we possess in terms of love is finite, because it is conditional, because we are human and frail. Yet, because we are adopted sons and daughters of God, the capacity to love is infinite. It is never a case of, 'job's a good 'un'. For our task of Love is never complete! It never can be as long as we are on this earth! What we do on earth, what love we have, is always incomplete, for we are not wholly united to God in Heaven and see not yet the Beatific Vision.
The gist of it is that because we are human our love is weak, can never be as God's love, nothing so pure, nothing so forgiving and nothing so holy, yet because we are asking for God's Grace, to be channels of His peace, we are still instruments of His love. Yet, through prayer the Saints realised that because God's love is Infinite, an unending expanse of Divine Love, then so too, our potential and our capability to love is Infinite.
For according to the teaching of Holy Mother Church, we are made in His image and likeness! And this is what kept mystical Saints going! As St Paul said, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."
If the created Universe is infinite, then it would be fitting in terms of man's relationship with the Creator, because for us who have been created also, the Uncreated One, the Creator, is Infinite. Love Itself is Infinite!
How do we know that Love is infinite? How?
Why because of Christmas Day!
Brothers and sisters, the Incarnation and the Virgin Birth of our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ shows us that we, who are but a pin prick of God's Creation (and the Earth itself is but a pin prick of God's Creation) have been graced by the Creator of all, the Maker of the entire Universe: God, in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has chosen to dwell among us at a point in human history! Us! We who were and are but a miniscule portion of Creation! We who would be an easily forgotten fragment of what God has created, were God not Love Itself, have been graced by the Presence of the Uncreated, 'Begotten, not made', God! Yes! God did not forget us and God has not forgotten us still! The Maker of all has become Man, and not just Man, but a tiny Baby and from conception to death led a human existence, identifying Himself with and joining Himself to, us!
Is there anything more that God could have done? No! The Incarnation alone would prove that God's love for Man was infinite. But that is not all! How then do we also know that the Love of God and God's love, is infinite? Not only has the Maker of all that exists been born on Earth, in the poverty of the stable, but He has lived a human life, suffered and died for our sakes, on account of our sins!
How do we also know that the Love of God and God's love, is infinite? Not only has the Maker of all that exists been born on Earth, in the poverty of the stable, has lived, suffered and died for our sakes, on account of our sins, but He has established His Holy Catholic Church, whereby mankind has recourse to the Infinite Love and Mercy of God!
How do we also know that the Love of God and God's love, is infinite? Not only has the Maker of all that exists been born on Earth, in the poverty of the stable, lived, suffered and died for our sakes, on account of our sins, has established His Holy Catholic Church, whereby mankind has recourse to the Infinite Love and Mercy of God, but He has instituted the Sacraments of Grace, of Baptism, making us His adopted sons and daughters, and of Reconcilliation, whereby all mankind could receive the Absolution of our sins by Confession!
How then do we also know that the Love of God, God's love, is infinite? Not only has the Maker of all that exists been born on Earth, in the poverty of the stable, lived, suffered and died for our sakes, on account of our sins, established His Holy Catholic Church, whereby mankind has recourse to the Infinite Love and Mercy of God, instituted the Sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation, but He also has left us Himself at the behest of the Priest, under the guise of Bread and Wine, to dwell within our very souls, so dear to Him that we are!
Out of all of His vast Creation, He wants to dwell in the souls of men and women, to heal us, cleanse us, purify us and aid us in being like Him in love, because we alone in the Universe are made in His image and likeness! Out of all of Creation, that is the dignity He to which He has raised us! Ultimately, His Birth signals not just God's solidarity with us, but His desire to be with us, from within! This is through the Holy Eucharist! Out of all Creation, God has been born, lived, died, raised and has ascended to Heaven for the chief purpose of being in me, in you and in every man, woman and child on Earth. When we go to Holy Communion, we receive God Himself! The God whose home is Heaven, the God whose home became the womb of the Virgin, the God whose home became the stable in Bethlehem, and later Nazareth, now wants to make a home in our hearts and souls! How much more could God love us? I tell you that He could not love us any more! There is no wall!
So you see, God, Maker of all things seen and unseen, God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, God, Maker of the Universe, by His Incarnation, by His Virgin Birth, by His Earthly Ministry, by His Cross, Resurrection and Ascension, by His Institution of the One True Church on the rock of St Peter, by His Institution of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confession and the Holy Eucharist, by His Ascension to the Heavenly Father and by His conferring the Holy Spirit to the Church at Pentecost has shown us that He is Infinite. The Earth, the Universe itself could not contain God, yet God was contained in the Virgin's womb. The Earth, the Universe itself could not contain God, yet God became Man! The Earth, the Universe itself, could not contain God, yet now God dwells in the souls of men, women and children who receive Him!
And that is why I have already, even though it is only St Stephen's Day, removed all the Christmas cards which I have received which did not bear an image of our Maker and Redeemer or a sign of such from my room. It is not because I do not see them as signs of affection or love, for they are. But they do not do the Holy Feast of Christmas justice! For on Christmas Day we recall that God, Maker of all, deigned to be born in the poverty of the stable. The cards which remain bear witness to the Incarnation, Birth or Glory of God in His Angels and Saints, witness to the God born for us, us whom God could so easily have forgotten and left to death in the depths of space and time. The very least we can do, as human beings, who have been made in His image and likeness to love Him and serve Him, is to honour Him!
Friday 26 December 2008
Courtesy of Catholic Online
A Sermon of St Fulgentius of Ruspe: The Armour of Love
"Yesterday we celebrated the birth in time of our eternal King. Today we celebrate the triumphant suffering of his soldier.Yesterday our king, clothed in his robe of flesh, left his place in the virgin’s womb and graciously visited the world. Today his soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.
Our king, despite his exalted majesty, came in humility for our sake; yet he did not come empty-handed. He brought his soldiers a great gift that not only enriched them but also made them unconquerable in battle, for it was the gift of love, which was to bring men to share in his divinity. He gave of his bounty, yet without any loss to himself. In a marvellous way he changed into wealth the poverty of his faithful followers while remaining in full possession of his own inexhaustible riches.
And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbour made him pray for those who were stoning him.
Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.
Now at last, Paul rejoices with Stephen, with Stephen he delights in the glory of Christ, with Stephen he exalts, with Stephen he reigns. Stephen went first, slain by the stones thrown by Paul, but Paul followed after, helped by the prayer of Stephen. This, surely, is the true life, my brothers, a life in which Paul feels no shame because of Stephen’s death, and Stephen delights in Paul’s companionship, for love fills them both with joy. It was Stephen’s love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob, and it was Paul’s love that covered the multitude of his sins; it was love that won for both of them the kingdom of heaven.
Love, indeed, is the source of all good things; it is an impregnable defence,- and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray nor be afraid: love guides him, protects him, and brings him to his journey’s end.
My brothers, Christ made love the stairway that would enable all Christians to climb to heaven. Hold fast to it, therefore, in all sincerity, give one another practical proof of it, and by your progress in it, make your ascent together."
An excerpt from 'The Mirror of Perfection'
When a certain Minister of the friars had come to blessed Francis to celebrate the feast of Christmas with him in the friars's dwelling at Rieti, the friars, because of the Minister and the feast, laid out the table a little worshipfully and choicely on that Christmas Day, putting on fair and white napery and glass vessels. But the blessed Father coming down from his cell to eat, saw the tables placed on high, and so choicely laid out. Then forthwith he went secretly, and took the staff and wallet of a certain poor man who had come thither that day, and calling to him with a low voice one of his fellows, went out to the door of the dwelling, the brethren of the house not knowing of it.
The friars in the meantime had entered to the table. For the blessed Father had ordered that the friars should not wait for him, when he did not come straightaway at meal-time. And when he had stood a little while outside, he knocked at the door and forthwith his fellow opened to him, and coming with his wallet behind his back and his stick in his hand, he went to the door of the room in which the friars were eating like a pilgrim and a pauper and called out, saying, "For the love of the Lord God, give an alms to this poor and infirm pilgrim."
But the Minister and the friars knew him straightaway. And the Minister answered him: "Brother, we are also poor, and since we be many, the alms we have be necessary to us. But for the love of that Lord Whom thou hast named, enter the house and we will give you of the alms which the Lord hast given to us."
And when he had entered and stood before the table of the friars, the Minister gave him the platter in which he was eating and bread likewise. And humbly accepting it he sat down next the fire in the presence of the friars sitting at the table. And sighing he said to the friars: "When I saw the table worshipfully and sumptuously laid out, I thought within myself it was not the table of poor religious who daily go from door to door for alms. For it becomes us, dearest, more than other religious to follow the example of the humility and poverty of Christ, because we are professed and called to this before God and men. Whence it seems that I now sit as a Friar Minor, for the feasts of the Lord and of other saints are rather honoured with the want and poverty by which those saints conquered Heaven for themselves, than with the elegance and superfluity by which they be made distant from Heaven."
But the friars were ashamed considering he was speaking the pure truth. And some of them began to weep greatly, seeing how he was sitting on the earth, and that he would correct and instruct them in so holy and pure a wise. For he admonished the friars that they should have such humble and decent tables that by them the worldly might be edified. And if any poor man should come and be invited by the friars that he might sit as an equal beside them, and not the poor man on the earth and the friars on high.
Talk about killing a party! Still, St Francis clearly was interested not so much in worldly joy, but holy joy, the joy that comes from God, from serving Him and reflecting His Beauty, His Humility, His Lowliness and His Poverty.
Thursday 25 December 2008
Midnight Mass tonight was wonderful, but tainted by sin, as a friend who I invited, a poor man, a friend who came to Mass for the first time, having weighed it up for 20 minutes before, who knows little or nothing of the Catholic faith, was forcibly removed from the Church for apparently singing too loudly by one of our parishioners who seemingly has taken it upon himself to be the Church bouncer. Not only was he subjected to the humiliation of being forcibly removed, but then had his head struck against the wall outside the Church and now has a big bruise. I think one of our parishioners not only has a strong devotion to St Michael, but literally thinks he is doing his job for him. Please pray for both of them.
Christmas Day Homily of St Leo the Great
Courtesy of Catholic Online
"Dearly beloved, today our Saviour is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.
No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life.
In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind.
And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy:
Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to men of good will as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvellous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?
Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ, so that in him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh.
Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom.
Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ."
Wednesday 24 December 2008
The liberal media, which does seem to be highly influential nowadays in terms of informing public opinion, is up in arms about Pope Benedict XVI's comments reaffirming Church teaching that mankind needs salvation from the seeds of his own self-destruction.
You know we have a good Pope, when, every now and then, he says something that makes people flap about and call the Church evil. If people weren't flapping about and were saying, 'isn't the Church lovely and nice about everything' then we would know we had a counterfeit, rather than the real deal.
Our Blessed Lord promised the Apostles that He would be with His Church until the End of Time. He also promised that when St Peter and the Apostles preached, the World would reject them because the World could not accept the Son of God. "Whoever hears you, hears me", He said to the Apostles. St Paul recognised this in his letters when he said that to many the Cross was a "stumbling block".
It is sad and tragic that in the 21st century, when the Pope speaks of a crisis of marriage and family life and of a cultural phenomenom of sexual sterility, nearly everyone starts jumping up and down and bleating that this means His Holiness 'hates gays, transgendered people and lesbians'.
Aside from the fact that not a single 'sexual orientation minority' was actually named in his speech, the liberal media are so stung with apoplectic outrage, they are unable to appreciate the Holy Father's wisdom and profound reflection on God's paternal love for humanity and for its welfare.
The wisdom of the Holy Father's mirroring of Man and Ecology is twofold:
Firstly, the Holy Father is suggesting that within Man are the seeds of his own self-destruction. Man wills what is good but is wounded and as human beings inheriting a fragile, fallen human nature, we fail so often to make the right choice. So, in the first case he is only reaffirming what we all knew the Church has always said, 'Mankind needs salvation.' Salvation in the Church is not a one-off event but a life-long journey of Grace.
Secondly, the Holy Father is suggesting that the cultural phenomenom of 'gender theories' are problematic and in danger of putting Man at the centre of Creation, rather than God. At a time when even certain Bishops are going off-message and doubting the validity of Humanae Vitae and the Sacraments, His Holiness is holding fast to the Magisterium. For society to reject God's law and replace it with its own is understandable, but what is the fruit? The fruit is chaos and ultimately, if pursued to its end, childlessness. Put very simply, the human race, if it does not procreate will remain unfulfilled of its true vocation and will die.
An analogy: If, say for Christmas, a friend buys me three rabbits, two male and one female, and the male rabbits decide that they prefer getting it on with each other, rather than with the female, after a few years I won't have any rabbits at all. Not only is Mrs Rabbit unhappy and unfulfilled, wanting, as she does quite rightly, to be at it incessantly and breed like rabbits, but Mr Rabbit A, busy getting it on with Mr Rabbit B, will never be a father. All three will remain a bit unhappy and my rabbit selling business is very short lived indeed. What is more, I won't even be able to blame it on the credit crunch...All I'll be able to blame it on is the fact that Mr Rabbit A and Mr Rabbit B are so concerned with their 'gender theories' that they've forgotten about the future of the Rabbit population and my ill-conceived business venture.
While it is true to say that when it comes to 'deep-seated homosexual tendencies', the Church does not encourage people with such tendencies to marry, the danger of societies succumbing to a 'gay culture' and of promoting or glorifying it, is that we raise sexuality to such a height that it becomes an idol to which we bow down, instead of bowing down to the Triune God, who alone is worthy of all our love.
Many people are saying, "the Pope has said this, and at Christmas too...how awful!" I cannot think of a more apt time for His Holiness to reaffirm the need for us to pause and reflect, not on our own cultural issues, complex as they are, but to pause and reflect on the Incarnation and the birth of the Saviour of us all. God has become Man! A little Baby, born of the Virgin has come into the World! The Word has been made flesh! If that does not have a real impact on how we view ourselves, how we view each other and how we view the future of the human race, then I don't know what can!
God bless Pope Benedict XVI, a voice in the wilderness, preparing a way for the Lord, awaiting the coming of the Babe who teaches us the truth about God and the truth about Man.
Saturday 20 December 2008
A traveller one day found a long road and at the side of the road was a sign saying, ‘The Road to Heaven’. ‘My God!’ he exclaimed, ‘this is the Road that I have been searching for all my life!’ He looked up into the Heavens and thanked God with all his heart.
‘Nothing,’ he thought to himself, ‘nothing can deter me from this Road, for this is the Road to Heaven’.
He had been walking just a mile when he a mist descended on the Road. He could see just a yard in front of him and began to exclaim, ‘My God, where am I?’ A few moments later the mist began to lift and he could see the road open up before him again. It did not appear to be very different only slightly broader. In fact, the road appeared more easy. He felt as if after the mist had lifted greatly and in fact the gradient of the road was at a more comfortable angle.
He travelled just a little while longer when suddenly he noticed a small wooden booth at the side of the road. ‘How odd,’ he thought, for the road had been largely deserted. He approached the booth and inside was a Man.
He could not see him well, but he could tell from his voice that he was a Man, when the Man said to him;
“What are you looking for, my son?”
The traveller answered, ‘this is the Road to Heaven, isn’t it?’
‘The Road to Heaven?” the Man answered, “I will show you, but first, tell me what happened.”
The two men talked a while. After they had finished talking the traveller let himself out of the booth. The Man also got out with him and said to him,
“See this road you were walking, this is not the Road to Heaven. Don’t be ashamed, lots of people get lost on the Road to Heaven and you must have taken a wrong turning when the mist descended. Look over there at that Road. That, son, is the Road to Heaven.”
The traveller exclaimed, “You are right! There it is, O thank you so much.”
The Man replied, “Go in peace. I will see you soon.”
The traveller left him and continued along the right path on the Road to Heaven, still wondering how it could be that he would see the Man soon, when all he seemed to do was sit in the booth while he was walking straight ahead away from him. He continued to walk along the Road. He felt peaceful and at rest as if a burden had been removed from him by the Man in the booth. The sounds of birds singing filled the air and his heart was light with joy.
A couple of miles down the Road he approached what looked like a thicket. The Road narrowed greatly and appeared to be more uncomfortable. In the thicket there were tall plants and grasses and the Path, which had narrowed, grew less visible to his eyes, which were dimmed slightly through sweat that rolled down from his forehead.
“Ouch!” he exclaimed, when the leg of his trousers was cut by a thorn bush. He saw out of the corner of his eye a pathway through the thicket leading out into what looked like clear sky.
‘I will take that pathway, because it appears to be clearer than this’, he thought to himself.
The pathway curved around slightly, he could see in the distance.
‘I’m sure this pathway will lead onto the right Road again’, he thought. He started to walk along it and soon enough he emerged from the thicket and was back on a road.
It widened more and more and soon enough he was back on the open road. He felt free again and liberated from the difficulties he had been experiencing. He was limping though, for in the struggles he had experienced on the Road he had injured himself. He walked just a hundred yards more when he saw a booth, very similar to the one he had seen near the beginning of his journey.
He approached the booth and knocked on it.
“Come in,” he heard a voice say gently. He recognised the voice as being the same Man who had helped him the first time.
“Hello, I didn’t expect to see you again, but I got lost,” said the traveller. “I got entangled in a thicket. The Road that you showed me was hard and I think I may have taken a wrong turning because that road seemed easier.”
“I understand,” said the Man, “Look you have injured yourself, you have a wound son and you are bleeding. Here I have bandages on my person. Let me heal you.”
The traveller was overcome by the generosity and compassion of the Man,
“O thank you for finding me again. He began to cry and said, “I’m sorry, how foolish of me to get lost like that and take the easy path out.”
The Man looked upon the traveller with pity and said, “Nobody said the Road to Heaven was easy, but look, I am here for you and I found you.”
They left the booth together and the Man looked at him and saw that the traveller was hungry. In his hands he held some Bread and some Wine.
“You must be hungry and thirsty,” said the Man.
“Yes, yes I am,” said the traveller.
“Here, take this and eat” the Man said gently as he gave the traveller some Bread.
The traveller ate the Bread and was satisfied.
“Now, said the Man, take this Wine and drink from it.”
The traveller drank the Wine and it tasted good. After he had eaten the Bread and drank the Wine he felt stronger and read to walk the Road once more.
He left the booth thankful in his heart to the Man and lighter of foot, he felt the wound in his leg less painful and looked out onto the Road to Heaven, which shone with a bright sun on the horizon, clear and bright, lined with beautiful trees. He walked down it.
‘Ah yes,’ he thought to himself, ‘this is the Road to Heaven, I recognise it now.’
He breathed in the clean, fresh air of the Road and marvelled at all of Creation.
The Road narrowed again and he began to feel a drop of rain, the night was drawing in, the wind began to grow stronger than the gentle breeze he had felt earlier. Small droplets of water soon became big ones, trees by the side of the road swayed in the stormy weather, he went to shelter underneath one, but lightning flashed and struck it before he could shelter there. The traveller felt cold and alone, shivering in the dark night while rain lashed down upon him. He struggled on but the energy he was using up trying to walk this road was soon taking its toll. He felt his legs give way beneath him several times and fell down onto the hard ground upon which his tired feet stumbled.
It was then that out of the corner of his eye, he saw a road. It was lit by lights which looked appealing because this Road he was travelling was so dark in the night and he could see that the ground on the pathway he saw to the side of the road was dry. He scrambled over towards it and walked down it. It was dry, yes, but his clothes remained sodden wet. He sat down a while, rested and then got up.
‘Yes,’ he thought to himself, ‘at some point I must have taken a wrong turning, for that Road was so hard, it cannot have been the Road to Heaven. It was so stormy and windy, so narrow and fierce. This must be the right road for me.’
He walked on along this dimly lit and more comfortable path but began to feel sad, for even though he had been on the Road which was narrow and hard, stormy and rainy, difficult, he had taken a different path the last time only to realise it was the wrong one. Suddenly, in the dry, dimly lit pathway he was now upon, a road that seemed to have no horizon, a road that seemed to lead to darkness, an easy road, that seemed to go nowhere, he began to feel pangs of pain in his heart. His conscience pricked at him and he felt terribly alone.
‘Where is the Man, who helps me now and who always puts me back on the Road to Heaven?!’ he thought to himself. ‘This road may be comfortable but it is going nowhere! I’ve deceived myself and have been deceived! I left the narrow road I was on and now I know not where I am going!’
In the distance he could see a wooden booth. ‘There!’ he exclaimed. ‘There it is, there is the Man who will rescue me!’ He hastened over to the booth which was now just yards away. The Man came out of the booth and ran towards him.
He heard the Man shout aloud towards him, “My son, what is wrong!?”
‘Master!’ cried the traveller and when he met him fell at his feet upon his knees. ‘Master, the Road you showed me to travel was too hard. I was alone and knew not what to do! I was alone and it was hard, it was narrow and too difficult for me on my own, I grew weary and weak in the storm! I saw this path, this other road and took it because it was easier and now the Road to Heaven that I was on, I know not how to get back to it, for behind me the Road to Heaven has disappeared! What a fool I am, for I took the easy way out! I’m a coward and a weak man!”
The Man, who now looked upon the traveller with tender pity knelt down to him and took him in his arms. The traveller wept upon his shoulder and poured out the tears of pain and guilt that emanated from his poor and tired heart.
The traveller still had his eyes closed when he heard the Man say in a voice more gentle and pure than any he had ever heard say,
“My son, I know the Road so well, because I have walked it myself. I made the Road to Heaven and I know how hard it is, but be of good cheer. I am with you and at the end of the Road is a special place for you, a place of great joy. You will be there and I will be there. Yes, I am your Best Friend and at the end of the Road we shall be reunited for evermore. There at the end of the Road there will be no more tears, no more suffering and no more heartache. But, son, do not be ashamed of losing sight of it sometimes, because every time you get lost and follow a different road, I will find you and put you back on the Road to Heaven.
“You must be hungry and thirsty,” said the Man.
“Yes, yes I am,” said the traveller.
“Here, take this and eat” the Man said gently as he gave the traveller some Bread.
The traveller ate the Bread and was satisfied.
“Now, said the Man, take this Wine and drink from it.”
The traveller drank the Wine and it tasted good. After he had eaten the Bread and drank the Wine he felt stronger and read to walk the Road once more.
"...Indeed, having received the gift of love, husband and wife are called in turn to give themselves to each other without reserve. Only in this way are the acts proper and exclusive to spouses truly acts of love which, while they unite them in one flesh, build a genuine personal communion. Therefore, the logic of the totality of the gift intrinsically configures conjugal love and, thanks to the sacramental outpouring of the Holy Spirit, becomes the means to achieve authentic conjugal charity in their own life.
The possibility of procreating a new human life is included in a married couple's integral gift of themselves. Since, in fact, every form of love endeavours to spread the fullness on which it lives, conjugal love has its own special way of communicating itself: the generation of children. Thus it not only resembles but also shares in the love of God who wants to communicate himself by calling the human person to life. Excluding this dimension of communication through an action that aims to prevent procreation means denying the intimate truth of spousal love, with which the divine gift is communicated: "If the mission of generating life is not to be exposed to the arbitrary will of men, one must necessarily recognize insurmountable limits to the possibility of man's domination over his own body and its functions; limits which no man, whether a private individual or one invested with authority, may licitly surpass" (Humanae Vitae, n. 17). This is the essential nucleus of the teaching that my Venerable Predecessor Paul VI addressed to married couples and which the Servant of God John Paul ii, in turn, reasserted on many occasions, illuminating its anthropological and moral basis.
Forty years after the Encyclical's publication we can understand better how decisive this light was for understanding the great "yes" that conjugal love involves. In this light, children are no longer the objective of a human project but are recognized as an authentic gift, to be accepted with an attitude of responsible generosity toward God, the first source of human life. This great "yes" to the beauty of love certainly entails gratitude, both of the parents in receiving the gift of a child, and of the child himself, in knowing that his life originates in such a great and welcoming love.
It is true, moreover, that serious circumstances may develop in the couple's growth which make it prudent to space out births or even to suspend them. And it is here that knowledge of the natural rhythms of the woman's fertility becomes important for the couple's life. The methods of observation which enable the couple to determine the periods of fertility permit them to administer what the Creator has wisely inscribed in human nature without interfering with the integral significance of sexual giving. In this way spouses, respecting the full truth of their love, will be able to modulate its expression in conformity with these rhythms without taking anything from the totality of the gift of self that union in the flesh expresses. Obviously, this requires maturity in love which is not instantly acquired but involves dialogue and reciprocal listening, as well as a special mastery of the sexual impulse in a journey of growth in virtue."
Friday 19 December 2008
The Rt Rev Bishop Kieran Conry, Bishop of Arundel and Brighton
Damien Thompson has posted a highly controversial blog on Holy Smoke. I'm not into bashing the Bishops of England and Wales on this blog, as I am never convinced it really helps the Church that much. However, an interview with His Lordship the Rt Rev Bishop Kieran Conry, on the Catholic Herald website, is worthy of some critical reading and analysis. Read the interview here.
Some important issues leap out of this interview:
1. His Lordship, during the interview, seems to suggest that the emphasis in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass should be on the community, over and above the reverence and worship befitting for Almighty God.
How much more love do people have for each other and how much more a sense of Christian community, when their devotion to God and reverence for Him, in the silence of holy prayer and in truly praying the Mass, increases?!
However, when told that the Rt Rev Bishop O'Donoghue, Bishop of Lancaster and author of 'Fit for Mission. Church', said worship is not primarily about community, he responded, "It is! It's the action of the people, it's the action of the community. There are two points at which the person in the community says 'I' in the Mass, the rest of the time all the prayers say 'we'. The opening word [of the Creed] is pistuomen, 'we believe', because again the Nicene Creed was expressing the belief of the Church, we believe this, this and this. The only time in which the word 'I' is used, really, is 'I am not worthy to have you under my roof' and at the beginning: 'I am sorry'."
2. His Lordship says he isn't against the Latin Mass and doesn't block it, but at the same time appears to actively promote a modern, 'Youth Mass'. On balance, therefore, the interview suggests that his enthusiasm for 'modern' worship seems to outweigh his desire to fulfil the wishes of the Holy Father in gently encouraging Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
The Holy Father has made it quite clear in Summorum Pontificum that in this age of uncertainty, distraction and lack of devotion, Mass in the Extraordinary Form is a key way to increase the reverence, faith and devotion of the Faithful. Furthermore, it is well-documented that people both young and old, when exposed to TLM find in it something totally 'other', something holy and mysterious. His Lordship makes it seem as if he is impartial on the issue, but his comments and actions say otherwise. The important question is this: Is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass about what we want (and let's face it, we often want what is not good for us) or about God?
When asked on his views, however, His Lordship answered: "If you look at Summorum Pontificum it doesn't suggest significant change. Really because [the Tridentine Mass] does cater for such a small group, it would be inappropriate to stick it onto a Sunday morning in a parish where most people would say: 'We don't really want this.' That's why the Pope will say: 'Have it, but not as part of your standard Sunday repertoire.'"
3. His Lordship seems to publicly muddy the profoundly vital, life-giving waters of Humanae Vitae (On Human Life), possibly the single most prophetic and important encyclical of the 20th Century, published by Pope Paul XI in 1968.
This document stresses the importance of marriage, condemns abortion and the culture of death, vehemently discourages artificial birth control and promotes the true dignity of human relationships.
When asked, "Was Humanae Vitae a mistake?" His Lordship answered, "I don't know. I don't know. But at the same time we've seen the disastrous effects of the devaluing of sexual relationships, to say they don't mean anything, which has had catastrophic effects on society, catastrophic effects on the value of women."
4. When asked whether it is a good idea to go to Confession regularly, I was surprised to read that His Lordship answered negatively. This is the first occasion when I have heard a figure of authority in the Church make comments which may, if read literally, discourage the Faithful from receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Many of us struggle with our sins daily, weekly, monthly and often find ourselves going back to our parish priest with the same list, sometimes worse than the last. We need encouragement, we need forgiveness, we need Grace, we need the Sacraments of God.
The Saints often wrote of the many Graces bestowed by and great merit of, regular Confession, in terms of absolving and freeing us of our sins, being united more closely to God, increasing in humility and devotion and in making spiritual progress in the Love of God. The secondary, but no less important implication of His Lordship's comments is that it could encourage the Faithful to receive our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist without being in a State of Grace.
When asked, however, whether regular Confession was something to be encouraged, His Lordship answered: "No, because my own experience when we had Confession every day at St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham was that regular penitents came back with exactly the same words week after week. So there you would say, actually, there is no conversion taking place."
5. The hearts of young people are won over by Truth and Love, the proclamation of the Gospel in fullness of Truth, rather than platitudes and an overly patronising view of them that you can only win their hearts to loving and serving Christ by talking about the environment and matters of social conscience.
Look at how many young people attended Mass when Pope Benedict XVI was in Sydney and the US, and the way young people always respond to him and did respond to the late Pope John Paul the Great, both unswerving in proclaiming the Fullness of Truth on sin and salvation! The tangible sense of dissatisfaction apparent in young people stems from the fact that hedonism, sexual promiscuity and materialism make nobody, young or not so young, particularly happy. These things may gratify us temporarily but by no means spiritually not in this life and certainly not in the next.
In response to the question: 'Could the Church be more radical? Talk about the serious questions - repentance, salvation?' the Bishop answered: "You can't talk to young people about salvation. What's salvation? What does salvation mean? My eternal soul? You can only talk to young people in young people's language, really. And if you're going to talk to them about salvation, the first thing they will understand is saving the planet. You're talking about being saved and they will say: 'What about saving the planet?'"
As a lay Catholic in the Diocese of Arundel of Brighton, I and my brothers and sisters give due respect to the Office and Apostolic Authority of the Bishop. Neither I, nor anybody I know, suggest that His Lordship is of suspect character. Some of his comments in the article, however, are alarming because they do not appear to emphatically, but humbly, reflect the Magisterium of the One True Church. Hopefully, he will clarify his true view in the days ahead to avoid the growing sense of confusion and alarm among Catholics, in this Diocese and beyond, caused by this interview. As Shepherd of the entire flock of Arundel and Brighton, Priests and Laity, His Lordship can be assured of my prayers and I am sure the prayers of many concerned Catholics nationwide.
Pope St Gregory the Great predicted that when Antichrist appears, not only Laity but hoards of Priests and Bishops would go over to him. We need our Bishops to be utterly Faithful in their Teaching to the Magisterium of the One True Church whilst proclaiming God's inexhaustible love and mercy for us all.
This excerpt from Humanae Vitae seems a particulary appropriate conclusion to this post: "For the Church cannot adopt towards mankind a different attitude from that of the divine Redeemer. She knows their weakness; she has compassion on the multitudes; she welcomes sinners. But at the same time she cannot do otherwise than teach the law. For it is in fact the law of human life restored to its native truth and led by the Spirit of God."
Thursday 18 December 2008
Courtesy of Wikipedia. The Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence is a painting from 1609 by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio. This gorgeous painting was stolen on October 16, 1969 from the Oratory of San Lorenzo in Palermo, Sicily. The Nativity is today the most famous unrecovered stolen painting and the FBI continue to list the work on their art thefts listings site quoting its value at $20 million. Worth is a moot point as the notoriety of the masterpiece makes it unsaleable.
Fr William Saunders wrote this sermon on the story of St Francis and the Nativity.
The story of the origin of the Christmas creche rests with the very holy man, St. Francis of Assisi.
In the year 1223, St. Francis, a deacon, was visiting the town of Grecio to celebrate Christmas. Grecio was a small town built on a mountainside overlooking a beautiful valley. The people had cultivated the fertile area with vineyards. St. Francis realized that the chapel of the Franciscan hermitage would be too small to hold the congregation for Midnight Mass. So he found a niche in the rock near the town square and set up the altar. However, this Midnight Mass would be very special, unlike any other Midnight Mass.
St. Bonaventure (d. 1274) in his Life of St. Francis of Assisi tells the story the best:
It happened in the third year before his death, that in order to excite the inhabitants of Grecio to commemorate the nativity of the Infant Jesus with great devotion, St. Francis determined to keep it with all possible solemnity; and lest he should be accused of lightness or novelty, he asked and obtained the permission of the sovereign Pontiff. Then he prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and an ass to the place appointed. The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many and brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise. The man of God, St. Francis, stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy; the Holy Gospel was chanted by Francis, the Levite of Christ. Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor King; and being unable to utter His name for the tenderness of His love, He called Him the Babe of Bethlehem. A certain valiant and veracious soldier, Master John of Grecio, who, for the love of Christ, had left the warfare of this world, and become a dear friend of this holy man, affirmed that he beheld an Infant marvellously beautiful, sleeping in the manger, Whom the blessed Father Francis embraced with both his arms, as if he would awake Him from sleep. This vision of the devout soldier is credible, not only by reason of the sanctity of him that saw it, but by reason of the miracles which afterwards confirmed its truth. For example of Francis, if it be considered by the world, is doubtless sufficient to excite all hearts which are negligent in the faith of Christ; and the hay of that manger, being preserved by the people, miraculously cured all diseases of cattle, and many other pestilences; God thus in all things glorifying his servant, and witnessing to the great efficacy of his holy prayers by manifest prodigies and miracles.
Although the story is long old, the message is clear for us. Our own Nativity scenes which rest under our Christmas trees are a visible reminder of that night when our Saviour was born. May we never forget to see in our hearts the little Babe of Bethlehem, who came to save us from sin. We must never forget that the wood of the manger that held Him so securely would one day give way to the Wood of the Cross. May we too embrace Him with all of our love as did St. Francis.
When the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill was being debated and then passed, a petition was drawn up and sent, signed by over 2,000 signatories, to ask Her Majesty The Queen to refuse Royal Assent to the monsterous bill. The response from Buckingham Palace was unfortunately negative.
Now a new e-petition has been drawn up in support of the Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, who is bravely refusing to give his Royal Assent to a new bill legalising euthanasia in his country. Gerard Warner on his Telegraph blog states that, 'on December 4 the Grand Duke declared himself unable to promulgate the euthanasia law "for reasons of conscience".'
'The law...will allow doctors to kill patients diagnosed as "terminally ill" at the patient's request, supported by two physicians and a panel of "experts".' The Grand Duke’s action has triggered what some have called a "grave constitutional crisis" as the parliament moves to strip the duke of his constitutional power to sanction law.
Click the link here to sign a petition in support of the courageous Duke.
Remember to validate it afterwards when they send you an email to do so. I got mine in my bulk mail so check there if it isn't in your inbox.
Wednesday 17 December 2008
Here is a lovely quote from St Hippolytus, Early Church Father, which I included in a few Christmas cards I sent this year. Now this is the true meaning of Christmas:
God was all alone and nothing existed but Himself when He determined to create the World. He thought of it, willed it, spoke the word and so made it. It came into being instantaneously, exactly as He had willed. It is enough then for us to be aware of a single fact: nothing is co-eternal with God. Apart from God there was simply nothing else. Yet, although He was alone, He was manifold because He lacked neither reason, wisdom, power nor counsel. All things were in Him and He Himself was all. At a moment of his own choosing and in a manner determined by Himself, God manifested his Word, and through Him he made the whole Universe.
When the Word was hidden within God Himself He was invisible to the created World, but God made Him visible. First God gave utterance to His voice, engendering light from light, and then He sent His own mind into the World as its Lord. Visible before to God alone and not to the world, God made Him visible so that the World could be saved by seeing Him. This mind that entered our World was made known as the Son of God. All things came into being through Him; but He alone is begotten by the Father.
St Hippolytus, Early Church Father
Thursday 11 December 2008
As my good friend Joseph has always said, "Man proposes, God disposes."
A small band of brothers renounce all possessions save for their musical instruments.
They take vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience to the Magisterium of the Church.
They live on the streets of Brighton as the homeless.
They sing and play for alms.
They devote their time to prayer, singing songs, going to Mass and witness to the Gospel by living among the homeless of Brighton.
They play chess with the homeless and offer them friendship in Brighton and live as beggars.
The people of Brighton are astonished by their charity and their music and lifestyle.
They are fed and watered by the soup run.
Money made from begging goes to the poor of the Church and the Building Fund.
Each brother has his own sleeping bag.
Their radical lifestyle attracts new brothers because Brighton is a town of alternative lifestyles.
The order is endorsed by the Pope.
They follow in the footsteps of St Francis and go to Heaven.
Is this a good idea? Answers on a postcard, please, or failing that, the comments section. A couple of months and I am of no fixed abode anyhow.
El Greco's 'Christ Carrying the Cross'
I've just been speaking with a new friend who I have made through busking called, for the purpose of this blog, Nicholas. He's very lovely and warm-hearted. I asked him in for a pint at a local and it was nearly closing time so we chatted for half an hour. It cropped up in conversation that I altar serve at St Mary Magdalen's on Sunday and he was interested to know more about it and the Catholic Faith in general, having just talked about a book he had been reading about ways of changing your life with spirituality. We talk regularly about our addictions, given that we, like all people do have to some degree or another, struggle with our vices. He said he had only had his first nights sleep in 5 days the other day, talked of the hallucinations he had been having as a result and the noises and the horrendous thoughts.
He is currently battling with heroin addiction and has been going cold turkey for a week now. I really admire him and his sensitivity to the spiritual. He's not Catholic, describes himself as agnostic, but spoke at length about the weight of the Cross that our Blessed Lord must have had to bear, how that gives him encouragement and when he thinks about Christ, thinks about how someone has borne something much greater than the trials we struggle with. How right he is...yet, even though it is said so much, each man has a Cross to bear. I have mine, and he has his and yes, we fall from time to time. The true manliness of Jesus Christ is His willingness to undergo intense and excruciating suffering for love of God and Mankind. Not only did his Most Sorrowful Passion open wide the Gates of Heaven, but gave us the Model by which to live our lives.
Some people think you will never find God in a pub. My friends, very often, He is, albeit more often begging outside. He is very poor and busks for what he can to live and eat. He says he wants to come to Mass on Sunday, said he would try to come. He said that the example of Jesus gives him hope that you can carry on, that people can take everything away from you, but they can never take your spirit, no matter how many blows they strike you with and that the example of Jesus gives him that consolation in his trials. He is a very humble, spiritual and beautiful individual. If there is one thing a man needs if he is giving up heroin, or indeed anything, it is Christ. Pray for him, pray that he may know His love and know that in Jesus we have one who we can turn to who says, 'Come to Me, all you who labour and are burdened. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart'.
Tuesday 9 December 2008
This is nothing other than the promotion of suicide by the mainstream media. For once, I am speechless. Who wants to actually watch this tragedy unfold!? What on earth is going on!?
Courtesy of Times Online
A former university professor with motor neurone disease will be seen ending his own life in a television documentary to be broadcast for the first time in the UK.
Craig Ewert travelled from his home in Harrogate to the Dignitas clinic in Zurich, Switzerland, accompanied by Mary, his wife of 37 years. There he is shown drinking a lethal dose of barbiturates through a straw, and using his mouth to turn off the switch to his ventilator. A doctor is seen checking his pulse and pronouncing him dead.
The decision to broadcast the documentary Right to Die on Sky television’s Real Lives channel tomorrow has been condemned by the television watchdog Mediawatch UK. For more click here.
Incredibly, 67% in a Times Online survey think it is right to screen footage of someone being killed at their request.
I've just been reading a piece on BBC News about a sex addiction clinic in the UK and I can say with my hand on my heart that I am a poor addict to many things, blogging being the least harmful. Programmes and courses which encourage people to change their lives and overcome addictions are a good thing, of that there can be no doubt, but if a man were an alcoholic, a sex addict, a romantic love addict and a nicotine addict (am I giving too much away!?) and wanted to go to a class to overcome all of these things, he would never get a night in at home in front of the TV.
The very fact that we want to change is a wonderful insight into our innate moral desire for Goodness. The Church does not and has never said that people are born bad, just that through Original Sin, that people are born wounded, but infinitely loveable and wonderful. The Sacramental Grace of Baptism and the life of Grace in the Church helps us to aim our lives towards Heaven, but God is not surprised by our sinfulness because we continue to struggle to choose Good over Evil. Our Lord does not make Saints overnight, but we look to the lives of the Saints as models for us to follow.
The Sacrament of Confession is where penitent sinners go to hand over their sins to God, to be healed and to once again resolve to 'sin no more', with the help of God's Grace. It seems to me that although all of these programmes are very good, they are lacking in one thing, which is the true healing and unconditional love and Grace that comes from Christ. For this is what every human heart really yearns for...the love, healing and forgiveness of God who has made us for Himself.
Here is a simple Act of Contrition which I pray every night and which is used in the Confessional before or while the Priest gives the Absolution.
O my God
I am very sorry that I have sinned against You
Because You are so good
And with Your help I will not sin again
The Church is a Hospital for Sinners and just like a hospital, if you're a bit ill, like all of us are, you're bound to be in and out every now and then. Like many sicknesses, some sins are mortal with the deadly potential to kill the soul. In hospital the remedy is medicine, in the Church the medicine is Confession.
RIP Daniel James
This is, of course, a tragic case. Nobody wishes to see the death of their own son. Unfortunately, however, this verdict is another victory for the Culture of Death, because the message it sends out is that if you want to pay for assisted suicide in another country that that is not a matter of the public interest and that if you assist someone in their suicide that it is not a matter worthy of criminal prosecution.
Daniel James, 23, was the youngest Briton to die at the Dignitas clinic, which he attended with his parents, Mark and Julie, who had admitted that they helped him end "a second-class existence".
A criminal investigation was launched on their return to the UK, but in a landmark decision, the Crown Prosecution Service said that it was not in the public interest to press charges against the couple.
Keir Starmer QC, Director of Public Prosecutions, said: "This is a tragic case involving as it does the death of a young man in difficult and unique circumstances. While there are public interest factors in favour of prosecution, not least of which is the seriousness of this offence, I have determined that these are outweighed by the public interest factors that say that a prosecution is not needed.
"I would point to the fact that Daniel, as a fiercely independent young man, was not influenced by his parents to take his own life and the evidence indicates he did so despite their imploring him not to. I send my condolences to Daniel's family and friends."
The student's death renewed the controversy about assisted suicides. More than 100 Britons have travelled to the Dignitas clinic, although most are in the final stages of a terminal illness. No relatives have been prosecuted and it is believed that this is the first time the CPS have considered a file on the "aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the suicide of another" relating to the Digitas clinic.
Daniel, a former schoolboy international, was paralysed from the chest down after his spine was dislocated when a scrum collapsed while training with Nuneaton Rugby Club in March last year. His condition is not believed to have been terminal and he is understood to have made some progress in regaining the use of his fingers.
Mr and Mrs James agreed that they had assisted Daniel to send documentation to Dignitas, made payments to the clinic from their joint bank account, made travel arrangements to take Daniel to Switzerland and accompanied him on the flight. For more click here...
Just found this on Catholic Fire. Looks like an interesting film.
There is a profound spiritual reason why trends have emerged which have led Western societies to have less children and a rapid increase in couples who seek to have no children. To put it very simply, as St Teresa of Calcutta said with words to this effect, "The Devil does not seek to destroy Mankind because he hates Mankind, he does it out of hatred for God." I am quite sure the Devil is delighted that fewer and fewer people are being born due to contraception, abortion and sterile extra-marital relationships, because not only is he jealous of our adopted status as Children of God, but because he knows that to convince nations that having children is unrewarding results in fewer births, fewer souls bound for Heaven and thwarts the procreative activity of God. All of his lies have been sent throughout the Earth out of hatred for God.
The fact that Western societies are rejecting more and more, marriage and children, is because they have been deceived into thinking that these things cannot make them happy, but that wealth, material possessions and consumerism can. It is a secular lie that is pervasive especially in the West. Even Vladimir Putin, who as far as I can tell is not well-known for being a softie, with the backing of the Orthodox Church, told the nation that there is a population decline rapidly taking place in Russia and that there should be a national holiday of breeding! Sadly, there is every chance that if such a day took place people would have mistaken it for a national day of shagging, most men would be wearing a rubber or most women would be on the pill!
When Humanae Vitae was published by the Church, an encyclical of Pope Paul VI in 1968, it was greeted with great criticism by people both inside and outside the Church. Yet, if you read it you can hear the prophetic voice of Truth. For Mankind to convince itself that contraceptive relationships are healthy is for Mankind to seek its own ruin, decimation and slow extinction. It is not scaremongering to suggest that civilisations that degenerate into sterility die. I went to a party at the weekend in London and it is not an exaggeration to say that even the majority of married couples there are without children. That, I suppose is hardly surprising, given that if any of them had children they probably wouldn't be at the party. I suppose if there is one thing that ends the parties it is children and maybe that is the point. But really, let us be frank, what are fifty 31 year olds doing partying into 4am anyway? Where are the children? They are not being born. One friend wanted to keep the fact that he and his wife are trying for a baby under wraps. Now, I know that personal lives are personal, but why be embarrassed by that? Err...friend you are married, it is not shocking that you and your wife want children and are going about having them. 40 years ago people just assumed you would be doing that.
Good party and believe me, I had a great time, save for embarrassing myself and someone very dear to me, but really, I have to ask, when does the party end and Life begin? I've been partying all my life and I can tell you, the older you get, the less and less fulfilling it becomes, drinking until the small hours, smoking until my voice is hoarse, flirting with whomever, singing like a twat trying desperately to impress someone special, strangely is becoming less and less rewarding every time. I've complained to friends of this and you know what they say? They say, "Oh enjoy it for now because these days don't last forever." Dear friend, you are mistaken, there is every chance that these days will last forever and it is starting to make me very sad.
Monday 8 December 2008
I managed to make it to an evening Mass at a Church in South London on Sunday and noticed that the Sign of Peace, which takes place during the service, seemed to go on forever and that the Priest offering Mass went up the middle of the aisle and shook the hand of every person a good couple of people in from the centre of the aisle in each row of pews. I've seen this a couple of times and thought it rather odd. Surely, the Sign of Peace is meant to be quite quick, but this went on what felt like forever, which I think is something of a distraction from the momentum of prayer and reverence for what we are about to receive. Some priests at this point think that it is pastoral care to do this, but I can't see it myself, because surely the priest's devotion is fixed upon the Altar where the Consecration takes place. I can't help thinking that at this point in the Mass, suddenly the Mass becomes about either the Priest or the congregation or both, when we our gaze is meant to be fixed on Christ.
I visited my God Daughter for the first time in a good year or so yesterday on my way back from East London ruining good friendships and being a public idiot. They are a poor family, a single mother with four beautiful children who lives on benefits, but gives everything she can to the children. As more people know from the news, council estates in South London are rife with gang culture and the eldest has fallen in with a gang, largely because on the estates in London, not to be in a gang can be equally as dangerous as being in one.
She told me that at 4 am a couple of weeks ago, a group of armed police smashed in her front door and turned her flat upside down looking for drugs which they suspected would be in the possession of her eldest son. Having found nothing, they left.
It begs the question, just how dangerous and intimidating can a single mother and her eldest son of 15, a younger one of 12 and two younger girls be, that the police need to smash down her door and perform as if they are dealing with the lead character from Scarface? The mother, and I expect the children who were awoken by these armed buffoons were left shaken and traumatised.
As St Francis said, "What is power in the hands of the reckless but the sword in the hands of a madman?" It seems to me that the more power is given to police to 'protect' the more at risk we all are from having our rights ripped away from us. Why could they not have knocked on the door, during the day and say, "We have a search warrant for this house, please may we come in and make some investigations?" But no, they just barged in, ripped the door from the hinges and terrorised a poor family in the dead of night! We are living in very worrying times.
Diego Velazquez's 'The Immaculate Conception'
Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Put simply this Feast celebrates the fact that that the Blessed Virgin was untainted by Original Sin...Fr Ray has written beautifully the theology of the Immaculate Conception, as follows...
We also underestimate too, the significance of our baptism, for we are taught that the same fruits of Christ's death which we receive in baptism, were received by Mary at the moment of her Conception. The difference being, an additional gift, that she as the "New Eve" was preserved from the wounds of Original Sin, which means never was her focus removed from doing God's will.
Which stamps will you use on your Christmas card envelopes this year? The Madonna of Humility by Lippo di Dalmasio, or high camp panto tat? The day that Christmas is represented by awful, irritating pantomimes such as Aladdin and Cinderella is the day you know this country is in the grip of a terrifying secular disease.
With tenderness and awe, the Blessed Virgin cradles God in her arms, just as with tenderness and awe she cradled the Babe in her womb. The Maker of all, the Redeemer of the World gazes lovingly with trust into the eyes of His Blessed Mother, who reverently looks upon Him who made Heaven and Earth. She knows that what she holds in her hands is more precious than anything on Earth, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the whole World, of all of Mankind, of every man, of every woman who has ever lived and will ever live.
From MSN News
Immigrants will have to earn the right to claim benefits under new proposals, it has been reported.
Immigration minister Phil Woolas said newcomers to the UK will have to prove they are here to work.
In an interview with The Sun, he said: "Entitlement to benefits should be for citizens of our country, not other people.
"If you are a citizen you have earned the right to benefits. People must show they are here to work."
Economic immigrants would have to earn the right to a passport by serving a five-year "probationary citizenship", he told the paper.
Those who stay out of trouble and do voluntary work will become eligible for benefits one or two years after that, The Sun reported.
But anyone who fails to meet the new rules would be forced to wait another five years before they could claim state benefits and social housing.
The plans are to be included in the new Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Bill, published in January, the paper said.
Mr Woolas said: "It has been too easy for illegal immigrants to stay in this country. We have not counted them in and out."
The heart divided
Knows not where it stands
The heart divided
Makes earthly plans
The heart divided
Will be unable to stand
Before its God on the Day of Wrath
A great and very terrible day
For the heart divided
I'm afraid to say
For the heart divided
Could not place its trust
In the Maker of its love
When needs truly must
The heart divided
Will return to dust
Yet must meet its Maker
Oh yes, it must
The heart divided
Will only serve itself
The heart divided
Will only serve itself
The heart divided
Will only serve itself
A heart undivided will serve its Master well
Sunday 7 December 2008
Courtesy of The Telegraph
Late abortions of "less than perfect" foetuses are the subject of a secrecy row with the Government.
It centres on mothers who opt for termination because their unborn babies have been diagnosed with conditions such as club foot and cleft palate.
Doctors say such conditions can usually be corrected by surgery.
The Information Commissioner has ordered the release of the figures, but the Department of Health is resisting, claiming that disclosing the data could lead to women who have late abortions being identified.
While abortion is only legal in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy if carried out on social grounds, "Ground E" of the 1967 Abortion Act makes it legal to abort a foetus which has a serious risk of physical or mental abnormality, right up to birth. There are continuing concerns that the law is being flouted to weed out "less than perfect" babies.
Prof Stuart Campbell, the leading obstetrician whose 3D-scan images of babies "walking in the womb" at 12 weeks led to calls for a lowering of the 24-week limit for social abortion, said last night: "It is a disgraceful situation for this data to be suppressed.
"This is not about whether one agrees with abortion. These statistics used to be published, now they are being withheld.
"Transparency is the essence of medicine. If we don't have that, all sorts of wrongdoing can go on. I am not saying that using abortion is doing wrong, but we need to see the data in order to understand what is happening." Health chiefs stopped publishing full abortion data three years ago after a public outcry over the termination of a foetus with a cleft palate at 28 weeks' gestation. The legality of this late abortion, carried out in 2001, was challenged by a Church of England curate, Joanna Jepson, who was born with a congenital jaw defect.
In 2005 the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to bring any charges against the NHS consultant, who publicly confirmed that he carried out the procedure, and another doctor.
Ministers were sufficiently worried by the prospect of further complaints – which they argued would invade the privacy of doctors carrying out terminations and women having abortions – to strictly limit the publication of the figures.
From 2005, official abortion statistics were "suppressed" if fewer than 10 cases were carried out. This in effect meant that abortion details on babies with club feet, webbed fingers and toes, or cleft lips and palates, disappeared from public view.
The last year for which data were fully available, 2002, showed that five foetuses were aborted because they had deformed feet, and a sixth because of a cleft lip and palate. In 2000 and 2001, nine foetuses were aborted because of cleft lip and palate, while a further two were aborted for cleft lip alone.
During 2007, a total of 1,900 abortions were carried out under Ground E and of these, 648 were late abortions, after 20 weeks. A total of 125 foetuses were aborted for musculoskeletal disorders, which may include club feet, with 13 of these cases over 24 weeks gestation.
Figures on cleft lip and palate were combined with deformities of the eye, ear, face, neck and skin to reach a total of 88 abortions in these categories. No further breakdown was given. A number of these foetuses were aborted after 24 weeks but the figure is suppressed.
Information about the number of abortions carried out for cleft lip and palate, and club feet was requested by the Pro-Life Alliance using the Freedom of Information Act.
When the DoH refused to release the figures, the case was referred to the Information Commissioner, who ruled in favour of the campaigners...for more click here.
I still have so much to learn...
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
where there is injury, pardon
where there is doubt, faith
where there is despair, hope
where there is darkness, light
where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
It seems to me that when you are in love with someone and it is unrequited, there is no greater pain in the heart than listening to love songs that resonate so deeply your feelings for them yet the aspirations so beautifully expressed in the songs are torturous because you know that the words in the song will never come true.
Why, O God, have you placed within my heart a fire of love for somebody who will never love me in return? Everyday is like torment. Tomorrow I am giving the ring that I foolishly purchased recently to my parish priest and ask him to advertise that there is a beautiful engagement ring for anyone in the parish who wants to marry, but is poor. There must be a poor man of Christ in the congregation who wants to marry his true love. I would sooner that the ring would bring a Catholic couple joy, than pawn it for a couple of hundred quid just to bolster my overdraft. I'll have to sell my car, mind, to get back to zero.
It is so arrogant to think that our loved ones need us more than anything else. Above all, our loved ones need Christ and His Church.
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