Thursday, February 28, 2013


Well the Holy Father has gone.  Not quite as bad as when Bl. John Paul II died but still sad.  It hit me when I saw footage of his last appearance at the window of Castel Gandolfo.  He said he would now be a pilgrim on his final journey to the Lord.  That hit me.  This is a man preparing to die, a man who has quietly come to hold such an important place in the hearts of all true Catholics.  

 There is  the sadness of losing such a dedicated pastor and teacher and the uncertainty of who will take his place (please God not Dolan!).   He also said that he was not coming down from the cross but would remain with the Crucified Christ in another way.  That's one in the eye for a certain Polish Archbishop.  Now we must pray not only for the Holy Father in his retirement but more importantly for the upcoming conclave that the cardinals will elect a holy, wise, orthodox and strong pope!

So thank you Holy Father for your faith and loyalty.   Thank you for your witness to Christ, for sharing your learning and exhorting us to believe, to trust and to follow Christ.  Thank you for the years you have given to the priesthood and the sacrifices that involved, for taking on the demands, the cross of the  Papal ministry.  Thank you, Holy Father.  We will miss you.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


I am a sinner myself.  I too have fallen short of the glory of God and on all too many occasions I have failed to live as a Christian.  Daily I struggle to be a Christian yet alone a priest.  My job is not to sit in judgment on anyone but I also have to stand up for the truth revealed in Jesus Christ.  I have read the report or rather article from the Polish priest Fr. Dariusz Oko.  It makes for disturbing reading when taken in conjunction with the rumours about the cardinals' report to the Holy Father and what they allegedly discovered.  There are always rumours.  It's part of how Satan stirs up evil in the Church and the world.  Go along to this blog post and then go down and read the comments to see how distorted and bigoted human thought can become when it listens to rumour and innuendo and refuses to give facts a chance.  Yet there also rumours that are pieces of the truth, warning rumbles of approaching trouble or hidden disorder.  Knowing the true from the false is not always easy.

I support and teach the Church's teaching on homosexuality.  I have been challenged by students and by members of congregations for doing so.  It's a painful subject for some and an uncomfortable one for many.  Family members, especially parents, often want to support their child and maintain that relationship with them while people who have same-sex attraction often want approval and not just tolerance.  They will settle for Church silence.

That said, as a priest for the past fourteen years, while I have heard rumours and innuendo, I have not personally met any openly homosexual clergy.  Maybe I live in some world of my own.  Maybe I just don't move in circles that intersect with such men but while I have come across homosexuals I haven't met clerical ones.  Too often effeminacy is equated with homosexuality which is an unjust and very ignorant supposition.    There is a secretive, furtive side to homosexuality as there is to many deviant forms of sexual behaviour that is part of the attraction, part of the buzz, the frisson, that goes with breaking rules.  Such secretiveness, coupled with the desire to avoid repercussions means that at least in Ireland any homosexual clergy will keep a low profile.  That said a priest had a heart attack and died back in 1994 in a homosexual sauna and was, allegedly, anointed by another priest on the spot!  The owner claimed that there were about twenty priests who used the sauna regularly.  I wonder how he knew they were priests?

I have no doubt there are homosexual clergy and if they are not living their vows they should ask themselves why they are still priests.  The same goes for heterosexual clergy who fornicate or commit adultery.  If any of them are part of a clique (however loose) that promotes other clergy or laity based on their support for or ambivalence to homosexuality or opposition to Church teaching on human sexuality then they should have the decency to desist or abandon the ministry.

What is frustrating is that one does not know what is true and what is false.  There are rumours but little evidence.  There is evidence of cover-ups of abuse, failures to act swiftly and effectively, and deviation from the doctrine of the Church.  There are those who teach heresy or fail to affirm the Church's teaching even in third level colleges and nothing is done to them.  There are no repercussions.  Priests grant 'general absolutions', tell penitents they need only tell a single (mortal) sin, hold penitential services during Mass, alter the text of the Mass, and give public support to groups and persons that oppose Church teaching and nothing happens.  One must ask why?

Why does it take Vatican intervention before clergy are challenged on their teaching?  Why does it have to go to Rome before liturgical abuses and other irregularities are confronted?  Why did it take so long to deal with the abuse of children when, as the Murphy report affirmed, the bishops already had enough power in canon law to stop the abusers from getting access to children?  I am not convinced that it was always concern for the image of the Church.  People rarely really care for the image of an institution.  People really care about their own image and the image of the group with which they are associated.  Perhaps there was some other threat to their image that encouraged bishops and religious superiors to turn a blind eye?  I cannot prove this but I now suspect it of some.

It is discouraging to deal with these issues but, as Mr. Voris, puts it it is better dealt with than not.  Better to bring the poison out into the open, to drain the puss from the abscess and to apply some healing remedies.  We will always have to deal with those who see in the sacred ministry not a path to God or a means to serve His Kingdom but a career choice or a place to hide from their demons.  Perhaps very few of us are entirely pure in our motives; we are all sinners but that does not mean we should tolerate our own sins or the sins of others especially when they harm the Church.

This Lent can be a new beginning, a return to the sources, a return to authentic Catholicism.  This Lent can be a re-appropriation of obedience to the whole teaching of Christ and an abandonment of the à la carte Catholicism of the last forty years.  I believe we are seeing the stirrings of a deep reform movement within the Church, a continuation of a stream that preceded the Council but got side-tracked or went underground and is now re-emerging to carry the Church into greater fidelity to her Lord.  We must choose whom we serve.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Two videos from Catholic Focus on the Eastern or Greek Rite Catholics. Not many of them but they are part of the Church that must learn to breathe with both lungs again.


One of our friars commented recently about a certain priest that he thought him a prophet. I disagreed but I think Michael Voris is a prophet. He is definitely Catholic. I find it sad though that he finds he has to identify his country with the cultural rot spreading through the world. I do not think he is wrong just that the US being such a massive cultural influence, especially in the English speaking world, it's effect is more widespread. It is no surprise then that the 'barbarians' are appearing everywhere. Once people choose to deny the objective standard of Natural Law, indeed objective standards in anything, then the only path left is into barbarism. Down that path prejudice is masked as principle, reason is debased into rationalization and morality becomes the latest fashion in behaviour. Once the barbarians are in control the next step is tyranny and then chaos.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I am currently working my way through Henri Daniel-Rops (actually Henri Petiot,1901-1965) a French historian and member of the Academie Francaise.  There are about nine volumes in the series and I'm on the third dealing with the Middle Ages.

What strikes me the most is that we may be in a period not unlike that of the fall of the Roman Empire.  The Empire did not all of a sudden collapse.  There was a slow decay as it became less able to deal with challenges.  Its economy stagnated and the Emperors increased taxes.  It became more and more bureaucratic and less and less efficient.  It depended more and more on barbarian peoples to keep its borders safe, barbarians who were mostly heretical Arian Christians.  When these barbarian peoples migrated into the Empire there were nor the troops, nor was the will nor was there the local support to oppose them.  The Empire in the West collapsed.  

 Our Western civilization is collapsing.  It has within it problems so fundamental as to bring the whole system down but our leaders and intelligentia seem incapable of grasping the issues.  It is as if there were a collective blind-spot as regards both the problem and the solution.  Our governments are bureaucratic and unwieldy.  People are enduring heavier taxes while the wealth is hogged by a few.    Most seriously our fertility rate is below the average replacement rate.  We have surrendered our intellectual world to largely barbarian people.  That last statement may come as a shock.  We have traditionally thought of barbarians as pagans and intellectuals, i.e. civilised people, as being as far from barbarian as possible.  In this modern none but a few odd balls can be serious pagans.  That worldview simply does not thrive in a world as permeated with Christianity as ours.  But barbarism is always with us.  By barbarian I do not mean a wood or stone-worshipping heathen.  These barbarians, not unlike those of Roman days, are quasi-Christian.  Back then they were heretics now they are apostates.  Back then they came in vast migrations but now they have grown up amongst us.   

By barbarism I mean a mind for whom there is no objective moral law and where, ultimately, might is right.  By barbarism I mean a mind that neither recognizes nor respects the Sacred.  Such a mind might dabble in a kind of secular pantheism by which I mean not that God and the material world are somehow one but that the only kind of sacredness is the material world.  A sacred material world takes precedence over the needs of individuals, communities and the human race.  This barbarism allows the killing of babies in the womb and eventually after they are born.  It allows the killing of the sick, the weak and the disabled.  It does not just allow them it celebrates them.  It holds them up as acts of compassion, heroism, good.  This barbarism exalts the freedom, the autonomy of the individual.  The ruthless individual, the solo hero, is the true star of all its stories, its gore-filled sagas and spectacles.  

The barbarians are in control.  The West has once again succumbed to them.  Back in the days of the Empire though the barbarian people came with families, clans, traditions and a culture.  They came from outside, admiring the Empire they occupied and wanting to share in its wealth and security even as they brought it down.  Crudely and inconsistently they at least believed in a law that implied some recognition of the Natural Law.  These new barbarians, having grown up in the West, despise the very foundations it was built on.  To them there is no Natural Law, no truth save that which science can attest to and that only because science, for the moment, has such great cultural standing.  Yet the science is always selectively cited.  'Reason' is their banner but it is really rationalisation.   To them Christianity in particular, and religion in general, has no future.  To them only their hedonistic, amoral, materialist ethos has any validity and any right to allegiance.  They are as drunk on their new found power and influence as the ancient barbarians, and the pagan Romans before them, once were.  

Evidence of this can be seen in the popularity of people such as Dawkins and Hitchens, in the opprobrium to which the Holy Father is subjected in many places and the indifference to matters of faith and religion even in once Catholic countries such as Ireland.   Not only are these barbarians within our society they are within the Church.  Wherever the Divine origin of the Church and her Sacraments, or the sacredness of her Tradition, are denied, wherever the authority of her bishops and above all the Holy Father is flouted, wherever, whether explicitly or implicitly, the Divinity of Christ is denied there are the barbarians.  The loss of the sense of the sacred is everywhere.  Today at a eulogy at the end of a funeral Mass I heard a young man refer to the sanctuary as a 'stage'.  If ever that was an argument for the restoration of the altar rails it was that comment.   The sanctuary has become a stage, a place for a play that reflects back to the people their own glory and relevance but with no room for the living God.  It is a stage hired out, borrowed for a few hours, were rituals happen and words are spoken at important occasions: the naming of babies, marriages of lovers, and the burial of the dead.  These are the tame barbarians, generally indifferent if not positive towards the Church.  The power though is increasingly in the hands of the untamed, the wild, the true barbarians.  They are the people who have abandoned reason in the name of reason.  They have made a tool of it to demolish the very foundations of the civilisation that shields them.  They do not think of themselves as barbarians.  They are civilised, cultured, cultivated and intellectual.  They can often speak  two or more languages, have degrees, post-doctorates even, and move in the 'best' circles.  Yet they are barbarians because only barbarians will kill the innocent or attempt to justify it.  Only barbarians deny the ultimate civilisation of love, of reason, of truth that is based on the Natural Law and ultimately on God.  

It is as the Mother of God warned at Fatima.  If people did not listen Russia would spread her errors throughout the world and she has.  It was not Communism or Marxist-Leninism or any of those ideologies.  They were but vehicles.  Atheistic materialism was the central error, the poison of the snake that is turning people to barbarism.   

Monday, February 11, 2013


So the Holy Father has resigned. Hasn't happened since 1415 when a Pope resigned to end the Western schism. After eight years as Supreme Pontiff Benedict XVI siting failing health that cannot meet the demands of his office and the needs of the Church surprised us all and the cardinals gathered in consistory with the news he would step down at 20.00 hours on February 28th. That'll send conspiracy nuts running to their copy of St. Malachy's prophecies! It will also send papabile and their supporters, Vatican commentators and others into a frenzy of speculation. No one has had a chance to build up a case for their man, no one has had time to dig around for gossip. It's all up in the air and perhaps provides space for the Holy Spirit to act more freely. Now it is our task to pray for the upcoming consistory who, perhaps with the advice of the present incumbent, will choose the next Pope. We need to pray that the Holy Spirit will fulfil Christ's promise to the Church so she can pick another pastor to continue the work of Blessed John Paul II and the present Holy Father.

Ignore all the commentators and speculators; pray, fast and do penance.

Friday, February 8, 2013


One of the things that can stop us praying is that we swallow the idea that there is a special time and place and manner for prayer and that only at that place, time and manner can one pray. yet God is everywhere and ever ready to attend to us. Indeed we are ever the object of His love and mercy. Prayer then is a response to God's outreach to us. Prayer, like existence itself, is His gift to us. God wishes to hear us and answer our prayers with blessings. We are to be like the flowers that lift up their heads to the sun at every moment of the day, whatever the weather or wherever we are. To that end there are many ways to pray and while we ought to have a special place, time and manner of regular prayer each day that does not mean we cannot pray at another times, in other ways and places. After all, just because I eat my dinner in the evening does not mean I cannot eat at lunchtime or snack in-between.

Begin the day with prayer and end it with prayer, even short ones. Try to begin each activity likewise. Cultivate your spiritual life and keep at it. No garden ever becomes truly weed free. There is constant need to return to the basics: weeding, pruning, tending and feeding. Be attentive to the interior garden and it will bear fruit in good time.

No interior life will flourish if we do not feed it with the proper food. Above all there is the Sacramental life of the Church. Celebrate the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist often. Live from and for the Mass and do not leave Confession off until you have a long list! But also read the scriptures especially with the Church: follow the readings as they occur in the Liturgy. Read good spiritual books especially those by saints and put them into practise wisely.

(i) Meditative walking: this involves strolling along but not attending to one's surroundings but to one's heart. In Zen buddhism they use a very slow pace which allows stillness - we can use a similar method but turn our heart and mind to the God who walks with us and gives us each step, each breath, each heartbeat.

(ii) Alternatively if it also happens to be a walk for fitness one can use the rosary or some other repetitive prayer and 'walk with Mary' through the mysteries. One can also use music and listen to Christian music to turn your attention to divine things.

(i) Once one could call these 'ejaculations' but the drift of language has given this word an entirely different emphasis. Short prayers are invaluable. Whether our own or composed by others, whether we stop to say them or say them in the midst of our actions as long as we lift up our heart and mind to God calling down His help then it is prayer. They help us sanctify the day. The Irish of old had prayers for all sorts of jobs and thus brought their faith into their daily lives.

(ii) Being mindful of and turning to the intercession of those saints who lived a similar life to our own, who had similar struggles, can also help. Remember that to offer up the difficulties of the day, to endure what comes trusting in Divine Providence while striving to do our duty well is itself a great prayer and a means to evangelisation. We also talk to God by talking to His servants in heaven. The Lord hears all our requests.

(i) I have already mentioned the rosary. It can be used anywhere, it's relatively short and it has tremendous power. I often pray it while driving to work and say each mystery for a particular intention. It can be used wherever we are waiting or have something to do that does not involve a lot of concentration. The Jesus prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner) beloved of the Eastern Church and now quite popular in the West is also a powerful way to bring prayer into the day.

There is no reason why we cannot sanctify the day and grow closer to God even in the midst of a busy schedule. Every breath is a reason for gratitude and even our sufferings can be of help to us if we unite them with Christ's sufferings. God does not create rubbish and wishes us to waste nothing!t

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


It's either a feast or a famine but I am fascinated by this icon-painting onto canvas. I've heard it's not uncommon in Greece where the painting is done on canvas in the studio and then pasted to the wall of a church. Not as permanent and more easily damaged but cheaper for the client and more convenient for the artist. Oil gilding canvas is something new to me (don't think water gilding would work) but the effect looks good. What would our churches look like if they were covered with pictures of the mysteries of our faith? Why are white walls or brick work so common now? Is that another effect of the Reformation?


This is well put. The path of the vows is a path of conversion of heart and a setting free to pursue union with God. It is freely chosen so that one can be free to love God and one's neighbour with a truly free love. That is the goal, to love as God loves; to let God love through our love. First one must become free. As John of the Cross put it one must go by the path of 'nada', nothing. Nothing but God.

Friday, February 1, 2013


Beannachtaí Lá Fhéile Bríde! (or Lá ‘le Bríde) -see the interesting post over at the Irish Language blog.

I am not a fan of 'Celtic Spirituality' unless it is Celtic Christian (as in Catholic) spirituality. Those were orthodox people and Brigid no less than the rest of them. The above cross is one of those traditionally associated with her. The story is that she wove it while tending her pagan father is his last illness, a man who had cost her no end of grief. So this simple straw cross is a symbol of the power that the Christian faith brought to Ireland: the grace of Christ which enables to forgive and truly love our neighbour. Perhaps that is why Christianity took such deep roots so quickly in Ireland. Perhaps our ancestors had already come to realise the shallowness and impotence of paganism. Perhaps that is why Irelands first official martyrs on Irish soil were to be those of the Reformation?

Any way I post today because as I was praying the Office of Readings, there being as yet no official texts for the Feast save the prayer, I was reading the passage in the Common from St. Cyprian when it struck me that the numbers of religious in general, and the women religious in particular, are an indication of the spiritual and religious health of the nation. St. Patrick himself wrote:

So, how is it that in Ireland, where they never had any knowledge of God but, always, until now, cherished idols and unclean things, they are lately become a people of the Lord, and are called children of God; the sons of the Irish and the daughters of the chieftains are to be seen as monks and virgins of Christ. And there was, besides, a most beautiful, blessed, native-born noble Irish woman of adult age whom I baptised; and a few days later she had reason to come to us to intimate that she had received a prophecy from a divine messenger [who] advised her that she should become a virgin of Christ and she would draw nearer to God. Thanks be to God, six days from then, opportunely and most eagerly, she took the course that all virgins of God take, not with their fathers' consent but enduring the persecutions and deceitful hindrances of their parents. Notwithstanding that, their number increases, (we do not know the number of them that are so reborn) besides the widows, and those who practise self-denial.
(verses 41-42 of the Confessio)

The abundance of vocations in the past and the collapse in vocations in the last forty years should cause us to pause. I have written on this recently here. In this Sunday's Gospel (Luke 4:21–30) Jesus reads a passage from Isaiah and then enters into conflict with the people he grew up with. The issue is obedience to God as an expression of faith. Faith is only faith when it is obedient. That is why Jesus sites two examples, both of pagans who showed their faith by obedience to the great prophets of Israel. The Sidonian widow shared her last food with Elijah in faith and was saved, Naaman the Syrian bathed in the Jordan in obedient faith and was cured and converted to Judaism. Their obedience brought them a blessing. Likewise the disobedience and lack of faith of the Jews in Nazareth denied them the blessing of Jesus. He would work no miracle because they would not believe, they would not acknowledge God by their actions.

Is the collapse in vocations a sign of a profound disobedience in Ireland? Are we deserving of a curse because at heart because, despite the generosity of some to the poor, our hearts have wandered away from the path our ancestors took when they chose to abandon paganism and embrace Christ? I believe it is. I believe that in embracing contraception, Ireland has made a deeper commitment to an alternative faith. We have erected in our land the idols of self-indulgence and self-centredness. This has not been done consciously. Like the Israelites of old we have not thought it strange to bow down both to God and Baal. Other Christians over the centuries have bowed both to Christ and to Jupiter, or Wotan or Liberty or the State. This unreflected, passive idolatry is poisoning us. It has seeped into every corner of our land. It comes not just through the TV, radio or the net but in conversations, films, books, and through the more direct workings of the enemy. What Cyprian calls the 'joy of the Church' is dying because the Church no longer puts her entire hope in Christ. We have watered down our faith and made it soft and bland. We like the fuzzy pantheism of 'Celtic Spirituality' and not the raw demanding self-sacrifice of the real, Christian thing. God help us if we ever go back to paganism - human sacrifice anyone?


Related Posts with Thumbnails