Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Marriage and family: A Consideration

Marriage is often referred to as the building block or foundation of society, which seems rather difficult to disagree with since it is by the stability of marriage that society generates stable people. As the Guardian reported, the Office of National Statistics states that figures indicate children of married parent families suffer less mental health problems than those brought up by single parents (see here); and as the study by Osborne, Mclanan and Brooks-Gunn at the University of Texas appears to indicate, “children born to married versus cohabiting parents have fewer reported behavioral problems at age three, and that differences in parental background characteristics account for 30% to 50% of the differences in child outcomes at age 3. The remaining differences in child behavior can largely be explained by differences in household income and maternal health behaviors. Marriage following a cohabiting birth is not associated with fewer child behavioral problems” (here). Taking both of these into consideration, it might well be said that children reared in marriages better understand where they come from and what their role in life is as a man or a woman.

The family is also the place in which the stability and unity of family life allows us to take risks knowing we are loved, valued and cared for unconditionally. It is the unit in which we learn mutual respect and develop a sense of justice, fairness, mutual support and respectful challenge. I’m sure you could add to this list, but I hope the point is made that we learn about ourselves, others and social interaction within the family, taking all we have learned there with us into the adult world. As the 2008 Summit report ‘Cohabitation, Marriage and Child Wellbeing’ from the National Marriage Project (see here) reminds us, children raised outside an intact marriage are much more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders, diseases, suicide attempts, alcoholism, and drug abuse. All the above considered, it is thus reasonable to conclude that marriage is indeed the bedrock or foundation of society.

Many today might claim marriage to be a social construct, others as the formal union of two persons who love each other, or yet others as the legalisation of a romantic relationship. Well, it may be a social construct in regard to its formalisation, but it is surely part of man’s nature: would not parents would stay together because both desired to protect and nurture their offspring? There may have been no formal marriage ceremony in the Stone Age, but surely parenting of their offspring was the natural response of both parents?

Traditional Catholics and others are often accused by liberals of holding to an ‘ideology’ of marriage that today’s society has outgrown; accused of failing to recognise that there are many types of ‘marriage’ and ‘family’. But Marriage and family are not an ‘ideology’ that Traditional Catholics unrelentingly hold to; Marriage is a union of life and love. Many people have no problem recognising a ‘love’ element: they will see it as feelings of affection for the other and the will to care for the other (thus they divorce if their romantic feelings are turned to another person or if they perceive themselves as being oppressed in the marriage and harmed rather than cared for.) When it comes to the sharing of ‘life’ however, they most often appear to mean ‘a lifetime’ or ‘a lifestyle’, and will end the ‘lifetime’ part if the ‘lifestyles’ begin to differ significantly and become ‘irreconcilable differences’.

But the sharing of life in marriage goes beyond the sharing of a lifestyle or a lifetime to the sharing of life itself; the sharing of one’s life-giving power for the procreation and rearing of offspring. Without the sharing of the life-potential the act of copulation is not so much a love-life as an act of lust-relieving. It is in this aspect of lust-relief that contraceptive sex and homosexual acts both run contrary to nature, since both make use of the procreative act in a way that eliminates its primary and unique purpose: that of procreation. (The Marriage of infertile couples is still true marriage because they are open to receiving new life; it is marriages entered into with a clear decision not to cooperate with the generation of new life that are a different matter). We often hear it said that the act is also used to bond the couple, and while that can of course be recognised as true, it is equally true that bonding can occur in other ways than by sex (we bond with parents, siblings and friends without engaging in sex acts with them), so sex is not to be seen as simply about bonding or used only for bonding).

Today the word ‘marriage’ is applied to the formalisation of all sorts of affectionate relationships: men and men; women and women, people with animals (here) and even people with buildings (here). The reality of marriage as a ‘sharing in life and love’ is not possible in these relationships, so they cannot be marriage, no matter who decides to label them as such -be that the Irish Government, the UK Government, the USA Government or the UN. While ‘marriage’ between a person and a building obviously excludes a sharing in the life of the other since it is ‘union’ with an inanimate, non-living object, so too is the union between persons of the same sex where all that can be shared is a lifestyle and a lifetime, not life itself (it cannot generate new life). And yes, homosexual pairings can share a lifetime and a lifestyle together, but they cannot share life with one another, anymore than a person can share life with a building or their budgerigar, for even though they share a living space and may share it for life, none of these pairings can generate new life. Adoption by a homosexual pair does not rectify the absence of new life since they rely upon the natural couple of male/female to ‘provide’ the child; it is not equivalent to adoption by an infertile couple where the natural reality of father, mother and child is replicated. 

Natural marriage and families should thus be protected and promoted as the bedrock of human society, for it is in the natural family alone that humanity recreates itself, sustains itself, nurtures itself and learns to live as a fair and caring society. Governments that allow all sorts of living arrangements to be labelled ‘marriage’ and ‘family’ have fallen prey to emotionalism rather than reason; they have become puppets to emotions rather than masters of reason. They claim to follow modern science but actually follow emotions, not biology. In praying for them I am not praying for greater intellects to lead us; I am asking God to “give us the wisdom that sits by your throne.” (Wisdom 9v4). It is not professional theologians that we need: these can lead us astray from Christ’s message when they subjugate defined Doctrine to their intellectual appraisal; what we need is the Wisdom of God, which is not synonymous with education: the old lady with rosary in hand can be far wiser than the theology professor who modernises doctrine to fit with the age. Yes, “We do talk of a wisdom, it is true, but not a philosophy of this age or of the masters of this age” (2 Cor.2v6-7). What we need is the true wisdom that comes from God; the Truth which sets us free from bondage to our pride and from acquiescing to our passions. Modern society has lost sight of wisdom and followed mere education. The former really ought not to have been excluded from the latter, but it was as soon as Rationalism invaded the Church and the Gospels subjected to methods of study that treated it merely as a piece of ancient literature and not as the word of God who “is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13v8). 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

The Irish Referendum -updated after the vote

If the Irish people vote “Yes” to same sex ‘marriage’, will anyone be surprised? I don’t think so. Whereas Ireland once prided itself on being a Catholic nation it has, in recent years, shown a tendency to follow the rest of the Western world by turning from the teachings of the Truth (Christ) to the teaching of the liar (Satan). Why have they done this? They have done it for the same reasons every other Western Country has done it: they preferred the teaching of Marx, Freud, Jung and Rogers to the teaching of Christ; it made life easy, and allowed hedonistic pleasure of all kinds. They have done it because -with rare and notable exceptions such as Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Pell, and Bishop Schneider; Archbishop Cordileone, Archbishop Chaput and Bishop Sample in the USA, and Bishop Egan and Bishop Davies in the UK- Catholics have had and continue to have weak, faithless priests in the Presbyteral and Episcopal ranks. They are weak in that they have courted the popularity of the world; they wanted to appear ‘informed’; ‘wise’, ‘compassionate’ in the eyes of the educated faithless. Instead they betrayed Christ and became slaves to teachings that tickle the ears. They are those of whom scripture says “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2.Tim.4v3); they are faithless in that they have allowed themselves to be seduced (pun intended) by the attractiveness of sin and popularity. Indeed, few priests from Rome down to local parishes seem concerned with holding fast to what we have received: “stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you” (2.Thes.2v15), but are eager to abandon it in order to avoid being criticised or attacked or to appear to be the embodiment of Christ’s mercy. Yet they known darn well that nowhere in the Gospels did Christ receive sinners without adding “go and sin no more”, which today’s priests are unwilling to do. They would rather appear to be merciful while all the while allowing souls to continue in ways contrary to the ways of Christ and salvation.  We probably all know priests of this kind, and we must pray for them. By ministering alongside them I know them to be men who mean well; it’s just that their emotional nature will not allow them to cause emotional pain to others.

The sad thing is that in 1985, many of the Bishops saw the doctrinal mess the Church was in following the Second Vatican Council and called, at the 1985 Extraordinary Synod, for a Catechism to be promulgated. A work of the entire episcopate and of theological advisors worldwide, Pope St.John-Paul II promulgated the requested Catechism in 1992 as a sure norm for the teaching of The Faith. Why then, did many of the Bishops of the day and thereafter allow doctrine to continue to deteriorate in the seminaries, schools, parishes and Diocese?  Perhaps because they had already been overcome by the spirit of the world and did not want to be restricted by the Catechism (or by Canon Law). Each Bishop became his own Pope: infallibility belonged to each Bishop they decided, and could determine what was to be taught without reference to the teaching of Scripture, Tradition or Rome. And so it has continued to this day, despite their public avowal of loyalty to Scripture, Tradition and Rome.

A cleric I know said to me recently that those priests who stand up for Truth are called theologically backward and pastorally bad, and often called to give account of themselves to their Bishops. But isn’t that easier than what the Bishops will face? They will have to account to God for the souls they have endangered and the faithful priests they have persecuted. Who would want to be in the shoes of many a bishop today? The Bishops who allow all sorts of nonsense to be taught in their Diocese and all sorts of liturgical irregularities to go uncorrected because they are done by well-liked priests; that is, by priests who are well-liked because they give Holy Communion to all and sundry and never speak about the evils of contraception, remarriage after divorce, homosexual practices, intoxication and the like. How easy it is to be a well-loved priest...

And yet being faithful to teaching and liturgical rubrics is all I personally can offer the Lord, for I am not a man without sin –who is? We are going to have to account for our sins, be they the detracting tongue, short temper, conversational innuendos, laziness etc. Only if we can offer a spotless soul to God as regards personal sin should we dare to add the sins of doctrinal and liturgical disobedience to our list. Doctrinal and liturgical faithfulness may be all we can offer Him with clean hands and heart. And honestly, how hard is it really to say what is true in our pulpits and our pastoral letters? How hard is it to follow a simple rubric such as ‘facing the altar the priest says...turned toward the people the priest says’...? It is only hard if we are focused on pleasing the people; on tickling their ears and eyes, rather than pleasing God. 

I pray the Irish have said ‘No’ today, but I doubt they will. They have had little or no real guidance or example from their clergy. 

The Irish voted ‘Yes’, to no one’s surprise. The Bishops and the Pope now have the opportunity to clearly and firmly decry the move towards co-called homosexual ‘marriage’, and an opportunity to restate clearly that while homosexuals persons must never be victims of violence, abuse or oppression, yet the homosexual ACT can in no way be approved of; that it is a turning away from Christ and His Gospel of salvation. The hierarchy have the opportunity to learn from the failure to publicly profess The Faith over the last few decades; an opportunity to call us all back to the Divine law. If they fail to do so we shall know which side of the fence they stand on (either by design or by (culpable?) ignorance. Some have already demonstrated their failure to recognise the lies of Satan by failing to clearly and consistently denounce contraception, abortion, and (now) of same-sex ‘marriage’.

Have no Fear though: society as we know it will fall apart in the next two or three centuries as evidence of the harm today’s secular ‘morality’ causes is acknowledged. There will then be a turning-back to traditional morality. It cannot be otherwise, for Satan’s hundred years as foreseen by Pope Leo XIII are probably coming to an end, and repair work will begin under the inspiration and power of the Holy Ghost. We just need good Popes, Bishops and priests aided by sound and faithful laity who are what Vatican II declared them to be: the leaven in the world a declaration woefully ignored in the last few decades so as to promote lay ecclesial roles (to avoid accusations of clericalism). With good clergy and sound laity the repair work will begin. Those of us who uphold traditional teaching in the face of odd-ball comments from Bishops and laity may well be in the minority, but “Have no fear, little flock, for it has pleased the Father to give you the kingdom”. (Lk.12v32)

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Catholics in today's Non-Judgemental Society

The Non-judgemental society springs from the person-centred psychology of Carl Rogers. Now we all know that Catholics have a problem with this, since there are behaviours of which we cannot approve. Father Dickson mentioned a number of these in his post on “The Culture of Death”. However, for many people, our judgement of acts is interpreted as judgement of persons, which is in fact contrary to Catholic Faith. Our injunction from the Lord is “Do not Judge, lest you be judged” (Matt.7v1-3), so it is beyond the remit of Catholics to judge persons and as such, non-judgementalism is to be a core trait of our character.

That we must not judge persons does not, however, remove from us the duty to judge acts. But as Father Dickson often says, “We must be like a physician who, while not judging the smoker to be a bad person, judges the smoking to be bad for the person and has to call the person out on it”. This is to be truly person-centred; more person-centred in fact, than those who refuse to judge acts as part of the Culture of Death, for those who refuse to judge acts in which the person engages allow the person to be damaged by those acts spiritually (and we should add, physically and socially. For example, homosexual sex practices in males can result in ano-rectal tears; while sexual liberty leads to an increase in STI’s, some of which cause infertility.) The Mayo Clinic, a not-for-profit medical practice and research group, Minnesota, USA, notes that,

“Sexual activity plays a role in spreading many other infectious agents, although it's possible to be infected without sexual contact. Examples include the hepatitis A, B and C viruses, shigella, and Giardia intestinalis.”
(Mayo Clinic, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 19.08.2014)

It notes too that

The more people you have sexual contact with, the greater your overall exposure risks. This is true for concurrent partners as well as monogamous consecutive relationships.

A difficulty we have as Catholics is getting this message across to those who feel judged by us. It cannot be denied that to have our actions judged makes us feel we are being judged, since the person performs the act. Yet the person is not the act nor even the sum total of their acts. Acts may indicate a disposition within the person, but cannot always be taken to be a concrete expression of the person: how often have we lost our temper without meaning to, or struck out in the heat of the moment?

It remains however, very difficult to have a person distinguish our judgement of their acts from a judgement of them as a person. Taking my lead from Father Dickson as my parish priest for the last ten years I offer the following three strategies for engaging in challenge of what we as Catholics consider damaging behaviours.

  1.  Make “I” statements: “I cannot/couldn’t do that because...”

  1. Always give the reason as to why you “cannot do that”, this simply provides another point of view, and can help the person to make their decision from a wider information-base. If we begin with “You” rather than “I” we begin in an accusatory tone.

  1. Gently and carefully help them to engage in self-challenge. For example, ask them if by engaging in sex before they are married they are not saying they agree with non-marital sex, and how that will play into their marriage? A better example, if a person is talking about the possibility of abortion and speaks of ‘terminating the pregnancy’, always use the word ‘baby’. This allows you to be honest and might help the person to come to a new way of thinking. If s/he asks you why you speak of a baby when s/he is speaking of a pregnancy, you can clarify that since the embryo/foetus has its own DNA from fertilisation, and its own heartbeat from around 20 days post conception, it cannot be anything other than an individual human life.

We must be free to make our contribution to the debates in the public square, but if we can learn to offer them from a position in which persons are respected, we not only show human respect to others but bring truth into the situation.
Post Script on Truth:

A central problem for Catholics today is that we live in a society that has espoused relativism. Rogers’ Person-centred approach was a precursor of moral relativism, which can be summarised in the statement, “What is true for you may not be true for me”. We have to note that those who make such statements are in logical self-contradiction: they are making an absolute statement that an absolute cannot exist, and therefore cancelling their statement out as foundations for life. The moment a person declares that their statement is true, they have admitted to the reality of objective truth, the existence of which they are seeking to deny.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Culture of Death: An Introduction Updated

By ‘culture’ we mean the attitudes of a given society as expressed in and fostered by its politics, education, social care, arts, media etc. By ‘death’ in this context we mean anti-life practices. A society that utilises anti-life acts or the actual taking of life is a society which cannot be anything but a society which has espoused the Culture of Death. ‘Life cultures’ seek to help persons; ‘anti-life’ cultures eliminate persons. Whenever we see anti-life practices proposed or enshrined as the answer to life’s problems we know we are living in The Culture of Death, and it is the Culture of Death which is currently pervading Western society.

As Pope St. John Paul II stated: “it is true that we are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin. This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable "culture of death". “While it is true that the taking of life not yet born or in its final stages is sometimes marked by a mistaken sense of altruism and human compassion, it cannot be denied that such a culture of death, taken as a whole, betrays a completely individualistic concept of freedom, which ends up by becoming the freedom of "the strong" against the weak who have no choice but to submit.
 “We have to go to the heart of the tragedy being experienced by modern man: the eclipse of the sense of God and of man...Those who allow themselves to be influenced by this climate easily fall into a sad vicious circle: when the sense of God is lost, there is also a tendency to lose the sense of man, of his dignity and his life; in turn, the systematic violation of the moral law, especially in the serious matter of respect for human life and its dignity, produces a kind of progressive darkening of the capacity to discern God's living and saving presence.
“This situation, with its lights and shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the "culture of death" and the "culture of life". We find ourselves not only "faced with" but necessarily "in the midst of" this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.
“Walk as children of light ... and try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness" (Eph 5:8, 10-11). In our present social context, marked by a dramatic struggle between the "culture of life" and the "culture of death", there is need to develop a deep critical sense, capable of discerning true values and authentic needs.” (cf. Evangelium Vitae)

Many fail to see the reality of the Death Culture because we cultivated it piece by piece over several decades. The approval of artificial contraception by the Anglican Communion (the ‘Church of England’) in 1930 was the first erosion of traditional morality in the minds of the populace, and it influenced many to accept the Culture of Death, leaving the Catholic Church the only voice upholding the Culture of Life (though many of her pastors and people also became blind to the Culture of Death; some –Bishops included- even advocate its acceptance as a ‘pastoral practice’).

Today, most people have come to see ‘anti-life’ acts as the answer to human problems, thereby espousing the Culture of Death. How did this happen? There are basically two precursors at the core of the Culture of Death being tolerated and promoted today.

The first precursor to the Culture of Death, which facilitated the blindness in man to the reality of that Culture, is the kind of person-centred psychology promoted by Carl Rogers. Rogers believed that at the core, all people are good, and that helped to find their ‘own solutions’ will always make a morally good choice. His fellow person-centred psychologist Abraham Maslow took Rogers to task for failing to recognise that iniquity also dwells at man’s core; that there is a fundamental flaw at man’s centre from which the individual's malevolent inclinations and actions  arise.

The second precursor to the Culture of Death is the social engineering enacted by protagonists of the death culture. These changed the language we use; softening-down the stark reality of the acts in question: infanticide became ‘abortion’ and ‘termination of pregnancy’; killing the sick became ‘euthanasia’ or ‘mercy-killing’; sodomy/buggery became ‘man-man sex/love’. This language was then promoted through the media (films, TV, magazines etc) until protagonists of the Culture of Death had gained enough credibility and influence to lobby for a change in the law and gain legal accommodation of these anti-life acts and behaviours. Bit by bit people got used to the new ways of speaking and thinking, and changed their behaviours accordingly, coming to live by the Culture of Death rather than the Culture of Life. This process of social engineering was akin to a frog in a pan of cold water brought slowly to the boil: unlike a second frog placed directly into hot water, the first frog does not jump out; it constantly adapts to the change of temperature as the water comes to the boil -which ultimately proves fatal.

Aspects of the Culture of Death which we can criticise for their harm to human persons and society are the following.

Artificial Contraception, since it acts against life, is thus part of the culture of death. Indeed artificial contraception is the foundation stone of the Culture of Death since it allows the act geared toward one unique gaol -the procreation of the species- into an act of mere recreation free from the propagation of life. Bonding of the couple, often used as a reason for non-productive sex, can be achieved in other ways so it is not intrinsically linked to sex, but the propagation of the species is possible only via sex, so claiming sex is necessary for bonding is a false argument. Synthetic hormones in the pill, patch, injection, implant, are all chemical contraception, and are the only drugs prescribed by a doctor to disrupt healthy functioning, which means the woman who uses them is engaging in chemical warfare against her own body.  Barrier methods (condom and cap) spread disease since they do not prevent STD’s which spread by skin contact and not by penetration. Thus, these methods too are part of the Culture of Death. Tubal ties and vasectomy permanently eliminate (kill-off) the life-giving powers of the person and as such they too are part of the Culture of Death. The IUD or Coil, though often called contraception, is in fact an abortion device, preventing implantation of a conceived embryo which passes through the womb and dies in menstruation. As such, the IUD too is part of the culture of death.  

Abortion and euthanasia literally take human life. Any ideology which says we can kill the person to end their suffering would also allow us to kill the poor to alleviate the suffering of poverty. Abortion and euthanasia are therefore intrinsically part of the Culture of Death, annihilating persons rather than the person’s problems.

Serial sex partnerships (sexual liberation) make human persons ‘disposable’ to one another, and increase sexually transmitted disease throughout society, some of these are fatal.. As such, serial sex partnerships too are part of the Culture of Death.

IVF (‘test-tube baby’ techniques) annihilates several embryos in each treatment cycle, killing around eight to ten blossoming human lives to achieve one healthy delivery. As a destroyer of individual human lives. IVF tis part of the Culture of Death.

Embryonic and foetal research all include the destruction of human embryos; of these individual human lives,. Thus,  like IVF, they are part of the Culture of Death. (People may be blind to the fact that IVF and embryonic research are part of the Culture of Death in that the aim is to bring about new and healthy lives, but we cannot engage in the destruction of ten children so that one may live, or engage in human experimentation so that we can eradicate disease. Medical science does not need human experimentation in order to progress. That tactic was used by the Nazi’s and condemned the world over.

Homosexual acts use the life-transmitting act in ways that cannot generate life; ways which, additionally, bring STD’s and physical damage (i.e., ano-rectal tears/trauma), so these too are part of the Culture of Death.

Transgender surgery aims to eliminate (kill-off) one’s birth sex. Indeed, it is a lie tod to society and individuals since we are always our birth sex in our DNA. The most that can be achieved by plastic surgery is a mimicking/impersonation of, the opposite sex. As an eradication of life-giving powers and a mutilation of the body, Transgender surgery is part of the Culture of Death.

Intoxication by drug & alcohol abuse renders one more liable to accident and attack, risking life and limb. As such it too is part of the Culture of Death. One does not ‘get a life’ by endangering one’s life.

Violence which is not undertaken in immediate self-defence is always an attack upon a person’s physical safety and as such, part of the Culture of Death. Sexual violence (rape) is of the same order: it is an attack upon the physical safety of the victim. Such violence has the added evil of being a violation of the victim’s self-experienced integrity as a person.

Where does the Culture of Life differ from the Culture of Death? The Culture of Life requires that we (and the law) recognise the intrinsic equal value of every human life, male or female, young or old, black or white, sick or well, born or unborn, so as to provide help in a person’s social needs and healing in their illness. In the Culture of Life, abortion and IVF are replaced by adoption, which upholds the life of every child and provides parenthood to husbands and wives. In the Culture of Life, stability of family life replaces temporary relationships and the family chaos that ensues with successive living arrangements. In the Culture of Life, friendship replaces aberrant homosexual acts which bring disease. In family planning, artificial contraception is replaced by natural family planning as provided by naprotechnology. Developed by Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers, MD, naprotechnology works with the woman’s body, allowing a couple to space out their children naturally and in many cases, restore health where there is infertility, endometriosis, polycystic ovaries and ovulation failure. Successful pregnancies after successive miscarriages have also been achieved by naprotechnology, even in cases where IVF has failed. It is a natural, healthy process of both contraception and conception. 

Is not the Culture of Life not a healthier culture than the killing of unborn babies and of the sick? A healthier culture than one in which friendship and mutual respect replaces damaging sex acts? A healthier culture than one which spreads disease and abandonment of spouses and children by serial cohabitation and serial sexual experience? A healthier culture than one which encourages self-mutilation? And while we know marriages also break down, this has increased not simply because of easier divorce laws but because we have made persons and relationships disposable by promoting sexual liberty. In that sex is now a recreational experience and can be engaged in with reduced likelihood of pregnancy, infidelity has increased, with all the pain and family break-down that brings.  Logically, there can be nothing ‘healthy’ in a Culture of Death, since health and death are clearly opposites. The Culture of Life is the only one that can produce a healthy, stable society with persons valued at all stages -and in all conditions- of life. All the culture of death offers is the elimination of persons.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Vocations Sunday and Fr Lawrence Jones

Yesterday we prayed for vocations to the religious life and priesthood. Monks & nuns lead an enclosed life of prayer for the good of the Church; Sisters & brothers live and work in the world as educators, nurses, social workers etc. Each of these is important: without prayer we cannot draw upon Divine Power; without health, education and social care the Gospel does not impact the world and the common good. But what the Church needs to sustain us all is priests. We do not want to be left without someone to anoint us in sickness; absolve us from sin; to celebrate the Mass and solemnise our marriages. Small wonder that Our Lord lamented over sheep without a shepherd. Without a priest a community is a flock without a shepherd; even a body without a head. We should encourage those who voice an interest in following a vocation to listen to the Lord, and ask those we think might make a good priest to consider asking the Lord about it.

And do pray for the priests you already have. Many are now running two or three parishes, and I can tell you from my own experience of having run two parishes at one time, that each parish thinks you are there full time, and expects from your part-time hours all that they had from a resident, full-time pastor. Add to this the general perception of priests in the mind of the public today following the abuse scandals, and the pressures upon priests are hefty. A great deal of that pressure comes from within: the desire to preach well; to celebrate the sacraments in a worthy and dignified manner; to be a shepherd to the sick and housebound; a guide to the children in school and a support to families and others in crisis. It is a varied and challenging life for which none of us thinks he is fit, but we struggle on doing the best we can and trying to be the kind of priest, the sort of Father, we are called to be. We are not meant to simply but be his envoy, but to make Him present; to personify Him in the world around us. And that is no easy task.

Today in our Diocese we received notice of the death of one of our own priests: Father Lawrence Jones. Father was 53 years old and a priest for 29 years this year. He had a great sense of humour, of fairness, and of dedication to God and the people. He will be sadly missed. If we were having a vocations talk today I would be sharing the following video of Father Lawrence. Enjoy, and offer a prayer for Father and his family, please.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Yesterday's Homily...

...pleased some and displeased others. That, I suppose, is par for the course. Here it is.

In today’s Gospel we see Our Lord and the writer of the Gospel going to great lengths to prove the reality of the Lord’s physical resurrection from the dead. Our Lord invites the Apostles to touch Him and even goes so far as to eat before them. It was clearly important to establish the reality of the Resurrection because it is core to forming our courage to leave behind the attractions of this world for the happiness of the world to come.

It amazes me that I hear such things as “We know the ancient N’s did this because of a manuscript found at... and which can be dated to...”. It amazes me because while we have four Gospels and a number of apostolic letters, some of those same people free to question the reliability of the Bible and our Faith. One wonders why, and I can only presume it is because if they accept the Truth of The Faith they will have to give up living by their own rules in order to live according to God’s rules. And today’s world does not like rules; it rejects “external ought’s and should’s”. But the resurrection and the establishing of the Catholic Church by Christ are facts of history that we ignore to our peril.

Note too that in both the first and second reading there is a common theme: sin and its forgiveness. The first reading reminds us we are to repent and turn to God that our sins might be forgiven. Some people want their sins forgiven without their tuning to God, but we cannot receive something from someone to whom we have our back turned; we must turn toward them. Forgiveness requires a turn-around of lifestyle. The second reading reminds us that we can know we are at one with God only by keeping his commandments. So turning toward God and keeping His commandments are needed for the forgiveness of sin; the Divine Mercy cannot be received if we turn our back on God or if we turn to Him without changing our ways.

Now we all sin, and all need forgiveness. Some people do not seek forgiveness because they think their sin is too big, too grievous to be forgiven. That is not the Catholic Faith: the Catholic Faith tells us that no sin is too big or too heinous to be forgiven, for no sin can be bigger than God (who is without end -how can one commit a sin bigger than a mercy which has no end?) So always encourage people who think their sin is too great to consider the infinite nature of God and of His forgiveness.

Other people do not seek forgiveness because they don’t accept that what they are doing is wrong; they simply don’t agree with all that the Church teaches. But then, what are such Catholics saying when they recite the Creed and say “I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”? The Church was told by Christ “He who hears you hears Me; he who rejects you rejects Me”, so if we disagree with the Church’s official doctrinal teaching we are disagreeing with God. When we receive converts into the Church they must recite the Creed and add “I believe all that the Holy Catholic Churches teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God”. If they say “I believe in a most of (or a lot of) what the Catholic Church teaches” I’d have to say “Well, we can go no further”. Yet it is common among cradle Catholics to hear that very thing: “I believe most of what the Church teaches, but I disagree with it on contraception, homosexuality, euthanasia (etc)”. In effect, such folk have lost their Catholic Faith because they have lost faith in the Church: if they cannot trust the Church in everything, how can they trust in her in anything –including her teaching on salvation? They may retain belief in a benevolent god, but it is not the God of the Bible or Tradition: not the God of Divine Revelation. 

Today, let us take seriously the reality of our Faith as testified to by the Apostles and handed on to us by the Church; let us turn to God no matter how heinous our sins, and encourage others to do the same. God wants all to turn to Him and be saved, and we should want it to.