Before the age of Starbucks and Costa Coffee

By David Torkington

Before the Age ogreen island Poole harbour sunset.jpg web smallf Starbucks and Costa Coffee I used to travel all over the country trying to spread the Good News that I hadn’t really understood myself. Then, thanks to my aversion to the motorway coffee that looked like sepia soup that tasted like dishwater with a hint of soap suds, I bought two twelve volt kettles at a car boot sale to brew my own in the car. The good news is that it worked, the bad news is that it took two hours to boil and made me lose my temper. As soon as I got home I plugged the kettle into the mains and watched the flash as it went up in smoke. It was as the smell of burning rubber was invading my nostrils that I saw the light, this time it was a spiritual flash of light that enabled me to see what I’d never seen before. Just as I discovered the hard way that 240 volts into 12 volts will not go I simultaneously saw that infinite love into finite love will not go either. That was why, before Jesus came, nobody could get close to God, nobody ever saw him, let alone receive his love within them. Nevertheless people wanted to experience his love and wanted to spend the rest of their existence being possessed by that love and to all eternity. The desire was there but the means wasn’t. That’s why to this day, the prayers that they used, the psalms that they sung, and the poems that they loved can still be said today because thanks to Jesus their wildest dreams have at last become possible.

Finish reading this excellent article here

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The Pity of Christ – Crisis Magazine


Christ cannot be psychoanalyzed because he is perfect.  It would be like seeking flaws in pure crystal or long shadows at high noon. That is why he may seem from our fallen state in a singularly ill-contrived world as both severe and merciful, ethereal and common, rebellious and routine, rustic and royal, solitary and brotherly, young and ageless.  His perfection is a stubborn enigma to the imperfect, but if there is to be one hint of the art that moves his mind, it will be in his pity.  It will be in his pity for the whole world when he weeps over Jerusalem; but most wrenchingly it will be in his pity for each soul when he sees us scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd.

This is a great post by Fr George W. Rutler. Please read it.

The Pity of Christ – Crisis Magazine.

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When faithful Catholics get it seriously wrong

by Deacon Nick Donnelly

As an ordained minister of the Church the key purpose of my life is very straightforward – adoring God and saving souls. Nothing else matters. I proclaim and defend the doctrines and the disciplines of the Faith because they have been entrusted to the Church as the means by which souls attain their supernatural destiny of sharing in “the good things of God”. It’s rare to hear nowadays, but I seek to cultivate in myself and others a “passionate zeal for souls”. Of course zeal for souls involves zeal to save man in his totality, body and soul, as expressed in the practice of corporal acts of mercy combined with spiritual acts of mercy. Pope Francis said earlier this year that the salus animarum [the salvation of souls] is the highest law of the Church, which he describes as helping people hear and live the universal call to holiness.

It is from this zeal for souls that I want to share with you my growing concern about attitudes, behaviours and arguments that I have observed among some Catholics whom I consider my friends and collaborators during this time of battle in the Church. I don’t write from some detached perspective but as someone who struggles against the same temptations. Ultimately, I write this because I want to see us all standing before the throne of Almighty God and hear His glorious words of recognition and welcome, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Mt 25:34).

Temptation to Rage

There is a lot of rage out there in the blogosphere, social media and on-line Catholic media among Catholics who clearly love the Church and take seriously the obedience of faith. I’ve even read comments wishing ill towards other Catholics, including physical harm. The most shocking example I’ve come across was a Catholic tweeting their hope that Pope Francis’ refusal of security would result in a successful attack on him! One of the dangers of social media is that anonymity encourages some individuals to gravely sinful thoughts and expressions.

I understand why faithful Catholics feel anger and even hatred suddenly flare up in their hearts on hearing yet more examples of bishops, priests, and lay activists betraying the Faith and leading souls into moral danger. Moral theology tells us that anger and hatred are passions which are natural movements of the psyche in reaction to injustice and evil. It is good to hate our own sins and natural to feel anger at the murder of unborn babies through abortion. The Catechism states:
“In themselves passions are neither good nor evil. They are morally qualified only to the extent that they effectively engage reason and will…Strong feelings are not decisive for the morality or the holiness of persons; they are simply the inexhaustible reservoir of images and affections in which the moral life is expressed. Passions are morally good when they contribute to a good action, evil in the opposite case.” (CCC 1767-1768)

In the rage I see expressed in some Catholic blogs there is not a spontaneous or passing passion. Instead given the constant expressions of anger and hate the activity of the deadly sin of wrath must be considered. The seven deadly, or capital, sins are vices that impair conscience, corrupt judgement and entrap the person in a vicious cycle of sin. Wrath, like lust or envy, is rightly called deadly because it eats a person up so that rage comes to dominate their response to life. How can we tell the difference between rightful anger and deadly rage? Apart from duration, there is a spitefulness and vindictiveness in wrath, as if the person took gleeful delight in expressing anger. The antidote to wrath is the virtue of mercy and forgiveness, which should not be confused with laxity or indifference in the face of sin and betrayal of the Faith.

I feel I must make one qualification about the question of anger and Catholic blogs, based on my personal experience of running Protect the Dissenters, and those who don’t want to face reality in the Church, often make accusations of anger, ad hominem attacks and “lack of charity” against faithful Catholic bloggers when their dissenting and erroneous arguments and dubious decisions are critiqued from the perspective of Faith and reason. By so doing they seek to portray robust argument, and rational challenge, as “sinful” in order to avoid answering just criticisms. Criticism, that is fair and reasoned, cannot really be mistaken for rage.

Temptation to Disrespect towards Pope Francis

During the pontificates of Pope St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI it was common to read and hear dissenting Catholics express disdain and crude disrespect towards these two great popes. Signs of disrespect included omitting the titles “Pope” and “Holy Father” or their chosen name as Pontiff by referring to them as “Wojtyła” and “Ratzinger”. In this way dissenting Catholic signalled a number of attitudes and decisions including their refusal to acknowledge Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI’s authority or role as successor to St. Peter, and their dissent from the doctrine and discipline of the Church proclaimed and defended by them. But more than this, I think these expressions of disrespect towards Pope St John Paul and Pope Benedict manifested the dissenters’ rejection of authority in the Church in favour of autonomous freedom and their rejection of the “obedience of faith” in favour of so called “pick and mix” or “à la carte” Catholicism.

It is incredible to see the same spiteful expressions of disrespect being written and spoken by some “faithful” Catholics against Pope Francis. It is common to read on Catholic blogs Pope Francis referred to as “Bergoglio” “Frank” or “Frankie”. And like the dissenting opponents of Pope Francis’ predecessors such Catholics are signalling that they reject Pope Francis’ authority and role in the Church as the successor of St Peter.

This is a totally bizarre attitude for Catholics who seek to be faithful to Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium to adopt towards the 266th Pontiff of the Catholic Church and Successor to St. Peter. The basic attitude expected of faithful Catholics towards Pope Francis is first and foremost one of respect and reverence. The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, explains this fundamental disposition:

“This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.” (Lumen Gentium, 25).

It is clear from the Catholic understanding of the Primacy of the Successor of St Peter that it is contrary to the faith handed down to us from the Apostles to express disrespect towards the pope. Having said this, showing respect and reverence towards the office of the Roman Pontiff does not exclude critical engagement with Pope Francis’ teachings and judgments. In fact Pope Francis has gone out of his way to signal that much of his teaching, such as his daily meditations during Mass at St. Martha’s and even some of his apostolic documents, are not to be treated as magisterial.

Temptation to Schism

The latest eruption of heresy among some bishops, such as proposals to allow divorced and re-married to receive Holy Communion and unqualified affirmations of homosexuality and fornication, is breaking the hearts of faithful Catholics. But instead of taking our concerns seriously we’re often dismissed as “fundamentalists”, “rigorists” and “hardliners” because we think the Church should proclaim the revealed truths entrusted to us by Our Lord to save us from sin and attain eternal life.

I get a sense that some faithful Catholics, worn out after decades of enduring either dissenting bishops and priests or ineffectual bishops and priests, long for freedom from the cruelty of heresy and the indifference of some of our shepherds. I’ve noticed that sometimes this longing for freedom expresses itself in talk of schism as a solution. It seems to me that some faithful Catholics are discussing the possibility of schism for two reasons:

First, on a general level, talk of schism is an articulation of the hope that if only we could be free of all the dissenting and heretical Catholics we could live in the Church as God intended. Often schism is the desperate action of Christians who seek to purify the Church because they’ve lost hope that things can be different. We can see the consequence of this type of thinking in the hundreds of thousands of Protestant ecclesial communities that have fractured from the heresy and schism of the Reformation.

Secondly, on a specific level, some faithful Catholics are talking about the possibility of schism as a ‘what if’ scenario – what if the Synod of Bishops in October recommends to Pope Francis, and the Holy Father accepts, some formula of words that allows divorced and re-married to receive Holy Communion after observing some form of Cardinal Kasper’s “penitential way”. Such a decision on the part of the Holy Father and Synod of Fathers would represent an unprecedented, many would say unimaginable, action – the betrayal of the categorical doctrines of Our Lord and apostles on the indissolubility of marriage, the immorality of adultery, abandonment of children, and, offences against the sanctity of the Blessed Sacrament.

Concerns about schism are heightened by the fact that the Instrumentum Laboris – the working paper for the 2015 Synod – includes Cardinal Kasper’s proposal (paragraphs 122-123) even though it failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority vote during the 2014 Extraordinary Synod.

But to contemplate schism as an acceptable ‘option’ is to forget that it is a grave sin against the Faith that deserves the severest penalty of excommunication. The prospect of inflicting “a wound to the unity of the Body of Christ” (CCC 817) should fill us all with a sense of horror. It’s painful enough knowing that our personal sins inflict the wounds on Our Lord’s crucified body, but to even contemplate the hypothetical scenario of another wound to the Mystical Body of Christ is heartbreaking.

Salvation of Souls – Nothing Else Matters

As faithful Catholics we are living through difficult times during which the Faith is not only under constant attack from secularism but also the Faith is under direct attack from certain cardinals, bishops and priests within the Church. The challenge for faithful Catholics is how to challenge these attacks without losing our souls, or those of others. If we succumb to habits of thought and expression that are sinful, then we do more harm than good, not only to ourselves and others but to the Church we love. I have the following sentence from St Paul posted on my kitchen wall to remind me of the truly Catholic approach to take in the current conflict within the Church, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”. (Romans 12:21). Salvation of souls – nothing else matters.

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The Death of God and the Loss of Human Dignity

COMMENTARY: ‘If there is no God, then human beings are dispensable — so why not trade the organs of infants for a nice Lamborghini?’

07/28/2015 Comments (4)

Editor’s note: Bishop-Elect Barron’s article was written in advance of the third undercover video posted online today by the Center for Medical Progress. WARNING: This latest video contains graphic content that many viewers would find disturbing.

I am sure by now that many of you have seen the appalling hidden-camera videos of two Planned Parenthood physicians bantering cheerfully with interlocutors posing as prospective buyers of the body parts of aborted infants. While they slurp wine in elegant restaurants, the good doctors — both women — blandly talk about what price they would expect for providing valuable inner organs, and how the skillful abortionists of Planned Parenthood know just how to murder babies so as not to damage the goods. One of the doctors specified that the abortion providers employ “less crunchy” methods when they know that the organs of a baby are going to be harvested for sale. Mind you, the “crunchiness” she’s talking about is a reference to the skull-crushing and dismemberment by knife and suction typically employed in abortions. For me, the most bone-chilling moment was when one of the kindly physicians, informed that the price she was asking was too low, leered and said, “Oh good, because I’d like a Lamborghini.”

Now it is easy enough to remark and lament the moral coarseness of these women, the particularly repulsive way that they combine violence and greed. But I would like to explore a deeper issue that these videos bring to light, namely, the forgetfulness of the dignity of the human being that is on ever clearer display in our Western culture. One has only to consider the over 58,000,000 abortions that have taken place, under full protection of the law, in our country since Roe v. Wade in 1973, or the ever more insistent push toward permitting euthanasia, even of children in some European countries, or the wanton killing going on nightly in the streets of our major cities. The figures in my home town of Chicago typically surpass those recorded in the battle grounds of the Middle East.

What makes this sort of startling violence against human beings possible, I would submit, is the attenuation of our sense of God’s existence. In the classical Western perspective, the dignity of the human person is a consequence and function of his or her status as a creature of God. Precisely because the human being is made in the image and likeness of the Creator and destined, finally, for eternal life on high with God, he is a subject of inalienable rights. I use Jefferson’s language from the Declaration of Independence on purpose here, for the great founding father knew that the absolute nature of the rights he was describing follows from their derivation from God: “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…” When God is removed from the picture, human rights rather rapidly evanesce, which can be seen with clarity in both ancient times and modern. For Cicero, Aristotle, and Plato, a cultural elite enjoyed rights, privileges, and dignity, while the vast majority of people were legitimately relegated to inferior status, some even to the condition of slavery. In the totalitarianisms of the last century — marked in every case by an aggressive dismissal of God—untold millions of human beings were treated as little more than vermin….

Read more:

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Today the Church remembers Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, the first native woman saint of India. Here is the story of her life taken from the Vatican Website:

7_28_St_AlphonsaBlessed Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception was born in Kudamalur, the Arpookara region, in the diocese of Changanacherry, India, on the 19th of August 1910, of the ancient and noble family of Muttathupadathu.

From her birth, the life of the Blessed was marked by the cross, which would be progressively revealed to her as the royal way to conform herself to Christ. Her mother, Maria Puthukari, gave birth to her prematurely, in her eight month of pregnancy, as a result of a fright she received when, during the sleep, a snake wrapped itself around her waist. Eight days later, the 28 of August, the child was baptised according to the Syro-Malabar rite by the Fr. Joseph Chackalayil, and she received the name Annakutty, a diminutive of Anne. She was the last of five children.

Her mother died three months later. Annakutty passed her early infancy in the home of her grandparents in Elumparambil. There she lived a particularly happy time because of her human and Christian formation, during which the first seeds of a vocation flowered. Her grand-mother, a pious and charitable woman, communicated the joy of the faith, love for prayer and a surge of charity towards the poor to her. At five years of age the child already knew how to lead, with a totally childish enthusiasm, the evening prayer of the family gathered, in accordance with the Syro-Malabar custom, in the “prayer room”.

Annakutty received the Eucharistic bread for the first time on the 11 of November 1917. She used to say to her friends: “Do you know why I am so particularly happy today? It is because I have Jesus in my heart!“. In a letter to her spiritual father, on the 30 of November 1943, she confided the following: “Already from the age of seven I was no longer mine. I was totally dedicated to my divine Spouse. Your reverence knows it well“.

In the same year of 1917 she began to attend the elementary school of Thonnankuzhy, where she also established a sincere friendship with the Hindu children. When the first school cycle ended in 1920, the time had come to transfer to Muttuchira, to the house of her aunt Anna Murickal, to whom her mother, before she died, had entrusted her as her adoptive mother.

Her aunt was a severe and demanding woman, at times despotic and violent in demanding obedience from Annakutty in her every minimal disposition or desire. Assiduous in her religious practice, she accompanied her niece, but did not share the young girl’s friendship with the Carmelites of the close-by Monastery or her long periods of prayer at the foot of the altar. She was, in fact, determined to procure an advantageous marriage for Annakutty, obstructing the clear signs of her religious vocation.

The virtue of the Blessed was manifested in accepting this severe and rigid education as a path of humility and patience for the love of Christ, and tenaciously resisted the reiterated attempts at engagement to which the aunt tried to oblige her. Annakutty, in order to get out from under a commitment to marriage, reached the point of voluntarily causing herself a grave burn by putting her foot into a heap of burning embers. “My marriage was arranged when I was thirteen years old. What had I to do to avoid it? I prayed all that night… then an idea came tome. If my body were a little disfigured no one would want me! … O, how I suffered! I offered all for my great intention“.

The proposal to defile her singular beauty did not fully succeed in freeing her from the attentions of suitors. During the following years the Blessed had to defend her vocation, even during the year of probation when an attempt to give her in marriage, with the complicity of the Mistress of Formation herself, was made. “O, the vocation which I received! A gift of my good God!…. God saw the pain of my soul in those days. God distanced the difficulties and established me in this religious state“.

It was Fr. James Muricken, her confessor, who directed her towards Franciscan spirituality and put her in contact with the Congregation of the Franciscan Clarists. Annakutty entered their college in Bharananganam in the diocese of Palai, to attend seventh class, as an intern student, on the 24th of May 1927. The following year, on the 2nd of August 1928, Annakutty began her postulancy, taking the name of Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception in honour of St. Alphonsus Liguori, whose feast it was that day. She was clothed in the religious habit on the 19th of May 1930, during the first pastoral visit made to Bharananganam by the Bishop, Msgr. James Kalacherry.

The period 1930-1935 was characterised by grave illness and moral suffering. She could teach the children in the school at Vakakkad only during the scholastic year 1932. Then, because of her weakness, she carried out the duties of assistant-teacher and catechist in the parish. She was engaged also as secretary, especially to write official letters because of her beautiful script.

The canonical novitiate was introduced into the Congregation of the Franciscan Clarists in 1934. Though wishing to enter immediately, the Blessed was only admitted on the 12th of August 1935 because of her ill health. About one week after the beginning of her novitiate, she had a haemorrhage from the nose and eyes and a profound organic wasting and purulent wounds on her legs. The illness deteriorated, to such a point that the worst was feared.

Heaven came to the rescue of the holy novice. During a novena to The Servant of God Fr. Kuriakose Elia Chavara – a Carmelite who today is a Blessed—she was miraculously and instantaneously cured.

Having restarted her novitiate, she wrote the following proposals in her spiritual diary: “I do not wish to act or speak according to my inclinations. Every time I fail, I will do penance… I want to be careful never to reject anyone. I will only speak sweet words to others. I want to control my eyes with rigour. I will ask pardon of the Lord for every little failure and I will atone for it through penance. No matter what my sufferings may be, I will never complain and if I have to undergo any humiliation, I will seek refuge in the Sacred Heart of Jesus“.

The 12th of August 1936, the feast of St. Clare, the day of her perpetual profession, was a day of inexpressible spiritual joy. She had realised her desire, guarded for a long time in her heart and confided to her sister Elizabeth when she was only 12 years old: “Jesus is my only Spouse, and none other“.

Jesus, however, wished to lead His spouse to perfection through a life of suffering. “I made my perpetual profession on the 12th of August 1936 and came here to Bharanganam on the following 14th. From that time, it seems, I was entrusted with a part of the cross of Christ. There are abundant occasions of suffering… I have a great desire to suffer with joy. It seems that my Spouse wishes to fulfil this desire“.

Painful illnesses followed each other: typhoid fever, double pneumonia, and, the most serious of all, a dramatic nervous shock, the result of a fright on seeing a thief during the night of the 18th of October 1940. Her state of psychic incapacity lasted for about a year, during which she was unable to read or write.

In every situation, Sister Alphonsa always maintained a great reservation and charitable attitude towards the Sisters, silently undergoing her sufferings. In 1945 she had a violent outbreak of illness. A tumour, which had spread throughout her organs, transformed her final year of life into a continuous agony. Gastroenteritis and liver problems caused violent convulsions and vomiting up to forty times a day: “I feel that the Lord has destined me to be an oblation, a sacrifice of suffering… I consider a day in which I have not suffered as a day lost to me“.

With this attitude of a victim for the love of the Lord, happy until the final moment and with a smile of innocence always on her lips, Sister Alphonsa quietly and joyfully brought her earthly journey to a close in the convent of the Franciscan Clarists at Bharananganam at 12.30 on the 28th July 1946, leaving behind the memory of a Sister full of love and a saint.

Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception Muttathupadathu was proclaimed Blessed by Pope John Paul II in Kottayam, India, on the 8th of February 1986.

With today’s Canonisation, the Church in India presents its first Saint to the veneration of the faithful of the whole world. Faithful from every part of the world have come together in a single act of thanksgiving to God in her name and in a sign of the great oriental and western traditions, Roman and Malabar, which Sr. Alphonsa lived and harmonised in her saintly life.

Saint Alphonsa was canonised on 12 October 2008, Vatican City by Pope Benedict XVI

Prayer of Saint Alphonsa 

Oh my Jesus, hide me in the wound of Thy Sacred Heart. Free me from my evil desire to be loved and esteemed. Guard me from the mean pursuit of honour and fame. Make me humble till I become a small spark in the flame of love in your Sacred Heart. Grant me the grace to forget myself and all worldly things. My Jesus, who is ineffable sweetness, transforms all the worldly consolations into bitterness for me. Oh my Jesus, Sun of Righteousness, enlighten my intellect and mind with your sacred rays. Purify my heart, consume me with burning love for you, and make me one with you. By Thy Divine rays, clarify my thoughts, illumine my mind, cleanse my heart, consume me in the fire of Thy love, and thus unite me with Thee.  Amen.

Prayer to Saint Alphonsa

Oh! Saint Alphonsa, you have been graciously chosen from our midst to be united with Jesus Christ, our Saviour, in the mystery of His passion, death and resurrection. You have grown to the heights of holiness and have been crowned with heavenly glory. Help us in our trials and tribulations. Oh, daughter of sufferings, obtain for us the grace to lead a holy life, following your example – in total submission to the Will of God. Be with us, transforming all our sorrows into a holy sacrifice in union with Christ Crucified, in reparation for our sins, for the sanctification and the salvation of the whole world.  Amen.

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Pope Francis: A Church 200 Years Out of Date

Benny Lai, dean of Italian Vatican-watchers, during the last years of his life always insisted, “It’s not my Vatican anymore.” Lai – accredited since 1946 – especially missed the sense of symbols, the importance of gestures, the theological depth. Benny Lai was not a believer. But he grasped the core issue at the root of Vatican decay. Under Pope Francis this issue has grown and is headed toward a breaking point. But in fact it already existed during previous pontificates.

The difference is that previous pontificates stemmed it. The idea of a Church bereft of theology has been supported by media for some time. But the Vatican has been able to focus everything back on the Gospel, since theology still remained the main criterion on which every activity was based. But working through their agenda, Pope Francis’ supporters have as their main goal to change the Church’s theology.

This goal becomes clear when one reads the talks given at the so-called “shadow synod,” which took place at the Pontifical Gregorian University on May 25. It was a gathering of members and consulters of the French, Swiss and German bishops’ conferences. The meeting was closed to the public, but some media representatives were invited as long as they agreed not to write anything about the discussions, and not to mention the names of the participants.

The final goal of this meeting seemed to be the production of a theological document concerning the upcoming Synod on marriage and the family to be published during Pope Francis’ trip to the United States. However, in the end the publication of the document was moved up. The German Bishops’ Conference published the texts of the talks and a summary of the discussion that followed them on its website in German, French and Italian.

The texts reveal what the discussion at the upcoming Synod will look like. But more importantly, they allow us to understand what kind of direction the participants want to give to the Church.

During the 2014 Synod, one factor derailed the controversial mid-term report that was strongly unbalanced on issues such as the recognition of same-sex unions and access to Communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. This factor was the lack of biblical and theological references especially, but not exclusively, in the relevant paragraphs.

The Synod’s final report nevertheless includes the controversial questions, thanks to Pope Francis’ decision to incorporate in it even those paragraphs that did not receive the Synod’s consensus (that is, a supermajority of two-thirds of the assembly). But it also contained many biblical and theological references, the only passages to have gained an almost unanimous consensus.

The working document for the 2015 Synod once again includes the controversial issues. The paragraphs that received the fewest votes at the 2014 Synod are back in their entirety in this document. Moreover, these paragraphs are once again the point of departure for those whose attempts to bring about change failed during the last Synod.

What is their final goal? By looking closely at the German, Swiss and French texts from the “shadow synod,” we can see that they are pushing in the end for a theological revolution. Specifically they are looking for a path from a theology based on Scripture and on the need to seek for salvation on the basis of the Word God, to a theology that takes into account human imperfections. Briefly put, this is their rationale: given that what the Gospel asks for is an ideal that men are not always able to achieve, let’s change the ideal.

The participants at the “shadow Synod” sought to give this rationale a theological foundation, recognizing that theology was lacking during the “blitz” at the last Synod. The mid-term report was deeply altered by Pope Francis’ consulters before it was returned to Cardinal Petr Erdo, General Relator of the Synod.

This theology is based on the presupposition that the reality of the human being is determined by what human beings say about themselves, that is, their experiences. Is this the right way forward?

This question undergirds each of the interventions in the “shadow synod.” Each of them has a common point of view: a clear “no” to a “merely abstract theology,” a position that was already indicated in the guidelines and questionnaire of 2015 Synod under the theme of a form of pastoral care distinct from doctrine.

A glance at some of the texts helps us to understand better. Anne-Marie Pellettier, a French theologian who also won the Ratzinger Prize for theology, opined that “the Catholic tradition on indissolubility is actually based on a disciplinary interpretation” of Matthew 19 (“Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard”), but this text has “a kerygmatic content” which is that “the conjugal bond, in the terms Jesus expresses it, is strictly linked to the vocation of those who, with baptism, will be immersed in Christ’s death and resurrection.” The French theologian stressed that some of today’s challenges come from the fact that “the Catholic Church never ceased to uphold firmly the principle of indissolubility,” while customs widely dismissed it. In fact, she concluded, “conjugal life has more hurdles than those admitted by the theology of marriage.”

A push for a renewal of the theology of marriage was advanced by Eberhard Schockenhoff, one of the most influential persons in the German Church. He stands behind all the sociological presuppositions that have influenced German theology, mostly imbued by the leftist association “We are Church”.

Schockenhoff offered a materialist reflection, one that pivoted on the difficulties of modern life, and he generously sprinkled his thesis with quotations from the psychoanalyst Erich Fromm and the Marxist sociologist Theodor Adorno.

In his remarks, Schockenhoff stressed that “one must admit that love may end,” because the “irrevocability of the choice of marrying is based on what love wants,” and indissolubility is instead “a request that spouses look after each other as long as they trust in their love.” In the end, he said, personal conscience holds the primacy, with all of the nuances of truth.

What, then, is the truth for which we ought to strive? A contribution on “narrative theology,” or better a “theology of biography” by the Jesuit theologian Alain Thomasset suggested that truth is not singular, but multiple.

“The interpretation of the doctrine concerning “intrinsically evil” actions is seemingly one of the main obstacles to the pastoral care of families, as it determines the rejection of artificial contraception, of sexual relations between divorced and remarried persons, and of even stable homosexual couples” he said.

This doctrine, Thomasset affirmed, “seems to be incomprehensible to many people and pastorally counterproductive,” and so more discernment over a variety of situations has to be undertaken, because “the objective ethical references provided by the Church are just one item (an important one, but not a unique one) in the moral discernment that must be operative within the personal conscience.”

On the basis of these presuppositions Thomasset proposes an interpretation of human actions “within the context of the Catholic tradition,” that involves these consequences: that sexual relations between remarried persons would no longer entail moral guilt, and this “would open access to the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist;” that sexual relations with use of non-abortive contraception between married couples “could not be considered an objective sin;” and that a reduction of the objective evil of sexual relations between stable homosexual couples be conceded, so that in terms of their sexual activity, “their objective moral responsibility can be diminished or even eliminated.”

The German theologian, Eva Maria Faber, then delivered the final blow to a theology based on truth. In her speech, she stressed that the Catholic tradition is focused on the way that spouses must live in common, but that this approach ignores the individual stories and the individuality of the spouses, while at the same time “the matrimonial promise points to an unforeseeable future,” and “the fragility of marriages today is more evident because the social indissolubility of marriage no longer exists, and so it is more challenging to have a successful marriage.”

In the end, the “shadow synod’s” remarks do not deal merely with the push for a more pastoral approach to marriage, but are mostly an attempt to detach it from the Church’s traditional teaching, on the grounds that it is too difficult to follow. In the end, these positions suggested an overriding need to fit in with the world, and to make the Church fit in with the world, all the more so by adopting the world’s (secular) language.

But the Catholic Church has its own vocabulary that is profound and precise, as it was established and elaborated over centuries of history, tradition and study. Words are not secondary, just as symbols are not.

At times Pope Francis has gotten this point. For example, in a meeting last week with big city mayors gathered at the Vatican to sign a declaration against slavery and in defense of the environment, the Pope wanted to clarify that the encyclical “Laudato Si” “is not a green encyclical, but a social encyclical,” and he explained that it is better to speak explicitly about God’s creation. This way, he corrected some of the encyclical’s misinterpretations, especially concerning his use of the notion “mother earth”.

In fact, the disorder caused by his use of terms is perhaps the real problem of Pope Francis’ pontificate. After his off the cuff talk, he was the first signatory of the Mayor’s declaration. The declaration referred explicitly to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and it adopted the United Nations’ terminology.

If during the 80s, the hidden Vatican was able to insert a reference to “integral human development” here and there in various UN documents, nowadays the Holy See simply takes on board the UN’s vocabulary, and by doing so, it adopts all of the controversial positions on issues like the birth control and abortion that are discreetly embedded in such typical UN terms as “sustainable economy” and “sexual and reproductive rights.”

This change of vocabulary did not just happen suddenly under Pope Francis. For many years there has been an ever so slight movement toward this language, although Benedict XVI tried to stem it by focusing everything on the notion of truth – even Vatican diplomacy. Benedict XVI went even further – beyond the historical-critical discussion common to theology, as it interpreted and sometimes manipulated texts so that the Bible could say everything and nothing at once. With his three books on Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict showed a new way, a theological discussion based on the assumption of the Gospel’s historical veracity.

Today, the Church is back to the earlier, historical-critical discussion, and not by chance the German theologians, marginalized in the 90s for their daring positions, are back on the stage. On stage with these theologians are also issues such as the horizontal Church (non-hierarchical) and other similar positions from the 80s that corresponded at the time to the Media Council, the definition of which is one of the most important legacies of Benedict XVI’s pontificate.

What we are looking at now is a more secular Church that is taking center stage, one that uses secular terms. Benny Lai understood that this was the Church’s fate, since once the Church loses the capacity to speak with its own language, it loses itself. Structural reforms of the Curia and of finances are not enough, even though they might be functional, because what is needed on the ground is a theological way of thinking, and a theological ideal to reach for. As Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini put it, the Church is 200 years out of date. But not in the way that everyone thinks.

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What is an Unborn Baby?

A Meme From ‘Pro Life Wexford’ (Ireland)

“A picture is worth a thousand words”!


Through what eyes do you see the ‘unborn baby’?

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The Worrying Thoughts of Cdl. Vincent Nichols on Divorce & Remarriage

from Church Militant

What are the chances of the 2015 Synod voting in favour of abandoning Our Lord’s categorical teaching on divorce and the immorality of adultery? There are worrying signs coming from England. Since the close of the 2014 Extraordinary Synod the English cardinal Vincent Nichols has made a number of statements exploring the possibility of accepting a version of the “Penitential Way.” If Cardinal Nichols’ reasoning is representative of many Synod Fathers’ approach to this fundamental doctrine on marriage faithful Catholics have grounds for real concern about the outcome of the October Synod.

Cardinal Nichols will have the opportunity to express the fruits of his thinking on “second marriages” and the “Penitential Way” at the Synod in three months’ time. The working paper for the 2015 Synod proposes yet again Cardinal Kasper’s frontal assault on the indissolubility of marriage and the sanctity of the Blessed Sacrament. Even though his proposal failed to receive a two-thirds majority during the 2014 Synod the Instrumentum Laboris contains a section on Kasper’s so called “Penitential Way” that if accepted would lead to the divorced and re-married receiving Holy Communion.

Cardinal Nichols’ Strange Proposal

On his return to England following the 2014 Synod Cdl. Nichols gave a press conference during which he admitted that “his thinking on the question of second ‘marriages’ had developed and deepened.” He told journalists that he “now understood the idea of a ‘penitential journey’ for those in so-called ‘second marriages.'” Cardinal Nichols outlined a number of versions of a “penitential journey,” but has focused on one in particular. He said:

In Catholic belief a valid marriage is a sacrament to which Christ gives His word. So for a person who’s in a second marriage that sacrament, the first marriage, remains a source of grace. Now I’ve never thought that before. And they go on to say, even if it’s the grace of repentance and sorrow. But that sacrament never goes away and remains a potential source of grace for somebody as they carry on making the best of their lives with all sincerity and integrity.

Cardinal Nichols returned to this proposal in a homily during a special Mass in thanksgiving for the Sacrament of Matrimony in Westminster Cathedral. He said:

So we have to grasp the challenging truth that even when the human relationships within a marriage degenerate and break down, something recognized in a civil divorce, there remains in that marriage the Word of Christ, given and never revoked. So even a ‘broken’ marriage remains a source of grace for those who are part of it. From this arises a demanding and painful question: What is the grace of marriage that remains for the spouse in such a situation? Perhaps it is the grace of sorrow and repentance, the grace of being able to see and embrace the hurt done through that breakdown and the responsibilities that still flow from it? Perhaps that recognition is the first step on the pathway of mercy and of conversion.

Importantly, in the second reflection Cdl. Nichols does not talk about spouses in “second marriages” benefitting from the grace of the original sacramental marriage. Of course, separated and divorced, but not re-married, spouses can benefit from the grace of the valid marriage because they are not committing the sin of adultery.

But let’s return to the implications of Cdl. Nichols first reflection that talks explicitly of the penitential journey of divorced and re-married spouses and his  idea that they benefit from the grace of the sacramental marriage.

Downplaying the Sinfulness of Adultery?

Before attending the Synod Cdl. Nichols admitted that allowing divorced and re-married to receive Holy Communion would require “quite a radical rethink of one or the other” of the doctrines of the indissolubility of marriage and the meaning of reception of Holy Communion. The “penitential path” focused on by Cdl. Nichols requires a radical re-think of both doctrines.

It is hard to see how the suggestion that divorced and re-married benefit from the grace of the sacramental marriage can be reconciled with the grave immorality of adultery committed by the divorced and re-married or with the prerequisite to receive Holy Communion — the intention of a firm amendment of life required for a sincere repentance from grave sin.

I know a Catholic wife and mother who has been abandoned by her Catholic husband following his long-standing affair with a younger woman. The husband went on to contract a civil divorce and re-married. According to the doctrine and discipline of the Church, going back to Our Lord’s teaching that divorced and re-married commit adultery, that husband is in a grave state of sin. Though only God and the husband in his inner most conscience knows if he is in a state of mortal sin, this is a very real possibility.

Those proposing such a “penitential path” for divorced and remarried need to address the following questions:

  • Can a husband committing adultery in a civil marriage benefit from the grace of the sacramental marriage he continues to betray?
  • If the divorced and re-married husband is allowed to receive Holy Communion after following a penitential path, what of justice towards the wife and children he continues to betray?
  • Will the penitential path involve the Church assessing if the husband maintains his obligation of financial support towards the children he abandoned? If the husband refuses to pay adequate child maintenance, will the Church insist that he must in order to be reconciled with the Church?

Sin is not an abstract moral condition but is expressed in very concrete decisions and actions.  It is important to remind ourselves of the grave consequences of mortal sin:

Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. (CCC, 1861)

If the husband continues to sin against his sacramental marriage by persisting in his adulterous relationship, how can one talk about repentance and sorrow creating the conditions necessary for God to re-establish a state of grace that would allow admission to Holy Communion? Rather, St Paul’s warning about the consequences of betraying the sacrament of the Eucharist may indicate the consequences for couples of “second marriages” betraying sacramental marriage:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. (1 Cor 11:27–30)

Grace Is the Heart of the Matter

Cardinal Nichols is right in concluding that at the heart of the debate about Holy Communion and the divorced and re-married is the reality of grace.  The fundamental truth about grace is that it is a personal gift from God. During this time when people demand their rights, it’s important to proclaim the truth that grace is not a right, that grace is not formulaic, that grace is not something that can be achieved through a programme.

God is always ready to accept the repentant sinner and is always ready to give again this gift. But the essential condition is that we have to be disposed to accept this gift. The problem with the various “penitential paths” proposed to allow the divorced and re-married to receive Holy Communion is that, by glossing over the indissolubility of marriage and the grave immorality of adultery, the couple will not be disposed to accept the gift of God’s grace.  If some form of penitential path, with all these deficiencies, is promoted in the Church we are faced with the tragic spectacle of couples being misled into thinking that they are forgiven, reconciled and in a state of grace, when in reality they remain in a state of grave sin. May God so grant us His grace that in this difficult journey we may discern His truth and that each successor to the Apostles safeguards His doctrines.

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Lectio divina: XVII Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

By Archbishop Francesco Follo


2 Kings 4.42 to 44; Ps 145; Eph 4, 1-6; Jn 6.1 to 15

The Miracle Is Born From God’s Faithfulness to Man


1) Bread to share.

Beginning this Sunday the liturgy interrupts the reading of the Gospel of St. Mark and for five consecutive Sundays (from the Seventeen Sunday up to the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time,) it presents chapter VI of St. John’s Gospel. The reason for this is the willingness to explore the theme of “bread.” Chapter VI of St John’s opens with the narration of the miracle of loaves giving us a beautiful example of Jesus’ compassion for those who had followed him to the point of “forgetting” to eat because of their desire to see his miracles and to feed with his word.

To understand today’s Gospel passage let’s once more analyze the context in which this episode happens. Jesus is followed by “a great crowd, seeing the signs he was doing on the sick.” People are attracted by the power of the merciful Jesus who cares for the sick and heals them. Jesus, however, is not only a healer, he is the master. For this reason he has climbed on the mountain like Moses, who had climbed Mount Sinai to receive the law of the Lord for Israel. However, Jesus did not go to the mountain to receive the word of God, but to give it. That’s why he sits (in the original Greek text: he sits on the chair), not because he is tired, but because this is the attitude of the teacher who, when teaching, sits above his students. After all, Jesus had already done so when he proclaimed the “new law” of the Beatitudes. “He went up on the mountain and sat down; then took the floor, he began to teach “(Mt 5, 1). Also with regard to the Gospel passage of today, it is useful to highlight the time of the year: it was close to Passover. It is spring time. This indication of the time of the year brings us back to the great story of the exodus which began with the first full moon of Spring thousands of years ago, and to the many signs that God had done with Moses for the deliverance of the Jews and on their way to the Promised Land. But the reference to Passover pushes us forward and also symbolically anticipates the gift that Jesus will make of his Body and his Blood at the Last Supper.

The gift of the Bread of Life is to be shared in the same way the bread multiplied by Jesus to feed those who had followed him was shared.

The shared bread teaches care for others and humility in not putting anybody aside, and to trust a God who trusts us and makes us able to distribute bread to a large crowd.

In addition to taking the Bread given to us and shared with us through a charitable life, let us turn to Christ with this prayer “If I want my wounds treated, you’re the doctor. If I burn with fever, you are the refreshing spring. If I am overwhelmed with guilt, you are the forgiveness. If I need help, you are the strength. If I fear death, you are the eternal life. If I want heaven, you are life. If I flee darkness, you are the light. If I look for food, you are the nourishment “(St. Ambrose of Milan). In short, we pray to God, “Our Father”, so that He may “give us our daily bread” for the body and for the spirit.

If it is a miracle to feed thousands of people with few loaves of bread, it is a greater miracle to give the bread of truth and of joy. This is the true Bread, the Bread of Truth to share with those who hunger for justice.

It is the Bread multiplied by the One who at the Last Supper will be the Bread of Life. The greatest miracle is not to feed a crowd, but to show the glory of God revealed in Jesus, the Word made flesh, the Word made Eucharistic food for Christians. In fact, the passage of today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks and distributed them: three verbs that connect us to each Mass.

While the disciples were distributing the bread there was no shortage of it, and as this shared bread was passed from one hand to another it remained in each hand.

2) Bread of mercy.

On that day, Jesus had compassion for them because He is made of the same love of the Father and the mercy of God was manifested talking to the crowd and satisfying their hunger.

Today, loving us beyond measure, Christ multiplies the Bread of Life for us. In the sacrament of the Eucharist Jesus becomes food for real life, we are happy for the mercy received.

On this Sunday, the sign of mercy and compassion of Jesus Christ is the story of the loaves multiplied and shared that helps us to understand that Christ gives us himself and his life offering himself to us as Eucharist bread. He, who thanked the Father, blessed and broke the material bread given to him by a child, lets himself be broken for us as spiritual bread. By eating of this Bread, the Eucharistic Body of Christ which is “God’s incarnate mercy” (Pope Francis), we too become mercy.

The Eucharistic meal, therefore, is not an action to watch but it is a gesture to live. To take communion is not only to receive and be sanctified by the presence of Christ, it is to open our hearts to bring to the altar the “yes” of our love for God. It is to open our hands to our brothers and sisters who are hungry, and that we must help with material and spiritual works of mercy. But let’s not forget that the first and greatest mercy is to teach the truth and to give true things, because “good is the truth, and the promotion of truth comes from love” (Cardinal Giacomo Biffi).

A significant example of how to live mercy is offered by the consecrated Virgins who are “the flowers of the tree that is the Church” (St. Ambrose of Milan).

Indeed, the consecrated Virgins in the world are called to be and to implement this mercy, to be its image and to be able to offer it with a life of patient vigilance in prayer, attention, discretion and confidentiality. This is because the virginal vocation is in deep relationship with the mystery of the Eucharist. “ In the Eucharist, consecrated virginity finds inspiration and nourishment for its complete dedication to Christ. From the Eucharist, moreover, it draws encouragement and strength to be a sign, in our own times too, of God’s gracious and fruitful love for humanity. Finally, by its specific witness, consecrated life becomes an objective sign and foreshadowing of the “wedding feast of the Lamb” (Rev 19:7-9) which is the goal of all salvation history. In this sense, it points to that eschatological horizon against which the choices and life decisions of every man and woman should be situated.”(Sacramentum Caritatis, 81).

Imitating the Virgin Mary, these virgin women are witnesses of the truth of the Magnificat: “He has done great things for me, and holy is his name: from generation to generation his mercy is on those who fear him”, which can be paraphrased “I have been made great by the One who is mighty and whose name is holy, because the Divine Power worked the miracle of virginity and His infinite holiness filled it with thanks.” The virginal choir responds praising the mercy of God that through Mary Virgin and Mother, passed from generation to generation, making bloom in the mud of the world the flowers of holy virginity that fill with their perfume earth and heaven. Virginity is to follow Jesus; it is not renunciation to love, but to let themselves be fully taken by Love, as taught by St. Ambrose of Milan “Consecrated Virgin seek Christ in your light, that is in good thoughts and good deeds. In your nights, look for him in your room, because even at night He comes and knocks on your door. He wants to see you alert at all times, he wants to find the door of your soul open. And there is also another door that He wants to find open: he wants that your mouth opens and sings the praise and the profession of faith in the cross, while in your room you repeat the Creed and sing the psalms. When he comes, let Him find you awake and prepared. Let your body sleep, but your faith be vigilant; let the lure of senses sleep, but let the prudence of heart be vigilant.  Let your limbs smell of the cross of Christ and of the fragrance of his burial “(Concerning Virgins).

Patristic Reading

Saint Augustin

Sermo 80

On the words of the gospel, Jn 6,9 where the miracle of the five loaves and the two fishes is related.

1. It was a great miracle that was wrought, dearly beloved, for five thousand men to be filled with five loaves and two fishes, and the remnants of the fragments to fill twelve baskets. A great miracle: but we shall not wonder much at what was done, if we give heed to Him That did it. He multiplied the five loaves in the hands of them that brake them, who multiplieth the seeds that grow in the earth, so as that a few grains are sown, and whole barns are filled. But, because he doth this every year, no one marvels. Not the inconsiderableness1 of what is done, but its constancy takes away admiration of it. But when the Lord did these things, He spake to them that had understanding, not by words only, but even by the miracles themselves. The five loaves signified the five books of Moses’ Law. The old Law is barley compared to the Gospel wheat. In those books are great mysteries concerning Christ contained. Whence He saith Himself, “If ye had believed Moses, ye would believe Me also ; for he wrote of Me. “2 But as in barley the marrow is hid under the chaff, so in the veil of the mysteries of the Law is Christ hidden. As those mysteries of the Law are developed and unfolded; so too those loaves increased when they were broken. And in this that I have explained to you, I have broken bread unto you. The five thousand men signify the people ordered under the five books of the Law. The twelve baskets are the twelve Apostles, who themselves too were filled with the fragments of the Law. The two fishes are either the two precepts of the love of God and our neighbour, or the two people of the circumcision and uncircumcision, or those two sacred personages of the king and the priest. As these things are explained, they are broken; when they are understood, they are eaten.

2. Let us turn to Him who did these things He is Himself “The Bread which came down from heaven;”3 but Bread which refresheth the failing, and doth not fail; Bread which can be tasted,4 cannot be wasted. This Bread did the manna also figure. Wherefore it is said, “He gave them the Bread of heaven, man ate Angels’ Bread.”5 Who is the Bread of heaven, but Christ? But in order that man might eat Angels’ Bread, the Lord of Angels was made Man. For if He had not been made Man, we should not have His Flesh; if we had not His Flesh, we should not eat the Bread of the Altar. Let us hasten to the inheritance, seeing we have hereby received a great earnest of it. My brethren, let us long for the life of Christ, seeing we hold as an earnest the Death of Christ. How shall He not give us His good things, who hath suffered our evil things? In this our earth, in this evil world, what abounds, but to be born, to labour, and to die? Examine thoroughly man’s estate, convict me if I lie : consider all men whether they are in this world for any other end than to be born, to labour, and to die? This is the merchandize of our country: these things here abound. To such merchandize did that Merchantman descend. And forasmuch as every merchant gives and receives; gives what he has, and receives what hehas not; when he procures anything, he gives money, and receives what he buys: so Christ too in this His traffic gave and received. But what received He? That which aboundeth here, to be born, to labour, and to die, And what did He give? To be born again, to rise again, and to reign for ever. O Good Merchant, buy us. Why should I say buy us, when we ought to give Thee thanks that Thou hast bought us? Thou dost deal out our Price to us, we drink Thy Blood; so dost thou deal out to us our Price. And we read the Gospel, our title6 deed. We are Thy servants, we are Thy creatures: Thou hast made us, Thou hast redeemed us. Any one can buy his servant, create him he cannot; but the Lord hath both created and redeemed His servants; created them, that they might be; redeemed them, that they might not be captives ever. For we fell into the hands of the prince of this world, who seduced Adam, and made him his servant, and began to possess us as his slaves. But the Redeemer came, and the seducer was overcome. And what did our Redeemer to him who held us captive? For our ransom he held out His Cross as a trap; he placed in It as a bait His Blood. He indeed had power to shed His Blood, he did not attain7 to drink it. And in that he shed the Blood of Him who was no debtor, he was commanded to render up the debtors; he shed the Blood of the Innocent, he was commanded to withdraw from the guilty. He verily shed His Blood to this end, that He might wipe out our sins. That then whereby he held us fast was effaced by the Redeemer’s Blood. For he only held us fast by the bonds of our own sins. They were the captive’s chains. He came, He bound the strong one with the bonds of His Passion; He entered into his house8 into the hearts, that is, of those where he did dwell, and took away his vessels. We are his vessels. He had filled then with his own bitterness. This bitterness too he pledged to our Redeemer in the gall. He had filled us then as his vessels; but our Lord spoiling his vessels, and making them His Own, poured out the bitterness, filled them with sweetness.


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Enough is enough, Asia Bibi’s false imprisonment must end immediately

By Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith on the Catholic Herald

The daughters of Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi hold a photo of their mother (CNS)

The daughters of Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi hold a photo of their mother (CNS)

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws claim jurisdiction over those who are not Muslim, which is simply outrageous

Congratulations to Pakistan’s Supreme Court. They have decided that a totally innocent woman should not be hanged after all, at least for the moment. Forgive me if I only raise half a cheer for Pakistan’s justice system and Pakistan itself.

Let us remember a few facts here. Asia Bibi has been in jail for the last six years. Her crime is supposed blasphemy, as she was accused by certain Muslim women, after an altercation, of saying less than complimentary things about Muhammad, whom Muslims believe to be the prophet of God.

In other words, Asia has been imprisoned for six years, and sentenced to death for five of them, for something that ought not to be a crime. As Asia Bibi is a Christian, she does not believe Muhammad to have any special status at all, so how can she blaspheme against him?

She cannot be in any way bound to keep a religious law of a religion to which she does not belong. In this her case presents a parallel with the Teddy bear case in Sudan and the case of Meriam Ibrahim, also in Sudan. And let us not forget Afghanistan.

The blasphemy laws in these countries (and these are not the only examples) claim jurisdiction over those who are not Muslim, which is simply outrageous. By all means let Muslims legislate for themselves, but they cannot and must not be allowed to legislate for the rest of us.

Asia Bibi’s release is now six years overdue. She should be released immediately and compensated for her false imprisonment. Moreover, the blasphemy laws should be abolished. Until this happens, Britain, and all other right on nations with their vaunted commitment to fairness, equality and human rights, should disrupt relations with Pakistan.

This case has gone on for six years. It is time for this farce to end, and for Asia Bibi’s long nightmare to be ended too.


COMMENT: Where are the Western Government voices denouncing these scandalous abuses of human rights from ostensibly ‘friendly’ Muslim nations? Why do they not insist on their resolution, perhaps even threatening sanctions if their demands are not met? And why do members of the ill-named ‘Religion of Peace’ not raise their own voices in absolute horror and indignation about the outrages being committed in the name of their faith? Could it possibly be that they secretly condone such barbaric actions?

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Crowds still flock to ‘moving statue’ site at Ballinspittle, three decades on

By Eddie Cassidy on the Irish Examiner (on 22nd July 2015)

It is 30 years since the first statue appeared to move in Ballinspittle, but it was to become a summer of such phenomena, writes Eddie Cassidy.


Academics named it the ‘Ballinspittle Phenomenon’, the late bishop of Cork urged “prudence and caution” but, 30 years later, many locals who witnessed the ‘moving statue’ still have strong devotion to the woman at the centre of it all — Our Lady.

Up to 100,000 people had descended on the Co Cork village in late July and August in 1985, to witness the ‘miracle’ of the roadside statue.

By that autumn, the phenomena had not been confined to Ballinspittle, a market village a short distance from Kinsale.

By the end of a wet summer, Marian apparitions had been reported in many other locations extending from Sligo to Kerry and eastwards to Kilkenny and Waterford.

In effect, 1985 was to become known as the Year of the Moving Statues.

In Ballinspittle, however, locals believe it was a year when many people rediscovered their faith and their veneration to Our Lady continues. Although thousands of people had gathered out of curiosity or to gaze in wonder, most had come to pray.

The garda sergeant in the village at the time was John Murray. In the print and broadcast media, his story has been re-told.

Now retired, he had admitted at the time, like many others, to being sceptical.

His wife had alerted him to villagers talking about the ‘moving statue’ and, within days, what had been dozens of people walking along the road to the local shrine had turned into hundreds.

The Daly and O’Mahony families, living nearby, had reported seeing the statue ‘floating’.

Mr Murray, a few nights later, was at the site when he witnessed the phenomenon.

“The following morning I went up there and checked out that statue. I felt like someone was playing tricks on me and I was amazed to find no wires or trickery there at all.

“I was so convinced this was a hoax I had searched behind the statue and also tried to move it,” he said.

“It wouldn’t budge.”

People had very different experiences, Mr Murray acknowledged.

“But in July 1985, I saw something physically impossible at that grotto. I saw the concrete statue of Our Lady floating in mid-air.

“Not rocking to and fro, but floating.” A mother of nine, Cathy O’Mahony said she too, at the time, had suffered ridicule because of her visions.

But she says she was confident of what she saw.

“You meet many sceptics and they don’t believe it, but as far as I am concerned it is there for everyone to see.” And on August 15 that year, the Feast of the Assumption, a reported 20,000 people arrived into the small village.

However, the then Bishop of Cork and Ross, Michael Murphy was somewhat unmoved and declared it an illusion.

He issued a statement informing people that “direct supernatural intervention is a very rare happening in life”.

He said: “So, common sense would demand that we approach the claims made concerning the grotto at Ballinspittle with prudence and caution.

“Before a definite pronouncement could be made by the Church, all natural explanations would have to be examined and exhausted over a lengthy period of time.”

Throughout that year, 31 incidents had been recorded.

Staff at the Department of Applied Psychology in University College Cork came to the conclusion Ballinspittle had been an optical illusion.

“People sway when standing still for a period of time and what they are looking at appears to move.”

The UCC staff named it the ‘Ballinspittle Phenomenon’. They claimed it was an issue of light, as “the statue appeared to move only when it is dark”.

The spontaneous movement of statues was reported shortly afterward in Mount Melleray, Co Waterford, and at a further 30 other locations around the country.

But they were not all Marian apparitions and some involved other divine figures, or saints, who appeared in stains on church walls.

Five years ago, broadcaster Terry Wogan included Ballinspittle in what had been a new travel series for the BBC.

At the time, he spoke to Patricia Bowen, one of the local committee who cared for the grotto.

She recalled she had seen the face of Jesus appear over that of Our Lady’s on several occasions.

“People say that the light causes the statue to appear moving, but the light couldn’t make the face change to that of Our Lord,” she said.

Former garda sergeant Mr Murray, who also had been interviewed on the programme, had said: “Terry feels the same as myself that faith is very important in a lot of situations, especially when somebody is sick.

“He didn’t ridicule what we had to say. He treated it very respectfully.”

People still visit the shrine to this day.

Some to see if the statue will move for them, but most come here just to pray.

Mr Murray sums it up: “In 1985, there was a mingling of two worlds, our world and the mystical world, and something amazing, it got people praying.”


COMMENT: We make no judgement on the phenomena reported in this article, but one thing is plainly obvious: the events at Ballinspittle demonstrate a hunger for God, His Blessed Mother, and the Eternal in the depths of the Irish soul. Nothing, not even the recent national betrayal, voting in sodomy laws (with many voters being ill-advised ‘Catholics’) can eradicate this longing for the Faith. The Irish know they can always have recourse to Our Lady; as Mother she cares for her children who have wandered away from God and are lost in sin. Our Lady is constantly calling her lost children back, desiring to shelter them beneath her protective mantle, and to save their souls.

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Saint Bridget of Sweden – faithful disciple of God and Co-Patroness of Europe

Today the Church remembers Saint Bridget of Sweden.

Pope Benedict XVI gave the following address about the Saint at a General Audience on Wednesday, 27 October 2010:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

2012075920bridget_2_insideOn the eve of the Great Jubilee in anticipation of the Year 2000 the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II proclaimed St Bridget of Sweden Co-Patroness of the whole of Europe. This morning I would like to present her, her message and the reasons why — still today — this holy woman has much to teach the Church and the world.

We are well acquainted with the events of St Bridget’s life because her spiritual fathers compiled her biography in order to further the process of her canonization immediately after her death in 1373. Bridget was born 70 years earlier, in 1303, in Finster, Sweden, a Northern European nation that for three centuries had welcomed the Christian faith with the same enthusiasm as that with which the Saint had received it from her parents, very devout people who belonged to noble families closely related to the reigning house.

We can distinguished two periods in this Saint’s life.

The first was characterized by her happily married state. Her husband was called Ulf and he was Governor of an important district of the Kingdom of Sweden. The marriage lasted for 28 years, until Ulf’s death. Eight children were born, the second of whom, Karin (Catherine), is venerated as a Saint. This is an eloquent sign of Bridget’s dedication to her children’s education. Moreover, King Magnus of Sweden so appreciated her pedagogical wisdom that he summoned her to Court for a time, so that she could introduce his young wife, Blanche of Namur, to Swedish culture. Bridget, who was given spiritual guidance by a learned religious who initiated her into the study of the Scriptures, exercised a very positive influence on her family which, thanks to her presence, became a true “domestic church”. Together with her husband she adopted the Rule of the Franciscan Tertiaries. She generously practiced works of charity for the poor; she also founded a hospital. At his wife’s side Ulf’s character improved and he advanced in the Christian life. On their return from a long pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, which they made in 1341 with other members of the family, the couple developed a project of living in continence; but a little while later, in the tranquillity of a monastery to which he had retired, Ulf’s earthly life ended. This first period of Bridget’s life helps us to appreciate what today we could describe as an authentic “conjugal spirituality”: together, Christian spouses can make a journey of holiness sustained by the grace of the sacrament of Marriage. It is often the woman, as happened in the life of St Bridget and Ulf, who with her religious sensitivity, delicacy and gentleness succeeds in persuading her husband to follow a path of faith. I am thinking with gratitude of the many women who, day after day, illuminate their families with their witness of Christian life, in our time too. May the Lord’s Spirit still inspire holiness in Christian spouses today, to show the world the beauty of marriage lived in accordance with the Gospel values: love, tenderness, reciprocal help, fruitfulness in begetting and in raising children, openness and solidarity to the world and participation in the life of the Church.

The second period of Bridget’s life began when she was widowed. She did not consider another marriage in order to deepen her union with the Lord through prayer, penance and charitable works. Therefore Christian widows too may find in this Saint a model to follow. In fact, upon the death of her husband, after distributing her possessions to the poor — although she never became a consecrated religious — Bridget settled near the Cistercian Monastery of Alvastra. Here began the divine revelations that were to accompany her for the rest of her life. Bridget dictated them to her confessors-secretaries, who translated them from Swedish into Latin and gathered them in eight volumes entitled Revelationes (Revelations). A supplement followed these books called, precisely, Revelationes extravagantes (Supplementary revelations).

St Bridget’s Revelations have a very varied content and style. At times the revelations are presented in the form of dialogues between the divine Persons, the Virgin, the Saints and even demons; they are dialogues in which Bridget also takes part. At other times, instead, a specific vision is described; and in yet others what the Virgin Mary reveals to her concerning the life and mysteries of the Son. The value of St Bridget’s Revelations, sometimes the object of criticism Venerable John Paul II explained in his Letter Spes Aedificandi: “The Church, which recognized Bridget’s holiness without ever pronouncing on her individual revelations, has accepted the overall authenticity of her interior experience” (n. 5). Indeed, reading these Revelations challenges us on many important topics. For example, the description of Christ’s Passion, with very realistic details, frequently recurs. Bridget always had a special devotion to Christ’s Passion, contemplating in it God’s infinite love for human beings. She boldly places these words on the lips of the Lord who speaks to her: “O my friends, I love my sheep so tenderly that were it possible I would die many other times for each one of them that same death I suffered for the redemption of all” (Revelationes, Book I, c. 59). The sorrowful motherhood of Mary, which made her Mediatrix and Mother of Mercy, is also a subject that recurs frequently in the Revelations.

In receiving these charisms, Bridget was aware that she had been given a gift of special love on the Lord’s part: “My Daughter” — we read in the First Book of Revelations — “I have chosen you for myself, love me with all your heart… more than all that exists in the world” (c. 1). Bridget, moreover, knew well and was firmly convinced that every charism is destined to build up the Church. For this very reason many of her revelations were addressed in the form of admonishments, even severe ones, to the believers of her time, including the Religious and Political Authorities, that they might live a consistent Christian life; but she always reprimanded them with an attitude of respect and of full fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church and in particular to the Successor of the Apostle Peter.

In 1349 Bridget left Sweden for good and went on pilgrimage to Rome. She was not only intending to take part in the Jubilee of the Year 1350 but also wished to obtain from the Pope approval for the Rule of a Religious Order that she was intending to found, called after the Holy Saviour and made up of monks and nuns under the authority of the Abbess. This is an element we should not find surprising: in the Middle Ages monastic foundations existed with both male and female branches, but with the practice of the same monastic Rule that provided for the Abbess’ direction. In fact, in the great Christian tradition the woman is accorded special dignity and — always based on the example of Mary, Queen of Apostles — a place of her own in the Church, which, without coinciding with the ordained priesthood is equally important for the spiritual growth of the Community. Furthermore, the collaboration of consecrated men and women, always with respect for their specific vocation, is of great importance in the contemporary world. In Rome, in the company of her daughter Karin, Bridget dedicated herself to a life of intense apostolate and prayer. And from Rome she went on pilgrimage to various Italian Shrines, in particular to Assisi, the homeland of St Francis for whom Bridget had always had great devotion. Finally, in 1371, her deepest desire was crowned: to travel to the Holy Land, to which she went accompanied by her spiritual children, a group that Bridget called “the friends of God”. In those years the Pontiffs lived at Avignon, a long way from Rome: Bridget addressed a heartfelt plea to them to return to the See of Peter, in the Eternal City. She died in 1373, before Pope Gregory XI returned to Rome definitively. She was buried temporarily in the Church of San Lorenzo in Panisperna in Rome but in 1374 her children, Birger and Karin, took her body back to her homeland, to the Monastery of Vadstena, the headquarters of the Religious Order St Bridget had founded. The order immediately experienced a considerable expansion. In 1391 Pope Boniface IX solemnly canonized her. Bridget’s holiness, characterized by the multiplicity of her gifts and the experiences that I have wished to recall in this brief biographical and spiritual outline, makes her an eminent figure in European history. In coming from Scandinavia, St Bridget bears witness to the way Christianity had deeply permeated the life of all the peoples of this Continent. In declaring her Co-Patroness of Europe, Pope John Paul II hoped that St Bridget — who lived in the 14th century when Western Christianity had not yet been wounded by division — may intercede effectively with God to obtain the grace of full Christian unity so deeply longed for. Let us pray, dear brothers and sisters, for this same intention, which we have very much at heart, and that Europe may always be nourished by its Christian roots, invoking the powerful intercession of St Bridget of Sweden, a faithful disciple of God and Co-Patroness of Europe. Thank you for your attention.

COLLECT for the Feast of Saint Bridget of Sweden

O God, who guided Saint Bridget of Sweden
along different paths of life
and wondrously taught her the wisdom of the Cross
as she contemplated the Passion of your Son,
grant us, we pray,
that, walking worthily in our vocation,
we may seek you in all things.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Full text of the Revelations to Saint Bridget of Sweden

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Announcement for the ‘Blackfen post’ removal

Dear Readers,

Owing to inside information coming our way concerning some of the content in the recent article and comment section about the unhappy goings-on in Blackfen, Kent, UK, we have been advised to remove the whole article covering the subject from our blog. We apologise if this action is an annoyance to any of the excellent, well-informed Blackfen parishioners who commented on our article, or to anyone else who has an interest in the subject.

In no way do we wish to cause any problems for the fine priest, now based in Margate, Fr Tim Finigan, nor do we wish to be subject to liability accusations due to some of the content given therein said article.

We thank you in advance for your patience and understanding in this matter.

In Jesus and Mary,


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Pope Francis’ schedule for the Jubilee of Mercy



Pope Francis before the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica during the convocation of the Jubilee of Mercy, April 11, 2015. Credit: L'Osservatore Romano.

Pope Francis before the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica during the convocation of the Jubilee of Mercy, April 11, 2015. Credit: L’Osservatore Romano.

.- Twelve prominent events, each with the participation of Pope Francis, have been scheduled in Rome for the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy, and CNA was able to glance at details of their programs.

The twelve big events of the Jubilee of Mercy will be: 24 hours for the Lord, a day-long period of Eucharistic adoration; To Dry the Tears, a prayer vigil; and jubilees centered on pilgrimage workers; the sick and disabled; catechists; deacons; teenagers; priests; volunteers of mercy; the Curia; Mary; and Divine Mercy spirituality.

In addition to these events, a “Jubilee for Padre Pio’s prayer group” will take place Feb. 13, 2016, as the body of the Capuchin saint who bore stigmata for much of his life will be exposed in Saint Peter’s Basilica Feb. 8-14, at Pope Francis’ request.

“The Holy Father expressed the wish that Padre Pio’s corpse be exposed in St. Peter’s Basilica on Ash Wednesday of the upcoming Extraordinary Holy Year, that is, the day when the Pope will send the missionaries of Mercy, giving them a special mandate to preach and hear confessions, so that they be a lively sign of how the Father welcomes those who seeks his pardon,” Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, wrote to Archbishop Michele Castoro of the Archdiocese of Manfredonia-Vieste-San Giovanni Rotondo.

Here is a description of the full schedule of the meetings.

The jubilee for pilgrimage workers will take place Jan. 19-21, 2016. It will start with an international gathering of pilgrimage workers together with priests, rectors, and staff of shrines. A Mass will be said Jan. 19 at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. The group will have a conference and catechesis the following day, with Eucharistic adoration and Confession, and a pilgrimage to the Holy Door. They will meet with Pope Francis Jan. 21 in Paul VI Hall.

On the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, Feb. 22, the Pope will also celebrate a special jubilee for the Roman Curia, the Vatican Governatorate, and the institutions linked to the Holy See.

On Apr. 1-3 2016, during the Easter Octave, the jubilee of Divine Mercy spirituality will be celebrated. On April 1, some Roman parishes will  celebrate a penitential rite, and the following day Pope Francis will lead a prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square. He will say Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday on April 3.

The teenagers’ jubilee will begin with an April 23 evening festival at Rome’s Olympic Stadium, followed by a Mass said by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square the following day.

The jubilee of deacons will take placy May 27-29, with conferences on their role as icons of mercy for the new evangelization in their families, parishes, and jobs. They will gather in Rome’s seven parishes named for St. Lawrence, and on May 28 will have Adoration, Confession, and pilgrimage to the Holy Door, then attend a Mass said by Pope Francis May 29.

Priests will celebrate their jubilee June 1-3. The first day will be dedicated to Eucharistic Adoration, lectio divina, and confessions. The Holy Father will preach their spiritual retreat June 2, and June 3 will say Mass with them.

The jubilee of the sick and disabled will occur June 10-12. The participants will gather in the jubilee churches, and from there they will go to the Holy Door. A celebration will be held in the gardens of Castel Sant’Angelo June 11, and a Mass in St. Peter’s Square with the Holy Father June 12.

From Sept. 2-4 the volunteers of mercy will gather in Rome for catechesis and a Mass with Pope Francis.

Catechists’ jubilee is scheduled Sept. 23-25. The first day, they will have the option of either visiting San Luigi dei Francesi to contemplate Caravaggio’s paintings of St. Matthew’s calling, inspiration, and martyrdom; or the Sistine Chapel to view salvation history through the ceiling painted by Michelangelo. The following day will see a catechesis on mercy in the jubilee churches and a prayer vigil at St. John Lateran, and Pope Francis will say Mass Sept. 25 in St. Peter’s Square.

A Marian jubilee will be celebrated Oct. 7-9, which will gather delegates from Marian shrines across the world. Pope Francis will be present at the Oct. 8 prayer vigil, and say Mass Oct. 9.

Added to these particular jubilees are two additional events: the 24 hours for the Lord, culminating March 4 with a penitential rite, and the “Vigil to Dry Tears,” scheduled May 5 and described as a vigil for all those who need consolation. Pope Francis will preside over both the vigils.

The jubilee was announced by Pope Francis during a March 13 penitential service, the second anniversary of his election as Bishop of Rome. It will open Dec. 8 – the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – and will close Nov. 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Christ the King.


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Ronald_and_Edith_Tolkien_1966J.R.R. Tolkien was a romantic. When he met his future wife, Edith, at the age of 16, he was instantly smitten with her and immediately began an informal courtship, taking her to local tea houses on a regular basis. When the priest who acted as Tolkien’s guardian found out about his romance, however, he forbade him from having contact with Edith until the age of 21, so as not to distract from his studies. Tolkien reluctantly obeyed. For five long years, he waited for the one he knew was his soul mate. On the evening of his 21st birthday, he wrote a letter to Edith, declaring his love and asking for her hand in marriage. A week later, they were engaged to be married.

Throughout his life, Tolkien wrote love poems to his wife, and in his letters to friends, he writes glowingly about her. But perhaps his most famous and enduring tribute to his beloved bride was weaving his romance with her into the mythology of Middle Earth in the story of Beren and Luthien. A more moving tribute would be hard to find. He wrote to his son, Christopher:

I never called Edith Luthien – but she was the source of the story that in time became the chief part of the Silmarillion. It was first conceived in a small woodland glade filled with hemlocks at Roos in Yorkshire (where I was for a brief time in command of an outpost of the Humber Garrison in 1917, and she was able to live with me for a while). In those days her hair was raven, her skin clear, her eyes brighter than you have seen them, and she could sing – and dance.

Even in death, Tolkien would not leave his Edith. He is buried next to her under a single gravestone inscribed with the names Beren and Luthien. To use the popular phrase, Tolkien was very much “in love” with this wife.

Read the original article here

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