And the Pharisees coming to him asked him, tempting him: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? But he answering, saith to them: What did Moses command you? Who said: Moses permitted to write a bill of divorce and to put her away. To whom Jesus answering, said: Because of the hardness of your heart, he wrote you that precept. But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. For this cause, a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife. And they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. And in the house again his disciples asked him concerning the same thing. And he saith to them: Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another committeth adultery against her. And if the wife shall put away her husband and be married to another, she committeth adultery.
And they brought to him young children, that he might touch them. And the disciples rebuked them that brought them. Whom when Jesus saw, he was much displeased and saith to them: Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Amen I say to you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall not enter into it. And embracing them and laying his hands upon them, he blessed them.

The Gospel for today in the new calendar seems oddly apposite in the light of the Synod that is filling so many of us with trepidation.

The opening paragraph, which the lectionary authors felt could safely be elided in the Mass, makes clear Our Lord’s teaching on divorce and remarriage; we can expect to see some alarming contortions over the next few days as the Germanists attempt to minimalise or shuffle around Our Lord’s own words.

The second half of the reading, which formed the basis for so much fuzzy thinking and asinine liturgical practice in the later part of the twentieth century, really gives us the key to dealing with the complexity of these issues: whatever your state or condition, approach Our Lord humbly, as a child approaches its father, and one may hope in his mercy.

The problem with the Germanists and many of the reactionaries, who want the liturgy and faith of the Church to conform to the long dead enthusiasms of the 1960s, is that they miss the humility and lack of presumption that subsists in the childlike state (not to mention the sense of awe and ability to appreciate beauty – children are often completely turned off the faux “childlike” approach espoused by the reactionaries).

If we are in a state of sin and presume to drink from the Lord’s cup and prentend to equality with His Son, we bring only damnation on ourselves; if we, as sinners, approach the Lord with humility, then His blood that flowed into the cup that we must not taste in this life may be our salvation in the next.

Posted in Bible Exegesis, Pope Francis | 1 Comment

A voice out of silence?

A surprising post from VULTUS CHRISTI yesterday asking if  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s inclusion to the Synod opening today in Rome might not be a welcome idea. benedetto-e1443847884819

I no longer carry the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within Saint Peter’s bounds. Saint Benedict, whose name I bear as Pope, will be for me a great example in this. He showed us the way to a life which, active or passive, belongs wholly to the work of God. (General Audience on 27 February 2013)

I leave my cloister only in particular cases, [when] personally invited by the Pope. (Message to Summorum Pontificum Pilgrims, 10 October 2014)

One wonders if the voice that needs to be heard in the forthcoming Synod is not that of the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI. Who better than he, the Church’s wise and silent Elder, with his unique gift for a theological discourse that is luminous and precise, would be able to articulate the splendour of the truth reasonably, clearly, and serenely ? Should not — could not — Pope Benedict be called out of his cloister into the Synod to utter a word out of silence for the good of the Church? His would be the authority, not only of the finest theological mind in the Church today, but also of the man of prayer, of the monk who, “separated from all and united to all”, listens to God.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Petition to the Holy Father (from Msgr. Bernard Fellay)

Below is a letter from Msgr. Fellay (Superior General of the SSPX) to Pope Francis underlining the importance of safeguarding Catholic Family values and the Church’s dogmatic teaching on the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage at the Synod on the Family. 

Most Holy Father,

It is with great anxiety that we observe all around us a persistent degradation of marriage and the family, the origin and foundation of all human society. This decay is rapidly accelerating, particularly because of the legalization of the most immoral and depraved sorts of behavior. Today the law of God, even the simply natural law, is being publicly trampled underfoot; the gravest sins are multiplying in a troubling way and cry out to Heaven for vengeance.

Most Holy Father,

We cannot conceal from you the fact that the first part of the Synod dedicated to “Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization” greatly alarmed us. From ecclesiastical dignitaries we heard and read statements so contrary to the clear and constant doctrine of the Church concerning the sanctity of marriage, that our souls were deeply disturbed. These men claimed to have your support, and their claims met with no public denial. What worries us even more is that certain of your words give the impression that it might be possible for doctrine to evolve in response to new needs of the Christian people. Our disquiet comes from the fact that in his encyclical Pascendi, Saint Pius X condemned an alteration of dogma that would make it conform to so-called requirements of the present time. Both Pius X and you, Most Holy Father, received the fullness of the authority to teach, sanctify, and govern in obedience to Christ, Who is the head and pastor of the flock at all times and in all places, and whose faithful vicar the Pope must be on this earth. That which has been subject to a solemn condemnation cannot, over time, become an approved pastoral practice.

God, the author of nature, established the stable union of a man and a woman for the purpose of perpetuating the human species. Old Testament revelation teaches us, in the most obvious way, that indissoluble marriage between one man and one woman was established directly by God, and that its essential characteristics were not left by Him to the free choice of men, such that marriage remains under a very special divine protection: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” (Exodus 20:17)

The gospels teach us that Jesus Himself, by virtue of his supreme authority, definitively reestablished marriage in its original purity, which the corruption of men had altered: “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:6)

Throughout time it has been the glory of the Catholic Church to defend the human and divine reality of marriage against turmoil, despite entreaties, disregarding threats and temptations. Even though corrupt men abandoned her for this reason alone, the Church has always held high the standard of fidelity, purity, and fruitfulness, in short, the standard of genuine conjugal and familial love.

As the second part of this Synod dedicated to the family approaches, in conscience we feel it our duty to express to the Apostolic See the profound anxieties which seize us at the thought of “conclusions” that could be proposed on that occasion, if by some great misfortune there were to be a new attack against the sanctity of marriage and the family, a new weakening of couples and home life. We hope with all our heart that the Synod will on the contrary perform a work of genuine mercy by recalling in its entirety, for the good of souls, the Church’s salutary teaching on the subject of marriage.

We are fully aware, especially in the present context, that people entangled in abnormal marital situations must be welcomed pastorally with compassion, so as to show them the very merciful face of the God of love proclaimed by the Church.

Nevertheless, the law of God, expression of his eternal love for mankind, is in itself the supreme mercy for all periods of history, all persons, and all situations. Therefore we pray that the gospel truth concerning marriage, which the Synod ought to proclaim, may not be skirted in practice by numerous “pastoral exceptions” that would distort its true meaning, or by legislation that would almost unfailingly abolish its real import. On this point we feel obliged to say that, despite reminders concerning the indissolubility of marriage, the canonical changes required by the Moto Proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus facilitating declarations of nullity will de facto open the door to legal proceedings authorizing “Catholic divorce,” even if goes by another name. These modifications acknowledge contemporary morals without attempting to put them in accord with the divine law. Are we then not to be heart stricken by the fate of children born to these marriages annulled in haste and who cannot but be victims of the “culture of waste”.

In the sixteenth century Pope Clement VII refused to accord Henry VIII of England the divorce he was demanding. Despite much pressure and at the risk of an Anglican schism, the Pope upheld the sublime teaching of Christ and his Church concerning the indissolubility of marriage. Will his decision now be repudiated by a “canonical repentance”?

Throughout the world in recent times, many families have courageously rallied against civil laws that undermine the natural and Christian family and publicly encourage scandalous behavior contrary to the most basic morality. Can the Church abandon those who, sometimes to their own detriment, and always subject to mockery and taunts, wage this necessary but very difficult battle? Such a stance would constitute a disastrous counter-witness, and for these persons it would be a source of disgust and discouragement. Churchmen, on the contrary, by virtue of their very mission, should offer them clear support backed up by solid arguments.

Most Holy Father,

For the honor of Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the consolation of the Church and of all faithful Catholics, for the good of society and of all humanity, in this crucial hour we petition you therefore to let your voice resound throughout the world with a word of truth, clarity, and firmness, in defense of Christian and even merely human marriage, in support of its foundation, namely, the difference and complementarity of the sexes, upholding its exclusivity and indissolubility. With filial piety we beg you to let your voice be heard by all, and that it be accompanied by actions too in support of the Catholic family.

We entrust this humble petition to the patronage of Saint John the Baptist, who underwent martyrdom for having publicly defended the sanctity and exclusivity of marriage, even against a scandalous civil authority in a case of “divorced-and-remarried persons.” And we pray the Precursor give Your Holiness the courage to recall before the whole world the true doctrine concerning natural and Christian marriage.

On the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, September 15, 2015 +Bernard Fellay Superior General of the Society of Saint Pius X



Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

St. Joseph: Patron of the Triumph of Mary’s Immaculate Heart‏

This great Catholic homily, on the eve of the Synod, will raise our courage, hopes and spirits!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Holy Guardian Angels – October 2nd

Guardian AngelThis feast, like many others, was local before it was placed in the Roman calendar. It was not one of the feasts retained in the Pian breviary, published in 1568; but among the earliest petitions from particular churches to be allowed, as a supplement to this breviary, the canonical celebration of local feasts, was a request from Cordova in 1579 for permission to have a feast in honour of the guardian angels. (Bäumer, “Histoire du Breviaire”, II, 233.)

Bäumer, who makes this statement on the authority of original documents published by Dr. Schmid (in the “Tübinger Quartalschrift”, 1884), adds on the same authority that “Toledo sent to Rome a rich proprium and received the desired authorization for all the Offices contained in it, Valencia also obtained the approbation in February, 1582, for special Offices of the Blood of Christ and the Guardian Angels.”

So far the feast of Guardian Angels remained local. Paul V placed it (27 September, 1608) among the feasts of the general calendar as a double “ad libitum” (Bäumer, op. cit., II, 277). Nilles gives us more details about this step. “Paul V”, he writes, “gave an impetus to the veneration of Guardian Angels (long known in the East and West) by the authorization of a feast and proper office in their honour. At the request of Ferdinand of Austria, afterwards emperor, he made them obligatory in all regions subject to the Imperial power; to all other places he conceded them ad libitum, to be celebrated on the first available day after the Feast of the Dedication of St. Michael the Archangel. It is believed that the new feast was intended to be a kind of supplement to the Feast of St. Michael, since the Church honoured on that day (29 September) the memory of all the angels as well as the memory of St. Michael (Nilles, “Kalendarium”, II, 502). Among the numerous changes made in the calendar by Clement X was the elevation of the Feast of Guardian Angels to the rank of an obligatory double for the whole Church to be kept on 2 October, this being the first unoccupied day after the feast of St. Michael (Nilles, op. cit., II, 503). Finally Leo XIII (5 April, 1883) favoured this feast to the extent of raising it to the rank of a double major.

Such in brief is the history of a feast which, though of comparatively recent introduction, gives the sanction of the Church’s authority to an ancient and cherished belief. The multiplicity of feasts is in fact quite a modern development, and that the guardian angels were not honoured with a special feast in the early Church is no evidence that they were not prayed to and reverenced. There is positive testimony to the contrary (see Bareille in Dict. de Theol. Cath., s.v. Ange, col. 1220). It is to be noted that the Feast of the Dedication of St. Michael is amongst the oldest feasts in the Calendar. There are five proper collects and prefaces assigned to this feast in the Leonine Sacramentary (seventh century) under the title “Natalis Basilicae Angeli in Salaria” and a glance at them will show that this feast included a commemoration of the angels in general, and also recognition of their protective office and intercessory power. In one collect God is asked to sustain those who are labouring in this world by the protecting power of his heavenly ministers (supernorum . . . . praesidiis . . . . ministrorum). In one of the prefaces, God is praised and thanked for the favour of angelic patronage (patrociniis . . . . angelorum). In the collect of the third Mass the intercessory power of saints and angels is alike appealed to (quae [oblatio] angelis tuis sanctisque precantibus et indulgentiam nobis referat et remedia procuret aeterna” (Sacramentarium Leonianum, ed. Feltoe, 107-8). These extracts make it plain that the substantial idea which underlies the modern feast of Guardian Angels was officially expressed in the early liturgies. In the “Horologium magnum” of the Greeks there is a proper Office of Guardian Angels (Roman edition, 329-334) entitled “A supplicatory canon to man’s Guardian Angel composed by John the Monk” (Nilles, II, 503), which contains a clear expression of belief in the doctrine that a guardian angel is assigned to each individual. This angel is thus addressed “Since thou the power (ischyn) receivest my soul to guard, cease never to cover it with thy wings” (Nilles, II, 506).

For 2 October there is a proper Office in the Roman Breviary and a proper Mass in the Roman Missal, which contains all the choice extracts from Sacred Scripture bearing on the three-fold office of the angels, to praise God, to act as His messengers, and to watch over mortal men. “Let us praise the Lord whom the Angels praise, whom the Cherubim and Seraphim proclaim Holy, Holy, Holy” (second antiphon of Lauds). “Behold I will send my angel, who shall go before thee, and keep thee in thy journey, and bring thee into the place that I have prepared. Take notice of him, and hear his voice” (Exodus 23; capitulum ad Laudes). The Gospel of the Mass includes that pointed text from St. Matthew 28:10: “See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” Although 2 October has been fixed for this feast in the Roman calendar, it is kept, by papal privilege, in Germany and many other places on the first Sunday (computed ecclesiastically) of September, and is celebrated with special solemnity and generally with an octave (Nilles, II, 503). (See ANGEL; INTERCESSION.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I syng of a mayden

For the whole of October every year Our Lady is commemorated under her beautiful title of Our Lady of the Rosary. The Rosary, of course, has been probably the most widespread of the Church’s devotions among numerous saints and also among all those in religious life as well as the laity. The Rosary is often referred to as Our Lady’s Psalter, the 150 Aves of the Rosary matching in number the 150 Psalms.

Kevin Allen, a modern-day composer of sacred music in Chicago, has written a very endearing setting of the Middle English I syng of a mayden. He joins such others as Benjamin Britten, Gustav Holst, Peter Warlock,  R.R. Terry and Lennox Berkeley, who have all had a go too.

It’s a lovely little poem or song from the early 15th century, though its roots are clearly older. It speaks simply, lovingly and serenely of the Annunciation and the Incarnation, two of the Joyful Mysteries, if I’m not too mistaken. It suggests Our Lady’s beauty, nobility and humility. (I feel very strongly that Gertrude would be able to tell us a lot more about the manuscripts containing this song!)

I am particularly affected by these lines

kyng of alle kynges
to here sone che ches.

A young lass, wholly one of us, freely consented to bear the Son of God, Creator of the universe. She chose Him.

The song is nowadays usually sung at Christmas, for obvious reasons. This was not always so and it was sung at any time in the year, except perhaps in Lent. It’s a song that would easily make us reach for our rosaries in this October too.

Kevin Allen’s setting is sung by the choir at the Oratory of St Francis De Sales in South St Louis. This was a grand church built by faithful German immigrants and entrusted by Cardinal Raymond Burke to the Institute of Christ the King in 2005 when he was archbishop there.

(It’s a warts-and-all filming in the church during a service, so may I recommend following closely the words given below to help you not to notice all the noise from the congregation, lovely though they are.)

Well may such a lady God’s mother be! 

Well may such a lady God’s mother be!

And thank you, most sincerely, Mr Kevin Allen!

I syng of a mayden
þat is makeles,
kyng of alle kynges
to here sone che ches.
I sing of a maiden
That is matchless,
King of all kings
For her son she chose.
He cam also stylle
þer his moder was
as dew in aprille,
þat fallyt on þe gras.
He came as still
Where his mother was
As dew in April
That falls on the grass.
He cam also stylle
to his moderes bowr
as dew in aprille,
þat fallyt on þe flour.
He came as still
To his mother’s bower
As dew in April
That falls on the flower.
He cam also stylle
þer his moder lay
as dew in aprille,
þat fallyt on þe spray.
He came as still
Where his mother lay
As dew in April
That falls on the spray.
Moder & mayden
was neuer non but che –
wel may swych a lady
Godes moder be.
Mother and maiden
There was never one but she;
Well may such a lady
God’s mother be.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The night I outran my demons

by  at the Catholic Herald

As a young doctor on a cancer ward, I consoled myself with drink and New Age nonsense. Then one evening I stepped into a chamber of horrors

Looking back over my 29 years as a medic, I think my year at the cancer hospital was the hardest. Every fourth day and weekend without fail, I would cover the intensive care unit for 24 hours as the resident middle-grade doctor. In all my time there, not one patient survived, though not for lack of trying. Not one.

The thing they all had in common was that their bone marrow had been suppressed by cancer-killing chemotherapy and they had then succumbed to overwhelming infection. Admission to intensive care, full resuscitation with intubation, ventilation, IV fluids and powerful cardiac stimulants were all to no avail. They died because without functioning bone marrow, they could not mount an immune response and no amount of antibiotics could stop their bodies from being overrun by microbes.

Of course, I was only meeting the sickest of the very sick. Most chemotherapy patients do not suffer such severe complications. Their bone marrow recovers and their cancer is knocked back or even cured.

I had become a doctor to cure sometimes, relieve often and comfort always, but this continual experience of failure in all of these gradually began to get me down.

I started to dread going to work at the cancer hospital, and feared the bleep going off. Though I had lapsed from the practice of the Faith after going to university, I started to pray, asking that my patients might recover, or selfishly that I might be spared from being on duty when they needed admission. My prayers weren’t answered. The deaths carried on relentlessly. A great sense of meaninglessness and hopelessness filled my heart.

I wasn’t helped by being single, friendless, living alone and drowning my sorrows every free evening in the pub beside the hospital. I had no lack of casual drinking buddies – hospital staff mainly – to laugh and joke through the rush-hour with, before going home to my TV dinner and bed. My heart was beating, but I wasn’t alive.

My spiritual state was that of a jolly pagan, a Bacchus in a dirty white coat and fake halo. Despite a profound religious experience two years before, my moral life was still painted in various shades of black, and my head was full of confusing syncretist, New Age nonsense.

One day I was writing up the notes of a young patient who had just died, and I paused as the black dog of depression came up to lick my chops. I was staring into space and my face must have been alarming, as one of the relatives came over and asked with concern: “Are you all right, dearie?” My eyes teared up at her kindness, and I apologised: “I’m sorry, I am struggling to see any good in this place. There is just too much death here.”

Embarrassed by my own frankness and morbidness, I shuffled off to the on-call room, for more rudimentary talking at God and unguided introspection, neither of which helped me at all. The nurses thought I was a funny old bean.

Something also disturbed me about the hospital’s ethos. There was a heavy emphasis on research into the effects of treatment A versus treatment B. This was measured by total days of survival, including patients’ last dying days on the intensive care ward. My role seemed to me to be as the provider of those final desperate hours of life at any cost, extended only by extreme and futile medical interventions. I was merely an accessory to some statistician’s detached delving. This felt wrong to me.

I had a weird dream one night. Balaclava-clad, like some animal-rights activist, I raced through the hospital tearing up treatment charts, telling everyone they were free at last. Very bizarre it seemed.

One evening I stayed later in the bar, drinking alone after my pals had left. There was nothing to rush home for. I was mildly squiffy. Quite suddenly I was overcome by a sense of intense paranoia, literally spooked, with no idea from where it came. In a trice, the cosy bar where I had been supping my pint became a lair of horrors. It was as if I was seeing the place for the first time, as it really was: a seedy den filled with deadbeat boozers and losers, and there was I, fully a member of the club. The regular drinkers were unknown to me, but I began to suspect evil intent in their every sidewise glance at me. I felt so alone. I came over cold and sweaty and started looking for a route to escape.

A terrifying sense of impending doom filled my mind. I was certain that I was about to meet my end by either violence or sudden illness. My thoughts cascaded wildly considering the possibilities, and then – with great clarity and certainty – I knew that I had to confess my sins to a priest without delay, or I would be damned eternally. As a young man at play in the big city, I was no stranger to sin, you see, but until that moment, I had never been conscious of the effects of its deadly payload upon my soul.

I left the bar as if pursued by a horde of demons, and made it to the hospital foyer. where there was a phone box. It was about 9 pm and still light. I belonged to no parish so who was I going to call? The Yellow Pages listed the churches in the city and one name jumped out at me. It was a Jesuit church. I remembered hearing about their missionary charism as a Catholic schoolboy. Surely they might help me.

I dialled quickly and in a panic explained my situation to the urbane voice at the other end. I was conscious that I must have sounded like a complete nutter. The voice told me calmly to come right over.

I jumped in a taxi and was there in no time. I found the front door off the main street and rang the bell. The quietness and shadows of the alleyway did not help my anxiety. (I was reminded of that streetlight scene from The Exorcist.)

The door opened and the brightness from within instantly cast away the chill gloam that had clung to me as I waited. I was let in by one of the brothers, the one who had answered the phone. I must have been a rum sight, with staring eyes, pale face and beery breath.

As I stood in the welcoming hallway, the front door opened again and a short elderly priest with round glasses, beret and long black coat came in and joined us. “Good evening, brother!” they said joyously to one another, as brothers might.

I got shown into a visitors’ room off the hall. After a few minutes a bleary-eyed, middle-aged priest came in, dressed in a clerical suit that had seen some life. I had obviously got the poor man out of bed. He gruffly made it clear that this was all very irregular, but I pleaded so unashamedly for him to hear my Confession, and given how visibly distressed I was, he mercifully assented. (I wonder if he is reading this now.)

I was well out of practice, but he coaxed me along as I confessed for the first time in more than 10 years, face to face, and with tears. I remembered my Act of Contrition from childhood, and with the final words of the Absolution, with my eyes closed, my dread left me, completely. I have never been so grateful as at that moment. I apologised for my crazed intrusion, and left that house in peace.

A considerably lighter heart beheld the dirty old city as I splashed through the puddles to catch the bus home. Nothing about the externals around me had changed, but I had changed; I had been reconciled. I realised that only my own sins could really harm me. If I could sever my links to them, I could lose my fear of death, forever and always. I was finally back in the fold, and now I would have to endeavour to stay there. That endeavour continues to this very day, in that faltering way familiar to all repenting sinners. My paranoia had led me to metanoia – a complete change of heart and life.

I had yet to find a parish to be my spiritual home, and re-establish the habit of regular Mass-going. It would take several years before I felt part of a parish community again as I had when growing up. Getting married and raising children were the catalysts for that.

I returned to the hospital routine. Those poor patients continued to die, but now I was praying for their souls, that they might receive the gift which I had received, that Perpetual Light might shine upon them.

Modern medical care can only alter the time, place and mode of bodily death, not its inevitable eventuality. Sadly, I think many patients and relatives fail to see this limitation, or even consider their spiritual lives at all. Nobody should “go gentle into that good night” without some preparation for the way, and a “Kindly Light” to lead them.

Cancer patients are very conscious that they have been invaded by a hostile force intent on their annihilation. Catholics see mortal sins in this same light. They are a lethal neoplasm, a death sentence for the soul, separating it forever from God who is the soul’s only true rest and home. The Gospel is all about the death of this death sentence, achieved by Christ’s sacrifice once and for all upon the Cross.

The worst cancer imaginable can in theory be cured by a totally ablating dose of radiation delivered to the whole body. This kills not only all the cancer cells wherever they have spread to, but also the vital bone marrow, the source of immunity. Without a marrow transplant, the patient will quickly die from even a mild infection such as the common cold. The donated marrow must be fully compatible, or there is a risk that it might start attacking the patient’s own tissues.

The transplant that Jesus gives us in the Eucharist is perfectly compatible and revivifying for the human soul, for He is the universal donor. It will only safely “take” in a soul that has been purged of serious sin by the ablative, self-emptying therapies of first Baptism and later Reconciliation, which irradiate the soul with sanctifying grace.

Pain, illness, sorrow and death are often not taken away from us by Jesus. Instead, He shows us how to put them to holy use, by joining our sufferings to His. While medicine is a great good, it is no substitute for an ever-closer bonding with Jesus, imitating Him in every little way, even unto the ultimate sacrifice. The ordinary, everyday sufferings we all have will suffice for this, at least at first.

The arrows of our desire for union with God, which we launch up into the cloud of unknowing (which hides God from us), are returned to us in God’s good time as darts aimed at our hearts, and tipped with the salve of transforming caritas. The uncanny thing is that our upward arrows are often being launched without our conscious awareness, by our souls working subconsciously, bleating for help.

The Good Shepherd’s ears are most attuned to those sheep furthest from Him. If it sometimes seems as if our prayers are not being answered, it might be because our Lord is busy dealing with those more imperilled. Patience is always vital for us, His patients.

It is only when we are driven by our choices and circumstances to our lowest ebb and rendered helpless that God’s grace can most intervene. When we are weak, He is most strong. God is gracious and polite and would never force Himself upon us – even the divine physician requires our consent. But He never fails to save us from our distress, if only we let Him.

After more than 20 years’ hindsight, I can now see how God rescued my sickly slumbering soul from a fate literally worse than death. Without the dark epiphany I experienced in that saloon, and what it led me to do, who knows where I would be now.

Dr John Morrissey is an NHS consultant specialising in care of the critically ill. He is writing under a pseudonym

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A Survivor’s Guide to the Synod

by Deacon Nick Donnelly

synod2After the difficult events of the Extraordinary Synod in 2014, I know I’m not alone in feeling a sense of anxiety and powerlessness about the Synod that opens this weekend, (4th October). Cardinal Burke is clear that we are facing a pivotal time in the history of the modern Church. He told Polish television:

“We’re in a time of crisis in the Church, a critical moment in which we may have to give our all to safeguard both the truth of the Faith not only for our own salvation but for the salvation of our world and for the generations to come”.

My own experience confirms Cardinal Burke’s sense that the Church is facing a grave crisis. I am hearing about directly, and reading about, Catholics becoming ill, disillusioned or driven to desperate measures by the chaos caused by the two Synods.

Friends tell me that the constant news of cardinals questioning, even brazenly contradicting, doctrines of the faith has resulted in relapses into clinical depression. On social media I’ve read Catholics openly considering joining the traditionalist group, the Society of Saint Pius X [SSPX] because they, mistakenly, conclude that the Catholic Church is no longer One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. Other Catholics are considering leaving the Church altogether because the procession of so many cardinals and bishops betraying Christ’s explicit teaching is making them lose confidence in the claims of faith being true.

Crisis? What crisis?

I wonder whether anyone in Rome, or in our National Bishops’ Conferences, is considering the harmful effect that witnessing so many cardinals and bishops contradicting fundamental doctrines is having on faithful Catholics? Instead of cardinals openly engaging with the concerns and distress of faithful Catholics, many either flatly deny that there is any cause for concern or engage in episcopal ‘happy talk’ that hides the reality of the situation. This episcopal denial of the grave crisis facing the Synod is starkly contradicted by their uncritical acceptance of the wide-spread rejection, even ridicule, of the Faith by ‘Catholics’.

Many of the Synod submissions from Bishops Conferences emphasise rejection of the Church’s marital doctrine and sexual ethics, as if such dissent was a valid position in the Church alongside fidelity to sacred doctrine. A creeping exclusion of the Church’s doctrine from the Synod consultation is seen in the absence of key truths of the Church’s marital and sexual doctrine in the submissions being made. For example, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales summary of responses to their Synod consultation makes no reference to ‘chastity’, ‘modesty’, ‘indissolubility’, ‘virtue’, ‘holiness’, ‘sin’, ‘confession/reconciliation’ – it doesn’t even mention ‘procreation’. But instead the Bishops’ Conference has chosen to repeatedly refer to criticism of Humanae Vitae, the prohibition of divorced & re-married receiving Holy Communion and doctrine on homosexuality.

Many faithful Catholics come to the Ordinary Synod on the Family with a weary sense of being disempowered and excluded by a Synod consultation that has ignored fundamental doctrines and selectively highlighted dissent. The failure of many cardinals and bishops to publicly defend doctrine from this relentless, two year campaign of dissent only adds to this sense of powerlessness before what we fear is an unstoppable juggernaut to ignore or distort Christ’s teaching and change the Catholic Church beyond recognition.

For all these reasons I have written this survivor’s guide to the Synod to help myself and the readers of Catholic Voice get through the next three weeks.

What’s going to happen at the Synod?

It’s going to be a long haul Synod lasting three weeks, from October 4–25, compared to the shorter 2014 Extraordinary Synod that lasted two weeks. Its official theme is ‘the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.’
Pope Francis has explained that over the three weeks the Synod will systematically work through the Instrumentum Laboris – the working document composed from the 2014 Synod Final Report and further worldwide consultation by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. This highly controversial document has been criticised by Bishop Athanasius Schneider in his exclusive interview with Catholic Voice:

“In the light of a careful analysis of the facts, one is left with the suspicion that the authors of the Instrumentum Laboris try to push forward the agenda of a certain clerical pressure group in order to change the Divine law of the non-admission [of] the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion.”

Furthermore, Voice of the Family, a coalition of faithful Catholic groups, has identified further grave deficiencies in the Synod’s working document including the following set out in the planned order for discussion at the Synod:

It prepares the ground for the acceptance of same-sex unions by acknowledging the need to define “the specific character of such unions in society” beyond “biology and sexual difference”. (para. 8)

It presents a neutral position on IVF that ignores the Church’s authoritative guidance on its immorality, and the millions of embryonic human beings killed as a result of IVF. (para 34)

It reduces the indissolubility of marriage to the level of an “ideal”. (para 42)

It again suggests that cohabitation and “living together” have “positive aspects” and can be considered legitimate forms of union. (para 57, 61, 63, 99, 102)

It denies the full rights of parents regarding the provision of sex education to their children (para 86)

It proposes, yet again, the admission of the “divorced and remarried” to Holy Communion through some form of ‘penitential way’, without amendment of life (para 120-125)

It undermines the doctrine of Humanae Vitae by proposing a false understanding of the relationship between conscience and the moral law (para. 137).

Let prayer defeat scheming and manipulation

The majority of deficient proposals that seek to undermine sacred doctrine are scheduled to be discussed by the Synod Fathers during the last week. This well-known ploy of leaving contentious issues until late in the day is often used by left-wing militants attempting to impose their agenda on a group. In the last week faithful Synod Fathers may well be fatigued and jaded by the first two weeks. However, the faithful Synod Fathers will need to have their wits about them during this last week because their opponents are planning to propose compromises, as if it is possible to find middle ground between truth and error! Cardinal Marx, one the leaders of the ‘clerical pressure group’ seeking to overturn doctrine has admitted that they will not follow a confrontational approach but will seek to achieve compromises:

“It is very important that the synod does not have the spirit of “all or nothing.” It is not a good way. The synod cannot have winners and losers. That is not the spirit of the synod. The spirit of the synod is to find a way together, not to say, “How can I find a way to bring my position through?” Rather: “How can I understand the other position, and how can we together find a new position?” That is the spirit of the synod.”

However, in a recent interview on EWTN Prof George Weigel predicted that faithful Synod Fathers would seek to challenge the Instrumentum Laboris and the planned schedule at the first working day of the Synod. If this proves true these faithful prelates will be taking a page out of the ‘progressives’ playbook when they rejected the pre-written schemas and schedule at the beginning of the Second Vatican Council. We must pray that these African, Polish and American delegates are successful in stopping this gross manipulation of the Synod. Bishop Schneider gave Catholic Voice the following advice about how to react any signs of manipulation:

“In order to stop such manipulations we must first of all, implore fervently Divine and heavenly intervention, so that the following words of God may be realized in our days during the upcoming Synod: “God frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end” (Job 5: 12-13).”

Stay Faithful

Cardinal Raymond Burke was recently asked how should faithful Catholics respond if the Synod “takes a strange turning”? To which his Eminence gave a short two-word reply, “Stay faithful”. For Catholics in the UK and Ireland, who share a history of suffering centuries of persecution under the English Protestant State, an essential element of our practice of faithfulness is fidelity to our priests, bishops and the pope. For centuries we could rely on the vast majority of priests and bishops because they remained steadfast defenders of the Faith, even under the threat of imprisonment, torture and martyrdom. It breaks my heart to write this, but this is no longer true.

During this crisis when many priests and bishops are betraying the Faith we need to re-examine the source of our personal faith. When many of you were christened your godparents were asked by the priest, “What do you ask of the Church of God?” And they replied, “Faith”. We received the grace of faith from the Mystical Body of Christ, from the Bride of Christ, not from the priest, our bishop or pope. Bishop Schneider exhorts us to hold onto this fact of our supernatural life in Christ during the storms around the Synod:

“We must remain faithful to our baptismal vows. In baptism, you promised to remain faithful to the faith: not a part of faith, but the entire Catholic faith. You have not done your baptism greeting to the Pope, or your bishop, but to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And so you have to report after your death, not the pope or the bishop, but to God. That is why we need to keep our fidelity, and even be ready to die for every truth of the Catholic faith.”

We are fighting Principalities and Powers

wolfWhen I studied, and undertook, the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola for three years I learnt that one of the signs of the activity of Satan and evil spirits for faithful Christians in a state of grace, free from mortal sin, is confusion, disorientation and disquiet. St Ignatius advises that when souls are advancing in holiness, the influence of the devil is sensed as “rough, accompanied by noise and disturbance, like a drop of water on stone”. I’m certain that the disturbance suffered by so many faithful Catholics during the last Synod, and in the run up to the current Synod, is a sign that the attacks on the Faith are inspired by the devil.

Cardinal Burke has explicitly talked about the influence of Satan behind the present confusion at the heart of the Church:

“The pervasive confusion and grave error about the most fundamental truths, the most beautiful realities, and the lasting goods of human life and its cradle, the human family, as they come to us from the hand of God, are the tragic signs of Satan’s presence in our midst. When we see how he has succeeded in corrupting a culture which was once Christian and in sowing the seeds of confusion and error even within the Church herself, we can easily become frightened and discouraged.”

If, during the current Synod, we witness cardinals and bishops causing chaos within the heart of the Holy See by yet again undermining our Lord’s teaching on marriage and sexuality, we need to recollect that this occurs through the permissive will of God. As St Thomas Aquinas so succinctly put it, “God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good.” If we remain faithful, no matter the cost, in the face of their faithlessness, the activity of the evil one will be turned by God to the advantage of His plan of salvation. Have hope!

Resist with love and truth

Both Cardinal Burke and Bishop Schneider exhort faithful Catholics to resist our bishops if they fail to defend the divine truth entrusted to the entire Church by God. St John Fisher also used the word ‘resist’ when his fellow bishops visited him in his prison cell in the Tower of London to persuade him to join them in betraying the doctrine of indissolubility and the apostolic nature of the Church. St John Fisher replied:

“The fort is betrayed even of them that should have defended it. And therefore seeing the matter is thus begun, and so faintly resisted on our parts, I fear that we be not the men that shall see the end of the misery.”

Four hundred and eighty years later the fort is again being betrayed by those who should defend it, and therefore the challenge of resistance faces all faithful Catholics. Our Lord promised St Peter that the “gates of hell will not prevail” (Mt 16:16) but as the Catholic novelist Louis de Wohl writes “Each of us must live as if that promise of Christ depended upon him alone”. (The Last Crusader, p.320).

The way we resist will determine if we co-operate with God’s plan to bring good for the future Church out of the present evil, or if we contribute more evil to the growing catalogue of evil. Therefore, we must resist those bishops refuse to defend the Faith with love and truth. When feelings of anger, anxiety or powerlessness assail us during the next three weeks I pray that God’s love fill’s our hearts, “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails”. (1 Cor 13:7-8).



Posted in Uncategorized | 22 Comments

Words of Encouragement from Bishop Schneider

In his latest post Steve Skojec over at OnePeterFive writes:

1316-4c0fb448-6320-418a-9181-297fb0401691Last week, I wrote to Bishop Athanasius Schneider, asking for encouragement in the face of such darkness emanating from within the Church. In his response, he exhorted, “God is using in this time the little one in the Church, the pure faith mostly of the lay faithful to keep the faith intact and to hand it over to the next generations. It is an honour that we can be witnesses and defenders of our dear Catholic faith not only against the enemies outside but also in the face of the traitors inside the Church, even when these traitors are bishops or cardinals.”

You can read the context of these edifying words by Bishop Schneider here:

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Sacerdos, Alter Christus

St. Philip Neri at the Consecration

St. Philip Neri at the Consecration

The priest, who is “Alter Christus“, or “Another Christ”, is the most important figure in the Church. Throughout the centuries, Christ’s mission of salvation has unremittingly extended over all the earth by the priest, who leaves all to gain all. Thus, for the devil and his followers, the Catholic priest is still the representative of God in the world, and for that reason he is hated, despised and persecuted by them as was the Divine Master at the hands of the Pharisees. From the moment the priest consecrates the very body and blood of Christ, he shares, in some way, in the infinite dignity of the Redeemer. The mouth that pronounces the mysterious words: This is My body, this is My blood, the hands that touch the host under which God Himself is hidden, that expose it to the adoration of the faithful and carry it to the dying – are not the mouth or hands of a simple man. They are the mouth and hands of one with whom Jesus Christ has deigned to identify Himself. Sacerdos, alter Christus.

07-curears3-204x300To recover the sacred in our Liturgy, Pope Benedict XVI, in his Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests of June 2009, in referencing Saint John Mary Vianney, observed: “This way of educating the faithful to the Eucharistic presence and to communion proved most effective when they saw him celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass…He was convinced that the fervour of a priest’s life depended entirely upon the Mass: “The reason why a priest is lax is that he does not pay attention to the Mass! My God, how we ought to pity a priest who celebrates as if he were engaged in something routine!””

Naturally, to “pay attention”, to devote the best of himself to the Holy Sacrifice, he must accompany it with due preparation and thanksgiving in prayer. In fact, when the faithful see that the priest is careful to celebrate the Divine Sacrifice with attention and devotion, they are themselves penetrated with a sense of the Divine Majesty and are thus easily brought nearer to God!

Thus did the Lord appoint
This sacrifice sublime,
And made His Priests the minister
Through all the bounds of time. (Hymn, Sacris Solemniis)

There was an excellent piece over on the New Liturgical Movement last Monday, entitled: Priestly Preparation Before Mass and Thanksgiving After Mass, by Peter Kwasniewski that throws some deep and beautiful insights into the importance of a worthy and fitting disposition of the priest in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 11.17.48 AM

[Kwasniewski says:] “By the grace of God I’ve been a Catholic all my life, and during these decades, I’ve known and observed many priests going about their duties. One of the most fascinating differences among them is how they bear themselves before and after Mass. It took me a long time to realize how great an impact for good or for ill this can have.

Let us take as our point of departure a marvelous line in the Code of Canon Law. Canon 909 reads: “A priest is not to omit dutifully to prepare himself by prayer before the celebration of the Eucharist, nor afterwards to omit to make thanksgiving to God.”

As if commenting on this canon, Bishop Marc Aillet writes:

Tearing us away from the secular world and thus from the temptation of immanentism, [the liturgical rites] have the power to immerse us suddenly in the Mystery and open us to the Transcendent. In this sense, one can never stress enough the importance of the silence preceding the liturgical celebration, an inner narthex, where we are freed of the concerns, even if legitimate, of the secular world, in order to enter the sacred space and time where God will reveal his Mystery; one can never stress enough the importance of silence in the liturgy to open oneself more readily to the action of God; and one can never stress enough the appropriateness of a period of thanksgiving, whether integrated into the celebration or not, to apprehend the inner extent of the mission that awaits us once we are back in the world.”

(Please read the rest of Peter Kwasniewski’s article here.)

At this time in the life of the Church, when so little reverence, silence and prayer either before or after Holy Mass can be seen in many parishes, a tragic loss of the sense of the sacred has become rampant. Together with our priests, we, the laity, have much to learn in order to recover (and continually deepen) a reverent, loving, grateful attitude for our invitation to this Most Sublime and Saving Sacrifice.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Synod Preamble . . . The Pope’s Extraordinary But Perilous Policy

In light of the fast approaching Synod of the Family, here is an excellent article written for The Wanderer by Louise Kirk:


September 24, 2015

Synod-on-the-Family-imageThe time of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. has arrived as I write this. Each stage of his journey, in Washington, New York, and Philadelphia, promises individual riches but will also be watched by the world as a preamble to the Synod of the Family happening in October.
The Holy Father is aware of this. In a direct challenge to the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling he recently urged Catholic married couples to take up the defense of marriage between one man and one woman as a mission entrusted to them.
He explained that this mission is all the more important given that “the image of the family — as God wills it, made up of one man and one woman, in view of the good of the spouses and also of the generation and education of children — is deformed through powerful contrary projects supported by ideological colonizations” (September 10 to the Équipes Notre Dame).
This statement boldly opposes homosexual “marriage” in the name of the spouses themselves, and not just for the sake of the children. It continues the teaching on the family which has been a feature of the Holy Father’s catechesis in the last year.
Two days before this address, Pope Francis issued a moto proprio on marriage annulment, shifting emphasis away from defense of the bond toward making annulment easier and faster. The move, made in advance of the synod and without the expected consultation, has caused consternation, giving rise to a seven-page dossier which is being passed around the Vatican.
Raymond Cardinal Burke, who used to run the Apostolic Signatura, warns that America has already tried streamlining by abandoning a second tribunal, and that it led to the equivalent of “Catholic divorce.”
Cardinal Burke has been omitted from the Pope’s list of special appointees for this October. The list of 45 names is included in the official announcement of the composition of the synod released on September 15. Eyebrows have been raised at his selecting notable liberals, at the exclusion of prelates such as Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Belgium and Ennio Cardinal Antonelli, retired president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.
Against this, the geographical spread is wider and the number of observers and experts has grown since last year. It is good to see that the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family is being represented.
What Pope Francis is doing is extraordinary. He is opening up the whole Church to fight out in public every issue which touches family, giving prominence to ecclesiastics with contrary positions, one hopes so that they cannot, as at present, go on rumbling in the background.
The policy is a dangerous one. We have already been warned by leading figures such as Gerhard Cardinal Mueller, prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan that the Church is in danger of schism.
The existing situation would have to be perilous for any Pope to risk such a strategy, but that is exactly what Pope Francis is telling us is the case. There are too many souls currently being lost, and we have to do something. Ever since St. John Paul outlined the need for a New Evangelization, the family has been given prominence within it and Pope Francis is now forcing us to focus on this.
There are a daunting number of people out there, including baptized Catholics, who are currently lost to grace and many of them have fallen by the wayside because of the status of their family life. Many cannot even hear the call to mercy over their fear of being rejected.
The extent of dissent within the Church among bishops and cardinals has caused shock but I wonder if it should. The fact is that serious sin is already endemic among Catholics in their sexual lives, and this enfeebles us all, including the hierarchy. It is not just what people have done, but what they have omitted to do. Whole dioceses have at best been lukewarm in passing on the fullness of the faith and in educating the people in the truths of sexuality.
We have had St. John Paul’s rich teaching on the Theology of the Body for some three decades, but how many priests, let alone ordinary faithful, understand it? It has been said that, without the media, many Catholics wouldn’t even know that the Church has a problem with contraception. Conscience clauses to protect doctors and druggists are few, and many Catholic medical professionals (and teachers) have joined the compromise.
Add to this the shame of sacrilegious Communions. These must be happening everywhere each Sunday. The number of remarried divorcees approaching the altar rails is small compared with the number of people who are contracepting, or cohabiting, or have missed Mass on Sunday, or who are not even Catholic, but are yet coming up for Holy Communion without first going to Confession. The sin is private, and in many cases will be ignorantly committed.
However, just as a vase is still broken whether or not a vandal or child breaks it, so the offense to our Lord remains and reverence for the sacrament is diminished.

Humanae Vitae
And The Synod

Back in July, Voice of the Family went through the Instrumentum Laboris, on which discussion at the synod will be based, pointing out its many weaknesses. Voice or the Family shows that the word “contraception” is avoided, and that the one and only paragraph which covers Humanae Vitae is confusing.
On September 10, 50 theologians and philsophers, headed by David S. Crawford and Stephan Kampowski, complained about this paragraph, saying that its wording allows for contradiction between a well-formed conscience and objective moral norms.
“Paragraph 137 should be removed and replaced by a paragraph that speaks of the conscience in a more precise fashion, that celebrates the wisdom and beauty of Humanae Vitae, and that helps spouses to appreciate that the graces are available to them to live out God’s plan for the gift of sexuality.”
Humanae Vitae goes to the heart of the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. If it falls, the Church’s true Gospel of the Family goes with it.
It is easy to be dismayed by the confusion being spread abroad, but there is another trap, which is to become cynical and lose hope. Love for unity and authority within the Church, and for our Holy Father who leads us, is also a precious characteristic of what it is to be a Catholic.
Fr. Paul Check, well known for his good work among homosexuals, suggests that the current debate on family is as much a discussion on the Church’s role to speak with authority about sexual morality as it is about the form that that morality takes.

Truth Will Not Be Contained

How can we hope that the Family Synod will help to turn things around, given that it only has consultative status? (It will be the Pope himself who draws conclusions together in an expected apostolic exhortation.)
Much of the groundwork has already been done. Since Pope Francis called the two Family Synods, an impressive range of research has been published, illustrating the history of the Church’s teaching, its pastoral importance and how it all hangs together. This includes the books Remaining in the Truth of Christ, a new edition of Marc Cardinal Ouellet’s Mystery and Sacrament of Love — A Theology of Marriage and the Family for the New Evangelization, and Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family.
A remarkable new study on same-sex attraction called Living the Truth in Love has also just appeared and is likely to become a classic.
Something else remains true and cannot be turned round. Those supporting liberalizing Church teaching look out of date. The Pill has been no wonder drug. It damages women and fails. It has not brought happier marriages and families. It lies at the heart of much that has gone wrong in family life.
For too long Catholics have been embarrassed by the Church’s teaching on contraception, treating it as though it only applies to faith and to Catholics. Reason has now caught up, and is being explained by professionals in every field, doctors, sociologists, and economists to name but a few.
They are by no means all Catholic, as the next World Congress of Families, taking place in Salt Lake City at the end of October, will show. There are monied interests to oppose them, but eventually truth will not be contained.
When Pope Francis called for the two Family Synods, he begged for prayer. In response to his call, a family gathers in Poland at 9 p.m. every night to pray in front of our Lady’ miraculous picture at Czestochowa.
We have been promised that the Gates of Hell will never prevail against the Church but we cannot expect the Gates to fall if we do not attack them. On the Feast of St. Michael, a filial petition is to be presented to the Holy Father asking for clarity in the Church’s teaching. We can all fast and pray that in the months ahead we are given success.

Posted in Uncategorized | 44 Comments

Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Choose Life! (A video from the Irish Bishops)

Please pray and help us to Keep Ireland Abortion-Free

[Update] Prayer

Lord Jesus, you are the source and lover of life.
Reawaken in us respect for every human life.

Help us to see in each child the marvellous
work of our Creator.
Open our hearts to welcome every child as a
unique and wonderful gift.

Guide the work of doctors, nurses and
May the life of a mother and her baby in the
womb be equally cherished and respected.

Help those who make our laws to uphold the
uniqueness and sacredness of every human life,
from the first moment of conception to natural

Give us wisdom and generosity to build a
society that cares for all.

Together with Mary, your Mother,
in whose womb you took on our human
Help us to choose life in every decision we

We ask this in the joyful hope of eternal life
with you, and in the communion of the
Blessed Trinity.


Our Lady of Knock, pray for us.
All the Saints of Ireland, pray for us.

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Lectio Divina: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

 Rules of Life



By Archbishop Francesco Follo


Roman Rite

NM 11.25 to 29; PS 19; Jas 5:1-6; Mk 9:38-43.45.47-48
1) On the road with the Life that gives life and the rules of life.

The passage from the Gospel of Mark that is proposed on the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, tells two episodes of Christ’s life.

In the first John points out to Jesus that there is someone who drives out demons in His name without belonging to the group of his disciples. Jesus rightly underlines that every good work is always welcome because the source of goodness and love is God. Those who do good deeds are still and always on the side of Christ and of God. Jesus’ answer regarding the exorcist stranger to the group of disciples is inspired by great tolerance, and is identical to the attitude taken by Moses against Eldad and Medad during exodus (First reading of today’s Mass).

In the second episode Jesus urges his disciples not to scandalize the “little ones”, namely the brothers still immature in faith moving them away from the gospel with misconduct and a behavior inconsistent with the Gospel. To admonish his disciples the Messiah uses harsh expressions “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands and to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mk 9: 45.47-48). With these words, Jesus invites the disciples to an attitude inspired by humility, understanding and sacrifice to avoid the scandal that obscures the light of the Gospel.

We could formulate the invitation of Christ with the words that  in ”The announcement to Mary” by Paul Claudel,  Violaine, the protagonist now blind, does to the many who have the gift of sight “You who  see, what  did you do with light? ”

If we can convert  first and foremost our heart, then those who live next to us, even though not  believers,  will understand that Jesus is not an incomprehensible and unacceptable theological formula in our minds, but the life of God in our hearts and the light to our steps. And though they will not change their religion, their heart will change becoming more open, tolerant and free.

Jesus asks the disciples, and therefore us, to have his way of thinking that does not reject anyone and his same gaze that recognizes even the smallest signs of faith, such as the gift of a simple glass of water that, if given to a “little one”, will “affect” the final judgment when the Son of man will judge all peoples of the earth.

This total opening, with no barrier of space and time, is shown precisely by Jesus with his incarnation and death on the cross for all humanity. It is possible for every man and woman on earth to have a mysterious and profound relationship with Jesus Christ. The Christian community is called upon to expand its boundaries to consider all as its children, even those who don’t have a full knowledge- experience of Jesus.

If “smallness” is the profound appearance of the life of the believer, even a hand, a foot and an eye can hurt it and impede – in the sense of making scandal or a glitch – the presence of the Lord in us. A glass of water is a small thing and the little ones know how to appreciate it, not failing to give thanks for it, especially when it is received in the name of Jesus.


2) The name of Jesus.

The name “Jesus” occurs three times in just four verses of today’s Gospel. The fact is that those who work in His name can do great things, starting with the apostles who belong to Jesus Christ. But who belongs to Christ? The disciples who follow him, but not in an exclusive sense. When the Christians have believed to have the monopoly of Jesus, they ran the risk of being intolerant. Good, in all its forms, is the right and the duty of every man. Jesus and the Spirit are everywhere where good is done. On the previous page, the disciples were divided between them in the name of their “I”. Here they are divided from the others in the name of their “we”. Only the “Name” of Jesus is the root of unity among all. Scandal is all that prevents someone from following God to attain salvation. Rather than making even one person lose faith, it would be better to die.

That certainly does not mean to overshadow or even frustrate the efforts of the announcement and the call to convert to the Gospel, as some might think. Do not forget that witness and proclamation are an integral part of the authentic Christian faith, which cannot be silent on the immense joy of having met the Lord. If I do not hide the fact of being a convinced and practicing Christian, every gesture of friendship and help that I do is an announcement in the same way that every word and gesture of Jesus was, even before he declared “I am the Son of God.” From the New Testament emerges clearly the “duty” of the announcement  “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15); ” If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it  (1 Cor 9:16); ” Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear ” (1 Pt 3,15-16).

The first appeal of Jesus is for the “change of heart”. He asks His disciples not to put the other person in preconceived schemes, but to welcome him or her and to listen to him or to her. Listen to the symphony of the wail of a child, of a poor, of a sick person to bring them the tenderness of God. Listen to the words of the world and give it the Word, because everything about the human adventure concerns all of us “I am a man and nothing that is human is foreign to me “(Terence).

The response of Jesus, the man without barriers, (cfr Jesus answered: “Don’t stop him” – Mk 9:39) is among the ones that can be a turning point in history:  all men and women are of us, as we are all of men and women. A person first of all. “When a person dies, do not wonder for whom the bell tolls: it always sounds a little for you” (John Donne). All are us. We are all ‘one’ in Christ Jesus.

Jesus’s announce is even more courageous: it brings us from the simply “not only” to the “not feeling strangers”. He asks us to love our neighbor and to live life as sharing: it leads us to live the many lives and histories of the others as if they were our own. It gives us a hundred brothers and sisters, a hundred hearts to rest on, a hundred lips to be quenched from thirst, a hundred mouths that do not know to Whom to yell and of which we are the voice.

It’s true, as I said just above, that today’s Gospel ends with harsh words “If your hand, your foot, your eye scandalize, cut it, throw it away.” It is the Gospel of wounds, scandalous and bright as the stigmata of Jesus. In fact, the words of Christ are not an invitation to an unnecessary mutilation, they are a figurative and incisive language to convey the seriousness with which we should think about the essential things. Even to lose what is precious, as a hand or an eye, is not comparable to the damage that comes from a wrong life. The Lord invites us to fear more a failed life than the painful wounds of life.

A special way to welcome Christ and the wounds of His love is that of the consecrated Virgins in the world. Being a virgin means keeping the spousal character of their bodies intact for the Lord. A virgin does not waste herself, and does not seek life in other human beings, in flesh and blood. A lot of maturity and also a lot of faith are needed to cut sick affections towards people and to wait with fidelity and perseverance for the Lord who comes. One must have a concrete experience of being with the Lord; just a theoretical knowledge is not enough. If one has a weak faith, he or she stops praying, experiences loneliness, doesn’t want to take on the responsibilities of an adult life and is in serious danger. He or she can maintain a physical virginity, but losing its meaning, he or she will become selfish or narcissistic, cynical or bitter, acid or an emotional vampire. Saint Augustine says that a virginity without humility doesn’t do any good.

Consecrated virginity is not a means of preservation of themselves or to bury one’s talent in the ground to return it intact one day. It is indeed a means of giving of oneself, accepting certain sacrifices just to give everything to God and more to the neighbor in a missionary spirit of annunciation (cfr Rite of the Consecration of Virgins, annexe 1, Mass, Eucharistic Prayer III: “Accept, Lord to confirm the engagement of our sister to follow Christ constantly, so that they can give the witness of evangelical life and fraternal love)


Patristic reading

Golden Chain

on Mk 9, 38-42

Bede: John, loving the Lord with eminent devotion, thought that He who performed an office to which He had no right was to be excluded from the benefit of it. Wherefore it is said, “And John answered Him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.”

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: For many believers received gifts, and yet were not with Christ, such was this man who cast out devils; for there were many of them deficient in some way; some were pure in life, but were not so perfect in faith; others again, contrariwise.
Theophylact: Or again, some unbelievers, seeing that the name of Jesus was full of virtue, themselves used it, and performed signs, though they were unworthy of Divine grace; for the Lord wished to extend His name even by the unworthy.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: It was not from jealousy or envy, however, that John wished to forbid him who cast out devils, but because he wished that all who called on the name of the Lord should follow Christ and be one body with His disciples. But the Lord, however unworthy they who perform the miracles may be, incites others by their means to believe on Him, and induces themselves by this unspeakable grace to become better.
Wherefore there follows: “But Jesus said, Forbid him not.”
Bede: By which He shews that no one is to be driven away from that partial goodness which he possesses already, but rather to be stirred up to that which he has not as yet obtained.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: In conformity to this, He shews that he is not to be forbidden, adding immediately after, “For there is no man which shall do a miracle in My name, that can lightly speak evil of Me.” He says “lightly” to meet the case of those who fell into heresy, such as were Simon and Menander, and Cerinthus (ed. note: Irenaeus, cont. Haer. 2, 31, seems to imply that the early heretics actually worked wonders, but that these differed from Christian miracles in that they were done by magic through the aid of the devil, and were not works of mercy; he contrasts with these the ecclesiastical miracles of his day.); not that they did miracles in the name of Christ, but by their deceptions had the appearance of doing them.
But these others, though they do (p. 184) not follow us, cannot however set themselves to say any thing against us, because they honour My name by working miracles.
Theophylact: For how can he speak evil of Me, who draws glory from My name, and works miracles by the invocation of this very name. There follows, “For he that is not against you is on your part.”
Augustine, de Con. Evan., 4, 5: We must take care that this saying of the Lord appear not to be contrary to that where He says, “He who is not with Me is against Me.” (Lc 11,23) Or will any one say that the difference lies in that here He says to His disciples, “For he that is not against you is on your part,” but in the other He speaks of Himself, “He who is not with Me is against Me?” As if indeed it were possible (ed. note: St. Augustine has here quasi vero, instead of quasi non, which hardly makes sense; the latter reading has also been found in an old edition of the Catena Aurea, A.D. 1417.) that he who is joined to Christ’s disciples, who are as His members, should not be with Him.
How if it were so, could it be true that “he that receiveth you receiveth Me?” (Mt 10,40) Or how is he not against Him who is against His disciples? Where then will be that saying, “He who despiseth you, despiseth Me? (Lc 10,16) But surely what is implied is that a man is not with Him in as far as he is against Him, and is not against Him in as far as he is with Him.
For instance, he who worked miracles in the name of Christ, and yet did not join himself to the body of His disciples, in as far as he worked the miracles in His name, was with them, and was not against them; again, in that he did not join their society, he was not with them, and was against them.
Be because they forbade his doing that in which he was with them, the Lord said unto them, “Forbid him not:” for they ought to have forbidden his being without their society, and thus to have persuaded him of the unity of the Church, but they should not have forbidden that in which he was with them, that is, his commendation of the name of their Lord and Master by the expulsion of devils.
Thus the Church Catholic does not disapprove in heretics the sacraments, which are common, but she blames their division, or some opinion of theirs adverse to peace and to truth; for in this they are against us.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Or else, this is said of those who believe on Him, but nevertheless do not follow Him from the looseness of their lives. Again, it is said of devils, who try to separate all from God, and to disperse His (p. 185) congregation.
There follows, “For whosoever shall give you a cup of cold water to drink in My name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.”
Theophylact: Not only will I not forbid him who works miracles in My name, but also whosoever shall give you the smallest thing for My name’s sake, and shall receive you, not on account of human and worldly favour, but from love to Me, shall not lose his reward.
Augustine, de Con. Evan., 4, 6: By which He shews, that he of whom John had spoken was not so far separated from the fellowship of the disciples, as to reject it, as a heretic, but as men are wont to hang back from receiving the Sacraments of Christ, and yet favour the Christian name, so as even to succour Christians, and do them service only because they are Christians. Of these He says they shall not lose their reward; not that they ought already to think themselves secure on account of this good will which they have towards Christians, without being washed with His baptism, and incorporated in His unity, but that they are already so guided by the mercy of God, as also to attain to these, and thus to go away from this life in security.



Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Cardinal Danneels Admits to Being Part of ‘Mafia’ Club Opposed to Benedict XVI

New authorised biography also reveals papal delegate at upcoming synod wrote letter to Belgium government supporting same-sex “marriage” legislation because it ended discrimination against LGBT groups

by Edward Pentin on NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER Screen_Shot_2015-09-24_at_13.39.13-1-255x386

Further serious concerns are being raised about Cardinal Godfried Danneels, one of the papal delegates chosen to attend the upcoming Ordinary Synod on the Family, after the archbishop emeritus of Brussels confessed this week to being part of a radical “mafia” reformist group opposed to Benedict XVI.

It was also revealed this week that he once wrote a letter to the Belgium government favoring same-sex “marriage” legislation because it ended discrimination against LGBT groups.

The cardinal is already known for having once advised the king of Belgium to sign an abortion law in 1990, for telling a victim of clerical sex abuse to keep quiet, and for refusing to forbid pornographic, “educational” materials being used in Belgian Catholic schools.

He also once said same-sex “marriage” was a “positive development,” although he has sought to distinguish such a union from the Church’s understanding of marriage.

According to a forthcoming authorized biography on the cardinal co-written by Jürgen Mettepenningen, a former spokesman for Cardinal Danneels’ successor, Archbishop Andre Joseph Leonard, and Karim Schelkens, a Church historian and theologian, the cardinal expressed satisfaction over the disappearance of “discrimination” against LGBT couples after legislation was passed approving same-sex “marriage” in 2003.

The authors of the biography, to be published Sept. 29, reveal that the cardinal wrote a letter on May 28, 2003, to then-Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who at that time was putting together his second government.
In the letter, the cardinal wrote favorably about “one of the last achievements of Verhofstadt’s first governments, the approval of a legal statute for a stable relationship between partners of the same sex.” Verhofstadt’s government introduced same sex-‘marriage’ into Belgium in 2003.

“He wanted to stop discrimination between married heterosexuals and homosexuals who had a long-term relationship,” write the two authors of the biography. “But there should be no confusion between the use of the term ‘marriage’.”

Asked about the letter, Verhofstadt said he did not recall it, but added: “I never had any problem with the cardinal. Our relationship was good.”

Under Verhofstadt’s leadership, from 1999 to 2007, the Belgian government not only introduced same sex “marriage”, but also laws on euthanasia, experiments on human embryos, and IVF.

Despite the poor record of the Belgian Church in resisting these laws, and the country being far smaller than many African countries that have one delegate representing them, Cardinal Danneels, 82, will be one of three Belgian prelates to attend the synod in October.

The Vatican listed him second in importance out of 45 delegates personally chosen by Pope Francis to participate in the upcoming meeting. He also took part in last year’s Extraordinary Synod as a papal delegate.

At the launch of the book in Brussels this week, the cardinal said he was part of a secret club of cardinals opposed to Pope Benedict XVI.

He called it a “mafia” club that bore the name of St. Gallen. The group wanted a drastic reform of the Church, to make it “much more modern”, and for Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to head it. The group, which also comprised Cardinal Walter Kasper and the late Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, has been documented in Austen Ivereigh’s biography of Pope Francis, The Great Reformer.


Posted in Uncategorized | 65 Comments

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 871 other followers

%d bloggers like this: