Wednesday, March 31, 2010

O Redemptor... Chrism Mass

On Holy Thursday at the Chrism Mass during the procession of the oils it is customary to have the Hymn O Redemptor. This is the only one i could find on youtube - so ignore the motorcycle that passes noisily outside during the recitation.

Pange Lingua

In honour of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ - Truly Present in the August and Wondrous Sacrament of the Altar: A truly beautiful Hymn and a truly beautiful Video.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Prayer for the Holy Father

In these days when many attacks are being made upon the Holy Father, we should pray for Pope Benedict XVI that the Lord will pour out his blessing upon him abundantly and that he will sustain him from the attacks upon his person and upon the Catholic Church in general.

The text of the prayer in english reads:

Let us pray for Benedict our Pope.
May the Lord preserve him, and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies. Amen

St. Francis de Sales & Confessions

As the Holy Season of Lent draws to an end I thought it might be helpful to link to some words of wisdom on the Sacrament of Confession by St. Francis de Sales in his Introduction to the Devout Life.

HERE and HERE you will find what he has to say about confessing sins.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Addressing the present state of the Church

Below is an extract from a message reputedly given by Our Lady to a saintly nun in Quito, Ecuador in the 17th Century - Venerable Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres. It makes sober reading and certainly given the recent revelations of corrupt and sinful clergy in many parts of the world it seems to be spot on.

I offer it for your consideration and as an encouragement to more prayer, fasting and penance for the many sins of the clergy and religious which are particularly offensive to God since they are consecrated and set apart in a profound way by virtue of their ordination or profession - not that holiness is the sole preserve of the clergy and religious. I often think how diificult it will be for those of us who are priests to enter heaven.

"The Church will find itself attacked by waves of a secret sect ... corrupted priests will scandalize the Church ... Moreover, in these unhappy times there will be unbridled luxury which, acting thus to snare the rest into sin, will conquer innumerable frivolous souls who will lose themselves. Innocence will almost no longer be found in children, nor modesty in women, and, in this supreme moment of need of the Church, those whom it behooves to speak will fall silent."

“As for the Sacrament of Matrimony, which symbolizes the union of Christ with His Church, it will be attacked and deeply profaned. Freemasonry, which will then be in power, will enact iniquitous laws with the aim of doing away with this Sacrament, making it easy for everyone to live in sin and encouraging the procreation of illegitimate children born without the blessing of the Church. The Catholic spirit will rapidly decay; the precious light of Faith will gradually be extinguished until there will be an almost total and general corruption of customs. Added to this will be the effects of secular education, which will be one reason for the dearth of priestly and religious vocations. “The Sacrament of Holy Orders will be ridiculed, oppressed, and despised, for in this Sacrament, the Church of God and even God Himself is scorned and despised since He is represented in His priests."

"The Devil will try to persecute the ministers of the Lord in every possible way; he will labor with cruel and subtle astuteness to deviate them from the spirit of their vocation and will corrupt many of them. These depraved priests, who will scandalize the Christian people, will make the hatred of bad Catholics and the enemies of the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church fall upon all priests. "This apparent triumph of Satan will bring enormous sufferings to the good Pastors of the Church, the many good priests, and the Supreme Pastor and Vicar of Christ on Earth, who, a prisoner in the Vatican, will shed secret and bitter tears in the presence of his God and Lord, beseeching light, sanctity, and perfection for all the clergy of the world, of whom he is King and Father."

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Power of Christ's Precious Blood

Below is the text of today's Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours. It is a commentary by St. John Fisher on the Penitential Psalms:

Christ Jesus is our bishop, his most precious body is our sacrifice, which he offered upon a cross for the redemption of all the world. The blood shed for our redemption was not the blood of goats or calves as in the old law; it was the very blood most innocent of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

The temple wherein our bishop did sacrifice was not made by man’s hand but only by the power of God, he shed his precious blood for our redemption in the face of all the world, which is the temple made only by the hand of God. This temple has two divers parts, one is the earth whereon we live, the other is not yet known to us mortal creatures.

First he did sacrifice in the earth when he suffered his passion. After, in a new clothing or garment, the vesture of immortality, and with his own precious blood he entered into sanctum sanctorum [the Holy of Holies] that is to say into heaven when he showed his most precious blood before the Throne of his Father which he shed for all sinners 7 times.

By this Holy Sacrifice Almighty God must needs have pity and execute his mercy to all true penitents and this sacrifice shall continue not only year by year as the manner was of the Jews, but also it is daily offered for our comfort, and every hour and moment for our most strong succour, wherefore Saint Paul says: Having obtained eternal redemption.

By it we are redeemed forever. Every contrite and true penitent person not willing to fall again but with a full purpose to continue in virtuous living is a partaker of this Holy Sacrifice. As saint John shows in his first epistle: My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin; but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Email the Pope

Fr. Tim over at The Hermeneutic of Continuity makes the wonderful suggestion that we email the Holy Father to offer our support (and thanks) for all he has done and continues to do. His email address is As his Pastoral Letter to Ireland has received some mixed reactions, (something the media seem to latch onto if it is in any way negative reaction), maybe it would be good for Irish Catholics to write to him and thank him for this wonderful pastoral intervention in our time of crisis.

All you who read this blog - please continue to pray for the Church in Ireland - as we attempt to steer a course through these troubled waters that surround us.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Benedict XVI - Prayer for the Church in Ireland

I wish to conclude this Letter with a special Prayer for the Church in Ireland, which I send to you with the care of a father for his children and with the affection of a fellow Christian, scandalized and hurt by what has occurred in our beloved Church. As you make use of this prayer in your families, parishes and communities, may the Blessed Virgin Mary protect and guide each of you to a closer union with her Son, crucified and risen.

God of our fathers,
renew us in the faith which is our life and salvation, the hope which promises forgiveness and interior renewal, the charity which purifies and opens our hearts to love you, and in you, each of our brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus Christ,
may the Church in Ireland renew her age-old commitment to the education of our young people in the way of truth and goodness, holiness and generous service to society.

Holy Spirit, Comforter, Advocate and Guide,
inspire a new springtime of holiness and apostolic zeal for the Church in Ireland.

May our sorrow and our tears, our sincere effort to redress past wrongs, and our firm purpose of amendment bear an abundant harvest of grace for the deepening of the faith in our families, parishes, schools and communities, for the spiritual progress of Irish society, and the growth of charity, justice, joy and peace within the whole human family.

To you, Triune God,
confident in the loving protection of Mary, Queen of Ireland, our Mother, and of Saint Patrick, Saint Brigid and all the saints, do we entrust ourselves, our children, and the needs of the Church in Ireland.

Pope Benedict's Letter to the Irish

Below are some significant excerpts from the Holy Father's Letter to the Church in Ireland. The Letter deserves to be read in full and can be read HERE.

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Church in Ireland, it is with great concern that I write to you as Pastor of the Universal Church. Like yourselves, I have been deeply disturbed by the information which has come to light regarding the abuse of children and vulnerable young people by members of the Church in Ireland, particularly by priests and religious. I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.

It is true, as many in your country have pointed out, that the problem of child abuse is peculiar neither to Ireland nor to the Church. Nevertheless, the task you now face is to address the problem of abuse that has occurred within the Irish Catholic community, and to do so with courage and determination. No one imagines that this painful situation will be resolved swiftly. Real progress has been made, yet much more remains to be done. Perseverance and prayer are needed, with great trust in the healing power of God’s grace.

At the same time, I must also express my conviction that, in order to recover from this grievous wound, the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children. Such an acknowledgement, accompanied by sincere sorrow for the damage caused to these victims and their families, must lead to a concerted effort to ensure the protection of children from similar crimes in the future.

To the victims of abuse and their families
You have suffered grievously and I am truly sorry. I know that nothing can undo the wrong you have endured. Your trust has been betrayed and your dignity has been violated. Many of you found that, when you were courageous enough to speak of what happened to you, no one would listen. Those of you who were abused in residential institutions must have felt that there was no escape from your sufferings. It is understandable that you find it hard to forgive or be reconciled with the Church. In her name, I openly express the shame and remorse that we all feel. At the same time, I ask you not to lose hope. It is in the communion of the Church that we encounter the person of Jesus Christ, who was himself a victim of injustice and sin. Like you, he still bears the wounds of his own unjust suffering. He understands the depths of your pain and its enduring effect upon your lives and your relationships, including your relationship with the Church.

I know some of you find it difficult even to enter the doors of a church after all that has occurred. Yet Christ’s own wounds, transformed by his redemptive sufferings, are the very means by which the power of evil is broken and we are reborn to life and hope. I believe deeply in the healing power of his self-sacrificing love – even in the darkest and most hopeless situations – to bring liberation and the promise of a new beginning.

Speaking to you as a pastor concerned for the good of all God’s children, I humbly ask you to consider what I have said. I pray that, by drawing nearer to Christ and by participating in the life of his Church – a Church purified by penance and renewed in pastoral charity – you will come to rediscover Christ’s infinite love for each one of you. I am confident that in this way you will be able to find reconciliation, deep inner healing and peace.

To priests and religious who have abused children
You betrayed the trust that was placed in you by innocent young people and their parents, and you must answer for it before Almighty God and before properly constituted tribunals. You have forfeited the esteem of the people of Ireland and brought shame and dishonour upon your confreres. Those of you who are priests violated the sanctity of the sacrament of Holy Orders in which Christ makes himself present in us and in our actions. Together with the immense harm done to victims, great damage has been done to the Church and to the public perception of the priesthood and religious life.

I urge you to examine your conscience, take responsibility for the sins you have committed, and humbly express your sorrow. Sincere repentance opens the door to God’s forgiveness and the grace of true amendment. By offering prayers and penances for those you have wronged, you should seek to atone personally for your actions. Christ’s redeeming sacrifice has the power to forgive even the gravest of sins, and to bring forth good from even the most terrible evil. At the same time, God’s justice summons us to give an account of our actions and to conceal nothing. Openly acknowledge your guilt, submit yourselves to the demands of justice, but do not despair of God’s mercy.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Solemnity of St. Joseph

Happy Feast of St. Joseph. As regular readers will know I have a strong devotion to St. Joseph and so in his honour I duly present:

And here one St. Joseph speaks of THEE St. Joseph:

St. Joseph, loving foster Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and Most Chaste Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary - pray pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Dangers of Fortune Telling & Other Occult Practices

In the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 16, St. Luke recalls the following incident involving a fortune-teller: “It happened one day that as we were going to prayer, we were met by a slave girl who was a soothsayer (literally in Greek: who had a python-spirit, so called from the serpent python of the ancient Delphic Oracle) and made a lot of money for her masters by foretelling the future. This girl started following Paul and the rest of us and shouting, ‘Here are the servants of the Most High God; they have come to tell you how to be saved!’ She did this day after day until Paul was exasperated and turned round and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to leave that woman.’ The spirit went out of her then and there.”

As can be seen from this short passage, the abilities which this girl had were authentic, but they were not a gift from God. Her ability to ‘see’ was given her by the evil spirit which possessed her. This is not to say that all those who dabble in telling fortunes are possessed, but that their ‘art’ is steeped in and founded on occult practices; practices which both the Old and the New Testament condemn in very strong terms.

Let there not be found among you… a fortune-teller, soothsayer, charmer, diviner, or caster of spells, nor one who consults ghosts and spirits or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 18: 10-12)

As for cowards and traitors to the faith, the depraved and murderers, the fornicators and sorcerers, the idol-worshippers and deceivers of every sort – their lot is the fiery pool of burning sulphur – the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
These last words are Jesus’ words and their strength and harshness should alert us to the great dangers that are inherent in all occult practices. If these practices are condemned so forcibly then it can only be in proportionate response to the spiritual danger they pose to us. Our Father does not desire the death of the sinner but that he or she repents. These practices, however, open us up to the darkness of hidden things (the real meaning of occult) and can extinguish the light of life and faith within us.

So what practices of the occult fall under the banner of fortune-telling? There are many around these days, ranging from the most simplistic to the more obviously occult practices. At the more usual end of things, and something which is unfortunately practiced by well-intentioned Christians, is the consulting of horoscopes which hold that our fate or destiny is dictated by the stars and the movement of the planets. How could the Father who knows every hair on your head and who looks after even the birds (see Matthew 6) leave something as important as our life here on earth in the hands of the stars and at the mercy of the movement of the planets?
As St. Thomas Aquinas states: “Those who believe that Heavenly Bodies (planets and stars) influence the human will, and who choose certain season for their actions, make gods and rulers out of the heavenly bodies and cast horoscopes.”

Another more developed and increasingly popular method of fortune-telling is the use of tarot-cards. This practice uses various occult symbols on a pack of cards and seeks to reveal the future through the permutations of the dealt cards. An even more sinister type of fortune-telling involves the use of a psychic, medium or channeller who seeks to consult a spirit or departed soul to predict the future. It is this sort of practice that is recounted in the above passage from the Acts of the Apostles and a similar account is recalled in 1Samuel 28, when Saul consults a witch about the outcome of a battle he had to engage in. She conjured up the dead prophet Samuel, but it didn’t go well for Saul after that; he and his sons were to die the next day.

So the practice of fortune-telling ranges from what “seems” to be harmless fun to the more serious magical consultations of forces and spirits that are not of God. Some Catholics justify the consulting of the daily horoscope in the newspaper as harmless fun and not to be taken too seriously, but innocence and naivety and a lack of desire to do anything occultic is hardly a defence against our mortal enemy who prowls around “like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1Peter 5:8). We must never do anything that would compromise the stand we take with and for Christ as Christians. We are advised by St. Paul: “Do not give the devil his opportunity” (Ephesians 4:27); “Avoid what is evil, stick to what is good” (Romans 12:10).

And what exactly is this compromise? It is twofold in nature. Firstly, any occult practice is opposed to the action of the Holy Spirit and seeks to obtain some power, knowledge, or gain that God has not desired us to have. Once again let us hear St. Thomas Aquinas: “Those who engage in sorcery and incantations treat the demons as if they were gods, since they seek to obtain from the demons that which God alone can give, namely knowledge of what is hidden and the truth about future events.”

A Christian who dabbles in occult practices cannot dwell in the light of God and the darkness of these satanic practices at the same time as “God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. If we say that we share in God’s life while we are living in darkness, we are lying.” (1John 1:4-6). Jesus himself warns us that we cannot be slave to two masters (see Matthew 6:24).

The second type of compromise we make by getting involved in the occult through the practice of or consulting of fortune-telling involves an undermining of the faith we profess to have. If we believe in the absolute sovereignty of God as our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier then how can we doubt his goodness and providence on our behalf? It is normal enough for us to be curious about the future; to wonder what our life will be like in 5 or 10 years time. (If only we had the same concern about our eternal future). But to be a Christian is to be called to a radical trust in the Providence of God. We call God Father not just as some sort of nice title or as some symbolic title. We call him Father because that is what he is. It is from him that all fatherhood takes its being (See Ephesians 3:14) and he is the best of all Fathers. Jesus repeatedly calls us to trust in the loving care of our Father for us. He encourages us to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33) and not to worry about the future because the Father will take care of all that.

St. Paul reminds us that, “God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his decree.” (Romans 8:28) As Christians, it is our belief that our whole lives are in God’s hands and therefore we have nothing to fear of the future because God can and does use all things and all circumstances – even the seemingly bad or hopeless ones – to bring about good in our lives and in our world. We can fear about the future and be paralysed by it. Going to a fortune-teller is, for many, an attempt to get control of their future and their destiny; to escape the fear of the unknown. But at any moment we may have no more future to look forward to. Upon our death, all the worry about tomorrow, and what will happen then, will seem very foolish because all we really have is today – this very moment.

Our Faith tells us that neither satan nor the stars, or any other created being is in charge of our destiny. Jesus Christ is the “Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last” (Revelations 1:18). Only he controls the lives of all peoples. He decides, he plans and he gives you your future. St. Paul recognised this when he told us, “For all things give thanks; this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5:18). For us Christians, an excessive anxiety or curiosity about the future contradicts our faith that Jesus Christ has, and indeed is, the power that directs human history. To try to discover our future says something very powerful about the faith we have in Jesus Christ. It undermines the fact that we address Jesus as ‘Lord’, because we imply that his Lordship does not extend to all things – our personal destiny in particular.

In every circumstance we must remember that the Risen Lord Jesus Christ has won the victory that has freed us from the tyranny of satan, superstition, fear and oppression. Why are we so willing to take up that burden again by dabbling in the occult? We must be more willing to abandon ourselves to the will of the Father – in imitation of Jesus who followed that will right to Calvary. To those who fear for the future and fear the circumstances that they presently find themselves in, listen to the words of Jesus: “In the world you will have hardship, but courage! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

The last word is given to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which has the following to say about an unhealthy obsession with knowing the future: “A sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all curiosity about it… All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honour, respect and loving fear that we owe to God alone.” (CCC 2115-2116)

If you have ever availed of the services of any kind of Fortune-teller then please do not delay in turning that sin over to the Lord of all mercies in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

St. Patrick's Breastplate

In honour of the great St. Patrick I've posted the video below. It's a musical representation/adaptation of his great prayer - The Breastplate of St. Patrick. The musical version is commonly known as "The Deer's Cry" Happy St. Patrick's Day to one and all.

The full text translation of the prayer is found below and what better day than St. Patrick's day to pray it:

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ's incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;

His bursting from the spic├Ęd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;*
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet 'well done' in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,

Confessors' faith, Apostles' word,
The Patriarchs' prayers, the Prophets' scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun's life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,

The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.

The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;

Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart's idolatry,

Against the wizard's evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,

Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Pope Benedict & that case in Munich

The articles found HERE and HERE seem to clarify the accusations made against Pope Benedict XVI with regard to an abusive priest in the Munich Archdiocese while he was Archbishop there.
It seems that the then Cardinal Ratzinger allowed the priest to live in a parochial house while he was undergoing treatment, but did not give him any parish ministry. This priest was later assigned parish duties - but that was after Cardinal Josef Ratzinger had moved to the Vatican and was no longer Archbishop of Munich.
One wonders if the media will report these facts with as much zeal as they reported the initial (and inaccurate) story.

The Way of the Cross - 14th Station


John 19: 40-42
They took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, following the Jewish burial custom. At the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in this garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried. Since it was the Jewish day of preparation and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Romans 6: 3-6
All of us when we were baptised into Christ Jesus, were baptised into his death. So by our baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glorious power, we too should begin living a new life. If we have been joined to him by dying a death like his, so we shall be by a resurrection like his; realising that our former self was crucified with him, so that the self which belonged to sin should be destroyed and we should be freed from the slavery of sin.

Though the burial is done with haste and lacked the time necessary, the carefully and lovingly prepared body of Jesus is placed in a new tomb. A stone is rolled into place and darkness fall. The Passover has begun and the proper burial rites will have to wait a few days. Death seems to have won the day. His body sealed up in the bowels of the earth, Jesus’ tomb proclaims to the world that death has the final say, that evil has triumphed over good, that all is vanity and the life of man, any man, is futile and ultimately dissolves into nothingness. A few years and who would remember the carpenter from Galilee who ruffled a few too many feathers among those who mattered and paid the ultimate price for it. Until that day, every tomb that had been ever used told a similar tale of woe for mankind.

But this tomb was new, no one had ever been buried in it and certainly no-one like Jesus had ever been buried in any tomb before. The tomb which mocks man and puts an end to his hopes and aspirations, would become a symbol which would put new heart into him. As the Cross, that horrible instrument, a symbol of torture and death was to become the symbol of healing and life, so too in Jesus the tomb was to become a symbol of life. For though on Good Friday the tomb of Jesus seemed to proclaim the end, on Sunday morning that same tomb proclaims the beginning of new life, the conquest of sin and death. Death where is your victory, death where is your sting? For Easter Morning will deny you your ability to boast and taunt mankind.

Lord, help us to face death when it comes to us with great faith and trust. It is in dying that we are born to eternal life and so we submit ourselves to your holy will regarding our own time to depart this life. Give us the grace to be ready and we ask that you allow your Mother to prepare us well for that day, she whom we have countless times asked to pray for us at the hour of our death.

The Way of the Cross - 13th Station


Luke 23: 50-53
And now a member of the Council arrived, a good and upright man named Joseph. He had not consented to what the others had planned and carried out. He came from Arimathaea, a Jewish town, and he lived in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He then took it down, wrapped it in a shroud and put it in a tomb which was hewn in stone.

Luke 2:7
And she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger.

Mary receives the life-less body of her precious Son from the Cross. Her heart on fire with joy she had received him from the Father’s hands, full of life, and she had wrapped him in swaddling clothes. Now her heart pierced through with bitter sorrow she must hand him back to the Father, life-less, and once again she wraps him in clothes, this time a burial shroud. Who can say what anguish filled her soul. Her Son the Redeemer has given every last drop of blood in his body as a sign of the extremes of love and extremes of suffering that the Father’s will has brought him to. She has no more tears left to give, all have been poured out in the preceding hours; signs of her co-operation in her Son’s work of Salvation, of the great sorrowful suffering which she offered in union with her Lord. And with great faith she renews now her yes: “Behold the Handmaid of the Lord, let it be done according to your will.” She grieved her Son, but she grieved as one with hope, and no-one ever grieved as faithfully and filled with hope as she did. All according to your will Lord, according to your will.

We pray for all those who mourn the death of one they love, that they may not grieve without hope. Lord give them the strength to endure this bitter trial and give them the gifts of faith and hope, that even amid the darkness of death they may persevere in their expectation of the light of Resurrection.

The Way of the Cross - 12th Station


John 19:28-34
After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed and, so that the scripture should be completely fulfilled, he said: ‘I Thirst’. A jar full of sour wine stood there; so putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a hyssop stick, they held it up to his mouth. After Jesus had taken the wine he said, ‘It is fulfilled’; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.

It was the Day of Preparation, and to avoid the bodies remaining on the cross during the Sabbath – since that Sabbath was a day of special solemnity – the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away. Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then the other. When they came to Jesus, they saw he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water.

John 7: 37-38
Jesus stood and cried out: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me! Let anyone who believes in me come and drink! As Scripture says: ‘From his heart shall flow streams of living water’.”

As he hangs there suspended between heaven and earth all of human sin flows to him. His open arms are an invitation to human wickedness and a sign of his vulnerability. And the sin which has perverted the human heart will flow ferociously out against him. All the depravity which the human heart is capable of will flow into his heart. The river of sin seems endless, how is it possible that one man could embrace it all. But that river of sin flows into the endless ocean of merciful love that has gathered in his Divine Heart. Sin will exhaust itself as it rages against love. The more it raises its voice to scream ‘no’ the more the Saviour will quietly repeat his ‘yes’. And as the fresh water of a river flowing into the sea becomes lost in the salty deeps so the foulness of our most vile sins disappears when it is conquered by infinite love. Our sins fall upon him and his blood falls upon us. The full measure of our sins draws forth the full measure of his life’s-blood. From our wounds flow waves of death and destruction - the foul-smelling rot of sin. From his wounds flow waves of the cleansing Blood of the Lamb without blemish, the medicinal water that flows from the tree of life, from the side of the temple, which is his body; the sweet-smelling ‘yes’ offered to the Father from a truly human heart – the Divine Heart of his Son.

With each breath he takes the stench of sin and death fill his soul so that the author of life itself, moves ever closer to death. And when the last wave of the last sin ever to be committed breaks upon the shore of his suffering and he breathes deeply the stench of that sin too, he lowers his head in death, breathing out the Holy Spirit over those raging waters. “Quiet now, be still.”

Lord, by your wounds we are healed, and so we press our open wounds to yours that we may be healed.

The Way of the Cross - 11th Station


Luke 23:33-34
When they reached the place of the Skull, there they crucified him and the two criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.’

Psalm 21
Many dogs have surrounded me, a band of the wicked beset me. They tear holes in my hands and my feet and lay me in the dust of death.

Despite the pain, the exhaustion and cruelty that surrounded him, would it not have been for Jesus an interior joy to mount that cross and so accomplish the Father’s plan of salvation. Beholding the wondrous cross would he not have contemplated the countless souls who would embrace that cross, would look upon it as the image of merciful love and so understand the extremes of the Father’s love for them. Forever that image of the Saviour, arms wide open on the cross, would inspire sinners to come and be embraced by the Saviour whose arms are forever open to receive them. We can imagine that he did not shrink before it, but as he had carried it with such resolution and love, so now he would stretch himself out upon it, willingly easing himself into position.

With three powerful blows the first nail tears through Christ’s flesh and lodges itself in the wood of the Cross. Then follows the second, then the third; each with ruthless efficiency. The executioners couldn’t see that this was a defining moment for mankind – deicide, the murder of God. Had they known the importance of what they were doing at that moment then they would have known that such a moment demanded solemnity, time, ritual and they would have carried out each movement in this tragic turn of events with greater attention, with greater care allowing each atrocious wound the time and space to speak for itself. But they are completely ignorant of all this – they do not know what they are doing. Here is a criminal to be disposed of in the usual way. What they must do they do quickly and in a moment the Saviour of the world is lifted up and the full horror of a world gone mad is displayed for all to see.

The first wave of human sin is passed, but there comes another and yet another in a relentless onslaught crashing on the shores of that Divine Heart. Each wave foams with the sins of every human being of every generation. Every injustice, every lust, every infidelity, every angry word, every violent action, every evil thought, every gun fired, every bomb dropped, every abortion, every life taken, every conceivable evil that ever was or will be flood his soul. Each presents itself to the eyes of Christ as one huge tsunami following another – a tidal wave of rejection that roars ‘no’ to the Father.

Hanging on the cross the sins of the world wash over him, invade him and cause him the most unbearable suffering. He has asked for this, he has desired that it be this way because this is his Father’s will. And as each sin falls upon his head and his grief increases he utters no word of condemnation, no judgement. Silently he bears it all. No sin will every force him to say: ‘Enough – I will have no more, away with this cross!’

And amid all these thunderous waves there are countless small waves too. These waves do not crash violently over him, but timidly, humbly exhaust themselves at his feet. These are the waves of the Magdalenes of this world whose sins are not hurled at the Saviour, rather they are laid at the foot of his cross. They may be waves of sin – perhaps waves of the greatest possible sins, but they are waves which foam with repentance. These sins do cause him to suffer but as bitter as they are for him to swallow they leave a sweet taste as he gazes upon another soul saved for the Kingdom. While so many sinners would use their sins to crucify him – these sinners would have them crucified with him.

And so, as he is lifted up into the air on that Cross, Jesus’ words are not words of condemnation. From this throne, the judgement is mercy, mercy, mercy. Here the Saviour sits on his throne of mercy and the blood which flows from his crucified body pleads with the Father: Father forgive them, Father forgive them – they do not know what they are doing.

He prayed not for himself, not that the Father would ease his suffering, but that the Father would accept his sufferings in expiation for our sins. In extreme agony his thoughts were not on himself but on us, and that because, though great his physical sufferings were, it is a greater torture to him that any sinner should be lost. Father forgive them – Father forgive us, we offer you the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

The Way of the Cross - 10th Station


Genesis 3: 21-24
The Lord God made tunics of skins for the man and his wife and clothed them. Then the Lord God said, ‘Now that the man has become like one of us in knowing good from evil, he must not be allowed to reach out his hand and pick from the tree of life too, and eat and live forever.’ So the Lord God expelled him from the Garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he had been taken. He banished the man, and in front of the garden of Eden he posted the great winged creatures and the fiery flashing sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.

Psalm 22.19
They divide My garments among them, and they cast lots for my clothes.

The Lord finally arrives at the spot of his crucifixion. And now he is stripped of his garments in front of everyone. Naked he stands before the eyes of the world. His body is torn and the onlookers can see the extent of the damage that has been inflicted on him so far.

Adam stood naked too; when he had sinned. God took pity on Adam and Eve and clothed them to ease their sense of shame. Here Christ stands sholder to shoulder with Adam. The New Adam has entered into solidarity with the Old Adam. Adam stood despoiled of the garments of grace; his sin had stripped him of it. His exterior nudity points to an interior despoiling of the soul. Jesus who is the source of all grace, allows himself to stand exposed, stripped of his dignity and allows himself to be taken as yet another sinful son of Adam who has followed the path of his father, the path of disobedience and sin. But he is the innocent one, it is not his own sin that has left him exposed to sin’s horrible consequences, but the sins of the whole world which are placed on his shoulders. “For our sake he made the sinless one a victim of sin, so that in him we might become the uprightness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).

God clothes Adam before expelling him from the Garden as a sign that one day he will once again clothe him in the robes of righteousness before his re-entry into Paradise. To do this God allows himself to be stripped; as the final movement of that stripping away which began with the Incarnation, when he stripped himself of his glory, and became one of us, like us in all things but sin. And so great was that self-emptying, that stripping away, that he now stands on the verge of death, offering to strip himself of life itself in order to give us eternal life.

Lord we ask you to clothe those who have been despoiled of the baptismal robe of righteousness through their sins. Bring many to the sacrament of confession so that they may be restored to the state of grace and the divine friendship which is your will.

Monday, March 15, 2010

It never seems to reach rock bottom

As yet another episode in the ongoing clerical abuse scandals in Ireland hits the headlines, I would ask that all readers of this blog pray for the Church in Ireland - especially as we celebrate St. Patrick's Day on Wednesday.
I started this blog determined not to use it as a forum to present news (especially such bad news as clerical paedophilia), but this thing is so big and so many of the faithful - both clergy and laity - are so demoralised, shocked and in many repsects at their wits end, that I feel it important to make this post. We must continue to pray for those whose young lives were so terribly derailed by the abuse they suffered, and we must pray for the Church in Ireland. May the Lord bring all the skeletons in the collective closet of the Church in this land once and for all into the light of day. And maybe then we can begin to rebuild something that will truly be to the glory of God and something which truly radiates the love and power of Jesus Christ in our Land.
A priest I know once remarked that the faith in Ireland is not dead - but it is on life-support. The past few days make me tempted to think he's not far off the mark. May the long-awaited letter from Pope Benedict be a moment when Peter will rouse the Irish church from her sickbed (Cf. Acts 9:40-41). I pray that the Lord intervenes soon - for many souls are tempted to distance themselves from the Church and the Sacraments - so great is the scandal they feel and so poor has the catechesis been here for at least 2 generations. For as great as the sins the clergy may be, there is not a single thing wrong with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the sacraments are as vital now (maybe moreso) than ever before. What a victory for the evil one that the sins of these priests should not only blight the lives of so many innocent children, but that they should also distance others from Christ.
As you may detect I write from a very sore place. I've gone through so many emotions in the past few days - anger, frustration, hopelessness, and hurt too - the same hurt many good Catholics up and down this country are feeling right now. We priests aren't exempt from that. We are as shocked and as disappointed as anyone else would be. We feel as helpless in this as any of the faithful. And after going through the whole range of emotions - what is there left to us but prayer and trust in God - for only he can bring light too and from all this darkness. In the end, only the Lord Jesus can bring the healing that is required on so many levels to so many different people who are affected by this terrible depravity and its aftermath.
May he does so quickly. Oh God come to our Aid - Oh Lord make haste to help us!
Mary Queen of the Apostles - pray for our bishops.
Mary Queen of Ireland - pray to God for us.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Vatican & Paedophilia

This interview appears in Vatican Information Service (VIS) and is quite significant for the clarifications it gives with regard to the Vatican's dealing with case of clerical child sex abuse.
VATICAN CITY, 13 MAR 2010 (VIS) - Given below is the text of an interview, published today by the Italian newspaper "Avvenire", with Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, promoter of justice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, concerning the investigative and judicial activities of that dicastery in cases of "delicta graviora", which include the crime of paedophilia committed by members of the clergy:

Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna is the "promoter of justice" of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He is effectively the prosecutor of the tribunal of the former Holy Office, whose job it is to investigate what are known as "delicta graviora"; i.e., the crimes which the Catholic Church considers as being the most serious of all: crimes against the Eucharist and against the sanctity of the Sacrament of Penance, and crimes against the sixth Commandment ("thou shall not commit impure acts") committed by a cleric against a person under the age of eighteen. These crimes, in a "Motu Proprio" of 2001, "Sacramentum sanctitatis tutela", come under the competency of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In effect, it is the "promoter of justice" who deals with, among other things, the terrible question of priests accused of paedophilia, which are periodically highlighted in the mass media. Msgr. Scicluna, an affable and polite Maltese, has the reputation of scrupulously carrying out the tasks entrusted to him without deferring to anyone.

Question: Monsignor, you have the reputation of being "tough", yet the Catholic Church is systematically accused of being accommodating towards "paedophile priests".

Answer: It may be that in the past - perhaps also out of a misdirected desire to protect the good name of the institution - some bishops were, in practice, too indulgent towards this sad phenomenon. And I say in practice because, in principle, the condemnation of this kind of crime has always been firm and unequivocal. Suffice it to recall, to limit ourselves just to last century, the famous Instruction "Crimen sollicitationis" of 1922.

Q: Wasn't that from 1962?

A: No, the first edition dates back to the pontificate of Pius XI. Then, with Blessed John XXIII, the Holy Office issued a new edition for the Council Fathers, but only two thousand copies were printed, which were not enough, and so distribution was postponed sine die. In any case, these were procedural norms to be followed in cases of solicitation during confession, and of other more serious sexually-motivated crimes such as the sexual abuse of minors.

Q: Norms which, however, recommended secrecy...

A: A poor English translation of that text has led people to think that the Holy See imposed secrecy in order to hide the facts. But this was not so. Secrecy during the investigative phase served to protect the good name of all the people involved; first and foremost, the victims themselves, then the accused priests who have the right - as everyone does - to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The Church does not like showcase justice. Norms on sexual abuse have never been understood as a ban on denouncing the crimes to the civil authorities.

Q: Nonetheless, that document is periodically cited to accuse the current Pontiff of having been - when he was prefect of the former Holy Office - objectively responsible for a Holy See policy of covering up the facts...

A: That accusation is false and calumnious. On this subject I would like to highlight a number of facts. Between 1975 and 1985 I do not believe that any cases of paedophilia committed by priests were brought to the attention of our Congregation. Moreover, following the promulgation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, there was a period of uncertainty as to which of the "delicta graviora" were reserved to the competency of this dicastery. Only with the 2001 "Motu Proprio" did the crime of paedophilia again become our exclusive remit. From that moment Cardinal Ratzinger displayed great wisdom and firmness in handling those cases, also demonstrating great courage in facing some of the most difficult and thorny cases, "sine acceptione personarum". Therefore, to accuse the current Pontiff of a cover-up is, I repeat, false and calumnious.

Q: What happens when a priest is accused of a "delictum gravius"?

A: If the accusation is well-founded the bishop has the obligation to investigate both the soundness and the subject of the accusation. If the outcome of this initial investigation is consistent, he no longer has any power to act in the matter and must refer the case to our Congregation where it is dealt with by the disciplinary office.

Q: How is that office composed?

A: Apart from myself who, being one of the superiors of the dicastery, also concern myself with other matters, there are the bureau chief Fr. Pedro Miguel Funes Diaz, seven priests and a lay lawyer who follow these cases. Other officials of the Congregation also make their own vital contribution depending upon the language and specific requirements of each case.

Q: That office has been accused of working little and slowly...

A: Those are unjustified comments. In 2003 and 2004 a great wave of cases flooded over our desks. Many of them came from the United States and concerned the past. Over recent years, thanks to God, the phenomenon has become greatly reduced, and we now seek to deal with new cases as they arise.

Q: How many have you dealt with so far?

A: Overall in the last nine years (2001-2010) we have considered accusations concerning around three thousand cases of diocesan and religious priests, which refer to crimes committed over the last fifty years.

Q: That is, then, three thousand cases of paedophile priests?

A: No, it is not correct to say that. We can say that about sixty percent of the cases chiefly involved sexual attraction towards adolescents of the same sex, another thirty percent involved heterosexual relations, and the remaining ten percent were cases of paedophilia in the true sense of the term; that is, based on sexual attraction towards prepubescent children. The cases of priests accused of paedophilia in the true sense have been about three hundred in nine years. Please don't misunderstand me, these are of course too many, but it must be recognised that the phenomenon is not as widespread as has been believed.

Q: The accused, then, are three thousand. How many have been tried and condemned?

A: Currently we can say that a full trial, penal or administrative, has taken place in twenty percent of cases, normally celebrated in the diocese of origin - always under our supervision - and only very rarely here in Rome . We do this also in order to speed up the process. In sixty percent of cases there has been no trial, above all because of the advanced age of the accused, but administrative and disciplinary provisions have been issued against them, such as the obligation not to celebrate Mass with the faithful, not to hear confession, and to live a retired life of prayer. It must be made absolutely clear that in these cases, some of which are particularly sensational and have caught the attention of the media, no absolution has taken place. It's true that there has been no formal condemnation, but if a person is obliged to a life of silence and prayer, then there must be a reason...

Q: That still leaves twenty percent of cases...

A: We can say that in ten percent of cases, the particularly serious ones in which the proof is overwhelming, the Holy Father has assumed the painful responsibility of authorising a decree of dismissal from the clerical state. This is a very serious but inevitable provision, taken though administrative channels. In the remaining ten percent of cases, it was the accused priests themselves who requested dispensation from the obligations deriving from the priesthood, requests which were promptly accepted. Those involved in these latter cases were priests found in possession of paedophile pornographic material and, for this reason, condemned by the civil authorities.

Q: Where do these three thousand cases come from?

A: Mostly from the United States which, in the years 2003-2004, represented around eighty percent of total cases. In 2009 the United States "share" had dropped to around twenty-five percent of the 223 cases reported from all over the world. Over recent years (2007-2009), the annual average of cases reported to the Congregation from around the world has been two hundred and fifty. Many countries report only one or two cases. There is, then, a growing diversity and number of countries of origin of cases, but the phenomenon itself is much reduced. It must, in fact, be borne in mind that the overall number of diocesan and religious priests in the world is four hundred thousand, although this statistic does not correspond to the perception that is created when these sad cases occupy the front pages of the newspapers.

Q: And in Italy ?

A: Thus far the phenomenon does not seem to have dramatic proportions, although what worries me is a certain culture of silence which I feel is still too widespread in the country. The Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) offers an excellent technical-juridical consultancy service for bishops who have to deal with these cases. And I am very pleased to observe the ever greater commitment being shown by Italian bishops to throw light on the cases reported to them.

Q: You said that a full trial has taken place in around twenty percent of the three thousand cases you have examined over the last nine years. Did they all end with the condemnation of the accused?

A: Many of the past trials did end with the condemnation of the accused. But there have also been cases in which the priest was declared innocent, or where the accusations were not considered to have sufficient proof. In all cases, however, not only is there an examination of the guilt or innocence of the accused priest, but also a discernment as to his fitness for public ministry.

Q: A recurring accusation made against the ecclesiastical hierarchy is that of not reporting to the civil authorities when crimes of paedophilia come to their attention.

A: In some English-speaking countries, but also in France , if bishops become aware of crimes committed by their priests outside the sacramental seal of Confession, they are obliged to report them to the judicial authorities. This is an onerous duty because the bishops are forced to make a gesture comparable to that of a father denouncing his own son. Nonetheless, our guidance in these cases is to respect the law.

Q: And what about countries where bishops do not have this legal obligation?

A: In these cases we do not force bishops to denounce their own priests, but encourage them to contact the victims and invite them to denounce the priests by whom they have been abused. Furthermore, we invite the bishops to give all spiritual - and not only spiritual - assistance to those victims. In a recent case concerning a priest condemned by a civil tribunal in Italy, it was precisely this Congregation that suggested to the plaintiffs, who had turned to us for a canonical trial, that they involve the civil authorities in the interests of victims and to avoid other crimes.

Q: A final question: is there any statue of limitation for "delicta graviora"?

A: Here you touch upon what, in my view, is a sensitive point. In the past, that is before 1889, the statue of limitations was something unknown in canon law. For the most serious crimes, it was only with the 2001 "Motu Proprio" that a statute of limitations of ten years was introduced. In accordance with these norms in cases of sexual abuse, the ten years begin from the day on which the minor reaches the age of eighteen.

Q: Is that enough?

A: Practice has shown that the limit of ten years is not enough in this kind of case, in which it would be better to return to the earlier system of "delicta graviora" not being subject to the statue of limitations. On 7 November 2002, Venerable Servant of God John Paul II granted this dicastery the power to revoke that statue of limitations, case by case following a reasoned request from individual bishops. And this revocation is normally granted.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

On Misguided Eucharistic Hospitality

O Sacramentum pietatis! O Signum Unitatis!
O Vinculum Caritatis!

On account of our reverence for the Blessed Sacrament and since the Eucharist represents full unity with the Church, those who are not in full communion with the Church and who do not profess the same Faith in the Eucharist as we do, should not receive Holy Communion at Mass. This seems like a very straight forward position, but unfortunately in the name of Eucharistic ‘hospitality’, justified by appeals to the Jesus who ate with sinners, this teaching seems to be disregarded by many priests today. On a similar foundation of hospitality Catholics are invited, and duly oblige, to communicate in various reformed Churches. All this is due, I think, to a lack of a clear understanding of what the Eucharist is and what its relationship to the Church is.

Unfortunately, many today see the Eucharist as that which creates communion, that which brings about unity with God and with one another. There is nothing wrong with this picture in itself, but it needs to be qualified by an assertion that there needs to be something concrete to unite; a believing community, sharing a common faith.

The act of receiving Holy Communion is a visible expression of unity of faith and life with the Community that is celebrating that Eucharist. It follows then that to communicate in any other Christian eucharist is a public statement of how one views that denomination or ecclesial communion. To receive the Catholic Eucharist means that one is making a statement of faith to the effect that one is in communion of faith with the Catholic Church. Of course the Church does allow non-Catholic Christians to receive Holy Communion, but with certain criteria (differing for Orthodox Christians) and only in exceptional cases. If it were to become a frequent, even weekly event, then one would have to ask why such a person does not live the communion he professes each time he communicates in the Catholic Eucharist and so become a Catholic.

When a non-catholic is brought into the Catholic Church the rite has as its high point the reception of the Holy Eucharist, thereby underlining the fact that the Eucharist is one of the Sacraments of Initiation. To receive Communion in this case means that this person is in full communion with the Church; they hold the faith of the Church and believe as she does, thereby opening the way for the reception of the Eucharist as the summit of communion; as a point arrived at, not as a point of departure. As Pope John Paul II put it: “The celebration of the Eucharist, however, cannot be the starting-point for communion; it presupposes that communion already exists, a communion which it seeks to consolidate and bring to perfection.” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia)

It seems obvious that the root of many misguided practices among some Catholics with regard to the Eucharist is a concept of the Mass which is at least reductive, if not entirely erroneous and alien to Catholic Eucharistic theology. This concept treats the Mass as merely a fraternal banquet; a coming together of the community to do what the Lord Jesus did. If this were the reality then one could scarcely object to Eucharistic sharing with other Christians not in full communion with us. But the Eucharist is much more than that. As the Catechism puts it: “The Mass is at the same time, and inseparably, the sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the Cross is perpetuated and the sacred banquet of communion with the Lord's body and blood.” (CCC #1382)

To counteract this tendency the encyclical “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” forcefully reasserted the sacrificial aspect of the Mass and lamented the under-evaluation of this aspect in favour of the more secondary aspect:

“At times one encounters an extremely reductive understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet.” Ecclesia de Eucharistia, No. 10

To invite someone who is not in communion with the Church, for whatever reason, to partake of the Eucharist, is to invite them to publicly lie; to come forth physically to receive the Sacred Body of the Lord, while rejecting his mystical body - the Church and what she believes. This exterior manifestation of unity with Christ contradicts an inner disposition or reality that recognises no unity. Similarly, a Catholic who receives communion from a Protestant Ecclesial Community, is outwardly expressing approval for all that this community believes. In either of these cases the Catholic Eucharist – the Body and Blood of the Lord - is dragged down to a level that we cannot accept as Catholics or the Protestant eucharistic bread is exalted to a level that neither community can accept. For we Catholics recognise (and consequently by necessity must worship) in our Eucharist the Real Presence of Christ – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity; while Protestants hold this to be idolatrous. So a Catholic who receives communion at a Protestant service risks equating these two very different realities as though they were the same thing. As Pope John Paul put it:

“The Catholic faithful, therefore, while respecting the religious convictions of these separated brethren, must refrain from receiving the communion distributed in their celebrations, so as not to condone an ambiguity about the nature of the Eucharist and, consequently, to fail in their duty to bear clear witness to the truth” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, No. 30)

A Protestant who receives the Catholic Eucharist, on the other hand, would be receiving what his faith would believe to be an idol created by what he believes to be “blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits” - as per article 31 of the 39 Articles of the Anglican Communion.

The Eucharist is the greatest treasure the Church has. All else is secondary to what is found in the Blessed Eucharist, as here, in his Sacramental Presence, is found the Author of the other sacraments, the Author of redemption, and the Author of all grace. “The Eucharist is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity and depreciation.” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia #10) It is therefore not possible to reconcile a desire to share communion with those of other denominations and the lack of unity in faith on the very thing we wish to share.

“Of its very nature, celebration of the Eucharist signifies the fullness of profession of faith and the fullness of ecclesial communion. This principle must not be obscured and must remain our guide in this field.” (From the Document: “On Admitting other Christians to Eucharistic Communion in the Catholic Church,” Part IV)

So the question that needs to be clearly posed to those who would overlook the real differences which exist with regard to the Eucharist is: How can that which divides us possibly unite us?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Examination of Conscience

The examination of conscience is one of the most decisive moments in a person's life. It places each individual before the truth of his or her own life. Thus, we discover the distance that separates our deeds from the ideal that we had set for ourselves.” Pope John Paul II
An examination of conscience in the form of a list of ways in which we sin and fail to live up to our obligations can be of great help to us before confession. Going through it can help us to be honest with ourselves and honest with God. This Examination of Conscience may help in preparation for a good confession.
While it is quite thorough, there may be other things that are not explicitly mentioned in it. Before going through it, you should ask the light of the Holy Spirit to help you to be honest and to draw your attention to what applies to you. Some, if not many, of the things listed might not apply to you; but if something in particular touches your conscience then perhaps the Lord is telling you to bring that to confession.
In making an examination of conscience we must never lose sight of the fact that God is infinite Mercy and Love. The main reason we remember our sins is so that we can turn to him and receive his forgiveness.

· Has God got the number one place in my life?
· Do I pray often and every day?
· Do I misuse the Holy Name of Jesus?
· Do I really believe that my whole life is under God’s protecting hand?
· Am I thankful for the good that is in my life?
· Am I superstitious?
· Have I dabbled in occult/psychic practices (satanic rituals, witchcraft, seances, ouija board, mediums, fortune-telling etc.)?
· Do I use foul language?
· Do I read the Sacred Scriptures? Ignorance of Scriptures is Ignorance of Christ!
· Do I attend Mass on Sundays?
· Do I attend Mass on Holy Days of Obligation?
· Do I habitually come late to Mass or leave early?
· How do I keep the Lord’s day holy?
· Have I lied or purposely withheld serious sins during a previous confession?
· Do I respect every member of my family?
· Do I hold hatred or resentment in my heart against someone?
· Do I drink too much?
· Do I take drugs?
· Do I show respect for life?
· Am I pro-life?
· Have I had an Abortion?
· Have I encourage or facilitated an Abortion?
· Am I pure of heart?
· Do I allow my eyes to wander in lustfulness?
· Do I have unhealthy/sinful relationships?
· Do I accept and live by the truth that sex is for Marriage?
· Do I guard with care and live chastely the holy gift of my sexuality?
· Do I read or look at immoral materials?
· Do I use pornography?
· Have I masturbated?
· Have I committed impure actions with others?
Have I respected the bodily integrity of others?
· Have I engaged in pre-marital sex?
· Have I engaged in homosexual acts?
· Am I faithful to my commitments and obligations?
· Am I a patient person?
· Am I able to disagree without being disagreeable?
· Do I waste money?
· Am I too materialistic?
· Does my ambition have a negative effect on others?
· Am I wasteful with my talents?
· Do I do a fair day’s work?
· Do I pay a fair wage?
· Have I cheated anyone?
· Have I stolen anything?
· Have I taken the good name of another?
· Have I spread gossip?
· Is there someone I need to forgive?
· Is there someone I need to ask forgiveness from?
· Do I spread rumours?
· Have I broken the confidence of another?
· Have I told lies?
· How have I dealt with my anger?
· Do my words build people up or do they tear people down?
· Do I hold bitterness?
· Have I tried to deepen my understanding of the Catholic faith?
· Have I made efforts to understand the Mass?
· Have I made efforts to understand the sacraments?
· Have I received a sacrament, especially the Eucharist, unworthily while in a state of mortal sin?
· Do I try to fast or practice some form of penance?
· Do I pray with my family?
· Do I pray for my family?
· Do I take my spiritual life seriously?
· Do I give to charity?
· Am I willing to speak about Jesus to others?
· Does my life help others to come to know Christ?
· Have I given bad example to others?
· Am I a helpful neighbour?
· Do I enrich my parish?
· Do I encourage others to live the Christian life?
· Do I make sacrifices for the benefit of others?
· Have I ignored someone who needed my attention?
· Am I a sincere person?
· Am I a violent person?
· Do I take other people for granted?
· Am I a person of prayer?
· Do I care properly for my own body?
· Do I care excessively for my body?
· Am I vain?
· Do I mock anyone?
· Do I bully anyone?
· Have I encouraged others to sin?
· Am I a good friend?
· Am I a law-abiding citizen?
· Have I littered?
· Do I always drive carefully and within the speed limits?
· Have I driven under the influence of alcohol or drugs?

For Spouses and Parents the following questions might be useful:

· Have I always been faithful to my spouse?
· Do I make an effort to always show love and consideration to my spouse?
· Do I take my spouse for granted?
· Do I have unrealistic expectations of my spouse?
· Do I thank God every day for the gift that is my spouse?
· Do I pray for and with my spouse?
· Am I faithful to all my marriage vows?
· Do I use contraception?
· Have I allowed myself to be sterilised?
· Have I ever availed of IVF (In-vitro fertilisation)?
· Am I conscientious in my duties as a Father/Mother towards my children?
· Do I thank God for the gift of children?
· Do I teach my children about God and the Catholic Faith?
· Do I pray for and with my children?
· Do I encourage them to practice their faith?
· Is my home a place of prayer?
· Do I protect my children from bad influences upon them?
· Do I show my children enough love?
· Am I too strict or too lenient with my children?
· Do I take enough interest and make an effort with regard to my children’s education?

"The message that must be transmitted: what counts most is to make people understand that in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, whatever the sin committed, if it is humbly recognized and the person involved turns with trust to the priest-confessor, he or she never fails to experience the soothing joy of God's forgiveness… It is not sin which is at the heart of the sacramental celebration but rather God's mercy, which is infinitely greater than any guilt of ours." Pope Benedict XVI, 2008 Message to Confessors of the Apostolic Penitentiary

Pope John Paul II on the Sacrament of Reconciliation

General Audience, 22nd February 1984

Often, in the experience of the faithful, it is precisely the obligation to present themselves before the minister of mercy which constitutes a particular difficulty for them. Why, they object, reveal to a man like myself my most intimate circumstances and also my most secret faults? Why, they also object, can I not address God or Christ directly instead of going through the mediation of a man in order to receive the forgiveness of sins?

These and similar questions can seem quite plausible because of the effort which the Sacrament of Penance always asks of us… It is true: the man who absolves is a brother who must also confess in his turn, since, despite his obligation to grow in personal holiness, he remains subject to the limitations of human frailty. The man who absolves, however, does not offer the forgiveness of sins in the name of his own holiness… When he raises his hand in blessing and pronounces the words of absolution, he acts ‘in persona Christi’ – in the person of Christ – not simply as Christ’s representative, but also and above all as a human instrument in which the Lord Jesus – God-with-us - is present and acts.

Homily during Mass at the Phoenix Park, Dublin, September 29th, 1979

In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are all invited to meet Christ personally and to do so frequently. This encounter with Jesus is so very important that I wrote in my first Encyclical Letter these words: "In faithfully observing the centuries-old practice of the Sacrament of Penance - the practice of individual confession with a personal act of sorrow and the intention to amend and make satisfaction - the Church is therefore defending the human soul's individual right : man's right to a more personal encounter with the crucified forgiving Christ, with Christ saying, through the minister of the sacrament of Reconciliation : 'Your sins are forgiven' ; 'Go, and do not sin again'". Because of Christ's love and mercy, there is no sin that is too great to be forgiven; there is no sinner who will be rejected. Every person who repents will be received by Jesus Christ with forgiveness and immense love.

Homily, 16th March 1980

The confession boxes of the world in which people bring their sins to light do not proclaim the severity of God, but above all they speak of his merciful goodness. And those who approach the confessional, sometimes after many years and with the weight of serious sins, find the longed-for relief when they go from there; they find the joy and serenity of conscience, which they can find nowhere else but in confession. No-one but God has the power to free us from our sins. And the man who receives such a remission of sin, receives the grace of a new life of the Spirit, which God alone can give him from his infinite goodness.

The Way of the Cross - 9th Station

Jesus Falls The Third Time

Isaiah 53: 4-6
Ours were the sufferings he was bearing, ours the sorrows he was carrying, while we thought of him as someone being punished and struck with affliction by God; whereas he was being wounded for our rebellions, crushed because of our guilt; the punishment reconciling us fell on him, and we have been healed by his bruises. We had all gone astray like sheep, each taking his own way, and the Lord brought the acts of rebellion of all of us to bear on him.

Psalm 38: 4
My sins stand higher than my head, they weigh on me as an unbearable weight.

Many of the onlookers must have thought him dead at this point. There is a gasp from the crowd, but this most pitiful state does not persuade his torturers to go any easier on him. Mercilessly they give vent to their frustration that he has once again fallen. More blows rain down on him, weakening him even further. He struggles to his feet and with one last burst of strength he takes the cross upon his shoulders again. He has given more than any man could possibly give, but he desires that his efforts should reach the maximum possible gift of self. He is filled with his divine zeal to accomplish this supreme gift of self, but the weakness of his human body will not respond as vigorously as he would desire it to. His body is bent under the sheer weight of the cross. By now it seems to be a thousand times heavier than when he first laid his hands to it. His steps are slow and laborious, but each step is made. One after another, step by step, merciful love unfolds itself over poor sinful humanity. For those onlookers the effects of exhaustion might look like reluctance. If they only knew the truth – that he would run to Calvary gladly had he the physical strength to match his desire.

Lord Jesus, help us to have high ideals and aspirations in our lives. Plant in our souls a great zeal for holiness, a great desire to fulfil your will to the best of our ability. But give us the faith and trust not to be discouraged or become frustrated at our weakness which causes us to fall and prevents us from becoming all that your will calls us to be. Rather let these be moments in which we come to know that we are completely dependent upon you who said: Apart from me you can do nothing. “Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20).

The Way of the Cross - 8th Station

Jesus Meets The Women Of Jerusalem

Luke 23: 28-31
Jesus turning to them said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!' Then they will begin to say to the mountains, 'Fall on us'; and to the hills, 'Cover us'. For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

On his journey to Calvary Jesus meets some of the holy women of Jerusalem. These were not those who accompanied him from Galilee, but were women who had probably heard him teach or who had benefited from his miraculous actions. They are weeping for him and it seems that they are doing the right thing. And it is surprising that Jesus responds to them in the way that he does. Do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and your children.

Do not weep for me, as you would a victim who is swept along by the evil that is in the world, for I have the power to lay down my life and the power to take it up again. I lay down my life freely, I am a willing victim. I am in control in all this despite what might appear to you. Do not weep for me, I suffer because I want to so that I might free you from evil.

Weep rather for yourselves. To weep for me in my suffering, to have compassion on me and console me in this terrible suffering is a good thing, but it gives me more consolation that you should weep over your own sins which have caused me this great suffering and distress.

I am the green wood, pure and innocent, full of the life of God. And this is the great suffering I undergo, the fire of God’s justice devours me. How will dry wood, that is a soul dried because of its sin, stand up to that devouring flame, unless it repent and be grafted onto the green wood and be brought back to life.

Lord help us to have a better awareness of our sins and the confidence to cast them into the furnace of your loving mercy. Give us a greater capacity to repent and weep for our sins. As we accompany you along this way of misery, may we acknowledge our sins, repent of them and give thanks for your willingness to undergo such bitter trials to take those sins away.

The Way of the Cross - 7th Station

Jesus Falls The Second Time

2Cor 4:16-17
That is why we do not waver; indeed though this outer human nature of ours may be falling into decay, at the same time our inner human nature is renewed day by day. The temporary light burden of our hardships is earning us forever an utterly incomparable, eternal weight of glory.

This second fall of Jesus is more severe on him than the first. By now he is too exhausted to put up much resistance to the crushing weight of the cross and the constant tugging of the soldiers has probably contributed to this fall. The soldiers are mercilessly leading him forward, for they are in a hurry to accomplish the plans of evil. The Lord does not, however, languish in the dust. As quickly as his strength will allow him he rises once again and takes up again the burden of the cross, for though his executioners are in a hurry to carry out his death, he is in an even greater hurry to offer his life, eager that the salvation he came to bring should not be delayed by even a second. As his human strength diminishes, his sheer determination to accomplish the will of the Father gives him renewed power to go on. Resolutely he moves forward, onward towards Calvary.

Lord Jesus, help us not to waver in the resolutions and promises we have made to you. Keep us from the temptation to turn back, to renounce the decisions we have made to follow your will. When we are weak and the path ahead seems beyond our strength; when your will seems to ask more than we are able or willing to give, give us a renewed sense of purpose and a renewed zeal for your call, wherever it may be leading us.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

On the Redemptive Power of Jesus Christ

More great stuff from the writings of Blessed Columba Marmion; this time on the saving power of Christ:

Sin is an insult given to God, an insult that has to be expiated. Man, being simply a creature, is by himself incapable of paying off properly the debt contracted against the Divine Majesty by an offence, the malice of which is infinite. A satisfaction, to be adequate, must be offered by someone of the same dignity as the one offended. The gravity of an insult is in proportion to the dignity of the one offended; the same insult given to a prince is more serious because of his rank than if it had been given to a peasant***… Now, between us and God there is an infinite gap… You know what God’s answer has been… He decreed that the ransom of humanity would only be brought about by the satisfaction equal to the rights of his infinite justice, and that this satisfaction would be given by the bloody sacrifice of a victim who would substitute himself freely, voluntarily, for sinful mankind. Who would this Saviour be?...

… God sent the promised Saviour, the Saviour who was to ransom creation, destroy sin and reconcile mankind with God. Who was it who would come? It was the Son of God made man… This solution is a wonderful one. ‘The humanity of Christ,’ says St. Gregory, ‘permitted him to die and to satisfy for men; his divinity gave him the power to restore us to the grace that sanctifies.’ Death had come from a human nature soiled by sin. From a human nature united to one who is God, would spring forth the source of grace and of life.

***‘Sin committed against God has an infinite quality because of the infinity of the Divine Majesty, for an offence is greater to the extent that the one transgressed against is greater’. St. Thomas Aquinas – ST III, q.1

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On being a son of God

At the minute I am reading the wonderful theological and spiritual classic by Blessed Columba Marmion: Christ, the Life of the Soul. Marmion could be described as one who strongly promotes and emphasises the fact that we are adopted sons and daughters of God in and through the only Son of God – Jesus Christ. His writings are full of great spiritual gems. Below you will find some of them. I will add more as I find them.

By nature, God has only one Son. By love, He will have a multitude of them, without number. This is the grace of supernatural adoption.

The Father pre-destined us to be adopted… through Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesians 1:5). We are sons, like Jesus – we by title of grace, He by nature. He is Son, and we are sons: He, the Father’s own Son, and we, adopted sons. But He saves, while we are saved.

Christ is not only holy in Himself, He is our holiness. All the holiness that God has destined for souls has been deposited in the humanity of Christ, and this is the source from which we must draw.

God has chosen me – chosen us – to be raised infinitely above my natural condition, to enjoy eternally His own beatitude, to be the realisation of one of His Divine thoughts, to be one voice in the concert of the elect, to be one of those brethren who are like Jesus, and who share, without end, His celestial inheritance.

Every one of the elect is the fruit of the blood of Jesus and of the wonderful operations of His grace.

We shall be pleasing to the Eternal Father – and is not the very basis of holiness to be pleasing to God? – only if He recognises in us the features of His Son. Through grace and our virtues, we ought to be so identified with Christ, that the Father, gazing on our souls, may recognise us as His true children, may take pleasure in that, as He did in contemplating Christ Jesus on earth.

A Rant on 'Children's Liturgies'

About a year ago I was asked at short notice to cover the Sunday Mass in a certain parish. (Being a smaller parish there was only one Mass) I duly obliged and arrived in good time to prepare the Mass - not knowing what the set up was at that parish. As soon as I arrived I was told by the sacristan that the Mass had a children's liturgy dimension incorporated into it. Immediately my heresy/litrugical abuse radar switched on and began to imagine what such children's 'participation' might entail.
Cautiously I enquired as to what format this participation would take - only to be told that at the beginning of Mass the children would leave the Church and go to an adjoining room for some catechetical activity with a number of adults. I was suitably not impressed. I thought to myself: "How unlucky that I should have to cover this parish on this particular Sunday'. Further enquiry revealed that this happens every Sunday.
So as I walked out on the Sanctuary and spoke the opening greeting. Then - 'extra omnes' under 8 years - and the Mass continued. I waited for the children's return - but to no avail. I thought after the homily surely - no! Maybe at the offertory they would come bearing gifts - no! Surely in time for the Consecration - but no, still no sign of these to whom the Kingdom is promised. Finally just after the purification of the Sacred Vessels and just before the Concluding Prayer of the Mass - a small crowd of children began to gather at the back of the Church - holding in thier hands various little drawings. And so the procession began and I was presented with a blaze of colouring amidst the smiling admiration of so many contented parents. And what must have appeared to be a broad smile on my face was actually gritted teeth!
Every Sunday these children are extracted from the public worship of the Church to do catechesis. Now catechesis is a wonderful thing - indispensible - but these children don't get to attend Mass. As for the adults who give of their time for this catechesis - well that is to be commended, and one hopes that they attend another Mass, because they certainly haven't attended this one.
As you may guess by now - I am not a fan of 'children's liturgies'. While I have no problem adapting the Mass suitably to a lower level of comprehension for the children (though I avoid the Eucharistic Prayers for Children like the plague) by addressing them in the homily and acknowledging their presence and activity (catechetical work and art done outside of the Mass), I am a firm believer in giving the children a lived experience of liturgy in the family of the Church - something which children's liturgies sacrifice for the sake of ???? (I'm not sure of the purpose actually - babysitting??).
And when those children reach the age of 9 or 10 or 13 and it's no longer 'cool' to colour some pictures of Jesus the Good Shepherd, will they have an experience of the Mass which will keep them interested, engaged and present. Will they have been given the chance to participate in the Holy Sacrifice fully, consciously, and actively in the truest meaning of that term - i.e. by prayerful engagement with the Sacred Liturgy as best as a child can do that. If Mass is presented to them as something fun and entertaining for so many years and they don't actually get to experience it properly - what happens when they reach an age when it's no longer fun, no longer entertaining? What will hold them then?
I left that Parish that morning with the words of Our Saviour ringing in my ears: "Let the little children come to me." How sad that in too many parishes they are kept at bay during one of the most priviledged and profound encounters with Christ any of us can have this side of the grave.
End of Rant