Monday, November 26, 2012

FIVE BASIC POINTERS ON PRAYER


The image above is part of a illustration by F. Cayley-Robinson from Cardinal Manning's translation of the Fioretti.

Rebuilding one’s prayer life is a regular part of the struggle to remain faithful to Christ for some of us. We wander off, get lost, lose focus or get distracted and prayer takes a back-seat. Then we have to rebuild and re-establish the patterns without which life becomes chaotic and disjointed.

Remember above all that everything depends on grace - without the help of God we are incapable of doing or achieving any good. It is God who prays in and through us - the Holy Spirit makes our prayer the prayer of Christ the Son to the Father. He makes our prayer possible. He makes our prayer to be prayer.

On a more practical but less sublime level:
1. Time. One has to give time to prayer. It cannot be packed into the odd leftovers of the day. Each of us is different though. We differ in age, gender, experience and health, in the business of our life, and in our openness to grace. That means we will not all give the same amount of time to prayer everyday, or have the same time of day or even have the same pattern of prayer time throughout our lives. Still one must make time for prayer, quality time. It may mean, for many of us, getting to bed earlier so that we can get up earlier to pray. It may mean we start with fifteen minutes and only slowly expand that time. Like anyone getting fit one must put in the time and the effort.

2. Space. Most people do not have the luxury that I have of easy access to an oratory. Often prayer must happen in the bedroom, sitting room or parlour, on a bench in a park or at the back of a cold church before morning Mass. Whatever space we have it ought to be quiet, free from distractions and not so warm that we fall asleep nor so cold that we freeze. Having a ‘prayer corner’ can help. Such a ‘corner’ can be a spot with the bible or our missal, a crucifix or an icon, a candle but whatever is there it is a space where only our prayer things go. It is separate from the rest of the room and sacred. It helps us make the transition to a prayerful state of mind. Likewise a favourite spot in a church or a park can help us establish the habit of prayer, the practice of quietly listening to God.

3. Preparation. Too often we jump straight to prayer. Sometimes we are ready but more often we are not. We forget that we are fallen creatures easily distracted, easily caught up in the unnecessary like Martha rather than focused on the Lord like Mary. Have set prayers to prepare such as an invocation of the Holy Spirit. Take some moments to breath and focus on what you are about to do, whom you are about to address.

4. Content. Unlike the meditation of Eastern religions Christian prayer has content. We are spending time with the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity and the Court of Heaven. By baptism we have this extraordinary privilege of praying to the Father, through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Our prayer, even if it is only a phrase from the Gospel or a repeated prayer always has something to it. It is never simple attending to what is as in Zen meditation. It never seeks to be without thought or to lose awareness. We are in relationship with God, Three in One, and love draws us on deeper and deeper into that Mystery.

5. Perseverance. Never forget to end the prayer with an act of thanksgiving. Prayer is a gift from God. Remember too that every day is different. There are good ones and bad ones. There are days when we are sick, busy, distracted, worried or hurt. There are visitors, disturbances and unexpected alterations to our lives. Prayer that adapts and still keeps going is prayer that will last and have an effect. When we turn from prayer to do an urgent work of mercy or charity it becomes a powerful prayer in itself. Prayer that is genuine draws us closer to genuine love for God and charity toward our neighbour.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

THE CHILDREN'S REFERENDUM

Thanks to Donum Vitae I have discovered this little video from Fr. McKevitt OP on why one should vote NO on Saturday.



He raises some interesting issues not least that this amendment potentially gives the Government and its agencies unprecendented power over the children and families of Ireland. We have to ask ourselves 'Given how Ireland has been going and how our courts have interpreted the Constitution before what might they make of this?'.

As he says the rights of children are not specified. This Government is spending millions on a referendum no one wants when it has only provided twelve beds for vulnerable children in the whole State. They are under-supporting children and families as it is. In addition it is becoming obvious that they are planning to push for the legalisation of abortion. That would indeed be ironic.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

FRANCIS OF ASSISI - NOT WHAT WE THINK HE IS




The Victorian English turned him into a bird table. The contemporary world wants him to be a ecologist or a creation-centred guru or a non-violent activist for social justice. The real Francis was a lot more complex. For him Christ was Lord and brother, glorious and crucified but who also revealed Himself through His Creation. Francis responded to this Lord by giving his all. That’s what he came to understand as his vocation, and by extension the vocation of all Franciscans, to give his all to and for Christ. Francis was a man totally Catholic and totally Apostolic, utterly orthodox and utterly in love with God. From that relationship he could see others in proper perspective and reach out to the leper. Lepers certainly were important to him. In the broken, rotting, abandoned and dreaded lepers Francis found an icon of Christ the unloved, forgotten and rejected. He came to see in them icons of Christ crucified, Christ become sin, Christ not on the margins but totally excluded. As he said himself, he went to them and what had before been bitter became sweet.

As Franciscans though we have had a history of partial appropriation of the legacy of Francis. In the Middle Ages the emphasis was on material poverty at times to the detriment of obedience and reverence for the Magisterium of the Church. In the present era we emphasise his concern for the brotherhood of all things but we are neglecting his determination to follow the Magisterium of the Church in everything, his love for the Liturgy and above all his love for the Eucharist and the Real Presence of Christ.

No one charism can be taken to encapsulate the whole of the Franciscan way. It is itself but a variant of the way of Christ. But we can point to Francis’ own emphasis on obedience above all to the Church. Francis was no bird table. Francis was no guru nor was he an activist. He was not the founder of programs nor did he write any books. He was a follower of Christ and nothing more. It was because he followed Christ so wholeheartedly that he became such a truly holy man.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

THE FIRST WORDS HE HEARD WERE UTTERED BY THE WORD HIMSELF


The coming Sundays, as we approach Advent, will see the readings gradually move towards the theme of the Last Judgement and the end of time. We are confronted by Christ's teaching that to truly be a disciple we must follow Him Cross and all.

This Sunday's Gospel appears at first sight to offer little ground for the preacher. Jesus heals a deaf mute. He does so in an unusual way. Others are healed merely at his command, as the cripple in the synagogue or at a distance like the centurion's servant. Why then does the Saviour take this man aside and so such very intimate acts: He sticks His fingers in the man's ears and puts His spittle on his tongue. This last reminds me of my mother spitting on a hanky to wash my face. Perhaps the man needed this kind of personal ministry. He needed to be touched! Jesus came to the man where he was and as he was. The touch of Christ brought Him healing, it freed him. Imagine, the first words he heard were uttered by the Word Himself!

So Christ comes to us. He does not love us as we are but He loves us as He created us and redeemed us to be: perfect. He does not wait for us to become perfect though. He comes to us and loves us towards that perfection which He had predestined for us. Indeed we cannot become perfect without His grace, we cannot even begin to approach the state our first parents had before the fall. We cannot become perfect or even better without His grace. He comes to us to love us despite our sinfulness and imperfection and to offer us healing and salvation.

But we must co-operate. We must, like the man in Gospel, go aside with Him and allow Him to minister to us. We must allow Christ to touch us. We must allow Him to bathe us - even if it is in 'spittle'. We must allow Him to do whatever He wishes to do, to use whatever He needs to use to heal and renew us.

You have already been bathed in the waters of Baptism and He has touched you in your anointing then and at Confirmation and it is He who feeds you, His Body, with His Body and Blood at Mass. He it is who wishes you to see His Face and the light of His Divine Radiance. He wishes you to hear His voice in His Word and in His Church. He wants you to be whole, to be truly free. He restores Your speech so that you can tell everyone about what He has done for you. That's what your tongue is for.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER HOLIDAYS




Well, now I am back in harness! It was a miserable Summer weather wise. At least I had the privilege of travelling to Assisi with two of my confreres for two and a half weeks in August. We went from the wettest Irish Summer on record to the hottest Italian Summer on record. In Assisi it averaged about 35 Celsius each day. Still despite the heat (even the Italians were complaining) it was a great chance to recharge our batteries. Unlike many Orders Franciscans have a particular attachment to the town of our founders birth, life and death. So many places are marked by his extraordinary life and going there for me was a time to reconnect with his vision. Not that I am living it very faithfully but at least I reminded myself how high that standard is.

Non-Franciscans sometimes accuse us of idolising Francis but in truth he is not an idol but a model - the forma minorum - the man who lived the Gospel wholeheartedly and without reserve and therefore serves as the measuring stick for all Franciscans.

Teaching morality to sixth year students today I also felt the more fundamental challenge of Christ's own teaching that we should turn the other cheek, give to all who ask and do not seek back what we have lent. Here is the standard of the Incarnate Word who asks that I give all and not count the cost, that I love without return, that I be willing to join Him on the Cross.

I still struggle to make the time for prayer. I made my retreat in our house in Ards. Co. Donegal at the end of June and it was very refreshing but breaking deep-seated habits is not easy. I find I waste so much time on unimportant things (such as this computer). I did discover that it is transitions that I dislike: the 'getting out of' or 'getting into bed' rather than being in or out of bed! I know it must be difficult to believe but after all these years as a friar and priest I'm still struggling with the basics.

Going to Assisi, like teaching the faith, was a reminder of priorities and an encounter with my own limits. It reminded me again that I can nothing without the grace of God but that unless I co-operate the grace of God will do nothing.

Speaking of the grace of God, once we knew we would have to spend a day or two in Rome on the way back we began to plan our shopping spree (for books of course). Thanks to my reasonably good memory for places we went back to the Leonina bookshop (Via dei Corridori) where I spent a few euro on books. One of those, Aidan Hart's book on icons Techniques of Icon and Wall Painting which, surely by the hand of God, was practically put into my hands. I was standing, browsing, not about to buy anything when the proprietor asked a fellow friar to put this very book back on the shelf for him. He turned to me as I turned to look at the book. I thanked God heartily for such a gift and went on to buy another three books (one of them was in another shop)! Hart's book is the most comprehensive book ever on this topic and far outstrips Ramos-Poqui's book from some years back.

Those other books were The Resurrection and the Icon by Michel Quenot, John Anthony McGuckin's The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Its History, Doctrine, and Spiritual Culture, and a new translation of Sergei Bulgakov's Icons and the Name of God which has me blown away. I already had Aidan Nichols' book on Bulgakov but actually reading his work is an entirely different experience. I had laid Nichol's book aside having only gone a few chapters into it but now I am using it as a guide through this extraordinary mind's theological vision.

Friday, July 27, 2012

WANT VOCATIONS TO THE PRIESTHOOD? OPPOSE CONTRACEPTION!


This morning I offered Mass in the little oratory of a small community of elderly nuns. Like many congregations they have few vocations especially in the West. It was for me another reminder of the dire vocations situation in Ireland. In my own community, while I am under fifty, the rest of my brethren are well older than me. The Guardian is over 65. These are good, holy men, prayerful, faithful and now approaching the end of long years of service to the Church and the Order. There are very few of us at my age.

Recently the Archbishop of Dublin urged people to support and encourage their clergy who have been through some very tough times. I echo that call and I acknowledge that in the last twenty years there have been some very dark days indeed when it seemed that the Church would never hear the end of its litany of shame. The Archbishop seems to believe that the Church has turned the corner and beginning a new era. I hope so. Part of that new era will involve helping the victims of abuse (not just clerical abuse), their families and those others who have been hurt and broken back to some sort of wholeness and peace. Another part of that era must be a wholehearted presentation and defence of Catholic teaching and discipline in its totality. That will not be so easy. There are those who will oppose this.

One major problem on the vocations front is that the Irish birthrate is now below replacement level at 2 births per woman of childbearing age when it should be at 2.1. That 2.1 is what is necessary to sustain a society providing there are no major demands for sacrifice e.g. no clerical vocations.

Over at Indexmundi you can find this:




which shows how the birthrate has dropped since the high of the sixties. Many families were big but there were many men and women choosing the religious life etc. Now the birth rate has fallen where is the surplus population to support that choice? When the birth rate (Total Fertility Rate) falls below 2.1 a society has about forty-eight years to correct that course before it goes under. Japan is now going under. Its economy is in decline and at some point in the relatively near future (within fifty years) the country will collapse. They are not alone. Of 222 countries and dependancies listed at indexmundi 104 of them are below replacement rates and most of these are the wealthy, industrialised nations.

This is not some new problem. In 1978 Fianna Fáil legalised the sale of contraceptives in Ireland. I remember back in the mid-80s reading about this problem of falling birthrates across Europe and the world. At that time Ireland and Poland were the only nations in Europe with a birth rate above replacement rate. In the late 80s we slipped below it. Since the most of the young men we seek to recruit to the priesthood and the religious life were born after this time there is an automatic clash between the interests of Irish society and the Church. Both need to preserve themselves but the source is dwindling.

The Church has only herself to blame. The clergy did not oppose contraception with all the vigour that was due. Dissident theologians and theologies were not dealt with but were allowed to prosper and propagate themselves. Now it is our even more difficult task, not as Canute to turn back the tide but as Caesar turning his routing troops to defeat the Gauls, to bring the faithful back to true faithfulness. This does of course require a profound conversion of heart and a steely determination on the part of the bishops to stand by the whole teaching of the Church. It will not be easy. On the other hand unless we act our nation and our society will fall and the Church with it. The path to a renewal in vocations lies only through active fidelity to her teaching on contraception and the sacredness of family life.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

WHAT HAS BEEN GOING ON?





Shane over at Lux Occulta has made this document available. It is a little piece of history, a report on the condition of the National Seminary and some of its professors in Maynooth in the early 70s. It raises valid questions, especially poignant given the scandals of recent years, about the leadership of the Irish Church and where its priorities and allegiances lay.

The great Michael Voris has comments that could just as well apply to the Irish Church as to the American.



While I don't know of any young Irish priest who has suffered for offering the Mass in the traditional form I do know that some such young priests are looked at askance by some of their fellow clergy.

Even in the early 90s when I was in college studying theology in All Hallows College Dublin there were lecturers who questioned Church teaching, in many different areas, but nothing happened to them. The attitude among many there was that the Church would change it was just a matter of time. This is still the situation. A student there has told me how there were practice liturgies for the blessing of gay unions, of lecturers who seem to question key parts of the Church's teaching. At least All Hallows no longer aims to train young men for the priesthood (though that may also be a way to loosen Church oversight or at least avoid attracting interest). Even its website homepage gives little clue that it is a Catholic college albeit linked to DCU (Dublin City University).

There is here a history yet to be written if it ever does get written about how the Irish Church almost got highjacked. I say 'almost' because I think it may be a close-run thing. Some bishops were orthodox, true shepherds but others left a lot to be desired. Priests and faithful, we too have to answer questions about how we have stood up for the faith. I have seen and heard many stories of what had gone on in Ireland. Whatever abuses appear in the US or in Britain they are here too. I remember hearing rumours about Ledwith before I joined the Capuchins in 1988.

Always there are rumours but no apparent action. If there is, as Michael Voris alleges, a gay or lavender mafia in the Church it operates by stealth like freemasonry, by handshake and quiet conversations and not in the open.

The answer I believe is a return to Christ and His Church without condition. It is in a total submission to the Tradition of the Church and a rejection of anything, liberal or conservative, that would narrow of distort that Tradition. It means a root and branch pruning of the Church and it means making some tough decisions and following through on them. The bishops today, not a collectively inspiring lot, have taken a battering largely for the sins of their predecessors but now is the time for them to 'man up' and decide if they will be shepherds or just sheep on a pedestal.

Monday, July 23, 2012

THE HUMILITY OF CHRIST: THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST IN THE JORDAN


This icon is of the Baptism of the Lord celebrated on the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan. 6th) in both East and West along with the Visit of the Magi and the Miracle at Cana. St. John Chrysostom rightly points out that this is the real Theophany when the divinity of Christ is revealed through the testimony of the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Christ stands in the midst of the Jordan while the Spirit in the form of a dove descends upon Him and from the Father (represented by the square and half-cirlce at the very top) who dwells in inaccessible light. To the right the angels stand in awed reverence while John on the left reaches out to touch the Son, the Incarnate Word and Image of the Father.

In the Eastern rites both the Feast of Epiphany and its Forefeast are days for the Great Blessing of the Waters. First the water for baptism is blessed and then the waters of the world around us. Here are references to the Salvation won for us by Christ and made active in us through Baptism and to the sanctification not only of all water but of all creation by the Incarnation.

In this icon we see the Invisible God made visible descend into the water, the immaterial fire of His Divine Being unquenched, to be baptised by John the one He had created and called to be a prophet. This is He Who created water, from Whom the water and blood will flow, from Whom the ever-flowing and life-giving stream of the Spirit flows in to the world and He is engulfed in the Jordan. It is anticipation of His descent into the dark waters of death, into the unknown beyond the world of the living and His re-emergence in the Resurrection. At the back, behind John, Jesus and two disciples turn to speak to a smaller version of the Forerunner of God. Jesus raises His hand in blessing.

Also on the left an axe is laid by a tree a reference to Luke 3:9 (see Matt. 3:10) "For now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down and cast into the fire" as well as to Isaiah 10:15 "Shall the axe boast itself against him that cutteth with it? or shall the saw exalt itself against him by whom it is drawn? as if a rod should lift itself up against him that lifteth it up, and a staff exalt itself, which is but wood." (Douay Rheims) Christ the Son, the Incarnate Word comes to Israel seeking the fruit of righteousness. Before He worked through John but now He works directly, pruning and clearing out His vineyard.

In His humility He seeks to set Himself ever lower. When He tells us to seek the lowest and least honourable place it is because He is inviting us to draw close to Him.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

STEPHEN DALY: THE FIRST IRISH CAPUCHIN TO WORK IN IRELAND


Above is an image of Francis Lavalin Nugent (1569-1635) the first Irish Capuchin. He joined the friars on the Continent, became a provincial of one of the French Provinces and pestered the Pope to let him form a mission to Ireland. From the friary at Charleville, on the river Meuse in the Champagne region, France and not far from present day Belgium and Luxembourg. If you want to know more of him you can read Fr. F.X. Martin's book on him.

I am posting this because yesterday fifteen of our friars attended a celebration of the life of Br. Stephen Daly (1574-1619) the first Irish Capuchin friar-priest to work in Ireland. It is not easy for us to imagine the courage that returning to Ireland took. Being a Catholic was tantamount to treason, worse if you were a priest. On top of that he was a friar. It is equivalent to a priest seeking to work in the underground Church in China or Saudi Arabia. There were none of the supports we take for granted today. He relied on contacts and trusted in family connections. All this sacrifice was made to sustain the Catholic faith and the Irish people in a time of great suffering. He was here for four years until his death and his memory is still kept in Ferbane, Co Offaly. Of course it was his home turf (literally as the place is all bog) but he is remembered because he still answers prayers four hundred years later. A plaque has been erected on the wall near his grave.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

REFLECTIONS OF GLORY: THE ORIGIN OF ICONS


Another video from the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma posted to Gloria.tv. Very interesting and informative.

Monday, July 2, 2012

REQUEST FOR SUGGESTIONS ON THEOLOGY TEXTBOOKS

As I have just enquired of Fr. Z over at What Does the Prayer Really Say? for advise on library matters I though I might extend that enquiry to my passing readership: Any suggestions for solid orthodox theological textbooks to build up a library. Ours is pretty good but has been neglected. We have a good scripture section, a full set of pre and ante-Nicene fathers, and a very good spirituality section. But there are holes and some stuff is out-dated and some stuff is just plain heretical (Kung, Schillebeekcx, etc).

So any suggestions appreciated!

A LITTLE VIDEO FROM THE EASTERN RITE CATHOLICS



Interesting video though I did form the impression that we Latins were being told that somehow we had strayed from ancient traditions such as how to make the sign of the cross. Interestingly the account of the development of the sign of the Cross seems to come from Andreas Andreopoulos' (The Sign of the Cross: the Gesture, the Mystery, the History, Paraclete Press, Massachusetts, 2006) and in citing Pope Innocent III they fail to note that he mentions the present Latin practise without censure.

Otherwise an interesting video.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

THE RAISING OF JAIRUS' DAUGHTER; THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR B






So now I am back in harness. I am back to my own room(s) and my own community. What did I learn on retreat? The value of silence, of being quiet in the Presence of the Lord, above all in the Blessed Sacrament. I learnt the value of 'wasting time' with God. The task is to keep it up.

Today we had the Gospel of Jairus with the option of reading the longer text with the woman with a haemorrhage. This Gospel text is really a duet. Jairus, desperate for the life of his daughter, comes to Jesus to do his 'magic' by laying his hand on the girl. In the middle of the crowd the woman, desperate for healing, reaches out to Jesus and through her touch declares her faith in Him. This is dangerous for her. Her bleeding renders her unclean and she consequently defiles those she touches. Jesus, though, knows those who reach out and touch with Him faith and those who merely touch. In response to her testimony He confirms her healing.

This is a lesson for Jairus and for us. Touching Jesus and being touched by Him is no small thing. For Jews the closest one got to God was at Jerusalem, in the Temple. Even then only the High Priest, once a year, got to approach and enter the Holy of Holies. Here is He who makes holy. He is surrounded, jostled and unrecognised, unacknowledged. Here He is, open to faith but not just to desperation and He works a miracle in response to Jairus' growing faith.

We too get to approach and touch Jesus. Through Baptism and Confirmation we are the Body of Christ, His presence in the world. We get to receive Him at Mass in the Blessed Sacrament. How have we used our hands, our tongues in the last twenty-four hours? Do we approach Him in faith or in desperation or worse with indifference, obeying the impulse of habit or duty?

We receive Him and He expects us to carry Him to those who do not. He expects us to reach out and touch those in our society who are hurting or lost and bring His healing to them. We are to be His hands, His touch, His voice in the world. We are to say to those who are broken, "Arise!" "Arise, O sleeper, arise from the dead and Christ our light will shine on you!"

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A POST FROM A QUIET PLACE




I am on a directed retreat at the moment in our friary at Ards peninsula, Co. Donegal. Donegal is about as far north as one can go in Ireland. It's in the north-western corner and Ards is a peninsula (one of a number) on its north-western edge. For a 'Dub' it's miles from anywhere. At the moment it is raining but not as cold as it has been. Unlike my home friary there are very few children nearby, there is little traffic and I can hear the sea, the wind and the birds. The air is clean and fresh and these days comes straight from the Arctic.

I am here with another friar on a private retreat. Last year I made my directed retreat in Dublin, in silence. That was good but not as life-giving as this one. Perhaps it is because last year my Dad was sick and dying or that retreat house had tiny rooms and I get claustrophobic or perhaps it is because I have a big room here, we're not bound to silence and the director is one of our own. Speaking of directors ours can, while giving direction, quote from multiple languages, some of them biblical, sometimes all in the same sentence and even 'redact back' to what the author would've said but decided to leave out. Very funny and very helpful. I am learning to waste time with God, to let God be God and let the silence do the talking.


Friday, June 22, 2012

GOD COMES HUMBLY TO HIS PEOPLE: THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD IN THE TEMPLE



This is the icon of the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple. Obliged by the Mosaic Law Mary and Joseph go to the temple, the heart of the Jewish religion, to offer up the sacrifice of two doves, the offering of the poor. They have toiled their way up through the city to the Temple and up the long stairs and now God made man is carried into the temple built for His worship. The new Ark of the Covenant, the pure tongs who holds in her arms Christ the burning coal sent to purify man, stands on the temple mount. The true Holy of Holies is in the midst of the people of Israel, the Law-giver comes as a subject of the Law and hardly anyone notices.

The icon shows the moment when the Blessed Virgin handed over her Son to Simeon for circumcision. No mother wants her child to suffer but as a Jewess her heart also must have swelled with joy too, joy that her Son was to become an official member of Israel, the Chosen People. She stands near the altar which is covered by a ciborium, a dome on four pillars. This is a reference to the Mass, the Divine Liturgy, where Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross is offered to the Father and His Body and Blood are made present. She who gave God a body and blood now presents her Son so that He may offer His Body and shed His Blood for us.

Joseph stands at the left. In his hands are the two doves. Here is a man of silence. His words are nowhere recorded but the Father put His Son and the Mother of His Son into his care. There can be no greater tribute. The two doves were offered to 'redeem' the life of the first born. The Redeemer is redeemed with the sacrifice of the poor. He comes humbly and silently in the arms of a maiden.

Simeon bows to receive the Precious Son of God made man. In the Orthodox Liturgy for this feast he is said to tremble. Christ Himself is shown as the man-child, already aware of His Mission. Behind the Blessed Virgin, the Theotokos, stands Anna. In her hand is a scroll whose inscription I cannot decipher but it does not seem to be a quotation of Simeon's words. She is already spreading the word of the extraordinary event.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

ONE 'YES' OPENS UP ETERNITY: THE ICON OF THE ANNUNCIATION





This is the second image in the series. It's the Annunciation to the Virgin of the Divine plan. Gabriel's right hand shows only three fingers because it forms the name of Jesus Christ in the manner of the Orthodox priestly blessing. His fingers form the name for he is both pronouncing it and conveying the blessing but it is hidden because as yet the Virgin is the first human to hear it. His left hand holds the staff os his office as a messenger and servant of the Most High. 'Full of grace' he calls her. She who is sinless and devoid of any evil, is also full of merit and virtue. She is as humanity was meant to be and she through her 'yes' opens the way for what humanity will become. The little spool of thread in her hand is a reference both to the garment without seam that she will weave for her son but also to her weaving a body for him from her own flesh.

From the very top of the icon the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove with rays of light flashing forth. He descends at the Virgins and as once He hovered over the waters at the creation of the Earth so He comes to dwell in her who is to be the Mother of God. The Virgin, in traditional inner blue and out purple, stands to receive God's message. The blue denotes her sanctified human nature while the purple refers to the Divine glory that overshadows her. He 'yes' makes our 'yes' possible. Her heart will be pierced by a sword of sorrow because it is utterly open to the will of God. Through her sorrow and that of her Son our joy will be eternal. In this moment the road to Calvary and the empty tomb, the way to heaven and into the very heart of God is opened.

One small note: the lights on Gabriel's robe are sometimes called 'lyric lights' as if the very poetry of his being were shining through his clothes.

GOD DOES NOT STAND ALOOF; THE ICON OF THE NATIVITY OF THE VIRGIN








I actually posted this a few days ago at my other blog but I think it more appropriate here.

Some years back two of my fellow Capuchins and I made a pilgrimage to Mount Athos, the heart of Orthodoxy. We visited the monasteries of Xenophontos, Gregoriou, Dionysiou, Paulou, and the skete of Agia Anna. It is a place to which we would like to return one day. While there and in Thessaloniki I collected as many prints of icons as I could and among my collection there are packs of postcards featuring icons.

This is the birth of the Virgin. It is the first in a set known as the Dodekaorton. The virgin appears as a baby in the bottom left as she is prepared for her bath and in her crib at the feet of her mother, St. Anne. At the bottom right a young girl is weaving. St. Anne is the chief character of this icon robed in red and contemplating the extraordinary events that have accompanied the birth of her daughter. Behind her she embrace Joachim her husband ad reference to the conception of the Virgin. To the upper left Joachim is in prayer while at the top right the angel comes to tell him of God's favourable answer. Facing St. Anne the ladies approach with spools of thread and food near a table with seems set for a meal. The spool like the distaff in the hands of the girl at the lower right is a symbol of Anne's having 'woven' the flesh of Mary in her womb (Ps. 139).

This icon celebrates the faith and courage of those who prepared the way for our Saviour. These are the grandparents of Christ and their struggles made the conception and birth of the Virgin possible which in turn led to the Incarnation of the Word. Christ was not born in vacuum but into the history of a family and a people, into the history of the world. He does not often announce His plans in advance and even then they are often beyond our wildest imaginings. He asks us only to be faithful and to do His will. He does the rest. He does not stay apart and aloof but approaches us with utter gentlest, humility and compassion. God does not stand aloof; you will always find Him in the lowest place.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012

CLERICALISM, CONSERVATISM AND LIBERALISM: THE ENEMIES OF ORTHODOXY






Many years ago while I was still studying for ordination one of our friars who was on a course here in Dublin came home with a story to tell. At the Mass that day a well known Irish priest had laid his stole on the floor to symbolise the 'priesthood of all believers' and encouraged all the people at the Mass (who were also doing the course) to join him in praying the Eucharistic Prayer except for the consecration which he said on his own. There was some horror around the table at this. On reflection it occurred to me that this could be an example not of some new, liberal theology but of an old theology poorly digested. By keeping the consecration to himself the celebrant was still operating out of traditional Catholic theology that when the priest recites the words of consecration, while intending to do what the Church does at Mass, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. It could be argued from such a position that the rest of the Eucharistic Prayer is just icing on the cake so to speak. Whenever the priest permits the laity to join in or when he alters the text is implicitly asserting such a position. Of course that is not what the Church teaches. Yes the words of consecration 'this is my body' and 'this is the chalice of my blood' are the form to the matter of the bread and wine but that does not mean the rest of the Eucharistic Prayer is pointless. The whole prayer is either leading up to or going on from the consecration but it is directed to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. The whole prayer is like a great symphony of which the consecration is the heart, the climax but not the whole work.

The action of that priest could also be seen as an example of clericalism. Clericalism like laicism is the attempt to exceed the boundaries of one's authority and role; it is a violation of the principle of subsidiarity. Subsidiarity requires that no one should do for a 'lesser' (or 'higher') power what it can do for itself. Clericalism occurs whenever the priest does what it is not his role to do; whether it's altering the texts of the Mass, distorting the teaching of the Church, or ignoring the advice of his accountant or sacristan. You could say that clericalism is often at the root of heresy.

One of our friars told me that while at the Eucharistic Congress he was thanked by a lady for being courteous! She did so because so many clergy had been anything but. We went on from there to share other stories that we had heard. That rudeness towards others, especially the laity and even more so when the reputation of the Irish Church is in the gutter, is a form of clericalism. Clericalism is not a manifestation of conservatism or of liberalism. Each is prone to it. There is in the present Irish Church at least a confusion between orthodoxy and conservatism even as liberalism begins to retreat. Conservatism and liberalism are imports from the political and social dimensions of the world. They are not native to the Church. They can be used to describe general tendencies; conservatives wish to uphold stability and preserve what is good while liberals wish to uphold the freedom of the individual to grow and flourish. Liberalism appealed to a sizeable number of clergy from the fifties onwards because it offered them a sense of freedom in what they experienced as a stifling environment. It promised growth and success and greater, easier authenticity. Now that that project is revealed as a mirage conservatism is on the way back promising stability, truth and respect. If the liberalism of the past few decades pushed clericalism out of relationships into liturgy and theology the re-emergence of conservatism threatens to push it back into relationships. (Un)fortunately the laity now have a taste for involvement in the Church and a higher standard of education.

Like liberalism conservatism is easy. Conservatism has easily delineated positions that, within the Church, are usually orthodox. Orthodoxy, the concern to have the right, the true teaching of the Church and give the right glory to God, is not so easy. It is like the difference between someone who likes classical music because that is what he is expected to like and someone who likes classical music because he has learnt to appreciate such music, he recognises the range and complexity of the genre and can discern what is and is not part of it. Not everyone has an ear for great music nor has everyone the sense for what is part of tradition, for what is orthodox and not just conservative. The conservative clergy man can be deluded that if he wears his collar (even better a soutane), does the red and says the black, and makes his authority felt then is being orthodox in some way. I have no problem with soutanes and commend the 'red and black bit' but we are servants not masters and when we exceed our role, when we are rude and arrogant we serve not Christ but His enemies.

Orthodoxy is rooted in charity, that charity which is nourished by the wound in Christ's side. Orthodoxy is found in the lives of the saints. Orthodoxy is visible in humility, compassion and gentle holding to the truth in love.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A SERMON FOR THE ELEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME






It's either a feast or a famine...

I thought I might share my sermon (on Mark 4:26-34) for tomorrow with you.


Faith, once sown, grows and gives birth to virtue and even to perfect charity if we cooperate even if it means not just struggle but sacrifice.

or

Players who don't give their all in a match cannot be surprised if they don't make it to the world cup.


Mark has already told the story of the Sower. So this passage can be read as referring to the good seed. This is the seed sown in good soil; it ought to bring forth fruit in plenty. The farmer is Christ who sows liberally and trusts in the good soil of man to respond. The day is the good times in our lives and that of the Church while the night is the time of trial, temptation and persecution.

While the farmer doesn't need to know how his seed grows Christ Himself knows very well how His grace is active in our lives. He respects our freedom and our autonomy and leaves us free to choose whether or not we grow, how fast we grow and whether and when we bring forth the fruit that He rightly expects.

The blade is the fear of God and of loss of heaven and the possibility of damnation. Through fear of God we learn obedience to His word, and His will and to the rightful authority in the Church. The ear can mean resistance to evil, and avoidance of sin through which we learn prudence, the capacity to know what is the right thing to do, what is the will of God and how to follow it effectively. Finally the full grain can mean perfect charity through which we learn to truly love God and our neighbour for their own sake. Perfect charity is salvation.

Not satisfied with this part the Church further presents us with Christ's teaching that the Kingdom (meaning both the Church and our interior life) is like a mustard seed. It begins small and in fear and trembling but once grown it is mighty, sheltering the poor and needy with charity, mercy and compassion while feeding and nourishing all mankind with the truth of Christ.

Why does Jesus then not say all this plainly? Why does He teach by parables? Our Lord is forming gardeners of His garden, His vineyard and He keeps the true meaning of His teaching, mission, identity, future passion, death and resurrection to His disciples so that they can teach the people after these events, when they can accept it, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Our lives and the life of the Church have good and bad times. Sometimes life is good and it is easy to believe. Other times there are many crosses and temptations and faith is demanding and difficult. These times can be the very times, when, if properly used, we can make swift growth in virtue. Likewise for the Church there are difficult times when we must struggle and defend the Faith but these are the times when the Church grows stronger. Our Lord has entrusted to the Apostles and their successors the bishops united to the Pope the task of nourishing our faith and sowing the seed in each generation. Sometimes this mission is carried out in the daylight of welcome and sometimes in the night of persecution.

Our Government is preparing laws that will introduce abortion into Ireland, try to force the clergy to break the seal of the confessional, and is also trying to get religion and chaplains out of our schools. The hospitals, the prisons, and the army will follow until they have entirely secularised Irish society. That’s only part of the story.

If you want a priest to hear your confession and anoint you in hospital when you are dying you had better fight for him while you are alive and kicking.

Now is the time to let our political leaders know that you won't take this lying down.

The Holy Father recently called for the reclaiming of the term 'Ecclesia Militans' or the 'Church Militant' - the Church fighting, the Church struggling for Christ and His kingdom. If you like the Church in Jihad!

Players who don't give their all in a match cannot be surprised if they don't make it to the world cup. If you want the crown of glory you must struggle and fight for it both in your private life and in public. Christ gives you the chance to grow in virtue and charity by struggling for the faith now, today. He is asking you to stand up for your faith. He is asking you to stand against those who would rob you and your children and your children's children of their Catholic heritage, of eternal life! He is asking you to nurture within you the seed of faith and conversion, to produce not just fear, not just virtue, but perfect charity.


He may even be asking if you are willing to die for Him. What will your answer be?
Sometimes one just has to stand up and fight back and that time may just have arrived in Ireland. According to reports the Government plans to go ahead with the introduction of legislation that would oblige clergy (and who else? is anyone excluded?) to report to the police anyone who confesses to abusing children or rather to prosecute any priest who does not do so. I have already written on this matter. I wonder though was the Government deliberately trying to be insulting when it chose to announce this during the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. Recently the Minister for Health announced his plans to legislate for abortion. I was told by one of the speakers that they were all invited to a dinner with the Taoiseach last night. I hope they had the decency to tell him to keep his invitation. This is a Government that is quietly declaring war on the Church and the Catholic Faith. I hope we have the courage to give as good as we get. That said I wasn't overly excited by the Eucharistic Conference. I don't like big events with big crowds and I like them less as I move towards a crotchety 50. On friday I accompanied a fellow friar to hear another friar speak on the Eucharist and Meditation. As usual it was both orthodox and informative. What a shame they had to put him near the drumming group and then take his microphone away half way through his talk. Not impressive. I was surprised by the number of young people there (I saw two I know from the school). There was great energy and joy around despite the poor weather. I only got to see a small part of the stalls but at least I got to have a quick chat with the guy from Four Courts Press. If you must buy a book please make it an Irish book! Sadly somehow my Order failed to set up its own stall, a glaring omission that was noted by a number of persons. The biggest gathering of Catholics in Ireland since at least the visit of John Paul II and we were not there promoting our way of life. OOPS!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

AN UPDATE

To begin I must tell you that I buried my mother, Joan, on Saturday May 28. She was 84 and her health had not been great for some time. It was not an easy time for my brother, sister and myself. Thanks be to God we had support from family and friends. We were with when she went. I offered the funeral Mass and prayers. I did what she asked of me and sent her off properly and in the Catholic way. Now she is in the mercy of God with my father. The loss of both parents is never easy, especially within a year of each other. It is not something I would wish on anyone. At least we had them for many years unlike those who lose them when they are young. Neither did they die suddenly. There was no knock at the door or phone call urging us to hurry to the hospital. We were all there with them when they went and they went consoled by our presence and the Sacraments of the Church. I anointed them both and buried them both. I remember them at Mass. Outside my prayers and sacrifices there is not much more that I can do save trying to get to heaven myself. The hard part is not knowing. I believe in the mercy of God and that they are in safe hands. I believe that He will remember their long years of faith, forgive their sins and failings, and keep His promise that those who believe and are faithful will be welcome in His Kingdom. That said it would be nice to know they are safe. It would be a consolation to know that my parents go on and are in heaven. Instead I stand in faith. I believe, I don't know. My faith that is a kind of seeing, a kind of knowing when it comes to God can give no such certainty when it comes to them. Instead I trust in Him and in His promises. My day will come to leave this world and until then my task is to prepare for that day as they did. It is when I look back that it strikes me how fast time is passing by. We have the phrases that we all use: "how time flies!" and "`where has the time gone?" but still we live in the blind illusion that there is plenty of time ahead. The deaths of my parents have been like sudden immersions in cold water or like the driver on the motorway who suddenly realises as he flashes past a stationary object just how fast he is travelling. It is a moment of sobriety. I am hurtling through since I came into existence and what have I done with it? Do not get me wrong. I am not questioning my vocation as either a religious or a priest. Celebrating Mass or Confession is enough to affirm the extraordinary gift of the priesthood. It is a questioning of my living of that vocation and a realisation that I do not have much time. That is part of the 'dark gift' of bereavement. Now I must reevaluate my living of the Christian life, of the Capuchin way of life, of my priesthood and of my familial life. Now I can clearly see that I only have my own two feet to stand on even though I must lean on the Lord.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

THE GREAT SILENCE

Last night I watched 'The Sunset Limited' a film based on the play by Cormac McCarthy and starring Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones. The story is simple: two men sit in an apartment. Black (Jackson) has saved White (Jones) from suicide and is trying to help him. White, a college professor, does not want to be helped. As the debate unfolds Black tells his own story of redemption, his efforts to help others and his relationship with God. White, whose life of privilege could not be more different from Black's, slowly reveals his own vision of the world. It is a world that has been emptied out so that only the shapes of things remain, a world of suffering and despair. White believes in nothing and longs for annihilation. In the end he does not want God and departs leaving Black in sorrow, mourning his failure and his lack of words that could reach White in his nihilism. It is a powerfully acted and grim film, alternatively sad and funny. It illustrates both the emptiness and hopelessness of atheism and the dark night of believers who struggle to live faithful lives in a secularised world. The 'Great Silence' is how I describe the mood of these days. Once the Blessed Sacrament has been moved to a secure place on Holy Thursday night there is an emptiness, a great 'lacking', that continues until the Easter Vigil. The churches are bare and empty of the Presence that one takes for granted. This is the world without God. This is religion with symbols and without Sacraments. The great silence is the sound of the great emptiness. Without God there is no meaning, no purpose, no morality, no eternity. Atheism must logically lead to nihilism - the denial of everything. As atheism spreads it also poisons. In the name of reason and science it tears down rationality and enthrones intolerance and prejudice. As Christ Himself deliberately walked into the darkness of that first Passover so we who are His followers must follow Him into the darkness of our age. We must endure the great silence of this age of unbelief and be the still small voice of God. We must stand in this emptiness and be His Presence. This is our dark night, our Passover, our Calvary. To those who are faithful He has promised us resurrection.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

GOD'S UNCONDITIONAL LOVE IS NOT AN INDIFFERENT LOVE

Recently I heard someone declare that he believed in God's unconditional love for him and that God loved him just as he was. I have no quibble with the unconditional love bit. God does love unconditionally. His love for us is not dependent on our behaviour, individually or collectively, but is a free, unmerited and unasked for, unimaginable gift. But to say that God loves unconditionally is not the same as saying that God loves indifferently. To say that God's love is not lessened by sin is not the same as saying that God does not care about sin. God loves me not as I am but as He intends me to be i.e. in perfect union with Him. He loves that I exist and all that is good in me but not the evil, not the sin. God hates sin. God hates sin because it makes me less than human. Sin damages and destroys my relationship with Him, with my neighbour, with myself and with His Creation. Sin is a choice away from God's plan, away from being truly human. God cannot love that. God cannot love what makes me less than He created and redeemed me to be. These three days are the holiest of the year because they celebrate just how deeply God's love will go for us. During these three days we celebrate His victory over sin and death. Tonight we begin with His institution of His Church: the Mass and the Priesthood. Tomorrow we remember how He revealed, and saved us through, the Son's love for the Father on the Cross and in embracing suffering and death. On Saturday night we will remember the Father's response: the raising of the Son from the dead.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A LITTLE PIECE OF ART

Above is a piece of work made by one of our students. I don't know the girl, a junior, but it illustrates the talent that our young people have. All it needs is channeling in the right direction, encouragement and support and they can produce such beautiful things. The Merit awards in the school where I work are given not for academic achievement but to recognise the contributions students make to other parts of school life: the Meitheal who look after the First years, Community Care that raises funds for charity, or Cool Fm that entertains the school with music on every second friday to name a few. It was amazing to see the number of students who do that bit extra for others and the ones who are involved in many different areas. They have so much potential and such generosity.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

RTE HEAD OF NEWS QUITS

According to the Belfast Telegraph Ed Mulhall, RTE's Head of News has quit and 'Prime Time Investigates' taken off-air for the foreseeable future because of the 'Mission to Prey' program that defamed Fr. Reynolds. What will happen to those others who were involved?

Monday, March 5, 2012

INTERVIEW WITH AN ARCHBISHOP

Watch this, it's powerful to see an Archbishop, my Archbishop, in tears over the abuse of children. It shows what drives this man to do what he does. I hear he does not have the support of his clergy that he might like and I don't agree with him on everything but he is obviously a man who cares and wants to do the right thing. He is right that this will not be over soon. Even when all the abusers among the clergy have been identified and dealt with there is still the abusers among the laity. The victims and their families still carry their pain and the hurt from that spreads. It feeds indifference, scepticism and hatred. It distorts relationships and places blocks on the path to God and His Church. I think too this report is a little too heavy on the Vatican. It's as if the interviewer wanted the Archbishop to blame Rome for everything. The bishops had all the canon law they needed (the Murphy Report said so) but they did not use it. The were 'pastoral' with the abusers and failed to be shepherds to the victims. The acquiesced with the psychologist of the age and forgot the wisdom of the ages: that sin needs to be named, confronted and dealt with especially among the clergy. Why though did they pick a parish like Allihies, Co Cork (Diocese of Kerry)? Why go to the back end of the country when they were interviewing the Archbishop of Dublin? Was there no parish in Dublin that might give an interview?

Friday, March 2, 2012

THIRD STATION OF THE CROSS: JESUS FALLS THE FIRST TIME

Whenever a penitent in the confessional tells me a particularly gruelling litany of sins or is weighed down with guilt I usually begin my response with "Welcome to the human race". We are all in the same boat, we have all fallen short of the glory of God. Christ falls three times on this journey to Calvary and death. He does not fall into sin but he falls because there is a limit even to what His perfect human body can endure. He has been beaten, tortured and abused. He has endured unjust imprisonment, an illegal trial and condemnation. They who ought to have welcomed Him and worshipped Him have rejected Him and chosen another. Christ stumbles under the weight of such appalling suffering and He falls. Yet there is more to this. He wishes to console us. Christ falls too so that we do not despair in the midst of our trials but He gets back up so that we do not stay down. That's the difference between sinners and saints, the saints get back up after they fall. Of course we do not get back up by our own power but by His grace and our grace-empowered will. We have to choose to keep on going. We have to choose not to despair in the face of our own limitedness and failure. We should not expect that the cross is easy to bear. Others may or may not want us to change, to be converted. Even when they do they may want us to change according to their standards. True conversion is according to the standards of God. It is the will of the Father that we must seek and do. We may be buffeted and abused by friend and foe, our efforts judged harshly, opposed, or impeded. We may find our path blocked and redirected with those we had thought on our side letting us down and turning away from us at the very time we feel most in need of support. We may come to believe we are on our own. Christ has already walked this path and the saints have followed Him. It is He who carries us and it is He who picks us up. We are never alone. We are always in His arms.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

SECOND STATION OF THE CROSS: JESUS TAKES UP HIS CROSSI

We are so accustomed to the cross that it does not hold the horror for us that it did for those of the Roman world. Fr. Robert Barron explains this very well in his series Catholicism which I highly recommend. For the peoples of the Roman Empire the cross was a sign of a method of execution of unbelievable cruelty and means of oppression. It was a symbol of criminality of the worst kind and a brutal form of justice. It is this sign that Jesus embraces and transfigures through His obedient love. He empties Himself by means of the cross and it becomes a seat from which He teaches and proclaims and a throne from which He rules and dispenses justice and mercy. But first He must take it up. First He must embrace it and with it the injustice of His situation. He has already suffered but He will not stop until He has drained the cup of all that separates Man from God. He takes up the Cross and He takes us up with it. He carries us and our sins, our banishment from the Divine Presence, and He carries us. He makes His act of loving obedience, His self-emptying worship of the Father ours. His taking up of the Cross is the root of our repentance for it is through Him that we return to the Father. For the ancients Atlas carried the world upon his shoulder but it is Christ who has the heavier burden for He carries us and all that separates us from God on a human shoulder. Here Divine Justice meets Divine Mercy and they are revealed to Man. Lent is a penitential season, a time to make up in some small way for the sins we have committed, to undone the harm done to ourselves, to others and to the world and the offence given to God. Let us then walk with Christ as He carries us to Calvary. Let us, in however small a way, take up the crosses of each day and follow Him.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

FIRST STATION OF THE CROSS: CHRIST IS CONDEMNED TO DEATH

This image of the first station of the Cross is from Dalgan House, Co. Meath, headquarters of the Columban Fathers. I watched a film with a friend on Friday as I usually do. It was "Never Let Me Go", a film based on Kazuo Ishiguro's book of the same name. The story is set in alternative reality where genetic engineering(?) and organ transplants have allowed the end of illness and physical suffering but at a price; countless children are reared to be donors, to live a short life and 'complete' (die) via a series of organ donations in early adulthood. The three central characters, two girls and a boy, all future donors, form a love triangle within this horrific world. What shocked me was their complacency and compliance as if they had been bred for placidity. I wanted them to fight back, to resist and rage against the system. At one point, and this is a spoiler, their former headmistress tells them "We did not have the gallery so we could see into your souls. We had the gallery to see if you had souls at all." The frightening thing is that the story is not that far from reality. Forced organ transplants are happening regularly in China Transmission 6-10. Once one denies there is a God and that there is an immortal soul then all one has left is a gene-transmission vehicle, or a sack of meat. Human nature becomes an illusion or rather a delusion and morality is a mere social convention. What has this got to do with our Saviour before Pilate? I used to think that He was placid, compliant and perhaps helpless, the victim of c conspiracy and trapped by His Father's desperate plan for the salvation of the human race. Is He placid though? Is He compliant? His mission is not merely to save us. It is to bring us into communion with His Father. To do this He does what He does or rather Who He Is; as Son He reveals the Father through His Sonship and His passion and death are the revelation by the Son of His very Being. Through this revelation He reveals the Father and how utterly beautiful, good, and worthy of love and obedience He is. The Son explores the depths of the human condition and lifts it up, transforming it, transubstantiating it so as to make Himself the Way to the Father. Therefore, before Pilate, He is not placid. Pilate is the bureaucrat, the politician, whose concern is only for power and expediency. What Pilate does not realise is that he does not have any real power. Christ has the true power because He does the will of the Father; He is the will of the Father. Pilate can choose to spare Christ but at this point his previous choices have locked him into a pattern of self-preservation that mitigates against any impulse towards justice. Sin has consequences and not just in the short term. Jesus is not placid; He is calm. He has endured so much already and has much more to endure but His love for the Father will not let Him falter. He must give us a chance to see. He must show us on the Cross the indescribable depths of the Father's love. He chooses, He acts by accepting His fate.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I have noticed that once again some Irish issues are attracting comment on the web especially relations between the Vatican and the Irish Government. I support Shane's suggestion that this is a golden opportunity for the Irish Church to lessen the influence of the Irish Government, and that of the 'liberal' forces behind it, over the Irish Church. Lessening that influence must be part of turning the tide for the Church in Ireland. A problem for the Irish Church, as for the worldwide Church as well, is that too often the debate is viewed as between 'liberal' and 'conservative'. These are social categories imported into the Church. They represent attitudes to change, to the use of power, to wealth etc., that are too easily confused with those of other 'liberals' and 'conservatives'. It's not enough to be conservative. To be conservative for conservatism's sake is an abomination. the same might be said of 'traditionalism'. The real issue is orthodoxy: faithfulness to the Scriptures, to Tradition, and to the Magisterium and to all of it in all it's splendid depth and glory. Orthodoxy is what the saints were careful to preserve in the face of persecution from 'liberals' and 'conservatives' alike. The search to be truly orthodox is part and parcel of the search for holiness: to be in full communion with the Father's will made manifest in the Son made flesh. If we seek that orthodoxy it will not only bring us to heaven, it will bring others and perhaps even hasten the day when the Church, East and West, is one again.

MAKING LENT A PREPARATION FOR AN ACT OF CONSECRATION TO JESUS THROUGH MARY

Fr. Ryan Erlenbush over at the New Theological Movement has an interesting and worthwhile suggestion for Lent: use it to consecrate oneself to Jesus through Mary. Journeying through Lent with the Mother of God sounds to me the best of all ways. Spread the word and hopefully many will take up his suggestion. I have been quite lazy in my blogging among other things. It hasn't helped that I've been sick the last few weeks and I'm still not recovered. That's my excuse literally. I need to restart but with little 'doable' steps. So I'm going to follow Fr. Erlenbush's suggestion and make this Lent a time of consecration. Join us if you can.

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