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Scots Catholic

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Religion in Schools: The Debate Rolls On

Posted on January 29, 2014 at 2:57 AM Comments comments (6)
There are currently two secular initiatives being presented to the Scottish Parliament around the role of religion in education.  One is to do with the representation by religious on education committees within local authorities, the other is to do with whether parents should be entitled to opt their children 'in' to religious observance at their school as opposed to the existing system of opt 'out'. 
 
As more of these initiatives start to surface there is a growing disquiet among people of an undercurrent that is continually trying to chip away at the existence of faith schools in our country.  Catholic schools are particularly at risk in Scotland, a country where, in certain quarters, lack of tolerence towards Catholic education has been prevalent for many years.
 
The following text from Michael McGrath, (Director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service) which appeared in the Scottish Catholic Observer in November 2013 is an important reminder of the value of religion within our schools. 
 
Please spare a couple of minutes to read Mr McGrath's text and let us support and promote our schools.  We are the only country in the world where faith schools are derided rather than praised for the great work they do and the significant contribution they make to society.
 

Dwelling on the Word of God: True Freedom in God (Monday 23rd December 2013

Posted on December 23, 2013 at 6:49 AM Comments comments (1)
 
From Today’s Psalm (Psalm 24):
 
‘Stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.’
 
 
Jesus came to liberate us; to free us.  A lot of people can’t quite grasp that concept, especially in today’s world.  Where is this freedom when Christ’s Church claims homosexuality to be disordered?  Where is this freedom when women’s rights are seemingly put to one side in favour of an unborn child?
 
Yet the freedom Jesus brings is true freedom.  It’s not freedom to do as we please, when we please, how we please.  That’s the messed up kind of freedom we have become accustomed to as selfish human beings.  No, the freedom Jesus brings is a freedom to love, a freedom to be completely embroiled in God’s Love.  It is a freedom from sin.
 
Let us consider what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on this matter.  Para 1730 of the Catechism states: ‘God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. "God willed that man should be 'left in the hand of his own counsel,' so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.’ 
So God made us like Him; that is, He made us as rational beings.  And, crucially, He made us to seek Him!  In that way we are ‘free’ to seek Him and become perfect by ‘cleaving to him’; that is to stick to God, to remain faithful to Him.  But how do we cleave to God on a practical level?  Well, listening to Him would be a good start.  Listen to what God tells us in Sacred Scripture; through the Prophets and in Jesus who is God made man!  Hang onto every word.  Love each and every syllable and believe in it! 
 
By using our freedom to listen to God and to cleave completely to Him we cannot do wrong.  We cannot sin.  However, when we are not completely faithful to God ‘there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning’ as stated in the Catechism (para 1732).  This is where most of us are.  We are not entirely faithful to God and so we are constantly choosing between good and evil and, inevitably, we will on occasion choose evil.  Para 1733 of the Catechism goes on to state: ‘The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin."’
 
So, while we are perhaps not completely at one with God and we are not entirely faithful to Him, the more good we do, the more we grow in freedom.  Each act of goodness brings with it more freedom.  But ‘true’ freedom can only be found in being completely and unconditionally faithful to God.  By listening to Him through Sacred Scripture and obeying His commands without condition, we can obtain true freedom.
 
 
Yet surely by doing what God tells me to do cannot possibly be ‘true’ freedom?  Well, consider the Catechism (para 1740) when it states: ‘The exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything. It is false to maintain that man, "the subject of this freedom," is "an individual who is fully self-sufficient and whose finality is the satisfaction of his own interests in the enjoyment of earthly goods."’  You see, doing what YOU want is never going to bring about true freedom for you.  Only by trusting in and living out God’s plan for your life will you get anywhere close to achieving freedom. 
 
Para 1740 continues: ‘By deviating from the moral law man violates his own freedom, becomes imprisoned within himself, disrupts neighbourly fellowship, and rebels against divine truth.’  The Catechism tells us that self satisfaction - a real favourite of society today - is not freedom.  In fact it is the complete opposite.  It leads to self-imprisonment!  Consider sex.  The whole world is a slave to sex and the true meaning of sex has been lost.  Sex as a means of self-satisfaction is everywhere on television, in adverts, and in conversation.  Many people in Western society even believe children as young as 4 or 5 should be educated in sex.  We are imprisoned because of our own desires.  We are imprisoned because we don’t always choose Good.
 
Even consider the status achieved through power, honour and money in our world today.  Many people will receive honour in today’s world for their achievements.  Yet, while one person is honoured for their achievements, many are left out.  It is the same with money and power.  Where one man is rich, another is poor.  Where one woman has power, another is weak.  Earthly status, the kind of status we seek each and every day of our lives brings inequality.  But God brings equality.  He brings a love for everyone.  His love is unconditional and he calls us to do the same.  We are called to love one another as God has loved us.
 
And even though we often fail to choose Good over Evil, God has given us the Sacrament of Reconciliation to free us from our slavery and self-imprisonment.  God Himself comes to us in this sacrament and makes us completely clean, allowing us to attach ourselves completely to Him in His infinite Goodness; to cleave to Him faithfully and without a single selfish thought.
 
 
 

Sectarianism Not Caused by Denominational Schools

Posted on December 13, 2013 at 6:40 AM Comments comments (8)
 
It’s what so many of us have been saying for years.  With a distinct lack of evidence to support the view of a vociferous minority, the government is on the verge of committing itself to the view that denominational (or faith) schools do not cause sectarianism.
 
While other countries with faith schools have known this all along we in Scotland have, for some reason, fumbled our way to this conclusion over a great many years.
 
The Advisory Group on Tackling Sectarianism in Scotland, set up by the Scottish Government, was tasked with debating the issue of sectarianism in Scotland with a view to tackling the problem in the most effective manner.  It focused primarily on the specific form of sectarianism arising from Catholic-Protestant tensions which, as the report states, ‘are part of the historic legacy of Scotland’.  
 
There are a number of issues tackled in the report, including marches and parades, and also sectarianism at football matches.  But perhaps the most interesting statement comes at section 28 and under the banner of education. It states: ‘We do not believe that sectarianism stems from, or is the responsibility of, denominational schooling, or, specifically, Catholic schools, nor that sectarianism would be eradicated by closing such institutions.’
 
For many, many years I have wondered why so many people are obsessed with the idea that Catholic schools cause sectarianism.  As a kid who attended a Catholic school I never had any difficulty mixing and playing with friends from different schools and different backgrounds.  I know of many other people who had the same experience.  And in my adult life I continue to mix with people from a different background to my own. 
 
Thankfully, the government has now recognised that denominational schools are not the problem.  And why would they be?  Sectarianism in Scotland existed BEFORE denominational schooling was introduced.  Logically speaking, sectarianism will continue to exist AFTER denomination schools are removed.  Thankfully, however, this is not something we need to worry about given the content of this report.
 
We should be delighted at the way our children are educated in Scotland.  We have produced many, many talented people over the years for such a small country and both our denominational and non-denomination schools have contributed to this great achievement.
 
To read the full report, click this link: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/12/6197/0
 

Learn the Catholic Faith: Why are we here?

Posted on December 9, 2013 at 7:33 AM Comments comments (3)
We are on earth in order to know and to love God, to do good according to his will, and to go someday to heaven.
 
To be a human being means to come from God and to go to God.  Our origin goes back farther than our parents.  We come from God, in whom all the happiness of heaven and earth is at home, and we are expected in his everlasting, infinite blessedness.  Meanwhile we live on this earth.  Sometimes we feel that our Creator is near; often we feel nothing at all.  So that we may find the way home.  God sent us his Son, who freed us from sin, delivers us from all evil, and leads us unerringly into true life.  He is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6).
 
From the Catholic Youth Catechism (question 1)
 

Evangelii Gaudium: Pope Francis on Women and the Church

Posted on December 3, 2013 at 8:07 AM Comments comments (0)
Our Blessed Mother, Mary
 
‘The Church acknowledges the indispensable contribution which women make to society through the sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess. I think, for example, of the special concern which women show to others, which finds a particular, even if not exclusive, expression in motherhood. I readily acknowledge that many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests, helping to guide people, families and groups and offering new contributions to theological reflection. But we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church. Because ‘the feminine genius is needed in all expressions in the life of society, the presence of women must also be guaranteed in the workplace’ (from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace) and in the various other settings where important decisions are made, both in the Church and in social structures.
 
Demands that the legitimate rights of women be respected, based on the firm conviction that men and women are equal in dignity, present the Church with profound and challenging questions which cannot be lightly evaded. The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion, but it can prove especially divisive if sacramental power is too closely identified with power in general. It must be remembered that when we speak of sacramental power [as John Paul II says]: “we are in the realm of function, not that of dignity or holiness”. The ministerial priesthood is one means employed by Jesus for the service of his people, yet our great dignity derives from baptism, which is accessible to all. The configuration of the priest to Christ the head – namely, as the principal source of grace – does not imply an exaltation which would set him above others. In the Church, functions “do not favour the superiority of some vis-à-vis the others”
 
Indeed, a woman, Mary, is more important than the bishops.’
 

Learn the Catholic Faith: What happens when we die and what will the Second Coming of Christ be like?

Posted on November 26, 2013 at 7:36 AM Comments comments (10)
 
Taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
 
What happens when we die?
 
1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul -a destiny which can be different for some and for others.
 
1022 Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification, or immediately, or immediate and everlasting damnation.
At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.
 
 
The Second Coming
 
1038 The resurrection of all the dead, "of both the just and the unjust," will precede the Last Judgment. This will be "the hour when all who are in the tombs will hear [the Son of man's] voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment." Then Christ will come "in his glory, and all the angels with him .... Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.... and they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
 

Learning the Catholic Faith: Animals

Posted on November 19, 2013 at 10:13 AM Comments comments (0)
How should we treat animals?
 
Animals are our fellow creatures, which we should care for and in which we should delight, just as God delights in their existence.
 
Anuimals, too, are sentient creatures of God.  It is a sin to torture them, to allow them to suffer, or to kill them uselessly.  Nevertheless, man may not place love of animals above love of man.
 
(from the Catholic Youth Catechism question 437)

Marriage & Family Life - have your say!

Posted on November 13, 2013 at 8:43 AM Comments comments (1)
The Archdioceses of Glasgow and St Andrew's & Edinburgh have launched further details on their consultation programme ahead of next year's Synod of Bishops which will look at marriage and family life.
 
The Synod has been called by Pope Francis and will be vital in gathering the lay faithful's views on important matters such as marriage and same-sex unions.
 
This is your opportunity to express your view.  Don't let it pass.
 
Please click the appropriate link, below.  For other dioceses please go to our Links page.
 
Archdiocese of Glasgow: http://www.rcag.org.uk/
 
 
 
 
 

Learning the Catholic Faith: Difficulties with Praying

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 5:24 PM Comments comments (0)
 
What if prayer doesn't help?
 
Prayer does not seek superficial success but rather the will of God and intimacy with Him.
God's apparent silence is itself an invitation to take a step farther in total devotion, boundless faith, endless expectation.  Anyone who prays must allow God the complete freedom to speak whenever He wants, to grant whatever He wants, and to give Himself however He wants.
 
Often we say: I have prayed, but it did not help at all.  Maybe we are not praying intensely enough.  The saintly Cure of Ars once asked a brother priest who was complaining about his lack of success, "You have prayed,  you have sighed....but have you fasted too?  Have you kept vigil?"
It could also be that we are asking God for the wrong things.  St Teresa of Avila once said, "Do not pray for lighter burdens; pray for a stronger back."
(From Youth Catechism question 507)
 
 
What if I don't feel anything when praying?
 
Distractions during prayer, the feeling of interior emptiness and dryness, indeed, even an aversion to prayer are experienced by everyone who prays.  Then to persevere faithfully is itself already a prayer.
 
Even St Therese of Lisieux for a long time could not sense God's love at all.  Shortly before her death she was visited one night by her sister Celine.  She noticed that Therese's hands were clasped together.  "What are you doing?  You should try to sleep", Celine said.
"I cannot.  I am suffering too much.  But I am praying", Therese replied.
"And what do you say to Jesus?" asked Celine.
Therese replied, "I do not say anything to him.  I love him."
(From Youth Catechism question 508)

The Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano

Posted on October 31, 2013 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (7)
The host turned to flesh
 
For those who seek evidence for the existence of God look no further than the small Italian town of Lanciano and the miracle which took place there in the 8 century.
 
One day while saying Mass, a Basilian monk who had been having serious doubts about the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, witnessed an incredible miracle along with his 100-strong congregation.  During the prayer of consecration, while he held up the host, he started to visibly shake and turning to face the congregation he said, “O fortunate witnesses to whom the Blessed God, to confound my disbelief, has wished to reveal Himself in this Most Blessed Sacrament and to render Himself visible to our eyes.  Come, brethren, and marvel at our God so close to us.  Behold the Flesh and Blood of our most beloved Christ.”
 
As he turned, it became apparent to the people that the host had become human flesh.  And upon inspection, the wine contained in the chalice had become human blood.  Many of the congregation are reported to have started wailing, some crying, others beating their breasts and begging for forgiveness.
 
The wine turned to hman blood 
 
Following the miracle it was decided that the flesh would be pinned to a wooden board to prevent it from curling once it dried.  So here we have Jesus crucified yet again, pinned to a piece of wood with nails. 
 
The flesh and blood was kept and is still present to this day in the Church in Lanciano.  Crucially, it has been retained to this day without the presence of any preservatives.  This is crucial because it proves the blood could not have been taken from a corpse, otherwise it would have been rapidly altered; something which did not occur.
 
Dr Edoardo Linoli, a professor of anatomy and pathological histology, and of chemistry and clinical microscopy, examined the remains in 1970 and published his findings the following year and among those findings he discovered that the blood is the relatively rare type AB and from a human of middle-eastern origin, the same as the blood type taken from the Shroud of Turin.  He also confirmed that the flesh tissue was cardiac; that is, heart tissue. 
 
Another miracle is that the blood, which following coagulation has naturally divided into 5 pellets of differing sizes and shapes, always comes to the same total weight whatever the combination of pellets! 
 
To this day the flesh and blood can be seen in Lanciano and the Church attracts pilgrims from all over the world; people wanting to get close to the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.  Yet, as a priest in Lanciano once said, “Remember, this miracle that you are witnessing now, and that you have travelled so far to witness, happens every day in every church in the world, at the consecration of the Mass.”  How true!! 
 
But perhaps we should leave the final word on this to another priest who travelled to Lanciano in 1983 to see the miracle.  He came away from the Church and said, “I can never raise the host or wine in Consecration again, without seeing my Lord’s very Heart between my fingers, His Blood alive in the Chalice before me.”
 
 
To read more about this great miracle please check out the links, below.