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Peaceful and prayerful: 40 Days for Life returns to Scotland this Lent

Posted on February 7, 2017 at 6:40 AM Comments comments (2)

During the season of Lent, a number of people will gather outside four hospitals in Scotland in quiet, prayerful vigil to stand up for the inherent dignity and value of human life. The 40 Days for Life vigils will be held outside the grounds of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, the Royal Infirmaries in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and Ninewells in Dundee. It is peaceful, it is calm, and there is certainly no aggression or scare tactics adopted, despite what the mainstream media try to portray.

 
For those who claim that the 40 Days for Life event is anything but peaceful and prayerful, I urge them to attend the event and to see for themselves precisely the manner in which this so called ‘protest’ is undertaken by those involved. There is no desire to harass anyone, and there is certainly no desire to be abusive. It is better to witness first hand the reality of the situation, rather than buy the lies of those who would prefer that this vigil was something that it clearly isn’t.

 
There will, of course, be times when someone has recently undergone an abortion or suffered a miscarriage and, in coming across the vigil, they experience distress and upset. I don’t think anyone attending the event would feel anything but sympathy and compassion for those in such a situation. The pro-life movement would not be in keeping with its belief that all human life is precious if it did not feel for those who suffer and did not offer them support and consolation. The question is then whether or not, given these instances of distress, the vigil is appropriate. We can put forward a number of arguments for and against, and this will tend to be guided by which side of the abortion debate we sit on. But the reality is this…science is almost entirely settled on the fact that a distinct new human being with their own DNA comes into existence from the moment of conception. This human being is alive and is growing. The baby's brain, spinal cord, heart and other organs begin to form a mere 2/3 weeks following conception. This is why people participate in the 40 Days for Life vigils. They genuinely do not think that it is acceptable for the state to allow for the untimely death of an innocent, defenceless human being at its most vulnerable stage in life.

 
These vigils are peaceful and the only desire of participants is to see that all human life is given a chance. A chance to be someone: to see their very first sun rise; to feel the first snowflake on their hand; to experience the nervous excitement of that first day in school; to get behind the wheel of their first car; to find the love of their life; to perhaps even have children of their own. They may even be lucky enough to grow old and enjoy the perfect smiles of their grandchildren at Christmas time. This is life and this is what we seek to protect.



Because the state supports the killing of unwanted children in the womb, 8.7 million human beings in the UK never got the chance to experience these simple, yet poignant moments in life. No matter how much we try to deny or distance ourselves from that reality, we can never hide from the truth that abortion extinguishes the life of a beautiful, precious little human being who simply wants to be loved.

 
The 40 Days for Life is a worldwide movement and it will take place at the four Scottish hospitals throughout Lent from 1 March until 9 April. There will also be official opening and closing events, including one in George Square, Glasgow on 25 February. Click here for full details.

Pope's message for 50th World Day of Peace

Posted on December 13, 2016 at 8:22 AM Comments comments (30006)
Picture: zenit.org


Pope Francis asks "God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values."

Read the entire message here: https://zenit.org/articles/popes-message-for-50th-world-day-of-peace/

Cardinal Sarah warns against 'demonic gender ideology'

Posted on December 6, 2016 at 9:34 AM Comments comments (0)


This talk by Cardinal Robert Sarah took place earlier this year at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC.


It is essential reading for anyone trying to make sense of the ongoing assault on and subsequent destruction of the family in our so called 'progressive' world.  Cardinal Sarah also considers what we, as Christians, can do to respond.


Here is the text of Cardinal Sarah's address:

Thank you for inviting me to this remarkable gathering, in the company of such a distinguished audience.

As you well know, what happens in the United States has repercussions everywhere. The entire globe looks to you, waiting and praying, to see what America resolves on the pressing challenges the world faces today. Such is your influence and responsibility.

I do not say this lightly, because we find ourselves in such portentous times.


1. The Situation of the World and the Mission of the Church

Rapid social and economic development in the past half century has not been accompanied by an equally fervent spiritual progress, as we witness what Pope Francis calls “globalized indifference.”

It is the result of giving in to the delusion that we are self-sufficient, that man is his own measure in a pervasive individualism. It is manifested in the fear of suffering in our societies, our closing our eyes and hearts to the poor and vulnerable, and, in a very despicable way, in how we discard the unborn and the elderly.

When he prophetically announced the Second Vatican Council in the Apostolic Constitution Humanae Salutis,Saint John XXIII remarked that the human community was in “turmoil” as it sought to establish a new world order where humanity relies entirely on technical and scientific solutions instead of God.

Today we are witnessing the next stage – and the consummation – of the efforts to build a utopian paradise on earth without God. It is the stage of denying sin and the fall altogether. But the death of God results in the burial of good, beauty, love and truth. Good becomes evil, beauty is ugly, love becomes the satisfaction of sexual primal instincts, and truths are all relative. 

So all manner of immorality is not only accepted and tolerated today in advanced societies, but even promoted as a social good. The result is hostility to Christians, and, increasingly, religious persecution.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the threat that societies are visiting on the family through a demonic “gender ideology,” a deadly impulse that is being experienced in a world increasingly cut off from God through ideological colonialism.

Saint Pope John XXIII observed in 1962:
“Tasks of immense gravity and amplitude await the Church, as in the most tragic periods of her history. The Church must now inject the vivifying and perennial energies of the gospel into the veins of the human community.”
This remains the challenge that the Church is facing presently, more even than in 1962, and it is our task today. This is what I spoke of in my book God or Nothing:

“Today the Church must fight against prevailing trends, with courage and hope, and not be afraid to raise her voice to denounce the hypocrites, the manipulators, and the false prophets. For two thousand years, the Church has faced many contrary winds but at the end of the most difficult journey, the victory was always won.”


2. The Family

“The future of the world and the Church passes through the family.” These prophetic words of Saint John Paul II show how the Church, in our time, must, above all, defend and promote the beauty of the Christian family in fidelity to God’s design. In his post-synodal Exhortation on the Family, Amoris Lætitia (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis states clearly: “In no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur … proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being.” 

This is why the Holy Father openly and vigorously defends Church teaching on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, reproductive technologies, the education of children and much more. In my first five years as Archbishop of Conakry (Guinea, Africa), I made it my task to dedicate all of my pastoral letters to the family. Perhaps only the beauty of the family can reawaken the longing for God in the innermost recesses of the conscience of our brothers and sisters, and heal the wounds inflicted on our humanity by sin.

Saint John Paul, the Pope of the new evangelization, describes in Familiaris Consortio how the family is the first place where the Gospel is welcomed and is also the first herald of the Gospel. How true this is!
The generous and responsible love of spouses, made visible through the self-giving of parents, who welcome and nurture children as a gift of God, makes love visible in our generation. It makes present the perfect charity of the Trinity. “If you see charity, you see the Trinity,” wrote Saint Augustine.

From the beginning of creation, God, who is a communion of persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three different Persons, yet one – has built a Trinitarian structure into our very nature. In the continent of my origin, Africa, we declare: “Man is nothing without woman, woman is nothing without man, and the two are nothing without a third element, which is the child.” The Triune God dwells within each of us and imbues our whole being: God’s own image and likeness.

Every human being, like the persons of the Trinity, has the capacity to be united with other persons in communion through the vinculum caritatis – the bond of charity – of the Holy Spirit. The family is a natural preparation and anticipation of the communion that is possible when we are united with God. The family, as it were, is a natural praeparatio evangelica – written into our nature.
This is why the devil is so intent on destroying the family. If the family is destroyed, we lose our God-given, anthropological foundations and so find it more difficult to welcome the saving Good News of Jesus Christ: self-giving, fruitful love.

St. John Paul explained: if it is true that the family is the place where more than anywhere else human beings can flourish and truly be themselves, it is also a place where human beings can be humanly and spiritually wounded.

The rupture of the foundational relationships of someone’s life – through separation, divorce or distorted impositions of the family, such as cohabitation and same sex unions – is a deep wound that closes the heart to self-giving love unto death, and even leads to cynicism and despair.

These situations cause damage to little children through inflicting upon them a deep existential doubt about love. They are a scandal – a stumbling block – that prevents the most vulnerable from believing in such love, and a crushing burden that can prevent them from opening to the healing power of the Gospel.

Advanced societies, including – I regret – this nation have done and continue to do everything possible to legalize such situations. But this can never be a truthful solution. It is like putting bandages on an infected wound. It will continue to poison the body until antibiotics are taken.

Sadly, the advent of artificial reproductive technologies, surrogacy, so-called homosexual “marriage”, and other evils of gender ideology, will inflict even more wounds in the midst of the generations we live with.

This is why it is so important to fight to protect the family, the first cell of the life of the Church and every society. This is not about abstract ideas. It is not an ideological war between competing ideas. This is about defending ourselves, children and future generations from a demonic ideology that says children do not need mothers and fathers. It denies human nature and wants to cut off entire generations from God.


3. Religious Freedom

I encourage you to truly make use of the freedom willed by your founding fathers, lest you lose it. In so many other countries, on almost a daily basis, we hear of merciless beheadings, futile bombings of churches, torching of orphanages and ruthless expulsions of entire families from homes that religious minorities suffer worldwide simply because of their beliefs. Even in this yet young twenty-first century of barely 16 years, one million people have been martyred around the world because of their belief in Jesus Christ.

Yet the violence against Christians is not just physical, it is also political, ideological and cultural. This form of religious persecution is equally damaging, yet more hidden. It does not destroy physically but spiritually; it demolishes the teaching of Jesus and His Church and, hence, the foundations of faith by leading souls astray. By this violence, political leaders, lobby groups and mass media seek to neutralize and depersonalize the conscience of Christians so as to dissolve them in a fluid society without religion and without God.  This is the will of the Evil One: to close Heaven … out of envy.

Do we not see signs of this insidious war in this great nation of the United States? In the name of “tolerance,” the Church’s teachings on marriage, sexuality and the human person are dismantled. The legalization of same sex marriage, the obligation to accept contraception within health care programs, and even “bathroom bills” that allow men to use the women’s restrooms and locker rooms. Should not a biological man use the men’s restroom? How simpler can that concept be?
How low we are sinking for a nation built on a set of moral claims about God, the human person, the meaning of life, and the purpose of society, given by America’s first settlers and founders! God is named in your founding documents as “Creator” and “Supreme Judge” over individuals and government. The human person endowed with God-given and therefore inalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” George Washington wrote that “the establishment of Civil and Religious Liberty was the motive that induced me to the field of battle.”

Today, we find ourselves before the battle of a sickness that has pervaded our world. I repeat: the battle of a sickness. That is what we face. I call this sickness “the liquidation, the eclipse of God.” Pope Francis describes the causes of this “sickness.”

I quote: “Religious liberty is not only that of thought or private worship. It is freedom to live according to ethical principles consequent upon the truth found, be it privately or publicly. This is a great challenge in the globalized world, where weak thought – which is like a sickness – also lowers the general ethical level, and in the name of a false concept of tolerance ends up by persecuting those who defend the truth about man and the ethical consequences.”
 
What are the remedies to this sickness? What should we do to protect the family, religious freedom, and marriage – as revealed to us by God?


Concluding Remarks

Before such a distinguished gathering, I offer three humble suggestions.

1.       First: Be prophetic. The Book of Proverbs tells us: “Where there is no vision, discernment, the people perish” (29, 18). Discern carefully – in your lives, your homes, your workplaces – how, in your nation, God is being eroded, eclipsed, liquidated. Blessed Paul VI saw that in 1968 when, for the Church, he so courageously wrote Humanae Vitae. What are the threats to Christian identity and the family today? ISIS, the growing influence of China, the colonization of ideologies such as gender? How do we react? 

2.       Be faithful. This is my second suggestion. Specifically for you, as men and women called to influence even the political sphere you have a mission of bringing Divine Revelation to bear in the lives of your fellow citizens. Uphold the wise principles of your founding fathers. Do not be afraid to proclaim the truth with love, especially about marriage according to God’s plan, just as courageously as Saint John the Baptist, who risked his life to proclaim the truth. The battle to preserve the roots of mankind is perhaps the greatest challenge that our world has faced since its origins. In the words of Saint Catherine of Siena: “Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.”

3.       Third: Pray. Sometimes, in front of happenings in the world, our nation or even the Church, the results of our prayer might tempt us to become discouraged. Like Sisyphus in the Greek myth: condemned to roll a large boulder uphill, only to see it roll down again as soon as he had reached the top. Pope Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est  encourages us : “People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone.”

Whether in doctrine or morality or everyday decisions, the heart of prayer is to discern God’s will. This can only happen in prolonged moments of silence where, like Elijah before the horrendous threats of Queen Jezebel, we allow the “gentle breeze” of God to enlighten us and confirm us along our journey to do God’s will. Such was the virginal silence of the Blessed Mother. At a marriage, the wedding feast of Cana, when for a new family “they have no wine,” Mary our Mother trusted in the grace given by Jesus to bestow the joy of love overflowing – Amoris Lætitia. She pronounced her very last words, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2: 1-12).Then she remained silent.

Be prophetic. Be faithful. Pray. That is why I came to this prayer breakfast. To encourage you. Be prophetic. Be faithful. And, above all, pray. These three suggestions make present that the battle for the soul of America, and the soul of the world, is primarily spiritual. They show that the battle is fought firstly with our own conversion to God’s will every day.
And so I wholly welcome this initiative, and join you in prayer that this great country may experience a new great “spiritual awakening”, and help stem the tide of evil that is spreading in the world. I am confident that your efforts will no doubt contribute to protecting human life, strengthening the family, and safeguarding religious freedom not only here in these United States, but everywhere in the world.

For in the end: it is “God or nothing.”

Archbishop offers Scotland a path to the common good

Posted on June 9, 2016 at 6:23 AM Comments comments (0)


Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh Leo Cushley celebrates the 125 anniversary of Pope Leo XIII’s landmark encyclical ‘Rerum Novarum’


Archbishop Leo Cushley has marked the 125 anniversary of the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum by re-proposing its social teaching for the common good of Scottish society.  The encyclical by Pope Leo XIII is arguably the Church’s most important when it comes to social justice and the Archbishop can clearly see positives in once again bringing it to the forefront of our minds.


Writing in today's Scotsman Archbishop Cushley said: “At the foundation of Pope Leo’s vision is an unshakeable belief in the intrinsic value of every man, woman and child.  The degree to which it threatened or enhanced the life and dignity of the human person”, he says, “is the measure of any political, moral or economic order”.  It is clear, therefore, that the encyclical has at its very core the belief that human life must be at the centre of all decisions made by authority.  It is about standing shoulder to shoulder with the most vulnerable in society, including the poor, the sick, the elderly, and the unborn.


Pope Leo, who rejected unbridled capitalism as well as state socialism, argued that neither central government nor larger society should substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals and intermediary bodies within civil society.  Archbishop Cushley cited the example of Fife, which has gone from having 82 councils in 1930 to just one today, to illustrate the renewed appetite to revisit the issue of local empowerment.


The Archbishop also referred to the importance of the family in society.  He said: “The twofold purpose of this [the family] micro-community is traditionally defined as the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children.  For this reason, nearly all societies – not just those informed by Christianity – have founded family life upon marriage.  Even now, the best sociological evidence tends to suggest that children generally do best in life when they grow up with a mum and a dad who are married to each other.  The married family, if you like, is the first, best and cheapest department of health, welfare and education.”  He then quoted Pope John Paul II as he tried to encapsulate the effect of the erosion of a marriage-based culture: “As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live.”


However, the Archbishop also referred to Pope Francis’ call to appreciate those people for whom the ideal family is not possible, saying that these people “achieve remarkable things in the most difficult of circumstances”.  He then reiterated Pope Francis’ call to sympathise with and support those in difficult circumstances.


In a world fraught with significant challenges to the family as we know it, the Archbishop’s consideration of one of the great social encyclicals is timely.  As he said: “The Church does not seek to impose its social teaching upon Scottish society.  We can only propose it as our vision to anybody seeking new paths towards the common good.”


Archbishop Cushley has proposed what he feels is the fundamental consideration for the common good of society and offered it to the people of Scotland.  It is now up to us lay Catholics to do the same.





Pope Francis: to ignore the poor is to despise God

Posted on May 20, 2016 at 7:05 AM Comments comments (0)
Pope Francis, during his weekly general audience, has slated those who turn their backs on the poor, suggesting that their ignorance means that they despise God.


The pope stressed that in the poor “we find Jesus himself: whatever you did to the least brothers of mine, you did to me”.


The message is clear: we are called to wake up to the plight of the poor and to make sure we never ignore them.  I recall one of Pope Francis’ early comments on the poor.  He said that we must get close to them as Jesus did, and touch their wounds.  Touch their wounds!  It sounds strange that we would put ourselves in a position to touch the cuts or sores, or even the diseased body of a stranger.  We may wince at the idea of shaking the hand of a homeless person, knowing full well that those hands could be carrying all sorts of germs that could make us ill.  But that is what we are called to do!  We are called to get close, because by getting close to the poor and the needy we are getting close to Jesus.  And we all know that Jesus will not cause us any harm or give us anything we cannot deal with by his grace.


It is also worth remembering that when Pope Francis refers to the poor he is not just talking about the homeless or the financially impoverished.  He is also talking about the poor in spirit; those who have perhaps lost their way in faith or who fail to recognise the Goodness of God.  We are also called to accompany these people, as well as those who suffer a more typical form of poverty.

Catholic Love in the Community: the nuns who treat the untreatable in a New York home

Posted on May 13, 2016 at 10:16 AM Comments comments (0)

In the first of our new series of Catholic Love in the Community we pick up the story of a group of Dominican nuns caring for the terminally ill in New York.


The New York Times has this week published a beautiful story about a group of Dominican nuns who care for the dying at their Rosary Hill nursing home situated in the small town of Hawthorne on the outskirts of New York City.


The home, which is essentially a hospice, was founded in 1901, ‘long before the mainstream medical community embraced hospice care and during a time when some doctors still thought cancer was contagious.’



The nuns care for people of all faiths and none and abide by the words of its founder Rose Hawthorne Lathrop: “We cannot cure our patients, but we can assure the dignity and value of their final days, and keep them comfortable and free of pain.”


Their work is highly thought of in the area and Gillian Laub - whose mother-in-law was cared for at the home after her family discovered that insurance could not cover the care she required – said that she was ‘struck by their [the nuns] tenderness with the dying, how they painted women’s fingernails and combed their hair, changed them into fresh nightgowns and arranged flowers in their rooms.’  Laub suggested that “this is how dying should be.”


Please pray for these nuns and for all who work to care for the poor and needy in our society.



To read the full article in the New York Times, click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/15/magazine/the-sisters-who-treat-the-untreatable.html?_r=0

Desiring a better solution to pregnancy ‘problem’

Posted on May 12, 2016 at 10:08 AM Comments comments (0)
These youngsters have taken the chastity pledge

The World Health Organisation has, in its latest report, confirmed that 25% of worldwide pregnancies ended in abortion between 2010 and 2014. The report also states that “around 22 million unsafe abortions are estimated to take place worldwide each year, almost all in developing countries.”


While this news must be greeted with great sadness at the millions of lives lost in an incredibly short period of time, the WHO has a solution.  It states that: “Almost every abortion death and disability could be prevented through sexuality education, use of effective contraception, provision of safe, legal induced abortion, and timely care for complications.” 


It’s interesting that the WHO avoids any talk of chastity or abstinence in their report.  This, as we know, is the most effective means by which to prevent a pregnancy if indeed that is what someone desires.  Contraception has been heralded as the saviour when it comes to having sexual relations without the ‘nuisance’ of a child.  But, in reality, contraception has merely become a ‘get out of jail free card’ for individuals - mostly men - who simply want to use and abuse a member of the opposite sex for their own selfish desires.  Contraception encourages people to engage in the most intimate manner with another human being and then to discard them once the deed is done.  There is no account for feelings, no account for wellbeing.  It is simply the act of using another for selfish desires.  And while not all people can be accused of using another individual through the use of contraception, there is no denying that in using contraception a person is not giving themselves entirely to the other.  It is a way of saying “I love you, but I’m not giving you 100% of my love”.  Is this the kind of love we want for our children?


While it is natural for secular organisations like the WHO to raise unsafe abortion as an issue, the distinction between safe and unsafe abortions is inherently flawed.  This is because it is only concerned with the wellbeing of one party in order to distinguish whether an abortion is safe or unsafe.  Abortion, as we know and as science affirms, involves two distinct human beings.  When abortion results in the injury or death of one of those human beings it must be considered unsafe.  Therefore all abortions are unsafe.  There is no such thing as safe abortion.


While more must be done to ensure people are educated on sexual matters there is a real need to ensure that such education is not simply a pandering to the increasingly wayward sexual revolution and the deep pockets of huge, influential pharmaceutical companies.  Increased availability of ‘safe’ abortion is not the answer.  Nor is the increased availability of contraception.  These remedies simply take us down another road of self-destruction in our society and they quite clearly fail to solve the big issue, which is the widely held view that sex is a basic right to be enjoyed by anyone, with anyone and without the very natural consequence that is another human being.


In many African countries there is a growing movement (University Chastity Education or UCE Missionaries of Chastity) among young adults where they sign a pledge card, pledging a vow of chastity until they meet that special someone and marry them.  This is not the stuff of fairy-tales.  This is real life.  Isn’t this a much more appropriate, measured, and natural solution to the pregnancy ‘problem’ than those proposed by the World Health Organisation?  Doesn’t this solution encourage the kind of love you desire for your son or daughter?

 

To read the WHO report, click here: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs388/en/

Three Simple Tips for Catholic Families: Eat, Pray and be Merry

Posted on May 10, 2016 at 12:23 PM Comments comments (0)

1. Eat

We Catholics like to celebrate with food!  This is why it is important to eat together as a family and to enjoy the delicious food gifted to us by God and prepared by the hands of our mother or father.  Mealtimes should be a time of great celebration and we should make an extra special effort to celebrate Sundays and Catholic feast days.  You may even want to consider celebrating important dates such as your anniversary, showing your children that your marriage is something that is important to you and that you delight in remembering that special day.  Why not bake a cake together for the occasion?
And remember, no mobile phones or tablets at the dinner table!  Encourage an environment free of technology, where everyone takes a turn to talk about the highs and lows of their day.  Let the dinner table be a forum for openness and honesty among all the family; a sacrosanct place where the family basks in the joys and rallies in the sorrows of each family member.


2. Pray 

Prayer can take many forms and prayer within the family unit is no different.  It is important that people pray as a family as best they can.  Praying the Rosary as a family is a beautiful way to express our faith and this is something that should be encouraged in every Catholic home.  You may want to make it more interesting for younger children by introducing images or pictures to go with the mysteries.  And if one of the kids kicks off, stop for a break, but remember to try and pick it up again another time.  And start small, especially with younger kids.  A few short prayers or a decade of the Rosary will likely suffice to begin with.
It’s also very important to pray as a family before and after meals.  There are a number of simple prayers suitable for this but even a simple ‘thank you Jesus’ will do! 
And remember, it is important that children see their parents pray, so be prepared to set an example to your kids and make sure you take them to Holy Mass every Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation.  Be an example to them by regular attendance at the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and consider becoming more active in the life of your Parish.  Children will respond positively to your active participation in the life of the Church and will see how important it is to you.
Be willing to talk about your faith and don't be embarrassed if one of the kids asks you something you don't know.  This is a great opportunity to learn as a family!  Learning can be a form of prayer too! So don't be afraid to pick up the Bible or the Catechism or to even search Google for an answer.  Let your children see just how interested you are to learn too. 
And above all, let them see just how much you love Jesus by your prayer!  

   
3. Be Merry

As Catholic people immersed in the love of Jesus Christ and with the sure and certain hope of eternal life, shouldn’t we be immensely happy??  Our family life should be full of fun and games.  We should be unafraid to dance and to waste time with our children.  Just because God is at the very centre of our lives doesn’t mean life has to be one big serious drag.  The fact that God is at the centre of our lives is the very reason we should be deliriously happy from the moment we wake in the morning until our head hits the pillow again the following night.  If those of us who are members of the Church established by Jesus Christ and who regularly gather in his presence at Holy Mass cannot be happy, then there is no hope for any of us!  No hope!  So let us rejoice, let us be happy.  Let’s show our children that being Catholic is great fun!  And remember, don’t complain or gossip about people and don’t be too quick to criticise others.  Such an attitude creates a negative environment for children and leads to increased cynicism and scepticism; something they themselves will only be too happy to take on board! 

Speaking about matters of faith

Posted on May 6, 2016 at 12:32 PM Comments comments (0)
Sunday’s First Reading (Acts 7: 55-60)

‘Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at God’s right hand. ‘I can see heaven thrown open’ he said ‘and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this all the members of the council shouted out and stopped their ears with their hands; then they all rushed at him, sent him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses put down their clothes at the feet of a young man called Saul. As they were stoning him, Stephen said in invocation, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and said aloud, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’; and with these words he fell asleep.’

 
While sitting at my desk at work earlier this week a conversation about religion was struck up among my colleagues.  Religious chat is generally taboo these days and where it does exist it tends to take the form of an attack on whatever religion happens to be in the spotlight.  This time it was the Catholic faith; my faith.  I was asked to explain the Catholic Church’s belief in the Eucharist.  No easy task in a very secular environment I can assure you.  But I tried my best to explain it in terms acceptable to the ears of my audience.


My colleagues listened to what I had to say and once I had finished a stony silence followed.  This was followed soon thereafter by a change of subject, diverting away from the ridiculous notion that a piece of bread and a cup of wine could be turned into the body and blood of a two thousand year old Jew.  The truth is, my colleagues probably felt not only confused but also a little uncomfortable by all the body and blood chat.  And I can assure you that I most certainly felt uncomfortable with having to explain it to a cynical crowd. 


Yet our discomfort at explaining our faith can never match the discomfort that must have been experienced by the Christian martyrs.  In today’s first reading St Stephen shows incredible courage as he stands before a cynical crowd and tells them that he has seen ‘heaven thrown open’ and that he has also seen ‘the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God’.  Despite knowing that such words would likely lead to his death he was still not afraid to speak them.  And he even echoed the words of Christ on the Cross when he begged God to forgive those who were killing him.  Like any human being in that situation he would have been absolutely terrified, but he never once denied his faith in order to save his earthly life.


It’s not easy to talk about our faith to others.  We can feel embarrassed, afraid, and even silly.  But thankfully the UK is not like the world St Stephen lived in.  It is a place where, despite some arguments to the contrary, people are generally free to talk openly about their faith.  We must not be afraid to use this freedom, but to do it sensibly and proportionately.  Our world needs a message of love, mercy and peace; a message that was so profoundly illustrated in the words and actions of St Stephen just before his death.  We can give the world hope with our message; a message that comes in the shape of one man….Jesus Christ.

Accompaniment could be the key to building God’s Kingdom

Posted on May 3, 2016 at 9:43 AM Comments comments (0)
Accompaniment.  Could this be one of the most important words in the life of the Church today? 


One thing above all else struck me in reading Pope Francis’ recent exhortation Amoris Laetitia.  It is the call to accompaniment.  While we are well aware of our call to love and to be merciful towards all people, do we know how to achieve this?  Think about those who live in ways or relationships that do not entirely accord with God’s divine plan, such as same-sex unions, cohabitation and the divorced and remarried.  Pope Francis refers to these ways/relationships as ‘irregular’ and he suggests a need for accompaniment for people in such situations.  Not just the need to love and be merciful; but the need to commit to actual one-to-one accompaniment. 


I don’t intend going into the fine detail of Amoris Laetitia as there have been numerous commentaries on the document and many different views expressed.  For me, I would sum up the document as being insightful in many ways, but especially when it comes to the love we are expected to show our spouse and our children.  I found it incredibly helpful, directing me towards being more patient and understanding in family life.  It is in many ways a challenge to live a holy and wholesome home life. 


But like a fine thread running through the document, there is this call to accompaniment.  The Pope isn’t advocating anything that is contrary to the teaching of the Church.  There is no call to change doctrine and this is confirmed in the Pope’s own words: ““To show understanding in the face of exceptional circumstances never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being.”  Quite simply, Church doctrine continues to stand strong and will always do so.  But perhaps the Pope’s call to “show understanding” is something we should dwell on for a moment.


The Church has always called its people to be loving, compassionate and merciful; to understand the difficulties experienced by others.  It is after all a hospital for sinners.  So, in that sense, there is nothing new here.  The truth is, we should already be accompanying people in their difficulties and bringing them to Christ. 


Sadly, however, the reality is somewhat different.  Too often the Church (that is, the Catholic people) is seen as being judgmental, lacking compassion with a tendency to take the moral high ground.  We are often quick to go on the defensive, preferring to argue rather than listen.  Whether these accusations are justified is not something we should waste our time arguing about.  The important thing is to focus our minds on accompanying all people, whatever their circumstances, and to show them the loving face of Jesus.  We need to stop being defensive and, instead, be positive.  If we come across someone in an irregular situation; be it a same-sex union, or perhaps someone who is divorced and remarried, we are first and foremost called to show that person what it is like to meet the loving Christ, to feel the closeness of his endless love and his unfailing mercy.  We must accompany them.


Only by imitating the love of Christ and accompanying our brothers and sisters can we hope to bring them ever closer to Christ and his teaching.  In essence we are offering them an alternative to what the world offers them.  The world, with all its riches and ill-thought-out ‘freedoms’ offers people what they want, whenever they want it, seemingly satisfying every desire they could ever wish for.  Yet this is never the case.  People always want more.  Always.  The truth is this: people are never satisfied with what the world can give them.


Our patient, loving accompaniment may offer an alternative to the world’s failure to satisfy.  By understanding the difficulties experienced by people and walking with them as Christ would we can bring them closer to the One who can satisfy the longings of each and every heart.


Our mission as Disciples of Christ is to bring people to know him and to know his Truth.  If we want to succeed in this we must first and foremost accept and act on our call to accompaniment.  That must be our first step.  Only then, once we have established a loving, trusting relationship, can we hope to change hearts to acknowledge and perhaps even accept the Truth; a truth that brings real love, real mercy, and ultimately, real freedom. 


If we want to build God’s Kingdom in our world today, we must take people by the hand and walk with them.



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