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Scots Catholic Blog
|Posted on April 6, 2017 at 4:44 AM||comments ()|
It's a real wake up call. Jesus is losing his influence in Europe. Christianity is dying out.
We've known for some time now that Christianity is on the decline in Europe, but recent data released by the Pew Research Center reveals just how stark that decline is.
Indeed, it is the only decline in any religion in any part of the world between 2010 and 2015. But for Christianity's decline in Europe, every religion across all continents witnessed an increase in numbers, including Christianity itself, which is growing rapidly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Islam is also growing rapidly in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as Asia Pacific.
But it is in Europe where the real story lies. An astonishing drop of 5.6 million Christian births to deaths has seen the religion plummet across the continent. There are many reasons for this, not least a much greater prevalence of lukewarm Christianity and an increasingly secular culture.
Across the world Islam will continue to grow in greater numbers than Christianity, with a fertility rate of 2.9 compared to 2.6 for Christians. Islam also has the youngest median age in terms of adherents to the faith, at just 24. Hindus are at 27 with Christians at 30.
We have known for some time that Islam would eventually catch up with Christianity in terms of numbers, and within twenty years births to women of Islamic faith will outnumber Christian births. But it is in Europe where there must be deep concern for Christians. Why is the faith struggling so much in that continent?
For European Christians there is undoubtedly a crisis when it comes to the family. Europe's secular influence, with its liberal laws around contraception, abortion and marriage, has chipped away at the hearts and minds of the faithful, giving them an excuse to focus on the self and to set aside the call of Christ to first and foremost love God and neighbour. Families now come in all different shapes and sizes; their constitution often based on the ideological whim of selfish individuals. The idea that a young man and a young woman can look lovingly into one another's eyes, establish a firm and beautiful friendship that leads to the great sacrament of marriage and the bearing of fruit through the birth of new life is dumbed down by the culture of want. And we have all bought into it. It is a sad reflection on our lack of faith.
As Pope John Paul II said, "As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live."
We Christians have let down the family, and Europe is the nation Pope John Paul refers to. It is going and if we don't reclaim it the world will eventually go with it.
Europe, to coin a famous song, is most definitely losing its religion and losing Christ. If it is to recover, radical change in attitude is required. Starting with the family.
|Posted on April 4, 2017 at 10:07 AM||comments ()|
So chocolate maker Cadbury and the National Trust have decided to drop the word 'Easter' from their annual egg hunt events across the UK. Is this a disgrace? Is it absurd? Or is it quite simply "absolutely ridiculous" as Theresa May put it.
I guess companies like Cadbury can do what they want when it comes to their own events and the marketing of their own products which, Cadbury claim, will continue to bear the word 'Easter' on packaging.
I personally think the whole thing is just a little disappointing but not in the least bit surprising. It's disappointing that tradition has been kicked into touch in favour of what I suspect Cadbury see as a more 'inclusive' approach. I mean, who on earth is going to refuse to attend an event simply because the title bears the word 'Easter'? And, if they did, would their hyper sensitive presence be missed?
It's also disappointing, but not altogether surprising, that the real meaning of events like Easter has been lost in our increasingly secular culture of relativism. Is it any wonder terms like 'Easter' are being gradually removed in a world that has no interest in objective reality and truth? We are infinitely obsessed with ourselves and what effect certain things may have on us without any consideration whatsoever for others, or for the common good. A simple, harmless word is suddenly and no less conveniently turned into a term of intolerant discriminatory speak. For the poor sensitive souls who do not align with its meaning, they simply cannot bear the horror it brings. The only logical solution, it seems, is to kill it (oh how this resonates with the real Easter message).
It is, of course, complete nonsense that people can somehow be hurt or offended by the word 'Easter'. But this is the culture that has been created by those who desire no religion in their lives nor indeed the lives of anyone else for that matter. Their goal is an authoritarian regime where religion is no more, and they are carefully taking very small steps towards that goal.
Perhaps Cadbury and the National Trust will see sense and not let the bullies win in this rather sorry pointless debacle. But, in the meantime, lest us rest easy in the comfort of the reality of Easter and the salvation it brings.
|Posted on June 17, 2016 at 11:11 AM||comments ()|
Sunday’s Second Reading (Galatians 3:26-29):
‘You are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.’
This Sunday’s second reading reveals a teaching that is fundamental to the Christian life, that of unity. Jesus Christ unites. He doesn’t desire to separate or divide. Rather, his intention is to bring all people together in his name so that he can one day bring them to share in the glory of the Kingdom of God.
Do we unify people? Do we seek to be at one with others as we go about our daily lives? Or do we create divisions through pride, selfishness and cynicism?
Christ’s love demands unity, not division. If we love as Christ loves, we will unite.
|Posted on June 14, 2016 at 7:03 AM||comments ()|
People gather to mourn the dead
The tragic events in Orlando provide yet another glaring example of man’s inhumanity to man. Very few of us can even begin to imagine what was going through the minds of the hundreds of young partygoers in Pulse nightclub as the horrid truth about what was unfolding became clear. It wasn’t a case of exuberant pyrotechnics or sophisticated indoor fireworks. It was the crackling of gunfire and the flash of bullets as one hate-filled individual felt compelled to walk into the club and shoot dead 49 innocent people and injure many others.
Islamic State militants have claimed that Omar Mateen acted on their instruction. Whether he did or not is perhaps not important because, at the end of the day, both Islamic State and Omar Mateen are callous murderers, with no consideration for their fellow man and woman, and little thought to the pain and hurt that their actions cause.
The cries of parents, siblings, and friends have rung out from the devastated city of Orlando ever since Mateen decided to walk into the Pulse nightclub early on Sunday morning and shoot unashamedly at his unsuspecting victims. The world has joined them in mourning their precious loved ones who have been taken so suddenly and without warning. Little did they know that when they waved the young revellers off on Saturday night, it would be the last time they would see them alive. It is truly horrific.
At this time of great uncertainty with no little hate flowing through our world it is important that we Christians stand firm with all people of goodwill to continue to promote peace. There is no life that isn’t precious in God’s eye. This is our fundamental belief and we must fight hard to promote the sanctity of human life, be it the unborn child, the frail old woman, or the young lad enjoying quality time with his friends in a nightclub. All life is precious and worthy of protection.
We pray for the peaceful repose of the souls of the dead, and we pray for their families that they will find some comfort in knowing that their loved ones are at the mercy of a loving Father.
We also pray for those who are inclined to such violence, that their hearts be changed to see the inherent value of all people, even if some of them do not conform to their own beliefs.
|Posted on May 24, 2016 at 9:19 AM||comments ()|
‘You will shine in the world like bright stars
because you are offering it the word of life.’ (Ph2:15-16)
Today’s Gospel acclamation is a beautiful summary of our mission as Christians. At a time when Christianity - despite being on the rise worldwide - is gradually being eroded across the western world, this little piece of scripture is a timely reminder of our call to evangelise.
By evangelising and spreading the Gospel, as instructed to by Christ himself, we aren’t simply passing on a simple historical message in order to preserve it and keep it going for as long as possible. By evangelising and spreading the Gospel we are offering people life. The Word of God is life itself and if we allow it to penetrate our lives and the lives of those around us the world will have life. And it won’t be a temporary life that is over all too quickly. Rather, it is an eternal life. And this eternal life is not something that is reserved for the select few. It is for everybody, and God wants every single human being to share in this great gift.
So why doesn’t God just guarantee everybody eternal life from the get go? In a way He has, but He still expects something in return. He wants us to use our free will to turn to Him and to accept His gift. This is something that should be very natural for those of us raised as Christians. But what about those who are not so fortunate? How will they ever come to know about this gift? This, brothers and sisters, is why Jesus selected disciples and established a Church. His Church is charged with guarding the message of eternal life, and it is charged with sharing that message with everyone, taking it to all four corners of the earth. And what is the Church? It is me, and it is you.
Brothers and sisters, let us live out our mission as disciples for Christ; taking the Gospel to all people. Let us leave no stone unturned and no person untouched by the beauty and goodness of God’s most incredible gift….the gift of eternal life.
|Posted on May 6, 2016 at 12:32 PM||comments ()|
‘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.
|Posted on April 29, 2016 at 10:11 AM||comments ()|
|Posted on April 26, 2016 at 9:03 AM||comments ()|
Pope Francis has given a lesson in love and freedom during his homily at the Jubilee Mass for Young People in Rome.
The Pope, speaking to thousands of youth in St Peter’s Square, said that Jesus himself declared that Christians would be known “by the way they love one another.” The Pope continued saying, “love, in other words, is the Christian’s identity card.”
The Pope then tackled the meaning of love, stating that love is something you give. He also added: “it [love] is caring for others, respecting them, protecting them, and waiting for them.”
Francis then challenged the young people on the true meaning of freedom, stating that “freedom is not the ability to simply do what I want. This makes us self-centred and aloof.”
“Freedom” he said “is the gift of being able to choose the good: this is true freedom. The free person is the one who chooses what is good, what is pleasing to God, even if it requires effort, even if it is not easy.”
He then called on the young people to grow in love and told them how they could do this: “the secret, once again, is the Lord: Jesus gives us himself in the Mass, he offers us forgiveness and peace in Confession.”
The Pope’s call to the young people can be summed up nicely in the term ‘free love’. He wants Christians to give themselves freely to others in love, and he wants us to choose to do this as it is pleasing to God. He then tells us that the nourishment we need for this task can be found in the Holy Mass and in the Sacrament of Confession.
Let us be under no illusions. Our mission as Christians is to spread the love of Christ throughout the world. We must let his Truth be known to all people and we must deliver this Truth in a spirit of love; a love that is freely given and that always has the other person’s best interests at its core. This message is not just for our young, but for all Christian people.
The Christian message is one of great hope, mercy and peace for all people. But, above all, it is a message of love.
Click this link for the full text of Pope Francis’ homily: https://zenit.org/articles/popes-homily-at-jubilee-mass-for-teens/
|Posted on April 21, 2016 at 4:01 AM||comments ()|
I am astonished and no less disappointed to see that few of the major UK news outlets have covered yesterday’s House of Commons vote, when MPs voted 278 – 0 in favour of declaring ISIS/Daesh atrocities against Christians and Yazidis as genocide.
If the Holocaust were to occur today, would the media recognise the atrocity and label it as genocide? If the massacre of Srebrenica were to occur today, would the media recognise the suffering people of the city and label it as genocide? And what about Rwanda in 1994? Would today’s media be prepared to state that this is genocide?
As I write I see that the Guardian, the Telegraph and Reuters are all at least now covering the story. But still no BBC, no ITV, and no Sky News coverage among many others. These outlets are no better than the Conservative government which has to date epically failed to declare the murder and violence wrought by ISIS as genocide.
Is it fear? Is it an anti-Christian mentality? Who knows? But one thing is certain, if genocide isn’t news we might as well all pack up and head for the hills.
|Posted on April 18, 2016 at 7:25 AM||comments ()|
Pope Francis welcomes some of the migrants to Rome
Pope Francis has once again thrust the Catholic Church into the spotlight; this time by bringing a group of twelve Syrian migrants from the island of Lesbos to live in Rome. The families travelled with the pope back to Italy after he made a visit to the small Greek island last weekend. It is understood the three families, all Muslim, were fully prepped for the move ahead of the pope’s visit.
The finer details of how all of this will pan out remain to be seen, but the gesture itself is one of great love and generosity on the part of Francis. It is dynamic, reactive, and challenging. In many respects it bears the hallmarks of Christ himself.
And while he had to leave huge numbers of migrants behind in Lesbos, Francis left them in no doubt that he loves each and every one of them as he told them: “you are not alone”. He later followed this up with a call to Western leaders to do more to accommodate the migrants.
Yet the challenge set down by the pope is not just for political leaders. Each one of us is called to rise to his challenge and to show similar love and compassion to the poor and needy in our communities. So before we criticise others for their failure to act, we need to think about what we ourselves are doing for the good of humanity. It might only be small gestures of love or kindness, but remember, each little gesture creates another building block for the Kingdom of God.
For all of the criticism Pope Francis attracts, particularly from his own household, he has the knack of showing great love to all people, especially to those in great need. In all honesty, I wish I could have even a tiny percentage of the compassion, mercy and humility that this man clearly has in abundance. He is, in many respects, a world leader in love. Isn’t that precisely what God’s representative on earth should be?