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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 December 13, 2016 at 8:22 AM||comments ()|
|Posted on December 6, 2016 at 9:34 AM||comments ()|
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?
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.”
|Posted on November 11, 2016 at 5:47 PM||comments ()|
From Sunday's Gospel:
“But before all this happens, men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives”
Jesus warns us time and again through the gospels that we will be persecuted for believing in him. We are perhaps tempted to brush over this, given the relative comfort and freedom we enjoy as Catholics in the Western world of the 21 Century. And indeed it is unlikely that any of us will be martyred for the faith, imprisoned or seized and brought before governors and kings. So can we happily skip these passages of scriptures, confident that they are not relevant to us, needed perhaps for another time and place, but not now? I would suggest that we would do this at our peril. Christians remain the most persecuted people in the world today. But even in our apparently “tolerant” society, Christian beliefs are scoffed at and looked upon scornfully.
It is worth meditating upon in prayer: in what ways does your Christian faith disadvantage you in the world? Do colleagues laugh or look at you askance when you mention you went to Mass at the weekend? Do family members dismiss some of your views, as they are based on faith and therefore are somehow less important? Do disbelieving friends aggressively try to engage you in debate to point out the flaws in your theology? Do people stare if you say grace in a restaurant before meals? To help us to consider this further, it is perhaps worth pondering the times when we fail to stand up for Jesus for fear of ridicule. Do we stay quiet when others discuss ‘hot topics’ like abortion or same-sex marriage? Do we bite our tongue when we overhear someone taking the Lord’s name in vain? Do we agree with the relativist position “that’s true for you but not for me” when challenged?
These might seem like small points, compared to the crown of martyrdom. But these are the persecutions of our time, put in our path to lead us to holiness. These are the “opportunities” talked about in today’s gospel passage. We must “keep this carefully in mind” and pray about these things, asking Jesus to give us the grace to be bold and confident in his love and help. And we must look on any ridicule or challenge as a blessing, ever keeping our eye on the prize of eternal life. In staying true in these small persecutions, our souls will be prepared, with God’s grace, for martyrdom, should we ever be called to that.
|Posted on September 27, 2016 at 9:07 AM||comments ()|
George Weigel, the Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, has claimed that democracy is likely to become brittle, crack and fail unless society consists of “men and women committed to the dignity of the human person as the first principle of just governance and dedicated to the pursuit of the common good.”
Weigel, in response to the assertion that those who believe that truths about the human person and human community are essential to democracy are actually on an authoritarian mission, says: “it is the radical moral relativists for whom there is no “truth,” but only expressions of personal preference and will, who are busily enforcing their judgments on society in the name of “tolerance”.”
At 7pm on Tuesday October 4th, George Weigel is speaking at St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral in Edinburgh on the topic of "Converting the Culture: The New Evangelisation and the Future of the West”.
Read the full article in The Scotsman here: http://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/is-faith-the-missing-ingredient-that-can-make-western-democracy-work-1-4240413
|Posted on July 11, 2016 at 9:14 AM||comments ()|
First it was Ronaldo encouraging team-mate Joao Moutinho to take a penalty and telling him that the outcome is “in God’s hands”. Now we have Ronaldo and the Portugal head coach Fernando Santos thanking the Creator.
Ronaldo, who was stretchered off injured after just 25 minutes of the Euro 2016 final against France, told journalists after the game that he “asked God for another chance”, a reference to previous failed attempts to win a major title with Portugal.
His boss Santos was no less enthusiastic about God’s part in Portugal’s success, stating that “I’m very happy, of course. First of all I would like to thank God for being with us, my wife, my mother, my grandson, my father - wherever he is, he is probably having a few beers.”
This type of witness should never be underestimated. God should always be on our minds, day in, day out, no matter what we are doing. Whether we are in Church, sitting at our work desk, or even on a football pitch, He must always be first. While I wouldn’t pretend to know the depth of faith of these two men, one thing is clear: they both have God at the forefront of their minds and they aren’t ashamed to admit it.
|Posted on May 19, 2016 at 4:39 PM||comments ()|
|Posted on May 13, 2016 at 7:49 AM||comments ()|
During Wednesday’s General Audience Pope Francis reminded the gathered that Friday 13 May is the memorial of Our Lady of Fatima, stressing the importance of paying heed to Mary’s words not to offend God any more than we already have and to focus our hearts and minds on abandoning ourselves to God’s love and mercy.
The pope said: “In this apparition, Mary invites us once again to prayer, penitence and conversion. She asks us to offend God no more….She warns all humanity of the need to abandon itself to God, the wellspring of love and mercy. Following the example of St. John Paul II, a great devotee of Our Lady of Fatima, let us listen carefully to the Mother of God, and implore peace for the world.”
|Posted on May 10, 2016 at 12:23 PM||comments ()|
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.
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!
|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.