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Scots Catholic Blog
|Posted on February 12, 2016 at 7:22 AM||comments (0)|
A number of weeks ago I saw a great post on Facebook about making up gift bags for the homeless. I followed this up with my own post on the matter and it was warmly welcomed. But as with a lot of these things the impetus faded and I never really got things properly off the ground.
But thank goodness for Lent! The season for getting up off my backside and actually doing something positive for those in need is here and I feel the need to respond. Our call to help the poor is, of course, a year round one but Lent is a great time to really kick-start a new initiative.
So, I have set about making up a small, but hopefully useful, gift bag for some of the homeless around where I work. And I wonder if you would like to do it too? Now I appreciate we all have various commitments and there are so many of you out there who will already be giving so much of your time to the poor. And I know that there are already countless wonderful people out in the streets on a daily basis doing incredibly selfless work for those in most need. So this isn’t for everybody.
But if you do feel the call to help, why not consider making up some bags of kindness and distributing them to a homeless person this Lent, and beyond? I have decided to make up at least two each Friday during Lent and to take them out with me onto the streets, where I will hand it over to a couple of people in need. All being well I will ask the person their name and introduce myself to them, so that I am not just thrusting a bag into their hand and saying ‘see ya later’. That seems a bit impersonal and rude. It’s nice to spend a bit of time with the homeless, even if it’s just a minute or two. Maybe they have something they would like to share with another person, or maybe they just need to feel loved.
Suggested items for your gift bag
Your gift bag will, of course, go a long way to making someone feel loved. In terms of what to put in it, I have opted for the following:
Gloves, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, Kleenex tissues, water, cereal bar, chocolate, fruit, chewing gum, and a few pounds if you can spare it.
It’s really up to you what you want to put in it. The main thing is that you have gone to the effort of making it up and giving it to someone who needs it.
And here’s a thought….why not get your kids to help you? It could be great fun to get the kids involved in making up the bags and perhaps they can assist you when you go out onto the streets. It lets them see you engaging with the poor and encourages them to do the same as they get older.
I fondly recall one of the first things Pope Francis said as pontiff, he said that we need to get close to the poor and “touch their wounds”. That has stuck with me ever since. We need to “touch their wounds”! That is an incredibly intimate and personal thing to do. It’s also frightening and distasteful for some. But if we want to be like Jesus we need to get on our knees and we need to get the dirt on our hands. We are the hope for our poor people, and this small act of love and kindness is a real opportunity to let Christ’s love shine through us and out into the world.
|Posted on January 11, 2016 at 8:39 AM||comments (0)|
Jesus was compassionate but firm in the Truth
Pope Francis, during his Sunday Angelus, has spoken about the importance of Baptism and the role it plays in our lives. Having earlier baptised 26 baby girls and boys at morning Mass, the pope was keen to impress upon the gathered faithful the critical nature of this sacrament.
The pope said that in Baptism the Holy Spirit "burns and destroys original sin, returning to baptism the beauty of divine grace.”
The pope then stressed the importance of following Jesus and being obedient to the Truth whilst remaining true to Christ’s qualities of tenderness and humility. And here, I think, is the critical issue for us Christians today. While we must speak the Truth we must do it in a spirit of tenderness and humility. But similarly, while we must be tender and humble in our approach, we can never stray from the Truth. It's not a balancing act because that would suggest compromising one or both aspects. Instead we are called to deliver the Truth in its fullness and to do this in a fully humble and completely tender way.
In my experience people tend to be more inclined to do one more than the other. For example, some people may reject certain elements of Christ’s teaching with the aim of showing more compassion and tenderness to people. This is because some elements of teaching are difficult to accept, especially set against the backdrop of an increasingly liberal and relativist society. Others may be more determined to stick rigidly to the Truth but seem to lack that tenderness and humility, especially when they see a threat to Christ's teaching.
Ultimately we need to be firm in both elements. We need to be firm in our faith, in the same way that Christ was and in the way that God calls us to be. Jesus’ disciples died unimaginable deaths because they were firm in their faith and didn’t go along with the popular views of society. They stuck to their beliefs even though everybody mocked them and thought they were talking nonsense. They refused to reject the truth of Christ and the Church he established, preferring to invest their lives in being the men Jesus called them to be with the sure and certain hope of an eternal reward. Similarly, we need to be firm in our tenderness and humility. Jesus had an uncanny knack of being firm but also loving, gentle and kind. When he prevented the prostitute from being stoned by the scribes and the Pharisees he was careful to tell her to “go and sin no more”. But he did this while telling her that he didn't condemn her. He wanted her to stop sinning, to stick to the Truth. But he also wanted her to know that she was loved and that mercy would be shown to her.
It's important for us to remain true to both aspects when it comes to our faith. We must be true to Christ and his teaching and we must be tender and humble in remaining faithful to that teaching. The Truth is what it is and it doesn’t change. It can be found in your copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And the tenderness and humility we need in order to take that Truth to others can be found in the loving person of Jesus Christ.
So, is it possible to be both faithful to the Truth and be tender and humble? Yes. Just look to the example of Jesus and in him you will find the perfection of fulfilling both aspects.
|Posted on September 24, 2015 at 11:37 AM||comments (0)|
The pope received several standing ovations in Congress
Pope Francis, in his historic address to US Congress, has urged the world to follow Christ’s Commandment of love. The pope used the opportunity to tackle critical issues such as the dignity of human life, the death penalty and the refugee crisis. He also addressed recent attacks on marriage and family life, and his concerns that the very basis of the family and marriage is being called into question.
Here are the main quotes from the pope’s address to USC ongress this afternoon:
Pope Francis on the golden rule:
“Let us remember the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
On the dignity of human life:
We must “protect by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God in every human life.”
We must recognise the “transcendent dignity of the human being”.
“The golden rule [to do unto others as you would have done unto you] also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”
On the family:
“The family should be a recurrent theme….how essential the family has been to the building of this country. I cannot hide my concern for the family which is threatened, perhaps as never before from within and without. The very basis of the family and marriage is being called into question.”
“I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.”
“I would like to call attention to those family members who are most vulnerable, the young. Their problems are our problems. Our young people are precious.”
“We live in a culture that threatens young people not to start a family.”
On the death penalty:
“Let’s abolish the death penalty here and everywhere. No punishment should exclude hope or the possibility of conversion.”
On politics and society:
“Preserve and defend the dignity of your fellow citizens in pursuit of the common good.”
“We are all worried by the disturbing social and political situation of the world today.”
“It can be no more us vs them. We must confront every kind of polarisation. Our response must be hope and healing, peace and justice.”
“Safeguard religious freedom, intellectual freedom, and individual freedom. We must be specially attentive to every type of fundamentalism.”
“Politics must be used to build the common good.”
“It’s my duty to build bridges and help all men and women to do the same.”
“We have to ask ourselves: why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?”
“It is our duty to confront the problem and stop the arms trade.”
On the elderly:
The elderly are the “storehouse of wisdom”.
On the refugee crisis:
“We must view them as persons, seeing their faces, listening to their stories, and try to respond as best we can.”
“The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes.”
“Business is a noble vocation, especially in its creation of jobs to the common good.”
On the environment:
“I’m convinced that we can make a difference, I’m sure.”
“We have an obligation to our future generations. The time is now.”
|Posted on September 4, 2015 at 7:24 AM||comments (0)|
Could this man help you find God?
Sunday’s Second Reading (James 2:1-5):
‘My brothers, do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people. Now suppose a man comes into your synagogue, beautifully dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes, and you take notice of the well-dressed man, and say, ‘Come this way to the best seats’; then you tell the poor man, ‘Stand over there’ or ‘You can sit on the floor by my foot-rest.’ Can’t you see that you have used two different standards in your mind, and turned yourselves into judges, and corrupt judges at that?
Listen, my dear brothers: it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him.’
It’s quite fitting that this scripture passage should come up following the events of the last week. The refugee crisis has now grabbed the attention of the world and many are doing remarkable things to help those in great need. It is a tale of sadness tinged with hope in the human race. But as we help those in need, be they refugees, the homeless or people simply living in poverty, are we missing something important with respect to our own salvation?
St James gets at a very important point in today’s reading. He suggests we give everyone a place in our lives. It doesn’t matter who they are, what they’re worth, how they look, or what their social status or class happens to be. We are called to love all people.
The most valuable thing anyone on earth can own is faith. Faith in God, granted with His grace, is the most beautiful, most perfect gift, yet it is not necessarily appreciated by everyone. So often people with wealth have so many material possessions and distractions that they forget about the real meaning of life and what really matters.
But for those facing the torment of continuous poverty, day after day, it is often a different story. Having spoken with a number of homeless in my own city I am often astonished by the strength and depth of their faith. Belief and trust in God is almost a given, despite having to beg and forage for food on a daily basis and having to set up camp in underpasses and bin sheds in order to get a night’s sleep. Their faith is as strong as anything I have witnessed and it comes not from being blessed with good fortune and material riches, but rather from accepting the poverty and deprivation God has handed them and trusting in His mercy to give them something greater in return.
We are called to do all we can to help the poorest in our world. We can give them comfort, food, and perhaps we can even give them a bed for the night. But maybe we need to stop for a minute and rather than focus on all the things we can do for them, think about what they can do for us. They are, in many respects, people of great faith. We can learn from them. We can learn how to love and trust God in even the most abject circumstances by speaking to those in poverty and affording them our ears for a few moments. Remember, they are the heirs to the kingdom of God, not us. So learn from them and don’t be afraid to let them take the lead in showing us the way to God.
|Posted on September 4, 2015 at 6:57 AM||comments (1)|
It’s a fabulous thing that a number of people have decided to commit to helping the thousands of refugees seeking safety and security in the UK. Some people have even agreed to house some of the refugees until they get themselves on their feet and secure their own accommodation. It is a truly remarkable gesture and together with David Cameron’s promise to bring thousands more refugees to the UK, heralds a shift in both the perception of refugees and the way we are willing to treat them.
But I think it is also important not to lose sight of the impoverished of our own country as we seek to help those from overseas. As well as helping them we might also consider what more we can do for the countless homeless living on the dirty streets of our towns and cities. Can we make more space in both our hearts and homes for them?
|Posted on September 3, 2015 at 6:34 AM||comments (1)|
A migrant crawls along a Spanish beach in front of holidaymakers
The most senior Catholic in England and Wales has urged the UK to be more “generous” in the way it deals with the current refugee crisis in Europe. Cardinal Vincent Nichols, speaking to ITV News said that the British public had told him “it was a disgrace that we were letting people die and seeing bodies on the beaches when together Europe is such a wealthy place.”
The Cardinal continued: "It's people who are desperate for the sake of their families, their elderly, their youngsters, their children, and the more we see that the more the opportunity for a political response that's a bit more generous is growing. What is screaming out is the human tragedy of this problem."
The Cardinal’s comments are most welcome and I completely agree with him that our response to this must be more generous. We are, in many respects, a wealthy country, and we are blessed by not having to cope with the fear of wars and widespread violence.
Our parish was blessed recently with the presence of a Nigerian priest who covered our parish while our own priest was on pilgrimage and on holiday. I recall that in one of his homilies he spoke about the great joy he and his people would feel when they woke up in the morning, simply because they were still alive. Their country is beset by violent clashes and the threat of Boko Haram is an ongoing fear for all, especially Christians.
In Syria and in North Africa there is the threat of ISIS who are persecuting Christians and driving people from their homes. And now, in Europe, we are starting to see the sad consequences of these wars as people arrive on our shores desperate for safety and to give their children a chance. And this, I feel, is the nub of it. Can we really deny people a place of safety? Can we really deny little children a chance to live?
The horrific reality of this crisis
Our own resources are finite and we must try to ensure our country remains financially stable. We get this. But greater than this, much greater than this, is our call to love our neighbour. Our brothers and sisters are in dire need of our comfort and love. They beg us to give them a place of safety. They are on their knees, in the frozen waters of our shores, desperately pleading to each and every one of us to give them even just a little of what we have.
I sincerely hope the words of Cardinal Nichols will be heard and taken seriously by our governors (both in the UK and across all of Europe) and indeed by each one of us. I hope we all find it in our hearts to be more generous and to give more people a chance. We have the power and we have the resources. Now all we need is the will.
Here are four ways we can help:
Please email your MP about this, encouraging our governors to be more ‘generous’ to those in need. You can find your MPs details by clicking this link and entering your postcode: http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-your-mp/contacting-your-mp/
Consider signing the petition at the Refugee Action website here: http://www.refugee-action.org.uk/support_us/campaign/join_a_campaign/1542_lets_give_refugees_another_way_to_safety
Donate to Refugee Action and give a refugee an emergency care parcel, click here: http://www.refugee-action.org.uk/support_us/give
And of course, pray. Please pray for all refugees, perhaps by saying one Hail Mary and asking Our Blessed Mother to intercede with the Father on their behalf.
|Posted on June 17, 2015 at 7:53 AM||comments (0)|
It’s fairly common to be asked the following questions when you run an online Catholic apostolate: why doesn’t your church sell off its valuable assets to feed the poor? Wouldn’t Jesus balk at the amount of wealth the Church has today? Wouldn’t he give it all to the poor?
I do think these are all very valid questions and I believe there are also very good answers to them. But before we begin looking at those answers, perhaps it would be prudent to give the matter of Church wealth a bit of context. The Vatican City is a unique economy in that it relies on the contributions of its worldwide Catholic congregations and also tourists visiting its attractions to support it. This, in a nutshell, is the income received by the Catholic Church.
But what is this money spent on? Well, the Catholic Church, like any other large organisation, has huge bills to pay such as as wages, utilities, and paying contractors, suppliers etc. But the Church is also known to be the largest charitable organisation in the world. With charities such as Missio, CAFOD, SCIAF to name only a few, the Church spends billions in providing assistance to those in need and has been doing so for thousands of years. Indeed, at last count, the Catholic Church was home to a confederation of some 164 relief agencies providing essential care and relief to people in two hundred of the world’s poorest countries.
The Church is also the largest non-governmental provider of healthcare in the world, managing one quarter of the world’s healthcare facilities.
Further, the Church is one of the largest providers of welfare and education in the world, especially in developing countries where the provision of such services is most lacking.
But could the Church sell some of its assets and put the extra cash generated to good use? Well, yes, the Church would certainly put any cash it may make to good use like it has done for thousands of years. That is a given. But what isn’t a given is whether there is actually a market for the Church’s most valuable assets and whether it would be worthwhile in the long run to shed those assets in this way.
Taking the first point, do we really believe there to be sufficient interest in centuries old basilicas and churches for the church to generate reasonable income from a sale? Would these big, old, a-listed buildings with massive overhead costs really tempt the market to come in with a tasty offer to take them from Church hands? Perhaps they could be bought and torn down to make way for new, lucrative housing schemes. But wouldn’t this be a defeat for the Church and a defeat for God? Surely part of our work here on earth is to ensure a suitable home for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament? Surely we are duty bound to create and maintain a place where God’s people can come to Him and give him glory and praise in the company of others of like mind? Wouldn’t signing off the death warrant of these buildings be an offence against God?
And what about the art treasures holed up in the Vatican museums? Couldn’t those be sold off for billions of pounds and the money given to the poor? Well, yes, these treasures could be sold off and the money given to the poor. But once sold and in the hands of a new owner they would be gone for good and would no longer serve as an attraction to bring millions of visitors to the Vatican. This would affect the number of visitors to the Vatican which in turn would affect the amount of money generated to feed the poor and care for the needy.
But if the Church did decide to sell off its assets and use the money to feed the poor, the big question we must ask ourselves is how long that feeding could be sustained. The truth is, not very long. More privileged societies plough millions, possibly billions, of pounds into charitable organisations every month in order to help the needy around the world. If the Catholic Church decided to sell its assets in order to look after the needy it would only be able to do so for a very short amount of time, probably just a few months, before the cash realised would dry up. Not only that but the Church itself would disappear because it could no longer pay its bills. The end of the Catholic Church would create an enormous black hole in worldwide charitable giving and healthcare provision, the likes of which we have never witnessed. At the end of the day, the results of a flash sale in Vatican assets would create a quick fix for a few, but it would also create a lifetime of poverty and destitution for many.
The Church - if it is to sustain its significantly high level of charitable giving and healthcare provision - must retain its valuable assets in order to continue to generate the income necessary to tend to the poor, needy and sick. The consequences of failing to retain these assets simply doesn’t bear thinking about.
Another point many people make is Jesus’ attitude to the Church’s wealth. But again these points are made without seeing the bigger picture of the Church as an organisation with bills like anyone else. More crucially, it fails to recognise the Church’s status as the biggest provider of food to the starving in the world. It fails to recognise the Church’s status when it comes to the provision of healthcare. And perhaps most crucially, it fails to recognise Christ’s own personal attitude to how God should be glorified.
Consider the occasion when Jesus ate at the house of a Pharisee and Mary of Bethany approached him with an alabaster jar of costly fragrant oil, proceeding to pour the oil over him. The house was in uproar because of Mary’s supposed wastefulness. People even suggested that she should have kept the oil and sold it, giving the proceeds to the poor. Jesus’ response to this? He said that Mary had done a good deed. Indeed he went even further than this saying: “The poor you will always have with you. But you will not always have me.” Jesus did not believe Mary had done the wrong thing by not using the oil in order to help the poor. His need was greater and he was grateful of this simple act of great love towards him. And so we must consider this when we look at the Church and how it glorifies God. A beautiful Church is not a contradiction to the Church’s mission to care for the poor. Indeed it is quite the opposite. It is a gesture of our love for God and a real, tangible example of our need to glorify Him, just as Mary’s simple gesture of love was a real and tangible act of glorifying God.
Consider also when Jesus entered the temple to find the money changers doing their dealings in his Father’s house. Wasn’t he extremely angry with them? Didn’t he make whips out of some cord and chase them out? But why did Jesus do this? He did it because they were profaning the house of God. The actual dealings of those in the temple weren’t the cause of Jesus’ anger. It was the fact that they were taking place in God’s house. And so Jesus places huge importance on church buildings and our need to have them to glorify God.
But what about when the man who has kept all the Commandments approaches Jesus and asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life? Jesus tells him to sell all he has and give to the poor. Doesn’t this contradict what we have already discovered? No it doesn’t and here is why. This man was very rich and his reaction to Christ’s call was telling. He went away sorrowful because of what he was expected to do. There was no obvious willingness on the part of the man to do as Jesus says. He was a man who did not give anything to the poor and, despite Jesus’ best efforts, he wasn’t about to start. This is different to the Church which already gives billions to the poor every year. Not only that but it spends time with the poor through missionary work and putting at risk the lives of those priests, religious and volunteers who do such work. Charitable work isn’t just about throwing money at something, it’s about giving up the comfortable life and spending a little time with those in most need. The man described above is not only unwilling to give any of his wealth away but he is also unwilling to devote any time to the poor. This is the complete opposite of what the Church does.
Ultimately, if the Church wishes to maintain its status as the bride of Christ it must ensure that it is a fitting bride. It must be beautiful and glorious, but it must also be in the trenches tending to those in most need. As Catholic people we believe in Christ’s promise that he will be with the Church until the end of time, and it is with this promise in mind that we can be confident that the Church has struck the perfect balance of being the perfect bride and of being the beacon of hope to the billions of people in our world who suffer from poverty, deprivation and illness.
Remember, God is love and the Church is the physical, earthly presence charged with the task of bringing that love to all people. And what is love? Latin for love is caritas, which means ‘charity’.
|Posted on May 12, 2015 at 8:57 AM||comments (0)|
Manfred Weber, a German MEP and Chairman of the European People's Party, has stated that Europe needs to do more to welcome asylum seekers to its shores; and he cites the continent's Christian roots as being a critical element.
Mr Weber, a Roman Catholic from Bavaria, said: "Europe must be open...nobody can say close the borders, don't accept them". He then went on to say that "we have to be helpful as a Christian based continent".
Mr Weber's words should resonate with most people, but especially with Christians across Europe. This call is entirely in keeping with Christ's call to brotherly love. As we have said often enough on this site, Jesus offers no exceptions to his call to love one another. It applies to everyone, including those seeking asylum.
Mr Weber is no stranger to speaking up for Christian values as evidenced by comments he made when Pope Francis visited the European Parliament last year. Mr Weber said: "Pope Francis reminded us that European values are rooted in Christianity - it's our global responsibility to keep these values alive and make sure they're respected."
Let us pray for all people seeking asylum that they will find the peace and justice that they, as sons and daughters of God, deserve. And let us pray for our governors, that they will come to the aid of those most in need and provide for them a place of safety for their families.
|Posted on March 19, 2015 at 10:44 AM||comments (0)|
As we celebrate the Solemnity of St Joseph Scots Catholic is kickstarting a year of prayer for Catholic fathers.
Our aim is to discover what it truly means to be a Catholic father and the role we play in the lives of our families and wider society.
And what better day to kick things off than the solemnity of St Joseph, step-father to Jesus Christ?
|Posted on March 3, 2015 at 3:54 AM||comments (18)|
The Diocese of Dunkeld has stepped in to continue the vital missionary work of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Dundee.
The Wellburn Care Home, a place where loving care has been given to the elderly for 152 years, was due to close through lack of vocations.
However, by taking over ownership of the home, the Diocese has allowed the work of the Little Sisters to continue and provide this essential service.
At a time when the elderly are under increasing threat with the proposed assisted suicide legislation, this kind of service provides a timely reminder of true love and care for each and every human being. Thank goodness it is being preserved.
Here is the full text of the Catholic Media Office letter on the Wellburn Care Home:
'In October of 2104 the Little Sisters of the Poor announced, that due to a shortage of Vocations they could no longer continue their mission at the Wellburn Care Home in Dundee, bringing to an end 152 years of caring lovingly for the vulnerable elderly in Dundee.
On 27th February 2015, the Little Sisters verbally accepted an offer from the Diocese of Dunkeld to continue the vital mission of care and support for the infirm elderly at Wellburn, by allowing the Diocese to take over the Home. The legal and practical arrangements for the transfer of mission will be worked out over the coming months.
Sr Joseph Christine, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters on behalf of the Congregation said:
“The Little Sisters, are delighted to be able to entrust the continuation of their essential work to the Diocese of Dunkeld. We are very happy with the arrangements being negotiated and wish Bishop Stephen and the Diocese of Dunkeld God’s blessing in continuing the work of our Foundress, St Jeanne Jugan.”
Commenting on behalf of the Diocese of Dunkeld, Bishop Stephen Robson said:
“The Catholic Church believes, that the continued operation of Wellburn will best serve the infirm and elderly and protect their rights, interests and dignity, by continuing the loving service and care of those in need.”
“I have known the Little Sisters since I was a child and have always had a great love and respect for them and their work. We will be happily blessed indeed if we can achieve their level of service and love and dedication.”