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I’m Catholic but…

Posted on August 14, 2015 at 8:19 AM Comments comments (0)
Venerable Fulton Sheen
 
Isn’t it fair to say that our Catholic faith is under attack from many angles in our world today?  The growth of relativism, aggressive secularism, and even attacks from within our own ranks, by people who suggest that Church teaching is wrong on certain matters.
 
 
In my own experience it is becoming abundantly clear that more and more self-proclaimed Christians (especially Catholics) are attaching less and less importance to the role of faith, and ultimately Christ, in their lives.  It brings to mind a quote of Venerable Fulton Sheen when he said “When somebody says: ‘I’m Catholic but…’ it means: they’re really not Catholic!”  There are so many examples of people saying ‘I’m Catholic but…’ in our world today.  Indeed it is a daily occurrence on social media forums.  ‘I’m Catholic but I don’t go to Mass’; ‘I’m Catholic but I don’t go to Confession, I just go direct to God’; ‘I’m Catholic but I don’t think we should interfere with a woman’s choice when it comes to abortion’; ‘I’m Catholic but I believe that same-sex marriage is okay because two people love each other’.
 
 
And while those who propagate the view ‘I’m Catholic but…’ don’t seem to care much for the effect it has on the more traditional, conservative Catholic lay people around them; they don’t seem to appreciate the effect this has on the one who really matters….Jesus Christ.
 
 
It is often difficult to comprehend certain Truths taught by the Catholic Church; the Church’s stance on homosexual acts perhaps being the most relevant example.  Nothing seems to stoke the flames as much as this issue. And even when the natural law, Sacred Scripture or the Catechism of the Catholic Church is quoted in defence of the Church’s position, it still isn’t enough to eradicate the view that the Church is out of touch and living in the past.
 
 
Yet what is the Church? Is it really a bunch of decrepit old men as is often argued?  Certainly not.  The Church is an assembly brought together by the Word of God, forming the People of God; a people nourished and sustained by the Eucharist.  And by receiving this nourishment from Christ’s Body we too become the Body of Christ.  The Church is the community of believers in Christ and his Truth.  It is a people, stemming from Peter and the apostles through the ages to the present day.  It is a people charged with the task of not only proclaiming the Truth but protecting it so that it may continue to live on through time, penetrating the hearts of countless peoples through the ages.  And perhaps the most important component of the Church is its head; for it is Jesus Christ who is head of the Church.  Not the pope, not the Bishops nor her priests.  No, it is Christ; for it is Christ who formed the Church and it is Christ who promised to be with the Church until the end of time so that the gates of hell would never prevail against her.
 
 
When he formed the Church Jesus promised to be with her forever; and he remains with her to this day. And his Truth continues to exist to this very day because it has been protected by his Church.  Just think of the apostles and how they, as a relatively small number, carried that Truth with them, taking it to everyone they met so that they might come to know Christ as they knew him.  Think of how they changed hearts and minds with this Truth and how they were even prepared to take it to their excruciatingly painful deaths.  Yet despite this, the Truth continued to penetrate time, through the early Church Fathers, the Saints, and through converts to the faith.  And so it continued on and two thousand years later it remains with us today; that same Truth proclaimed by Jesus Christ and his apostles.  And it is here because he promised it would be here. Jesus promised to be with his Church, and so his Truth lives on; protected and preserved by a people who love him and who trust completely in him.
 
 
While it can be incredibly difficult to live a life of faith in today’s world, especially a life of faith in a Catholic sense, we must remember that we are preserving the Truth of Christ, the one who created us and who loves us more than any other.
 
 
Another beautiful way to look at the Church is to see her as Christ’s bride.  She waits for him to return to earth so that they, the bride and groom, can be completely united as one.  If we let go of the Truth there will be no bride waiting for Jesus at the end of time. That is why it is so important for us to be true to our faith, every last bit of it.  I have heard it said that the rib taken from Adam to create Eve was symbolic of Christ and the Church.  That is how close Christ is to his Church!  And when Christ died on the Cross on Calvary and his side was pierced by the roman soldier, the significance of Adam’s rib became even more apparent.  For in the blood and water which poured forth from Christ’s side came his forgiveness; a forgiveness that he would soon thereafter charge to his disciples and to his Church.  And the first person to fully appreciate the significance of the blood and water pouring from Christ’s side and who proclaimed him to be the ‘Son of God’?  The Roman soldier Longinus (now St Longinus) who pierced his side.  Many claim that he was the first convert to the Christian faith.  So, the Church, the creation of which was foretold by the removal of Adam’s (Jesus) rib to create Eve (the Church), can now be seen pouring out of Christ’s side and reaching out to his created people, calling them to conversion and to come to know the Truth.
 
 
St Longinus would never dream of saying ‘I’m Catholic but….’
 
 
Longinus pierces Christ's side
 

The Real Tragedy of Cecil the Lion

Posted on July 30, 2015 at 11:42 AM Comments comments (601)
 
Cecil the lion.  He has been in the headlines quite a lot over the last few days and I suppose it is useful coverage for those who are against unnecessary animal cruelty.  Indeed I myself am very much against the unnecessary suffering of animals and think it should be avoided as much as possible.  It isn’t nice for animals to suffer.  They are God’s creation after all and although we have dominion over them we must still afford them a certain degree of respect for the part they play in our earthly dwelling.
 
 
Let us just consider the scene for a moment….Cecil was happy with his lot, just going with the flow of everyday life and enjoying another day in his comfortable surroundings.  He would no doubt be looking forward to whatever food he would receive that day, giving him the nourishment he needs to grow and become stronger.  Yet this day was different, very different.  Somewhere nearby there was a person who had very different thoughts on how Cecil’s day was going to pan out.  As Cecil moved around in his cosy surroundings, little did he know someone was plotting his untimely death.  That day Cecil’s life was brought to an abrupt end as he basked in the comfort of his familiar surroundings.  In fact, Cecil would have thought he was very safe in a place he knew well; he might even have thought it was the safest place in the world.  But sadly it became the most dangerous place for him that particular day.  Cecil’s home became his grave.  Nobody heard Cecil’s cries, or if they did, nobody seemed to care.  The decision had been made that Cecil must die.  Cecil had no say in the matter.  His rights it seems held no sway whatsoever.  He just had to accept his fate and within seconds the numerous possibilities that Cecil’s life once held were extinguished, never to resurface again.  Cecil was gone.  Yes, it was that quick.  One second Cecil was alive, the next he was gone.
 
 
Pretty heartbreaking isn’t it?  Now, repeating the above paragraph, take the word Cecil and replace it with the term ‘the unborn baby’.
 
….
 
Pretty heartbreaking isn’t it?  Yet there are essential differences with the public reaction to this story depending on the victim.  With Cecil the lion’s death there is a massive public outcry and a media scrum of the highest order.  With the unborn baby’s death there is nothing.  With Cecil the lion there is widespread condemnation for such an unnecessary death.  The unborn baby's death attracts no such condemnation.  With Cecil the lion there is horror and disgust.  The unborn baby’s death is afforded no such reaction.  With Cecil the lion the public, at large, seems to care.  For the unborn baby the public, at large, is more concerned about Cecil the lion to care for his plight.
 
 
Please, speak up for the little ones.  Let's end abortion.
 

A Living Bread, Made for Sharing (Dwelling on the Word of God, Sunday 26th July 2015)

Posted on July 24, 2015 at 8:12 AM Comments comments (0)
 
Sunday’s Gospel (John 6: 1-15):
 
‘Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.
 
Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.’
 
 
 
Did you know that a barley loaf was considered to be the bread of the poor?  God chose the food of the poor in order to satisfy the hunger of His created people.  He could have chosen to feed them with a grand banquet fit for a king but no, he chose a simple loaf of bread.
 
 
Yet this simple loaf represents something truly great; something more satisfying than a grand banquet.  It is the means by which God has chosen to come to us and to develop His relationship with us. 
 
 
Through a simple piece of bread God shows His great love for us and showers us with graces.  Why He decided to do this is a great mystery and it is a mystery that may well be revealed to us one day.  But the intricacies of this mystery is not something we need concern ourselves with right now.  Our concern must be the bread with which He feeds us….the Eucharist.  It is through the Eucharist, given to us in Holy Mass, that we are truly satisfied.  It is through the Eucharist that we receive the graces we need to live our daily lives. It is through the Eucharist that God comes to us in love, inviting us to an ever deeper relationship with Him, and encouraging us to never tire of trusting in Him.  And it is through the Eucharist that we will be saved; saved by the blood of Christ who sacrificed himself on a Cross so that we may live forever.
 
 
Yet even though we receive this great gift from God, there are still many basketfulls left over.  Our job, brothers and sisters, is to go out to the world and find a home for this bread.  God doesn't just want a few willing participants to come to Him and receive Him in the Eucharist.  He wants all of His created people to take part!  There are so many basketfulls of bread left over after we receive the Eucharist!  Let us find more homes for God to shine His great light in our world.  Let us be open to speaking highly of this great gift of God so that others may come to share in it.
 
 
 

Laudato Si - 13 things to know about Pope Francis' latest encyclical

Posted on July 14, 2015 at 8:59 AM Comments comments (0)
 
Click the following link to read what Catholic Answers apologist Jimmy Akin sees as being the 13 most important considerations to come out of the pope's latest encyclical 'Laudato Si': http://www.catholic.com/blog/jimmy-akin/pope-francis%E2%80%99s-environmental-encyclical-13-things-to-know-and-share
 
 

The incredible story of Chiara Corbella Petrillo – a lesson in faith and surrender to the will of God

Posted on July 13, 2015 at 9:19 AM Comments comments (0)
Enrico and Chiara Petrillo
 
If you haven’t yet read the story of Chiara Corbella Petrillo and her husband Enrico then now is perhaps a good time for you to compose yourself and prepare to be blown away.  Because what this couple had to endure is perhaps the most difficult, most tragic situation anyone could imagine.  Yet, in spite of this, they found great joy, peace and hope.  Why?  Because of their unconditional faith in God; because of their trust in His infinite love for every single human being He created; and because of their eternal perspective on all matters of life. 
 
 
So, rather than give the entire story away, I will leave you to read it and digest it, and perhaps spend a little time meditating on the faith exhibited by these two extraordinary people and consider if you too could exhibit such strength of faith.
 
 
Click here to read the full amazing story at Catholic Exchange: http://catholicexchange.com/saints-are-still-being-made-meet-chiara-corbella
 

Prioritising the fight to save lives

Posted on July 10, 2015 at 7:08 AM Comments comments (0)
 
We are rightly abhorred when we read of cruelty to dogs and cats, or the unnecessary slaughter of whales, or the needless clubbing of seals.  These creatures are all part of God's creation after all.
 
 
But they are not human beings. They do not have that special place in God's plan which sets humanity apart from the rest.
 
 
It is undoubtedly easier in today's secular relativist world to cry foul on behalf of little innocent animals, but not so when it comes to tiny innocent human beings.
 
 
They need our voice. They need our voice more than the dogs, the cats, the whales and the seals. They are being slaughtered day after day after day by the callous society we have created.
 
 
Our task is simple....speak up for them.  Defend them.
 

God’s call to protect all life (Dwelling on the Word of God, Sunday 28th June 2015)

Posted on June 26, 2015 at 11:48 AM Comments comments (0)
 
Sunday’s First Reading (Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24):
 
‘Death was not God’s doing,
he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living.
To be – for this he created all;
the world’s created things have health in them,
in them no fatal poison can be found,
and Hades holds no power on earth;
for virtue is undying.
Yet God did make man imperishable,
he made him in the image of his own nature;
it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world,
as those who are his partners will discover.’
 
 
 
Let’s focus on the first two lines of this scripture passage.  Read them again and think about our world today. Consider the unnecessary death of the innocent in the womb, and the increased incidence of deaths among vulnerable and elderly people following the introduction of assisted suicide.  Consider the unnecessary deaths of people at times of war or at the hands of extremist groups like ISIS.  All of this death is unnecessary and God - as set out in today’s passage - takes no pleasure in it.
 
 
And while God ‘did make man imperishable’, something which would become visible in the person of Jesus Christ when he rose from the dead on the third day, we are still called to protect life and protect the most vulnerable.
 
 
As death was not God’s doing don’t you think we should be fighting hard to ensure we don’t allow unnecessary death to creep further and further into society? Our society generally makes the killing of another person illegal, and thankfully so.  Yet this is qualified.  For example, it is not illegal to kill an unborn child in the womb in certain circumstances.  And increasingly, particularly in parts of Europe, it is becoming legal to kill those who are said to want to end their own lives through the process of assisted suicide.  This, of course, is putting more and more pressure on elderly and vulnerable people to consider whether they too should die in order to alleviate the burden of those caring for them or indeed the burden supposedly carried by wider society.
 
 
But we must fight against this tide of death as best we can.  Death is not from God.  It is from Satan.  And that alone should be enough to want to give it our best shot.  Of course death will come to us all at one point, but do we really want to hasten it and let the devil win?  Do we really want to defy God who takes ‘no pleasure’ in such extinction and let the ‘devil’s envy’ be victorious? 
 
 
Our role as Christians is to defend life and defend it from conception until its natural end.  As Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) once said: “Defend the unborn against abortion, even if they persecute you, calumniate you, set traps for you, take you to court, or kill you.”
 
 
Yes, it’s that important.
 

Jesus calls us to love politicians too you know

Posted on May 11, 2015 at 12:35 PM Comments comments (0)
These people need our love and prayers too
 
 
It’s not often you hear people standing up for politicians but that is precisely what I am about to do!  As the dust settles on last week’s UK General Election the usual lampooning of political figures and parties has started up once again as we embark on another five year cycle of ridicule and abuse in the direction of those elected to lead our country.
 
 
As Christians our call is simple: to love one another and to keep God’s Commandments.  Indeed, this was the call at Mass last Sunday for those blessed enough to be there to hear the Word of God. 
 
 
So, in light of this calling, is it okay to ridicule our politicians?  Is it okay to speak ill of them and to make fun of them?  Is it okay to abuse them?  The answer is quite simply no.  Of course it isn’t okay to ridicule politicians; to speak ill of them; or abuse them.  We are called to love them!  God expects us to love our political leaders just as much as we love our own families. That’s what brotherly and sisterly love ‘God-style’ is all about!  There are no exceptions. 
 
 
Yet this does not mean we cannot question our politicians and call them to account.  That is all part of the democratic process and indeed we, as Catholics, are expected to participate in that process in order to ensure God’s Commandments are upheld in our country.  But we must be careful not to cross the line into the territory of abusing our politicians.  We shouldn’t even be gossiping about them (remember Pope Francis’ call to refrain from gossiping applies to all God’s children, even those in political office).
 
 
So as we embark on this latest cycle of government with those newly elected and those elected to serve another term, let us pray hard for our political representatives, that they will serve the people of the United Kingdom with love, mercy, and compassion; and with justice at the heart of their policies.  They have a very difficult job and that job is made all the more difficult by a media constantly trying to undermine them and make mischief from their every move. Let us pray that our politicians will not be swayed by the traps set for them by the evil one and let us hope that moved by the Holy Spirit they will appreciate the importance of God’s Commandments and that they will draw inspiration from the loving example of Jesus Christ as they lead our country.
 

It is true….only Jesus can save us (Dwelling on the Word of God, Sunday 26th April 2015)

Posted on April 24, 2015 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)
Only this man has the power to save us
 
Sunday’s First Reading (Acts 4:8-12):
 
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter said: ‘Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence, today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.’
 
 
 
Only Jesus Christ can save us.  Only Jesus Christ can save us. Only Jesus Christ can save us. Only Jesus Christ can save us…. 
 
 
Has it sunk in yet?? It’s quite incredible to think that each one of us can be saved from sin and death and brought to eternal life.  It’s even more incredible to think that all this is achieved through one man!  Can you imagine being that one man?  Can you imagine if you were the key to Heaven; the key to eternal life?  Wouldn’t it be quite a responsibility?  It certainly would; but it would be worth all of that responsibility to see wave after wave of people coming back to you because they trust in you and because they believe in you and believe in the Church you founded. Yet conversely, wouldn’t it be so sad to know that not all of your created people are coming back to you?  Wouldn’t it be sad to be rejected by your very own creation?  Rejected despite coming to earth to spread the message of a perfect love; rejected despite performing miracle after miracle to help the poor and the needy; rejected despite suffering greatly at the hands of your oppressors who humiliated you and abused you before nailing you to a cross; rejected despite rising from the dead and revealing yourself to those close to you who then took that great news to the ends of the earth.  After all of that and still you are rejected!  How breathtakingly sad must that be for Jesus? 
 
 
It would seem that no matter how often we are told Christ is the only way to God and the only way to salvation, we still don’t quite take it in.  Even Jesus himself told us that he was the way, the truth and the life and that nobody can get to the Father except through him; yet many still doubt.  So here is St Peter, the rock upon which Christ’s Church is built, telling us once more that Christ is the only one who can save us. 
 
 
So, are we prepared to really let this sink in?  And even more importantly, are we prepared to take this message to the ends of the earth no matter what?  You see, we can’t possibly just keep this to ourselves or within the confines of our families and close friends.  An increasingly aggressive secularism tells you to keep it to yourself, but Jesus tells you to take it to the ends of the earth!  So let’s get out there and tell the world that Jesus is the only way!  It is Jesus Christ, the most perfect, most beautiful, most glorious, most incredible man who ever walked this earth who can give us the gift of eternal life.  It is the most precious Jesus, that man who took on unbearable pain on our behalf, who is the key to our salvation.  Trust him, love him and surrender to him.  And encourage others to do the same.

Only Jesus can save us from the grasp of the devil (Dwelling on the Word of God, Sunday 1st February 2015)

Posted on January 30, 2015 at 11:56 AM Comments comments (0)
 
Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 1:21-28):

‘Jesus and his followers went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the sabbath came he went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.
In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.’

 
It’s not difficult to imagine evil in our world. It’s all around us; wars, murder, violence, destruction.  Evil has enveloped our world and it can be experienced at almost every turn.  Yet,while it is easy to see evil and to experience it, do we really appreciate who is behind it?
 
While a willing human mind is perhaps necessary to carry out evil, it is the devil that is the source of evil; and he uses his power to force others to carry out his evil deeds in many different ways.  In today’s Gospel passage he uses possession as a means to wreak havoc and to attack God.  In today’s world possession by unclean spirits is still a reality and exorcisms occur throughout the world.  But the devil makes his presence felt in numerous other ways.  He destroys our love of life from the moment of conception until natural death by willing abortions and assisted suicide.  He chips away at the family by breaking it up and removing those critical elements of fatherhood and motherhood for every child.  He encourages gossip, cynicism, complaining and negativity among people.
 
The devil also comes to us in the most simple and innocent situations.  He encourages our laziness as we prepare for Mass on a Sunday; making us feel like the weekly trip to church is a chore rather than a joy.  He visits us in the evening just before we go to sleep and gently invites us to read another few pages of the latest thriller at the expense of our prayers.  He is not always forceful.  Indeed, his ways are often subtle and gentle; wooing us with a seeming beauty and elegance designed to capture our hearts and designed to thrill and excite.
 
The devil’s intention is ultimately to come between us and God.  He is a fallen angel because he wanted to be God.  And given he cannot possibly be God he now wants to bring as much destruction to God’s creation as he possibly can and the best way to do this is to turn God’s own children against Him. 
 
However, he will never win as Christ has won the victory on the Cross.  Good has triumphed over evil and God can never be defeated.  But our hearts can still be won over by the devil and he is doing his very best to ensure that this happens to as many people as possible. As we prepare for our Lenten journey this year perhaps it would beuseful to try to discern the ways the devil tries to get at us.  If we can identify his evil habits then we can turn to Jesus and ask him to defend us so that our hearts are never won over by the devil and his destructive ways. We belong to God and to God alone. It is He who has given us life and it is to Him that we shall return at the end of time to be judged.  Make sure that judgement has a happy ending.  Don’t let the devil have his way.  He wants you to fail so that you will be damned for all eternity.  Remember, you have Jesus on your side!  He is the only one who can save you from the devil’s evil clutches. 
 
Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and ignore the subtle temptations of the evil one.  Keep your heart fixed on Jesus and make sure that your destiny is Heaven, to be reunited with your Father who loves you more than you can ever imagine.