Friday, 29 July 2011

China's only Trappist Monastery

This must surely fall under the category, strange but true; Cistercian monks living under the ever watchful eye of one of the world's most oppressive Communist regimes, China.

                    The kai-do departs the empty quay of Tai Shui Hang

In fact, this monastery (Our Lady of Joy Abbey) lies within the bounds of Hong Kong, only handed back to China in 1997 and the authorities have, very wisely, left the monastery alone as far as one can tell.

I used to spend quite a lot of time working in Hong Kong and, on a free Sunday about ten years ago, decided to visit this monastery and see for myself just how well the monks were surviving under Communist rule. 
There are two routes to take to get to this remote monastery, one is a hiking one estimated to take 1 to 2 hours once you reached Lantau Island and the other is a two ferry journey and then a half mile hike through the jungle.
I chose the latter; ferry trips in Hong Kong are like bus trips in London. They are regular and you may hop on and off at will and the prospect of a longish slog in high humidity did not hold much appeal
The first (large) ferry took me from Discovery Bay to Peng Chau island (a step back in time in its own right) and from there I caught  a smaller ferry called a kai-do which would drop me at the lonely quay of Tai Shui Hang on Lantau Island.

I was the only soul to disembark and, before the kai-do departed, I made sure that it would be back in four hours time for the return journey.
There was nothing to suggest that I was close to a monastery, there was no sign of any human or habitation whatsoever, just a steep track leading up through the jungle. Setting off I laboured up the incline rapidly losing any enthusiasm for the Trappist cause. After 15 mnutes I came across a crude sign with a cross carved on it and that reassured me that I was on the right path. Another 15 minutes and I could just make out some buildings through the trees in the distance but first, a walk past a rather ominous and dark pool; I stopped to look for any sign of wildlife and a large swirl and something black and reptilianish slithered into the water.
My pace quickened and I soon reached the monastery.

A depressingly modern and soulless sanctuary

The history of this monastery is a little fragmented. Originating in what was then Pekin (many Chinese still refer to Pekin rather than Beijing) in the 19th century they moved to Chengdu in Szechuan Province and, in the chaos of Chiang Kai Shek's nationalist forces fighting Mao's peasant army, the monks yet again decamped to the safer shores of Hong Kong in 1947.

                             Our Lady of Joy shrine Cantonese style

The monastery was, surprisingly civilised considering its location, and, there were several small groups of Hongkongese making their way around the site.
Pausing for breath I joined the fringes of a group saying the rosary in front of Our Lady of Joy. Despite the fact that they recited the beads in Cantonese I was able to follow roughly in English and my presence caused a few nervous giggles from the group.

I then inspected the church and made the customary Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be to gain my indulgence - is that still done these days when one visits a church for the first time?

All seemed in normal monastic order and the monks, despite being 'enclosed' seemed very relaxed strolling about the grounds.
I found an English speaking monk and asked him if they celebrated Mass in Latin.
"No" came the reply "we only say Mass in Chinese" (Cantonese).
I asked again as I felt certain I had been misheard.
"No" said the monk - "to say Mass in Latin is forbidden".
I am not sure just who has forbidden it in this man's mind but I was unable to speak to him much more on the subject as there were signs that he was 'losing face' in not being able to satisfy my questioning. I left it at that.

I do not know how they have fared in the past ten years or so; whether the authorities have turned a blind eye to them or, more likely, they have just bent to the prevailing wind and only maintain a cosmetic form of Catholicism. That may sound pessimistic but the Chinese are a pragmatic race and often their take on religion is tinged with what the state demands.

Many times while in China people would say to me "We need religion, we need faith" and I would always respond with the question "Why?"

"To make us good" they would answer "We need religion to make us good".

Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Our Patron's Feast Day: Blessed Titus Brandsma, pray for us!

Today is the feast day of Blessed Titus Brandsma, patron of this blog and the Guild for Catholic bloggers that bears his name. In recognition of his patronage of the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma and in thanksgiving to God for his life and witness, here is a short introduction to his life.

Anno Sjoera Brandsma was born on February 23 1881. He was a native of Friesland, Netherlands, and grew up in a small farming village. He also came from a good Catholic family, and his father was recognised as a local defender of the faith.

Titus Brandsma felt an early calling to the priesthood and to the religious life. After originally applying to the Franciscans, with whom he studied for a while, ill health forced Anno to join the Carmelites at Boxmeer - where he was given the name Titus, and took his first vows in 1899.

After his ordination in 1905, Fr Titus Brandsma O.Carm gained a Doctorate in philosophy from the Pontifical Gregorian Univeristy in Rome. Afterwards, he taught at the Carmelite seminary at Oss, Netherlands, and edited the local daily newspaper. He would often enjoy a cigar whilst working on various publications!

Bl Titus Brandsma went on to lecture in philosophy at the Catholic University in Nijmegen - a city that would later declare him to be their most honoured son. He also travelled widely, and worked tirelessly as a journalist, author, and lobbyist for the University. In 1932, he was appointed President of the Catholic University, and was made ecclesiastical advisor to Catholic journalists in 1935.

In the same year, Titus Brandsma wrote against the Nazi anti-Jewish marriage laws. He later wrote that no Catholic publication could publish Nazi propaganda and still call itself Catholic - which brought him to the attention of Dutch National Socialists. After the invasion of the Netherlands, Bl Titus Brandsma was constantly followed by the Gestapo. He was finally arrested on 19 January 1942, after having written a Pastoral Letter on behalf of the Dutch Bishops, in which Nazism was declared incompatible with the Christian faith. For several weeks he was shuttled from jail to jail, abused, and severely punished for ministering to other prisoners.

Bl Titus Brandsma was deported to the Dachau concentration camp in June 1942. Whilst there he was overworked, underfed, and beaten daily - but he would always ask his fellow prisoners to pray for the salvation of the guards. He also wrote many mystical reflections on the true nature of suffering during his internment at this brutal camp.

When he could no longer work, he was used for torturous medical experiments. And when he became no longer any use for experimentation, he was murdered by lethal injection - which happened on 26 July 1942. The nurse who assisted the SS doctor responsible for killing Fr Brandsma was herself a lapsed Catholic. Through remembering his witness to Christ's love for all people, this nurse later returned to the Faith. One of Bl Titus Brandsma's last acts was to give his Rosary beads to the doctor who killed him.

Titus Brandsma was beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul II on 3 November 1985, and 27 July was appointed as his feast day.

We are really blessed to have such a great Catholic hero as patron of our Guild and its common blog! Today, I am sure that all members of the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma will want rededicate themselves to the work of Catholic blogging in a way worthy of this saint. We also thank God for the bravery and love that Blessed Titus showed throughout his life, and for his love of writing, education and journalism. We also call on Blessed Titus Brandsma's intercession and for his heavenly protection and guidance. May he always look after Catholic bloggers, intercede for us, and bring us to a greater knowledge of Our Lord Jesus Christ!

Blessed Titus Brandsma, pray for us!

Posted by Dylan Parry, A Reluctant Sinner blog

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Why I am Proud to Be Catholic - A Talk Given to Catholic Youth

This talk was given to Catholic Youth at the Virgin Mother of Good Counsel Parish Youth Group, Saturday, July 23, 2011
If you said you were proud to be Catholic or you thought the Catholic religion was the correct religion, the true Church, certainly people, even some catholics, would accuse you of being proud or arrogant, or not seeing the “whole picture.”

If you said that you though Muslims were right, or that atheists had the proper view, this is certainly more en vouge in popular circles.  More so if your were to say that it is not possible to have the right view, that whatever you feel is right must be true for you.  If anybody says anything against Jews, Muslims, or any ethnic group it would surely be the end of their career and their respectability. Yet if someone says something against the Catholic Church it is considered normal, socially acceptable, or even intelligent.

Anti-Catholicism is the last acceptable prejudice.

(From non-catholic author Philip Jenkins) which is why it is easy for Catholics to falsely believe ourselves as second class. Things that try brainwash us into thinking this:

-Bullying at School, even Catholic School to make one think it is not “cool” or popular to be Catholic

-Media exposurethat mocks Catholic beliefs - not mostly doctrine (yet this is not left out) but morals

-Culture of Lust where sex before marriage and living together is thought of as “normal” though this actually destroys marriage

-Mockery of Christ-centered life & Catholic Values especially with regard to marriage and family

Christ said, “If the world hates you realize that it hated me first”It is Christ himself who is persecuted in his Body the Church. “Why do you persecute me?” Jesus to Saul after he’d killed Christians.


How does Jesus defend you? Through the Sacraments, he gives you grace, peace, joy, and the inner strengthening of the Holy Spirit, who is given to those who ask in faith with prayer. He gives you the graced-friendships of the Church here on earth to strengthen you.

Yet, he also asks you also to use your wits he gave you.

How? Understand most of the attacks are not mostly on what the Church believes (although these are present too) but on the identity and dignity of Catholicism to try to attack its moral authority.

For example: Constantly bashing the Church for sex abuse scandals

REALITY: The safest statistical place in the world right now is in Catholic Churches, and it always has been! It has always been statistically safer than schools, the workplace, or even the family.


-there are far more cases reported against married protestant clergy USA: 6% catholic priests 13% protestants Germany: least of all professions (this is from insurance claims and criminological studies)

-The Catholic Church has the harshest possible laws and policies against abuse than any other institution (juridical profession has noted this).
-There should be 0% abuse from priests and the fact that they are the most discussed is a subconscious acknowledgment of its moral authority. In other words, the fact tha
t the media is more upset by priests committing these terrible crimes shows that they respect the authority of the priesthood.

Another Attack is History: there are terrible sinners in Catholic history. People would hold them up to be the official Catholic view when they were in fact against the mind of Christ:
atrocities committed in the name of the Crusades, misconstruing Galileo...

Yet saints stand right along side of them - weeds and wheat together.


We are called to be confident - proud to be Catholic.

At this point in English History a shift is taking place. Many people are realizing that in order to be human, to be noble, to be upright, to be a good Englishman, one must become a good Catholic. Only the stability and the faithfulness of the Catholic Church can preserve the best and most noble part of England, its very soul - its faith.

The signs of that reveal this are the following:

-The Holy Father’s Visit revealed that England, while it is very secular, still has the desire to be a Christian nation

-The many thousands of conversions that are happening at this time

-Catholics are becoming less afraid of witnessing publicly their faith.-The bishops are taking a firm stand on public moral issues like abortion, same sex unions, and embryonic stem cell research whilst promoting
a clear catholic identity (abstinence from meat on Fridays)


HOLY EUCHARIST: Walk into any Catholic Church in any country for the
past 2000 years and you will find Jesus Christ truly present in his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. You will find the very same ritual given to us by Jesus himself, the holy mass, where Jesus himself, in the person of the priest says to you personally, “This is my Body...This is my Blood...given up for you”

The true presence is different than any other reality. It is the fact that he is reserved in all the tabernacles of the world. Everywhere in the world you can look around and say, “God is here.” Only in heaven and only in the Eucharistic Host can you say, “THIS IS GOD!”

CONFESSION: Every Catholic priest in the world has been given the power by Christ to completely obliterate sin out of your life in the Sacrament of Confession. Jesus gave this power to priests when he breathed on his first priests, the apostles, and said “Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.”

Think about it, if you ever experience any fear, worry, anxiety, depression, loneliness, if you ever do anything wrong, any sin or evil, when you repent by confessing your sins to God’s representative he says to you, “I Absolve you” and frees you from all of this! Most of the emotional difficulties people struggle with are from sin or from the terrible vacuum of love caused by it. Confession heals. Just do it!

ANOINTING OF THE SICK: a priest can come to you when you are dying, forgive your sins, anoint you with the strengthening oil of the sick, give you the apostolic pardon freeing you from all punishment even in the next life, and hold your hand as you pass from this life to the next handing you off to Jesus who will embrace you with the Father.

MOTHER MARY: You have a beloved Mother who always pleads your cause, waits for you, hears your prayers and intercedes for you before her divine Son. She never draws us to herself but only to God. Every time we say, “Hail Mary!” she says “Hail Jesus!” Every time

POPE, SUCCESSOR OF ST PETER: The simple fact is that the
Catholic Church is the one Church that Jesus Christ founded when he told St Peter, “You are Rock and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18). Pope Benedict XVI is the 266 of St Peter.

NO OTHER christian community claims this, that they belong to the very Church founded by Jesus Christ, that he is their head. They claim to have the teachings of some particular man but not Christ himself.

There are over 200,000 Christian denominations. When was your Church founded?

Jesus Christ
33 AD
Orthodox (schism)
Michael Cerularius
Martin Luther
Ulrich Zwingli
King Henry VIII
Jean Calvin
John Knox
John Smyth
John Wesley
(No longer Christian)
Joseph Smith
William Miller
7th Day Adventists
Ellen Gould White
Salvation Army
William Booth
Jehovah’s Witnesses
(No longer Christian)
Charles Taze Russel
Charles Fox Parham
Assembly of God
Council of Hot Springs, AS
Be proud to be be Catholic! BE NOT AFRAID! God will be with you to show you how to proclaim the Gospel to the people of our time with wisdom, courage, and that noble dignity of Christ to which you are called.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Leavening the Internet

I'm very grateful to be given the opportunity to contribute to this blog, as a recent initiate to Catholicism, and to blogging. I want to encourage my brother and sister bloggers to keep up the wonderful work you are doing. This is a unique environment for sharing what God has been doing in our lives, and encouraging each other, however geographically separate we may be.

And speaking from personal experience, we should never underestimate the appetite of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters for learning more about the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I first attended Mass just over a year ago, and by April this year I was being received into the Church. You can read more about the ways the Great Fisherman has hooked me and drawn me in over the last year on my personal blog (A Tiny Son of Mary), but the point I wanted to make here is how important the internet can be as a place for those who are just curious and starting their search. It was through the internet that I first discovered the prayers of the Most Holy Rosary and the Stations of the Cross, for example.

Of course it is no substitute for a concrete Christian community in which we carry each other's burdens, but the internet can be a great source of encouragement and an opportunity to build more widely the Apostolate of the Laity.

'Our own times require of the laity no less zeal: in fact, modern conditions demand that their apostolate be broadened and intensified. With a constantly increasing population, continual progress in science and technology, and closer interpersonal relationships, the areas for the lay apostolate have been immensely widened [ . . . ] Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardour of the spirit of Christ.' (Apostolicam Actuositatem)

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Today's feast - the Franciscan strangled on the King's orders

               Church of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, Chideock, Dorset

The Venerable Anthony Brooksby (or Brookby or, even, Brorbey) was a theological lecturer at Magdalen College, Oxford.
He was critical of the actions of Henry VIII and even more so of his dissolute style of living. As a result he was arrested and thrown into prison where he was put on the rack.

This is an account of his sufferings:_

"...Here he was placed on the rack in order to induce him to retract his words. But he bore all the tortures with wonderful courage and constancy, and, far from yielding a single point, he only expressed an ardent desire to suffer yet more cruel torments for the love of God.
So unusually barbarous was his racking that every joint in his body was dislocated, and he could not move or even raise his hands to his mouth...."

He was fed and cared for by an old woman (presumed to be on the prison payroll) for several weeks until the King signed the warrant for his execution.
Presumably, because he was still virtually helpless due to his tortures they sent the executioner to his cell where he strangled the Friar in his bed with the cord from his habit.

                 Venerable Anthony Brooksby - Ora pro nobis!

Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow

Friday, 15 July 2011

How one of the joys of Catholic blogging led to the posting of this modern-day parable...

I'm sure that one of the joys we all experience as Catholic bloggers is the fact that friendships can be formed with those who comment on our sites. Over the past year, or so, I have entered into correspondences with several of my blog's regular commentators. Some have been based as far away as the middle of the Arizona desert, whilst others happen, through sheer co-incidence, to attend the same London church that I do! Last night, one such friend, called Anne, sent me this wonderful anecdote (or "parable") called "Do you know where you're going?" She suggested it might make for a reflective post. I agree. So, here it is: -
An American tourist while visiting a tiny village in Sicily complimented the Sicilian fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

"Not very long," answered the Sicilian.

"But then, why don't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.

The Sicilian explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family. Then the American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I sleep late, then I fish a little, and in the afternoons play with my children. In the evenings I go into the village to see my friends, dance a little, drink a bit, and sing a few songs," replied the Sicilian.

Then the American said, "I have an MBA from Stanford and can help you. You could start by fishing longer every day. You could then sell the extra fish you catch. With the revenue, you could buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you could buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you could negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You could then leave this little village and move to Milan, London or even New York City! From there you could direct your enterprise."

"How long would that take?" asked the Sicilian.

"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.

"And, after that?"

"That's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, catch a few fish, play with your grandchildren and spend your evenings singing, dancing, playing and drinking with your friends."

Then the Sicilian fisherman asked: "With respect, that is what I am doing now. Why take the 25 years?"

...The moral of the story: "Know where you're going. You may already be there!"
Thank you, Anne, for this modern-day parable! Just like those stories told by the Desert Fathers, these simple tales that can, if we let them, help us stop and think about the really important things in life.

Also, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all those who read our blogs and who make the effort to comment on what we write. God bless you!

[Image: A small fishing-boat in Rinella, Sicily; this image is published under a creative commons licence and is attributed to Ji-Elle; source: Wikimedia Commons]

Posted by Dylan Parry A Reluctant Sinner

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The feast of St Benedict

11th of July is the Feast of St Benedict, the founder of western monasticism and co-patron saint of Europe.

Benedict was born c480 in Nursia, Italy. The son of a Roman noble man he had before him a life of academic learning, wealth and privilege but gave this up to live in solitude in Enfide, about 30 miles from Rome. As St Gregory writes, "giving over his books, and forsaking his father’s house and wealth, with a mind only to serve God, he sought for some place where he might attain to the desire of his holy purpose; and in this sort he departed [from Rome], instructed with learned ignorance and furnished with unlearned wisdom" (St Gregory, Book II Dialogues). Benedict took his former nurse with him as a servant and they settled with "a company of virtuous men" who were in sympathy with his desire to live a life totally dedicated to God.

Whilst in Enfide, he performed what is now attributed to be his first miracle - he restored an earthenware vessel used for cleaning and separating seed from wheat, which his servant had accidentally broken. The eventual notoriety this brought forced Benedict to leave Enfide to live the life of a hermit in a cave near Subiaco. Romanus, a monk from the monastery above the cave, gave him the monk’s habit and for three years he was the only person with whom Benedict had contact.

Upon the death of the abbot of another monastery the monks persuaded Benedict to become their abbot, but the experiment failed and the monks tried to poison him on two occasions. The first was with drink. but after Benedict prayed over the cup, the cup shattered. The second attempt was with bread. When Benedict prayed over the bread, a raven flew in and took it away. A cup and a raven are symbols that accompany images of St Benedict. The knowledge of these, and other, miracles brought many people to Benedict to seek advice and counsel. It was from these people that he formed and built thirteen monasteries, of which he remained abbot of them all, living himself in one of them. He spent the rest of his life as a monk and formulated his Rule.

Whilst the Rule of St Benedict is clearly addressed to members of the monastic community, it is also directed towards instructing the laity. In his book The Rule of Saint Benedict for Family Life Today, Don Massimo Lapponi expertly applies the Rule to day to day situations in which every family can be drawn closer to God. In his foreword to the book, Cardinal Franc Rodé (Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life) writes,
The author of this book, who, among other things, has the merit of brevity but also knows how to say a lot in a few pages, enables us to see directly how topical is Benedictine wisdom not just for guiding religious communities, but also for giving new life and new hope to the family community. In fact, the institution of the family will not be saved by conferences and discussion groups, and not even by legislative reform – no matter how desirable it may be – but only by promoting a lived model of social life which is an alternative to the one which is now prevalent everywhere. "And it seems to me", our author writes, "that in fact there exists only one model which today can effectively be proposed to families: the Benedictine model that emerges from the Rule and tradition."
As we celebrate the feast of St Benedict, pray for the familles of men and women who live in Benedictine houses throughout the world. Pray too for every family that it may be inspired and challenged by St Benedict.

Picture of St Benedict is detail of a fresco by Fra Angelico (1437-1446).
The book The Rule of Saint Benedict for Family Life Today is published by ST PAULS and can be purchased here.

Posted by ST PAULS.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

So many old (and good) hymns have been lost

It may mark me down as a man of a certain age but I do recall, very well, the hymns that we sang in our parish church as a child but that are never heard today.
They were formative years and formative hymns, all with a clear meaning and always relevant to one's life.
I find modern hymns, even those with a grudgingly admitted catchy tune, to be less than satisfactory when it comes to making a contribution to the worship of Almighty God. My case for so much of modern church music is that it exists to satisfy and delight those who sing it. It does little in terms of reverence, enhancing spirituality or increasing one's inner fervour - I am sure it does a great deal for one's outer fervour but that is not what is required at Holy Mass.

The hymn featured in this post is a golden oldie, the words by Sister Mary Xavier and the composition by R.R. Terry and dating, I believe, from c. 1880.
The sentiments are so appropriate in today's world of high speed and profound worries concerning future problems, health, career, one's children, blogging (?).
If I said that, as a very small child, my mother used to sit on my bed and sing this to me after night prayers, would that bring a tear to your eyes? No? You have a heart of stone!
It is a hymn that all mothers especially, should know by heart.

Here it is:

Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Myths about the middle ages

Last evening, after Mass at Maiden Lane, a group of us were enjoying some good conversation and the topic of relics of the true cross came up. (At the time of the Reformation, it was commonly sneered that there were enough such relics to build a battleship, Noah's ark, a forest etc.) I knew that someone had actually researched the volume of all the known relics of the cross and had calculated that they would not amount to a single cross of the size used to crucify Our Lord. Looking up google today, I tracked down that it was Charles Rohault de Fleury who wrote Memoire sur les instruments de la passion in 1870.

As sometimes happens, I found another page that I thought would be worth sharing with you: James Franklin's Myths about the middle ages which covers many of the common ones.

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Super-Abundant Fruitfulness of the Witness of Celibacy in Priests

I was walking though grocery shop one day, minding my own business when a woman stopped me and asked me with disgust in her face, "What are you?" I prayed to the Holy Spirit. I heard myself reply, "I am Celibate. Jesus is Celibate to be totally dedicated to our salvation and so am I." She was one of those that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 19:11, "Not all can receive this, but only to those to whom it is granted." Not everybody can understand celibacy, however, that does not mean that we ought to diminish the sign that Jesus has made it by allowing people to tarnish its beauty or diminish its power.

When a man gifts his whole manhood in Christ to the Father for the sake of salvation ofsouls,it is powerful. He thinks, moves, and breathes for the purpose of getting as many people to open their hearts to the One who loves them as possible. He does this day and night without rest because it is the reason for his existence, he is consecrated for it. I myself have the common experience of fatherly anxiety for my flock, waking up in the middle of the night praying for my parishioners, being preoccupied with their welfare and constantly concerned about their good. I can do this, I am free to do this because for this is I am consecrated. When I speak the words of consecration at Mass in which we believe that Jesus gives us his true Body and Blood, "This is my body," I don't just say it in Persona Christi, but I say it to my parishioners as well, this body is consecrated for you and is yours to serve you and to make you know that you are worth it, that God is worth it, worth a man laying down his whole life.

At this time, there is an attack on the witness of celibacy, and we ought to take care that through our own negligence or ignorance we don't add to it. The modern media has tried to blame celibacy as the root cause of paedophilia. In a recent study conducted by the US bishops, it has been made clear that celibacy is not the cause of the priest crisis, as CNN and BBC would like you to believe. In fact Catholic priests have the least amount of offenders than in any other profession. Christian Pfieffer, the famed independent German criminal sociologist "reported that approximately 0.1 percent of all offenses are committed by priests. Among clergy offenders Catholic priests are least likely to offend" (Peter Seewald, Light of the World). Insurance claims in the United States report that while 13% of the offenders reported are from protestant married clergy, 6% are catholic priests - less than half!

It seems that priests are being branded, identified, or typified as the ones who are offending yet they are the very least of society and of most Christian denominations. Why then is the news media permitted to do this? Why is there a double standard? George Wiegel, a biographer of Pope John Paul II and a famous Catholic lecturer, has an interesting take on this. He says that it is an implicit recognition of the dignity of the Catholic priesthood. It should be held to a higher account because it is a higher calling than simply being Pastor Joe of Joe's church. And why not? There should be 0% cases. The law in every country is stricter on priests than any other group. The statute of limitations is absolutely waived in the United States. "Ernst Wolfgang Böckenförde, a former German constitutional judge, remarked, 'The words that Pope Benedict used years ago in the Untied States and now in his Letter to Irish Catholics could not be harsher,'" (Peter Seewald, Light of the World).

We must then hold celibate priests to a higher standard, yet not diminish the power of its witness by perpetuating lies or slurs that have been cast on its true purpose. I met an Anglican priest a few weeks ago. He said that he thought celibacy is an obstacle to vocations. "You don't really buy those lies, do you?" I asked him. We need to point out the lies to those around us, to unmask them. The fact is, this Archdiocese of Southwark has 39 men preparing for celibate priesthood while the Anglican diocese this priest belongs to has less than 4 candidates. It is a lack of faith that diminishes vocations, not the charism of celibacy. If anything, men are attracted to the high ideals and high standard, not repulsed by it.

Celibacy also has power to complement the married state. It is not in competition, does not diminish, or lessen, the dignity and vocation of marriage. When you see that a man can be faithful to his vow of celibacy you are inspired to be faithful to your vows of marriage and vice versa. If a man can be faithful to the flock of God another man can be faithful to his own little flock, his family. It is possible for him to be madly and passionately in love with one woman for his whole life because the same principle of chastity that is working in celibacy is working in marital chastity. The way a woman treats her spouse, thinks and feels about him, loves him or doesn't love him, is the very way she treats Jesus, thinks and feels toward him. At the end of her life, Jesus will ask her, how much did you love me and permit me to love you in your husband? Yes, this is not easy, but the witness of celibacy encourages us to be faithful.

The person who helps us be faithful is Mary most pure. She can obtain for the Church to be the shining witness of purity and holiness that Jesus calls us to. She can pray for us to obtain holy priests, who are preoccupied in a holy way with the salvation of souls and the welfare of the Christian people. May Our Lady bring about this shining witness and help us not to diminish the power of the witness of celibacy.

What is the Interior Life of a Priest in Experiencing the Fatherhood of God?

As a priest I often find myself here, before the blessed Sacrament on behalf of God's people. It seems there is a special grace of joy connected with praying for the same people for whom I will one day have to render to God an account. The satisfaction and deep fulfillment present in making my spiritual children's concerns my own is unlike any other thing. I suppose I could compare it to the spousal satisfaction a man might feel in providing for the needs of his family, making his children's concerns their own, and being anxious for their good. On the other hand, it is not like that at all. It is entirely spiritual. Perhaps sometimes the spirit of the world and the mockery it has in the face of divine mysteries, the over emphasis it places on sexual gratification, the estrangement it has with the charism of celibacy, would try to relegate or downgrade this kind of spiritual paternity as if it were only analogous or ephemeral, some kind of second-rate abstraction that doesn't really pertain to reality. This is a lie. What kind of fatherhood is second-class if a person is born into eternal life who would otherwise end up in hell? Is that a lesser kind of fatherhood, merely spiritual? It is one of the most substantial and real things in the universe.

The Most Holy Eucharist that a priest is the summit, source, and center of a priest's spiritual fatherhood. This Father's Day I experienced this in an entirely different way. As I was saying the sacred words of consecration I had the experience for the first time ever of being in loco Dei Patris, in the place of God the Father, according to an ancient expression of the Church Fathers, both east and west. I understood for the first time that when a priest says, "this is my body...this is my blood" God the Father himself personally steps into that moment and directly speaks his Word, as if he were saying,
This is my consubstantial, con-natural, co-eteral, co-equal Son, one in Being with me, sent to you now here in this place and time in a way he has never been given before or will be given again as a manifestation of my unique love for you, of that portion of my love that is peculiarly yours. For I so love you people gathered here that I give my only begotten Son to you again made present so that you, here and now, will not perish but have eternal life.
It was, understandably, a very moving experience to celebrate Mass today. I felt the Fatherhood of God in a way I never have before and realized that the greatest moment of very real first-rate, first-class, supersubstantial, Fatherhood in giving the Son to the world, to this world, this parish, these people, here and now as a specific and altogether unique manifestation of God the Father for these children of his. Also at the moment of communion, especially when I place the host on the tongue of one of the people, it is like very tender feeding of children the eternal God, as though you would feed an infant the sustenance that will give them life and make them strong. I do not know how to describe the love of God the Father at that moment of communion. It is no surprise that when Jesus would touch people he would speak paternally, as if the Father was actually speaking through him, "Daughter, your faith has healed you" (Lk 7:50; Lk 8:48; Mk 5:34). I am sure that if people have the proper dispositions, no small healing is apportioned to them given straight out of the love of God the Father.

Another moment that the Fatherhood of God is very present in the life of a priest is the experience of loosening the bonds of sin, especially mortal sin, the kind that would otherwise make them orphans of their eternal Father. Is this fatherhood just a kind of happy feeling, merely a parable, sign, an idea, a theological figment or theoretical phantasm? No. It don't get any more real than that. This is even more true of helping a person die after giving them the last sacraments, the apostolic pardon, and the final commendation. It is like helping a child fall asleep so that they may wake up in eternity. Several times this past month people died only a few hours after I anointed them.

Recently God has given me charge of a few persons in spiritual direction. This too for me is an intense encounter with the Father's love. I was offering mass for my spiritual directees lately and I saw in my mind a bouquet of beautiful flowers that I would present to God at the end of my life. Of course I know that God is the real spiritual director of their souls and he is the only one responsible for beautifying them, but he has given priests to be instruments in his garden, like a spade or hoe and probably a little manure of their own humanity. It seems that Jesus not only invested extra time in seeking out the lost, but also in the advanced formation of those who would serve others. I frequently hear these people say, "thank you for making the time." What they may not know is that there is a very powerful grace of sanctity for the priest is in responding to the needs of God's children, and a priest is very much nourished by gifting himself to others, being spent and consumed for souls.

Wait a minute, don't worry when you hear those words of consuming or spending his life. Undoubtedly some will say, "You should also rest." Yes, Jesus himself turned away from the poor, left the hungry unfed, the sick unhealed, the lost untaught, and went to the Father to speak to him in private. I am so grateful he gave me this example, for it is in returning from contemplation of the Father's glory that a priest has any capacity to be a man for others, so in turning away momentarily, he is also serving them better.

In prayer too, there is the growth of the fundamental inner identity of the priest, what Blessed Pope John Paul II called in his Exhortation on the Priesthood (Pastores Dabo Vobis), Pastoral Charity, or fatherly love. Cardinal Tuan called it a "surge of paternal generosity." Fr James Flanagan, one of my own chief spiritual fathers and the founder of my community claims that God the Father is "a burst of joyful generosity," which takes a hold of a priest's whole being. It seems that in the Sacrament of Holy Orders God the Father takes a ray of his Fatherhood and lets it shine out of a man for the people to whom he is sent.

May the prayers and intercession of Our Lady, beloved Daughter of the God Father, bring forth in the hearts of priests the supersubstantial and eucharistic Fatherhood of God for his people.
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