Tuesday 31 January 2012

The Joys of Catholic Guilt

Graham Greene
(picture by Forgács Máté).

One of the things I often heard about in vague terms before becoming a Catholic was ‘Catholic Guilt’. There were those who seemed to pride themselves upon it. I picked up some notion of it from reading Graham Greene’s novels, with their heroes tortured by a sense of wrongs which could never be righted, evils which could never be undone, sins which could never be forgiven. In those days I could easily dismiss anything Catholic as not really being Christian, so I came to a vague conclusion that Catholics couldn’t therefore believe in Divine Grace.

That’s the problem with picking up your ideas about Catholicism from non-practising Catholics. You’ll encounter a jumbled assortment of half-truths, corrupted truths and distorted truths, which are far more dangerous than lies. In fact, I’ve come to learn from painful experience that the non-Catholic Catholics are very good at leading others swiftly down the broad road to destruction. The US health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, being a prime example.

So what is this Catholic Guilt? What is peculiarly Catholic about having a strong sense of sin? Archbishop Fulton Sheen put it well when he said that a Catholic suffers more from wrongs he commits, simply because he loves more. It becomes so much more personal. If you have the idea of church as something like a police force, trying to catch you committing sins so you can be hauled before the courts and publicly disgraced, or like a stern schoolteacher who enforces conformity and insists that you do what they say ‘just because I say so’, then of course you will come to feel that offending this authority is no great matter. In fact, such offenses may be the way to liberate yourself from a burdensome responsibility which is only preventing you from reaching your individual potential.

But when you come to know the Church as your Mother, and when you come to know that this loving Mother was born from the womb of Our Blessed Mother, and is identical with the Body of Our Lord, who suffered so intensely out of love for each one of us, then it becomes a personal matter. Then you know that to break with this tender Mother is to separate yourself from one who loves, nurtures, protects.

I will never forget the deep sense I had in my first week following reception into the Church, when I had received Holy Communion for the first time: I just knew that there was a Presence inside me that I did not want to offend. Why would I want to do anything to separate myself from that great love?

The true understanding of Catholic guilt is that it is so painful because it is a fall from such heights of grace. The deeper the love affair, the more heartbreaking is the sense that this love is endangered, that it could even come to an end. And we know, as Catholics, that it could. We know we could lose that state of grace, not because God rejects us, but because we reject Him. The guilt is a blessing, because when we feel it, we know that something is wrong, and we can do something about it through the Sacrament of Confession. God forbid that I should ever cease to feel the pain of separation from Our Lord.

Posted by Anthony Radice (A Tiny Son of Mary).

A great Jesuit - in the days when the Society of Jesus was a great order

                                                                      Fr Henry Morse
                                                                   1st February 1645

I had occasion to visit a Jesuit website this week and was not a little knocked back by the photographs of priests of the order - not a clerical collar in sight!

It seems rather sad that, after receiving the vocational call and undergoing years of study and sacrificing so many of life's comforts, a priest should discard his 'badge of office' to appear as an ordinary layman.

St Henry Morse SJ did not wear a dog collar either but, the times in which he lived were somewhat different, as were the style of clothes worn by a Catholic priest. But I somehow believe that this man, if he lived today, would not walk around wearing a shirt and a tie but the clerical black.

Interestingly, this website carried a history of the order in England and Wales and made much of their priests through the years but one of their greats, Fr Clement Tigar, late of this world and Campion house in Osterley, was missing.

Was it because this quiet man was a traditionalist I wonder?

But back to Fr Morse, born into the Protestant faith in 1595 in rural Suffolk.

What follows now is Fr Morse's statement from the scaffold at Tyburn, uttered as preparations were made for him to be hanged, drawn and quartered on February 1st 1645.

It is a most moving statement and one that, in these troublesome times for the Faith, we can draw a great deal of comfort from:

"I am come hither to die for my religion, for that religion which is professed by the Catholic Roman Church, founded by Christ, established by the Apostles, propagated through all ages by a hierarchy always visible to this day, grounded on the testimonies of Holy Scriptures, upheld by the authority of the Fathers and Councils, out of which, in fine, there can be no hope of salvation.

Time was when I was a Protestant, being then a student of the law in the Inns of Court in town, till, being suspicious of the truth of my religon, I went abroad into Flanders, and upon full conviction I renounced my former errors and was reconciled to the Church of Rome, the mistress of all Churches.

Upon my return to England I was committed to prison for refusing to take the oath of supremacy, and banished.
After even years I returned to England as a priest, and devoted myself to the poor and the plague-stricken".

"No self-glorification here" interrupted the Sheriff,

"I will glory you only in God" continued the martyr, "who has pleased to allow me to seal the Catholic faith with my blood, and I pray that my death may atone for the sins of this nation, for which end and in testimony of the one true Catholic faith confirmed by miracles now as ever, I willing die"

                                   St Henry Morse SJ  - Ora pro nobis!
               And pray also that the Jesuit order returns to its greatness!

Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow

Sunday 22 January 2012

BE the Sign of Jonah to Bring About Repentance and Faith

Repent!  This is the message of Jonah, St John the Baptist, of our Lord Jesus, and even what any human person with a conscience can know.  Cease doing evil and learn to do good.  It isn't anything fancy, profound, or eloquent, but when it comes from a man who spent three days in the belly of the whale or three days in the belly of the earth, then we'll sit up and listen.

Listen to my homily for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time:

If you have trouble listening click here.
Look at the Mass Readings for today.

Nowadays it is theologically fashionable to question the historicity of the story of Jonah.  Yeah, it is pretty weird.  Quite odd to think about a man spending three days in a whale and then getting spit out.  But c'mon, isn't that why they listened to him?  To me, the fact that the Ninevites repented after hearing Jonah is the first reason why I think we shouldn't question if it really happened.  The next thing people quesion is if the Red Sea really split, if the miracle of the loaves really happened, and even if Jesus actually historically rose from the dead!?  Nonsense.  Hogwash fiddle faddle!  The second reason is because Jesus himself called the Cross and Resurrection, "The Sign of Jonah" (Mt 12:39-40; Mk 8:11-12; Lk 11:29).

Jesus is the sign of Jonah.  He is "The Resurrection and the Life" (Jn 11:25) who suffered for our sins and on the third day rose again.  For this reason, that Jesus Christ knows us inside and out, and loves us unconditionally, it is very difficult NOT to listen to him.  For it is only the love of God that can really give us the true hope for change.  It is only the Love of one who wept tears of blood and already repented in his own flesh for our sins, which gives us the strength not only listen but to obey the one who says, "Repent and believe in the Gospel" (from today's Gospel Mk 1:15).

Jesus gives us two chief ways of repenting and believing.  These are the two chief Sacraments of the daily Christian life, the Sacrament of Repentance and the Sacrament of Faith, Penance and the Holy Eucharist.  In the Sacrament of Penance, Jesus applies his most precious blood to our sins, cleansing our inmost heart of sin, so that "Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow" (Is 1:18) giving us a new innocence like that of a newborn baby.  In the Most Holy Eucharist Jesus gives us the primary reason for believing in him, that he loves us here and now and says to us in the person of the priest, "This is my body, which will be given up for you" (Lk 22:19).  For not only can we say, "for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (Jn 3:16), but also as Jesus said, "the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world" (Jn 6:51).  He gives himself to me.  Here.  Now.  Not just 2000 years ago in a land far away, but at every Catholic Mass throughout the entire world.

HE IS that supersubstantial bread that we eat, that we consume with faith, "for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:26).  The Most Holy Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1324) of faith, hope, and charity, of acquiring and exercising the virtues, of service to God and man, and of discipleship.  When we receive the Holy Eucharist with dispositions of a lively faith, real humility, and also with the authentic hope that it will change us, it will bring about the very repentance and faith that Jesus speaks about.  In receiving him we hear him say, we hear the living God say, "Repent and believe!"  This is the same God, that, when he speaks, things happen.  Just as he said, "Fiat Lux!  Let there be light!" (Genesis 1:3) and light itself was created.  When we hear God speak to us the words, he gives us also the strength to follow them.

Our Lady lived these words of Jesus the best.  She is the first and best disciple, who "pondered all these things in her heart" (Lk 2:52).  She is the Mother who helps us to hear these life giving and transformative words of Christ.  May her prayers open our hearts to the One who loves us and helps us repent and believe in his great love for us.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma's second meeting - a day of devotion, socialising and discussion for Catholic bloggers

I would like to encourage all those who can and who often share their Catholic faith online to come along to this special day for those who use the new media (Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, comments pages, etc). It will be a great opportunity for those of us who normally only commune via the sometimes 'dark glass' of computer monitors to actually see each other 'face to face' (cf 1Cor 13:12).

The first Guild meeting was an extraordinary day in more ways than one. Not only was it one of the hottest October days on record, but all three sacred ministers at the High Mass were priest-bloggers - surely a first for the Catholic Church! It was also good to be at Fr Tim Finigan's parish, where we received a most generous and warm welcome.

During the day, Saturday 18 February, Fr Sam Medley SOLT (Medley Minute) will speak on "Blessed Bloggery", reflecting especially on blogging (or the new media) as a form of ecclesial communion. We will also be able to gather for Mass, celebrated by Fr Tim Finigan (Hermeneutic of Continuity),  followed by Adoration and Benediction. Those who wish to may also avail themselves of Confession at this time.

All Catholics who make use of the new media are welcome to attend this day, especially those who comment online, have their own blog, have a Facebook page, and so on. For the past few years, Pope Benedict XVI has specifically encouraged Catholics to share their Christian faith online. He has also pointed out the challenges involved in communicating both the Gospel and our own personalities via the internet. This day at Blackfen, sponsored by the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma, is a genuine attempt to respond to the Pope's invitation to use the new media as a tool for the New Evangelisation.

For directions to Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, please visit the parish website. It is quite easy to get to from central London.

For those who are interested in coming along, please do so - the fact that you are reading this shows that you have an obvious interest in Catholicism online or Catholics on the internet.

I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on the day!

Dylan Parry (A Reluctant Sinner)

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma - Meeting at Our Lady of the Rosary, 18 February 2012

If you happen to be a Catholic blogger or use the new media (Facebook, YouTube, etc) in any way, please keep Saturday 18 February free as the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma will be meeting at Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, on that day.

All Catholics who express their faith online, especially bloggers, are welcome to attend this special event.

During the day, Mass will be celebrated and there will also be Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. After a period of worship, Fr Sam Medley SOLT will address those present (as well as possibly those joining us online) on the theme of blogging as an instrument of ecclesial communion. Following lunch, the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma will meet to discuss issues that affect those who blog, comment or generally share their Catholic faith on the internet.

On behalf of the Guild of Bl Titus Brandsma, I would like to express my gratitude to Fr Tim Finigan who has once more kindly agreed to host the Guild at his parish. Those who were present for the Guild's first meeting at Blackfen during last October's mini-heatwave already know the generous hospitality of Fr Tim and his parish.

More details and a poster will soon be available...

But, for now, please spread the word and make a note of Saturday 18 February in your diaries!

Dylan Parry
A Reluctant Sinner

Sunday 8 January 2012

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Why do we blog?

I mean, specifically, why do we as Catholics, blog?

What is the purpose of this exercise?

Is it merely a chance to air one’s views much as one might debate a topic in the local pub (always assuming you can find a Christian interested in discussing matters such as the hypostatic union and its various implications)

Or, do we blog because we wish to influence a larger audience and perhaps convert them to our way of thinking?

Or, is it just a personal whim and we have no cares about who reads our posts, what they think of them or how many read them?

I have the greatest respect for bloggers who can, hand on heart, claim that they have no interest in viewing their blog statistics; they must be saintly people.

I try very hard not to fret as to whether X or Y numbers of hits have been received concerning a post but, it’s in my DNA to measure what I am doing and to determine if it is for good or not.

If we have no cares for what we post then surely we must become as an empty gong or a clashing cymbal?

In the past twelve months, in particular, we have witnessed the power that may be wielded by the Catholic blogosphere; the odd Bishop about to be promoted quickly dropped from the list, Tesco calling a halt to sponsorship, beyond 2012, of Gay Pride, the Cardinal Vaughan School battle to retain its Catholic identity and many other incidents.

And we are still in an embryonic state as far as refining and honing that ‘power’ is concerned.
There are many facets yet to be explored and developed.

One of those facets is the power to inform and even educate, in short, to evangelise.
I do not mean that we can take the word of Christ and actually convert people (although that might happen from time to time).

 I mean that we have an opportunity to bring many thousands of Catholics up to speed with what is going on in the Church and guide them to a more profound faith.

Is that a bad objective? Is it, perhaps just a shade patronising?

Possibly it may smack of that but it is not intentional; the bulk of the laity have little or no concept of how the Church is changing, reforming, developing and, even, succeeding in the world.

They do know that the Church is now infamous for its muddle headed thinking on the clerical paedophilia issue but ask the Catholic man on the Clapham bus what they know about Summorum Pontificum and you will draw a blank stare before being thrown off!

Try telling a group of the laity that practicing homosexuality is a sin and see how many walk away.
Or that Purgatory is an approved doctrine of the faith (I know of some nuns who deny that this is so).
 Or, even that we have returned to Friday abstinence from meat – you will get some funny looks I assure you.

The Sunday sermon does not usually focus specifically on current church affairs. It focuses on the Gospel or Epistle of the day or, if it is a special feast, then, possibly a homily on that.

The Catholic press struggles to maintain a readership that is way below the number of Catholics in the country.
Therefore, the Catholic blogging community has a great deal to offer (as our blogging priests have shown).

Take this concept one step further. Why not expose the Catholic world of blogging to the laity en masse?

Show them that the Latin Mass is legitimate, that there are forms of church music other than folk Masses - open their eyes to the reform of the reform that is moving at a faster pace in many other countries than it is in Great Britain.

And what better vehicle to undertake this role than the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma?

A Guild poster distributed to key parishes and available as a download would not take too much effort and would spread the word much faster than the man with a cleft stick.

Posted by Richard Collins - Linen on the Hedgerow

Monday 2 January 2012

The Legend of the Letter from the Lord

Since 2003, I have had a devotion to St Jude, Patron of hopeless cases. I endeavour to pray to him every morning in my daily prayers. His intercession is without doubt very powerful indeed with God, and his fame for procuring favours for the Faithful in desperate need is nearly global.

Recently, I acquired a CTS book on the Saint and discovered the Legend of the letter from the Lord. By pious tradition St Jude is involved in a remarkable story involving a letter said to have been either written by, or dictated by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The CTS pamphlet says...

'One of the most well-known stories about St Jude begins in Edessa, the capital of a small kingdom in the area of what is now Urfa in Southern Turkey.  The king of Edessa, Agbar V 'The Black', had contracted leprosy and, having heard of Jesus's miracles, wrote to ask Jesus to come and heal him. Eusebius quotes the letter as well as Jesus's alleged reply: 
Agbar, Ruler of the city of Edessa, to Jesus the Saviour, the good physician, who has appeared in Jerusalem, Greetings -
I have heard about you and about the cures you perform without medicine or herbs. What I have heard is that you make the blind see again and the lame walk, you cleanse lepers, expel unclean spirits and demons, cure those who have suffered from chronic and painful diseases, and raise the dead. On hearing all this about you, I concluded that one of two things must be true - either you are God and came down from heaven to do these things, or you are God's son doing them. I am therefore writing to ask you to come to me and cure the illness from which I suffer. I have heard that the Jews are treating you badly and wish to cause you harm - my city is very small, but very noble, adequate for both of us to live in peace.' 
Jesus's reply:
'Blessed is he who has never seen me and yet believes in me. Long ago it was written that those who see me will not believe in me and that those who have not seen me will believe in me and be saved. As to your request that I visit you, it is better for me to stay here and finish the work I was sent to do. After I have finished, then I will be taken up to him who sent me. Then I will send you one of my disciples to heal your disease and bring salvation to you and your people'. 
Eusebius says he read these letters in a Greek translation of the original Aramaic and did not question their authenticity. These days they are dismissed as forgeries, although some people believe these were spoken messages which were written down later. In any case, the letters were cherished relics in Edessa and were widely believed to protect the city - so much so that, when the Persians besieged the city, Christ's letter was held aloft on the city walls and hte Persians were defeated. The letters, forgeries or not, have disappeared in the mists of time but are rumoured to be held in a monastery in Kyrgyzstan. 
King Agbar had also commissioned a portrait of Jesus, but the painter was unable to paint him. Jesus, feeling sorry for the man, pressed a cloth to his face and an image miraculously appeared. This was called the mandylion (a small cloth or handkerchief). One tradition says that this cloth was delivered to Agbar by St Jude and this is one explanation of the large portrait medallion of Jesus that statues of St Jude are shown wearing. The cloth was venerated in Edessa and then, after AD 945, in Constantinople, in the Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom). During the Fourth Crusade in 1204 the cloth disappeared. There are many claims as to what happened to it next. It could be hte cloth in the church of San Bartolomeo degli Armeni in Genoa. It has also been linked to the Sudarium, another cloth kept in Oviedo Cathedral. 
Various sources say that when the disciples went out to the world, Jude went first to Edessa to fulfil Jesus's promise to Agbar. Eusebius says Jude stayed there in the Jewish quarter with a man called Tobias. According to The Golden Legend, Jude cured Agbar by wiping his face with Christ's letter and Agbar was converted, as were many other people in Edessa.'
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