Thursday 29 May 2014

Happy 140th Birthday GK Chesterton

The Last Hero

by G.K.Chesterton

The wind blew out from Bergen from the dawning to the day,

There was a wreck of trees and fall of towers a score of miles away,
And drifted like a livid leaf I go before its tide,

Spewed out of house and stable, beggared of flag and bride.

The heavens are bowed about my head, shouting like seraph wars,

With rains that might put out the sun and clean the sky of stars,

Rains like the fall of ruined seas from secret worlds above,

The roaring of the rains of God none but the lonely love.

Feast in my hall, O foemen, and eat and drink and drain,

You never loved the sun in heaven as I have loved the rain.

The chance of battle changes -- so may all battle be;

I stole my lady bride from them, they stole her back from me.

I rent her from her red-roofed hall, I rode and saw arise,

More lovely than the living flowers the hatred in her eyes.

She never loved me, never bent, never was less divine;

The sunset never loved me, the wind was never mine.

Was it all nothing that she stood imperial in duresse?

Silence itself made softer with the sweeping of her dress.

O you who drain the cup of life, O you who wear the crown,

You never loved a woman's smile as I have loved her frown.

The wind blew out from Bergen to the dawning of the day,

They ride and run with fifty spears to break and bar my way,

I shall not die alone, alone, but kin to all the powers,

As merry as the ancient sun and fighting like the flowers.

How white their steel, how bright their eyes! I love each laughing

Cry high and bid him welcome to the banquet of the brave.

Yea, I will bless them as they bend and love them where they lie,

When on their skulls the sword I swing falls shattering from the sky.

The hour when death is like a light and blood is like a rose, --

You never loved your friends, my friends, as I shall love my foes.

Know you what earth shall lose to-night, what rich uncounted loans,

What heavy gold of tales untold you bury with my bones?

My loves in deep dim meadows, my ships that rode at ease,

Ruffling the purple plumage of strange and secret seas.

To see this fair earth as it is to me alone was given,

The blow that breaks my brow to-night shall break the dome of heaven.

The skies I saw, the trees I saw after no eyes shall see,

To-night I die the death of God; the stars shall die with me;

One sound shall sunder all the spears and break the trumpet's breath:

You never laughed in all your life as I shall laugh in death.

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Musings on The National and The Universal

A highly intelligent person told me over a year ago how he was converted in the streets of Rome, coming out of  Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio one summer day and noticing the hundreds of people on the street from all over the world.

He was instantly struck with the difference between his "national" Anglican church and the universal Catholic Church. He not only had this epiphany, that the universal Church is the one, true Church, but he instantly converted.

Today, I was musing on the fact of the impending demise of power of the national church, and how the step-sister Catholic Church would respond to disestablishment.

Can the Catholic Church in England be honest and forthright enough not to mourn the ending of the national institution of Anglicanism? Some Catholics believe that the national church has maintained a Christian ethos in England by the fact of establishment.

I disagree and believe that the confusion caused by the shifting into relativism and moral subjectivity one sees clearly in the established church has done more harm than good in modern times.

So, if disestablishment occurs, what should be the response of the hitherto step-sister, the one, true, holy, and apostolic Church?

Massive evangelization...

We should be preparing both mentally and spiritually for disestablishment, which will happen. The fact that the state church has compromised itself in most areas of doctrine and morals means that there will be a huge vacuum when the last vote for the destruction of the Anglican church happens.

Are we ready? Is there a missionary plan?

Why should Catholics be caught unprepared for the inevitable?

Cinderella became the princess not merely by waiting, but by listening to her fairy godmother.

We have the Holy Spirit giving us our "temporal mission" in the Church. Should we not be listening and cooperating with grace to change from the step-sister in the small corner of the room to the real princess, the Bride of Christ?

Just thoughts on a warm evening in the country...more here...

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Pope Clement XI: The Universal Prayer

Courtesy of Our Catholic Prayers

'This Universal Prayer has been attributed to Pope Clement XI from the 18th century. This prayer provides a good outline of what we need to do we strive for sanctity and Eternal Life, as “citizens-in-training” for Heaven.

Does all this seem to be too tall an order? You’ve heard that even the just man sins seven times a day? Don’t lose hope! As you can tell, Pope Clement is not shy in asking God for His assistance to “obtain heaven”. And there’s good news! Our Lord wants very much to help you in your journey (and at times your struggle) towards sanctity. (So does our Blessed Mother Mary, whom St. Alphonsus Liguori once called the “dispenser of all divine graces”!)

As Jesus Himself said most famously in the Gospels “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing” (emphasis added) (John 15:5). You weren’t meant to “go it alone”, to achieve your salvation without Divine assistance, in part through prayers like this one above.

In fact, our Church calls the idea that one can achieve salvation without God’s help Pelagianism, a heresy! Just remember Our Lord has given us His Church, prayer and the Sacraments to help us receive His graces. And we are all sinners in need of God’s mercy. Don’t be afraid to ask Him for it, especially in the sacrament of Penance!

Note also, in the reference to “the nothingness of this world”, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t strive to achieve success, hopefully using whatever talents God gave you, and to be able to raise a family and have friends and the like. Just don’t get too attached to anything created rather than to our Creator. It all comes and goes quicker than any of us realize! And, as St. James once wrote “What is your life? It is a mist that appears for a while, and then vanishes” (Jas 4:15). Or, as the Prophet Isaiah said “All flesh is grass” (Is 40:6).

But don’t despair about that, either! The important thing, in all your work, is to give glory to God in love and obedience. When things go well, thank God for His blessings. When things go badly, as they do for so many these days, ask God for His help in getting through the tough times.

And remember always that, however crooked or straight, bumpy or smooth, the path to Heaven is for each of us, the end of this road takes us to a whole new glorious place! An eternity free of sickness, sadness, hatred, and all that ails us here on earth, one overflowing with God’s peace and love, real love! As St. Paul wrote “Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).'

Thursday 22 May 2014

More on The Church Militant

Referring again to Karl Adam's book, one finds this lengthy but clear, further explanation of the Church Militant. I use this quotation to underline the necessity of gaining "merit". When the Church states that some are saved through the merits of the Catholic Church, we are reminded that we must gain merit in order for this to happen.

A strong Church Militant works on indulgences, reparative suffering, self-denial, and other means of building up the Kingdom of God on earth. Some go on pilgrimages, such as to Walsingham for indulgences. Many, if not most, of the serious members of the Church Militant say the daily rosary. Prayers for the sick or the dying provide indulgences. But, actions can also merit grace for those who seek the Truth.

One of the roles of the Church Militant is, simply, redemptive or reparative suffering. This type of suffering allows for the grace of God to flow into the lives of others. Novenas, as well as acts of penance, frequently are implemented by those in the Church Militant. Here is Adam again:

But the ministry of the saints to the faithful on earth is not limited to loving intercession. It is also a love of self-sacrifice and service, a love which is ready to share its own wealth with all the struggling members of the Body of Christ, to the widest extent that it can so share it. The saints during their mortal life amassed beyond the measure of their duty a store of wealth and of sacrificial values made precious by the Blood of Christ. The superabundance of their love and penance forms a rich deposit. United with the superabundance of the merits of Christ, and derived from those merits, this wealth of the saints is that "treasure of the Church" (thesaurus ecclesiae), that sacred family inheritance, which belongs to all the members of the Body of Christ, and which is at the service especially of its sick and feeble members. "If a member suffers, all the members suffer with it." 

When a member has not made sufficient reparation for his sins, when after the forgiveness of sin and the remission of its eternal punishment, there yet remains a debt of "temporal" punishment, which the just God in His wise ordinance attaches still to forgiven sin, then all the members of the Body help to bear this burden of punishment, and then the Church in virtue of her power of binding and loosing may supplement the poverty of one member out of the wealth of another.  

 And thus she grants "indulgences," that is to say, supplements the insufficient reparation of her weaker members by means of the vicarious superabundance of the merits of Christ and His saints. So that the indulgence not only attests the seriousness of sin and teaches that guilt must be expiated "to the last farthing," but is also an illustration of the blessed potency of the Communion of Saints and of the vicarious expiation which is interwoven with it. All the main ideas upon which the doctrine of indulgences is based—the necessity of expiation for sin, the co-operative expiation of the members of the Body of Christ, the Church's power so to bind and loose on earth that her action is valid in heaven—all these ideas are contained in holy Scripture.  
 So that although the historical form of the indulgence has undergone some change—from the vicarious expiatory suffering of the martyrs and confessors, and the penitential "redemptions" of the Middle Ages down to our modern indulgenced prayer—and may in the future undergo further change, and although the theology of indulgences has only been gradually elaborated, yet in its substance the doctrine is in line with the pure thought of the Scriptures. Here, as in no other practice of the Church, do the members of the Body of Christ co-operate in loving expiation. All the earnestness and joyfulness, humility and contrition, love and fidelity, which animate the Body are here especially combined and manifested. 

For that reason, as the Council of Trent says, "the use of indulgences is very salutary for the people of Christ" (Sess. 25 De indulg.), But, because indulgences are based upon truths which are not easy for the rude and uneducated, distortion and abuse are very possible, especially where the people are not well instructed in religion and where Church authority is not vigilant. There were many abuses during the period before the Council of Trent, and we are still suffering their evil consequences. But it is a proof of the permanent value of indulgences that abuses have not been able to kill them, but have only purged them with cleansing fire and aroused them to a new and deeper life. They have become in our day, more than ever, a valuable adjunct to pastoral work.  
Every instructed Catholic knows that an indulgence is not a remission of sin, but only of the temporal penalties attached to sin. He knows that it belongs therefore not to the center and core of the life of grace, but only to its outermost circumference. The granting of an indulgence is not a sacramental or priestly act, but an act of Church authority. Every indulgenced practice has meaning and value only in so far as it is at the same time a simple prayer in the Holy Ghost. A man who would want to use prayer, not for loving converse with God, but merely for the gaining of indulgences, would misuse it and would display a bad misunderstanding of its meaning and nature. 
 The supreme aim of all Christian piety, the one absolutely necessary thing, is to live a new life in God and to be delivered by the power of this life from the guilt of sin and from eternal punishment. No indulgence can exempt from this duty. Indeed the gaining of an indulgence presupposes this one necessary thing, for there can be no remission of temporal punishment where there is no remission of guilt and eternal punishment. So that indulgences may be said to operate at least indirectly towards this purification from sin and towards the establishment of the new life in God. The indulgence, therefore, of its nature is not instituted for the externalizing of the religious life, but for its deepening and enrichment. 

It is an emphatic summons to repentance, a strong impulse to vital incorporation in the Body of Christ, so as to obtain His blessing. And as an indulgence does not simply abolish the whole burden of temporal punishment, but remits it only so far as your works, exactly prescribed by the Church, unite with the merits of Christ and His saints, it may serve also to arouse the sluggish conscience and to make it sensitive, not only to the infinite seriousness of sin, but also to the unparalleled blessings contained in the fellowship of the members of Christ.

To be continued later...

Where Is The Church Militant?

Karl Adam
Besides the excellent bloggers on this blog, and a few writers in the marketplace, one has to ask where is the Church Militant in Great Britain? The idea of fighting the good fight in every aspect of moral and liturgical life, not to mention the political and work spheres, seems to be missing among the larger groupings of Catholics.

The old recusant mind-set may be vanishing. I sincerely hope not, but I have had a sinking feeling that, perhaps, the first country to truly persecute Catholics again in the not-so-distant future will be Auld Blighty.

The political parties as a whole seem not to be open to discussion with mainstream religions, bar one. And, the common person on the street, the true secularist, has marginalized religion to the point of making it irrelevant. So, the more the Catholic Church becomes marginalized, one of the stages of persecution, the more the Church will lose influence.

The Church Militant described by Karl Adam in The Spirit of Catholicism, (I have one of the original pink books of his in the old Catholic series), defines and describes the Communion of Saints. The Church Militant may be seen as this, part of the Communion of Saints:  

The relations between the Church of this world and the Church of the next are many and various; scarcely less rich and fruitful is the loving and vital fellowship that exists between the earthly members themselves of the Body of Christ. When the Fathers, beginning with Nicetas, bishop of Remesiana at the commencement of the fifth century, speak of the Communion of Saints, they are thinking especially of this earthly fellowship, and it was this that St. Paul also had specially in mind. It is the mysterious inner life of the Church, the mysterious exchange and commerce in functions and graces between its members, the mysterious process whereby the fellowship of Christ grows up organically into a "holy temple in the Lord," into the habitation of God in the Spirit (Eph. ii, 21-22)
Here is an excellent definition from Adam, which incorporates the words of the Beatitudes into the description of the Church Militant.

The Church Militant (ecclesia militans).—The "saints" of Christ, His "holy nation" (1 Peter ii, 9), fight here on earth, not with loud clamor or great display, but in quiet and stillness. Their wrestling is not against men, but against sin; they seek the pearl of great price and the hidden treasure. They are depicted in the Sermon on the Mount, in the concise and graphic phrases of our Lord. They are the "poor in spirit," the little ones of state and Church and society, the unappreciated and despised, who day by day go their inconspicuous way of duty, and cannot marvel enough that the great and holy God should wish to be with them also. They are the "meek" who never grumble at life and who ever accept with great content whatever God sends them. They are the "mourners" who in the lonely night cry plaintively to God: Lord, not my will, but Thine be done, and who at the last can thank their God with glad hearts that they are allowed to suffer with Jesus. 
They are those who "hunger and thirst after justice," those who reck nothing of comfortable piety and well-fed virtue, but on the contrary are pierced to the soul with the thought of their unworthiness, and put their whole trust constantly in the redeeming power of Jesus. They are the "merciful," for whom the need of others is their need, whom no obstacle, no sin or foulness can hinder from succoring their starving brother, and whose hands are closed by no ingratitude. They are the "pure of heart," men of a childlike simplicity and singleness of aim, kindhearted, guileless and always cheerful, for whom life is all sunshine, a constant loving cry of Abba, Father! 

They are the "peace-makers," men of the Holy Spirit, of inward maturity and serene equipoise of mind, from whom quiet and peace flow forth as from a sanctuary, before whom all discord is ashamed and dumb. And lastly they are those who are persecuted "for justice sake," "for His sake," those apostolic souls and tireless workers in the vineyard, who proclaim His truth by speech and writing, by teaching and example, "in season and out of season" (2 Tim. iv, 2). They seek not their own advantage, neither recognition from the world, nor honors from the Church; they seek only souls. And commonly their lot is abuse, persecution and hatred. For their life is a special challenge to the world, and draws down the scorn and laughter of its wise ones.

If the Church Militant in Britain completely loses her identity, the New Evangelization will be stymied. Only in the acceptance of this identity can those who are true soldiers of Christ move out into the public square with conviction. This media of blogging provides one such way of supporting ecclesia militans. This Guild provides a vanguard for ecclesia militans. I shall continue with this theme again soon.

Wednesday 21 May 2014

Full Employment

In discussions with an atheist friend, the topic of Biblical approval of slavery came up. I must confess that I was quite unprepared for it. A barrage of Old Testament quotes from Almighty God that regulated slavery and upheld the concept were sent to me over Facebook. My first approach to this line of attack on the God of Revelation ('If God says this there is no God') was to place slavery in the historical context of the ancient world and to then go scrambling for apologetics on it. I don't think I convinced my theological adversary one bit. Personally, I need to understand it, otherwise it is not only God Himself Who is Mystery, but what He revealed in that time makes no sense. We cannot understand God but we can understand His laws - even those given at the time to the Jewish people.

Luck of the Irish: St Patrick fled from his slave owners and eventually 
became a Bishop. St Patrick, of course, wasn't Irish, but he was a Saint

The lesser evil

Wherever slavery has been in any time in history it would appear that it has been bound up with conquest and war, subjugation of inhabitants for the acquisition of territory and land.

There is little evidence from the Old Testament that slavery was invented by God, but rather tolerated and, at times, endorsed, especially at those times when God's people were under threat from foreign aggressors. In the Old Testament, God is the mighty Protector to His People and He has no other people but the Chosen People. It is with them that God makes a Covenant. Some Catholic apologists point to the biblical support for slavery as the permitting of a 'lesser evil' by God. We need to ask what the 'greater evil' or could have been.

Catholic apologetics would first point to the Fall and the entrance of Original Sin into the world as the loss of the Ideal for which human beings were originally created - namely, to enjoy Paradise. The whole concept of 'work' or 'toil' is something that enters human history in the immediate aftermath of the Fall and the first ever job was, we are informed, gardening. Not that money was around so early on. Human beings were not originally created for a life of toil and work or war, but for the enjoyment of God in Paradise. Adam is informed in the wake of the disobedience of himself and Eve...

And to Adam he said: Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, cursed is the earth in thy work; with labour and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life.
Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou eat the herbs of the earth. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.

We might readily ask ourselves, in our modern conception of freedom and liberty, what the 'greater evil' might have been that God, in not prohibiting but tolerating slavery, which becomes apparent in Deuteronomy, might have sought to avoid. The defence of the Jewish people above every other nation appears God's first motive. From what I can tell - and this will take a little re-adjustment of our modern thinking - biblical law on slavery from God's side seems to be more pro-slave than pro-master, even if it is more pro-Jew, than pro-Gentile. God is consistently, throughout Scripture, on the side of the poor, not the rich, favours the oppressed, the orphan, the widow and never does He contradict Himself on this. Not even in this matter.

Law and Love

Before we examine what the greater evil in the absence of slavery might have been, let us remember too that in the Old Testament God permits to the Jews usury (lending money at interest) as a lesser evil to something worse - starvation of a person and/or destitution. That does not mean God loves usury or blesses it. Lending at interest is not good, it is not generous, but if a person is able to repay he will be grateful that someone took pity a little and lent to him in his hour of need (hopefully not at Wonga rates of return). God never says that he likes usury. In fact, the financial enslavement of the poor and their exploitation is consistently something God makes it clear He detests. It is the oppression of the poor, just as slavery in many circumstances would have been the oppression of the poor. I see no reason to imagine that if a rich man 'invested' in a slave and simply exploited a human being to make himself richer and never considered freeing him that God would have detested that too because God detests avarice and the oppression of the poor that is often motivated by that sin.

Under Mosaic law, God even permits divorce in certain circumstances. In the New Testament, Our Lord Jesus Christ recounts that Moses gave permission but only due to the 'hardness of heart' of God's People. Jesus Christ then denounces divorce and remarriage and calls it adultery, which, we can be assured, made some listening to Him very angry indeed. God detests incest, but incest, in the wake of the Fall, is of a lesser and necessary evil and God permits it in order that the human race springs from two first parents.

Jesus Christ and the Pharisees: For some reason. they did not get along...
It is perhaps speculative, but Christ points to the Pharisees, with whom He is nearly continually at odds and says of them:

Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to his disciples, saying: The scribes and the Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses. All things therefore whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not; for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy and insupportable burdens, and lay them on men's shoulders; but with a finger of their own they will not move them.

One could be forgiven for thinking Pharisees kept Israelite slaves. Perhaps they did, perhaps they didn't, but Jesus condemned them for their strict observance of the law but complete lack of love in 'weightier matters' of justice and mercy. God, therefore, permits human initiatives and structures - even economic systems of trade - which have the potential for outright abuse and outright injustice and evil. God gives free will to His people to obey Him and love Him and our neighbour or not. He lays down guidelines for conduct, even in this case, but still allows human beings to be just, or to be unjust and, from what I can see, whatever evils perpetuated against the poor and oppressed by slavery were not according to His will. St Paul would later speak on the matter and tell the Christians that those who had slaves should treat them as brothers and slaves should treat masters in a similar fashion of brotherly love.

In Jesus Christ, it is revealed that what really angers God is an understanding of God's Laws that are more about 'what we can get away with' and observing a book of laws, rather than the worship, love and adoration of God, with the justice and mercy towards our neighbour that He commands and loves. At the same time, for God to have entirely removed slavery at the time as an option for the poor and oppressed would be excessively cruel since it would mean potential starvation, destitution, penury, perpetual debt and being forced into a life of crime or even male prostitution and you can't say that never happened. Debt slaves existed. Thanks to banks, they still exist today. Whole countries! Under Old Testament law, you could pay back a debt through giving your self to work without pay. It was not intended to be perpetual servitude and it is likely that God did not desire that anyone be kept in perpetual servitude if it was possible that they could be free.

"Death or slavery, you say? Let's think, now...give me a moment..."

The entire concept of the slave-master relationship appears to be held in tension with an evident divine wish that the slave - or bondsman - is permitted a healthy measure of human dignity and his humanity is respected - even when taken in warfare and even if the slave was a Gentile for God has commanded his creatures to love. That's why laws on the conduct and treatment of slaves are proscribed.

To us moderns, that sounds like a complete contradiction in terms but let us place ourselves in that era in order that we may at least understand the time. You've been invaded as a country. It's either slavery or...? What exactly? A job working for McDonalds? No. One rather suspects that it was either captivity and slavery or death in time of war. Armies invaded and if you were not taken captive, presumably you were generally killed in the war. That's kind of how wars were won and lost. That is how you subjugated a nation, otherwise, presumably, you were not taken seriously.

Before readers think I'm in any way advocating neo-colonial slavery - or think slavery is good with the attending conquest of nations, it should be understood that the slavery referred to in the Bible is not racial in its essence and that the overtly racial slavery depicted in 12 Years a Slave would be alien to the People of the Book. There were two kinds of slave. Israelite slaves and foreign slaves taken in times of war. In that sense, there was no 'discrimination'.

"Destitution or slavery, you say? Let's think, now...give me a moment..."

My understanding of Old Testament slavery for Israelite slaves is one of a 'safety net'. That is the only manner by which I can begin to understand the God of Compassion. This may have been a situation abused by His people and others, but we might ponder what a bankrupted or indebted, or destitute Israelite's options would have been. If there is nothing and noone else, the answer would appear to be destitution, crime, debt or begging - with all the stigma that would have come with that, or slavery - with all the stigma that would come with that.

St Paul: Be kind to slaves. Slaves, be loyal to your masters
We should ask ourselves what might be in place in contemporary society without the 'welfare state' that receives so much praise and criticism in nearly equal measure and I will draw upon this modern behemoth in this post. If, as I suspect, when an Israelite hit 'rock bottom' there was no employment available and it was a choice of stealing, begging or 'something else', I can see a certain logic in the divine permission behind that 'something else' being slavery. Since what does a man have left to trade when he has nothing to trade but himself?

For God to prohibit slavery entirely would have been to remove the possibility of being a 'bondsman'  and would, in this situation, be cruel in the extreme. That person unable to provide for himself or his family would be denied work and being denied work would be to be denied bread and to either starve, beg or steal. Under divine law, God had made it clear that the man who does not work, does not eat. Working for your food and working to provide for family was written into not just the laws of God in the Old Testament but can arguable be found in the natural law as well. The main work of the times would have been rural and agricultural, growing crops, farming land and livestock. Slaves could marry and have family. They were, we can assume, given accommodation, food, drink etc. Again, this is not to say that slavery was good, nor that it was not bad, but that it may have been better than dying in the gutter, the lesser of all the social evils.

None of this means that God was the big slave owner in the sky who rejoiced at seeing poor people in a situation where they had to hand themselves over to a master who (hopefully) treated them in a virtuous and just manner (if they followed God's laws) in the event of destitution and poverty. All it means is that for the Israelite, at least, and even for the foreigner, God permitted something that would at least enable a person - and even that person's family - to survive. It does not mean God enjoyed or does enjoy slavery and servitude - unless of course, we are rendering such service to God or Our Lady.

Slavery: Not the only social evil

We see in today's society that the slavery permitted by God in the Old Testament, but never willed by Him for humanity, is a terrible blight on our history. However, even today, there are terrible social evils which are lamentable and which may, in antiquity, have even been reduced by such a social evil as slavery.

For instance, mass unemployment is a huge problem today. With mass unemployment comes great poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, suicides, loss of purpose, crime, prostitution and - and this is important - the near total loss of the dignity of work. The benefits system, too, has reduced human beings to being cogs in a machine that does not consider them as valuable or worthy. Every person is a statistic and each claimant is seen as a burden, especially in times of economic austerity.

Nobody - myself included (I am unemployed) - would advocate any form of slavery for the mass unemployed, but it could be argued from biblical tradition that to be a 'bondsman' would have been the only way out of all those of all the evils and that slavery would have been the lesser evil because under divine law you would have had accommodation, the right to a family, the right to marry, the right to food and shelter and it was not to be perpetual.

It's coming back...

Yet we are now in the 21st century and we can no longer rule out that it may yet happen when, if as likely, the welfare state collapses, since in the event, what would be the choice for those who face destitution? It's payback time and every proposal is on the table. We could even see, in the United Kingdom, a form of slavery introduced soon that will see the State dictate to families that more than two children will not be supported by the Government, which will manipulate families on benefits to consider abortion, sterilisation or artificial contraception.

Now that contemporary poverty has grown to such a large extent in the West, the poor are more 'in the palm' of Big Government and Big Business than they ever were before. The benefits system has reduced the poor to financial dependence on the State in a way which is truly frightening. Already, men and women out of work (yes, women have to work now, sorry ladies) are facing draconian sanctions if they are discovered to be 'fit for work'. Many are being forced to work for companies for their meagre benefits payments which by no means cover the cost of living in the slightest. It is a small step between paying people £1.70 an hour in benefits for working in return and paying people nothing in benefits for working in return.

Would Almighty God approve of that? No. He might permit it, but He does not bless it. He would detest that, but then, hey, when a country is in debt slavery to the tune of billions, if not trillions of pounds, one could see how any Government could eventually decide that some form of slavery for the unemployed was 'the lesser evil' rather than, say, being their 'brother's keeper'. Of course, no secularist Government will be drawing upon the Old Testament as justification for such a proposal. We've 'progressed' from all that, you know. I guess that the very powerful social darwinists running this country could get that Fabian concept of 'full employment' after all. They might not all get paid much - or even, one day - at all, but at least there will be 'full employment'. The poor will not be able to volunteer themselves to a farmer as a bondsman. Why? Because now all the slaves will belong to the State. You will either behave and do as you are told, or starve.

The atheists will still maintain, of course, that God's the bad guy!

Monday 19 May 2014

Atheism and the Suicide Cult

From time to time, I have a 'culture of encounter' and a 'culture of dialogue' with an atheist. We cross swords, there is no victor, it is a dialogue of the deaf. I do not accept his rationalist arguments which reduce God to some kind of testable item found in His creation.

To him, the entire 'God concept' is 'illogical' including the God of Revelation of whom we speak. Nothing, in his world view, points to a Creator, it is all explicable by science, and if it is not yet, it will be one day, even though the Universe has an order that is eerily stable, despite death, suffering and natural disaster. What astounds me about modern atheism is the triumphalism with which the atheist proclaims God's existence a figment of the imagination - a fairy tale to comfort the hopeless and naive, the oppressed and those for whom this life is unmitigated misery.

I won't go into the many aspects of the arguments we have. They are really quite predictable and will be very familiar to Catholics who have tried to convince stalwart atheists that the God revealed to the Church is knowable, loveable and worthy of all trust.

A Culture of Dialogue

What really does shock me about 'encounters' with atheists, as I say, is the glee with which God's absence is proclaimed. There really is a new 'faith' coming out from the atheist position which is evangelical in nature. 'Deconversions', or examples of the loss of faith are moments of joy, apparently, to these atheists. As if a candidate has been through masonic initiation, these newly enlightened atheists are crowned and recommended to others as those who have left the world of 'darkness' and entered into a place of 'light'.

I do not wish to 'rabbit' on about atheism but I do find it particularly concerning that along with the triumphant position taken by many a 'new guru' on the glories of atheism - which enthrones or even deifies the kind of rationalism that people can only apply to their beliefs (real, actual life is rarely so rational!) comes soon in its wake a frightening suicide cult. Many of those who proclaim the glory of the new atheism, such as Ian McEwan and Richard Dawkins, and so many others, most notably in the celebrity world, adhere to a strict doctrine on suicide that promotes it as a right - an inalienable right.

The same men and women of the age who promote atheism and godlessness are also, by and large, promoting a message of suicide along the line of rights. This is summed up in the campaign for the 'right to die'.

Celebrated author: Ian McEwan
There is a trend emerging which is quite clear. Atheism, in the modern age, has developed a tendency towards promoting suicide that is really quite worrying. We know the arguments. We keep hearing them..."It's my life, I can choose to end it as I wish, etc, etc..." 

There seems to be a strange juxtaposition between, on the one hand, joyfully declaring God's existence to be a fable, and yet, on the other hand, being obsessed with one's own end - arguing that it would be best if, in the circumstances of any suffering, mental or physical, or even dependence, feelings of indignity or loss of independence, it would be better to either kill oneself or have one's life extinguished.

Atheism and the Death Cult

The kind of atheism generated in the United Kingdom one the one hand glories in God's death, or non-existence, but is unable to replace Him with anything that would lead its adherents to accept suffering and natural death. Yet suffering and natural death, while regrettable, are natural. They are not artificial things. Atheists are unable, it would seem, to rejoice in God's non-existence without planning their own suicide, which they wish to be normalised so much that it takes place at the hands of friends, family or the GP.

One has to ask whether the religious fervour associated with the new atheism can be likened to the suicide cults of times past. For instance, one comment on this YouTube video, on the Jonestown Massacre, led by Jim Jones. Wikipedia tells us that...

"Jonestown" was the informal name for the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project formed by the Peoples Temple, an American religious organization under the leadership of Jim Jones, in northwestern Guyana. It became internationally notorious when on November 18, 1978, 918 people died in the settlement, at the nearby airstrip in Port Kaituma, and in Georgetown, Guyana's capital city. The name of the settlement became synonymous with the incidents at those locations.

A total of 909 Temple members died in Jonestown, all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning, in an event termed "revolutionary suicide" by Jones and some members on an audio tape of the event and in prior discussions. The poisonings in Jonestown followed the murder of five others by Temple members at Port Kaituma, including United States Congressman Leo Ryan. Four other Temple members died in Georgetown at Jones' command.

A very charismatic preacher whipped up a congregation into religious fervour and got them all to kill themselves, along with himself. It doesn't sounds a million miles away from the new atheists and their obsession with planning their untimely end, while rejoicing at God's 'non-existence' and asking politicians to allow them and their followers the 'right to die'. Yet they are so miserable.They're not promising a happy after life, are they? But the results would be just the same because, to the atheists, oblivion and annihilation, self-destruction and death at their own hands is to be welcomed, because after all their rejoicing at the death of God and the astonishing progress they had made without Him, anything is better than this life.

It would seem that without faith, life, of which suffering and loss of independence is a natural part, is simply unbearable. Without God the good times make sense. Without God the bad times must be brought to an unnatural close. So what was so great about atheism in the first place? Why the rejoicing when in the end, life itself was just an exercise in futility, a bad joke? Why rid yourself and others of God, when the replacement cannot help you to confront, rather than avoid through suicide, that which comes to all men? Faith has helped people to die happy. Atheism just wants to 'help people to die'.

The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma Needs You!

This is a reminder to members of The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma, that the Guild's blog benefits greatly from bloggers contributions.

If you would like to contribute to the Guild's blog, if you are a member, a registered author, please feel free to write something and post it up. If you are not a member but would like to contribute something to be considered for publication, send something over to me at

God bless readers and may Blessed Titus Brandsma intercede for the good success of the Guild's work in apologetics and evangelisation. As well as these works for Christ, The Guild exists to offer support to Catholic bloggers who work often in isolation.

If you are a Catholic blogger and have not yet joined the Guild, contact me if you wish to do so, we are always happy to consider new members. We are stronger together, then we are alone. If you wish to write for a blog but would like to be anonymous, for your own reasons, do not worry, for that can easily be arranged.

The next Guild meeting will be on 26th July 2014, so if you are a member of The Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma, try if you can to keep this date in your diary vacant.

Sunday 18 May 2014

Equality is not a Right. It is a Superstition

Equality is now a concept so old as to be considered a relic
‘Equality’ is not a true law, nor can it justly be called a right. It’s dominance of popular culture has rendered it worse than a myth. If people are caught up in the notion of equality today it is because man easily becomes caught up in superstition.

What has given the word ‘equality’ – a word that has never lost its emotive power since the dawn of the Enlightenment - the power and force that it has in today’s society?

We now hear this word, particularly in the realm of gender and sexuality so much and it so dominates the public forum that for anybody to contradict the very notion of equality is to have committed a formal and public act of heresy that warrants public exclusion, potential loss of employment and perhaps worse.

The fear and hatred generated against those who have contradicted the concept of equality is visceral and powerful. Why? What has made rejection of this belief so highly charged? The simple truth would appear to be that the concept of equality has, as if from nowhere, acquired magical power or connotations of divinity that it does not deserve. From out of nowhere, ‘Equality’ has become a god, or a goddess before which those who refuse to burn incense are deemed to be enemies of the State and the people.

What has given this concept such force that it now rivals the Christian Church itself as a belief that threatens to engulf and destroy it and, indeed, anybody else who dares to stand in its way?

Equality: The sky fairy myth of our age
I believe the answer can only lie in superstition. Of course, the reason that we can rank ardent promoters of ‘equality’ among the superstitious is because superstitions are things people subscribe to without really thinking about it. There is a common trend in Britain not to walk under ladders or to believe that seeing a black cat, or some magpies is in some sense fortuitous.

We call these things superstitions because they are common associations with something positive that are not grounded in truth or reality or even human experience. There is no reason to think that a black cat is a good omen, or a bad omen, but people do. There is no need to worry that on Friday 13th something bad might happen. But people do. There is no such thing as equality, it is obvious from sun rise, to sun set, yet people believe in it, without seeing any evidence of it.

Is the modern adoration of ‘equality’ like this? Do people really think about the concept of equality to which they so readily subscribe and so readily defend and promote as a force for universal good? Or do they subscribe to the belief because it is dangerous to think otherwise, for who could be against equality? Who would dare to confront this aging monarch that has ruled the British people and the other nations of the West?

I posit that the only people in Britain who could be against ‘equality’ are the honest – those who are able to see themselves and the world around them and report it honestly, to themselves, and to others. Of course, those most regularly charged with breaching the law on equality are the religious – those who are not so easily cajoled into superstition. Is this merely because they hold onto ‘bigoted views’, or is it because true religion can never subscribe to the concept of equality?

Surely, this is the case. For the Christian can never accept the concept of equality. The Christian knows that he is a creature – a creature – made by God in His image and likeness. There can never be worship of God when a creature looks at God as an equal, for God is greater than that which can be conceived. The outward act of kneeling in worship is a public and inward sign to him and to others of adoration of the Other who is All-Powerful, all-knowing, all mighty.

The concept of equality is put forward today as something terribly progressive, something so modern, so new, but already it is a false idol and one of great age, for there is nothing new under the sun. Equality was the battle cry of the French Revolutionaries.

It was the masonic battle cry of the Terror that saw thousands of aristocrats, priests, nuns and laity killed in France. It was the battle cry of the Russian Revolution a century or so later. It is the lie that keeps rearing its head, the head of a serpent that always needs to be crushed because it is only a word – a concept – a cause – a pathetic banner which is not, in any way, true.

In the West, people are being brainwashed into believing the fable, the myth, the superstition, that gender equality, for example, is something to be strived for, or that it even exists. Let us be frank. It does not exist. A man cannot give birth. A man cannot suckle children. A man cannot be a mother. A woman cannot be a father. There are things that men can do that the vast majority of women cannot do and there are things that women can do that men will never do.

A heterosexual relationship – or what we may have once been able to simply call a marriage, is in no way the same, but vastly different, to a sexual relationship between two persons of the same sex. What mental contortions does society have to perform, without thinking about it, in order to assert that they are?

How can it possibly be the same when in one of the relationships the protagonists are male and female – different in biology and different in other ways – and in the other the protagonists are the same.

Men and women are not the same, therefore they are not equal. If they were equal, they would be the same. The elderly and sick are not equal to the young and fit. They are equally worthy of love and protection, just as men and women are equally worthy of love and protection, but they are not the same, therefore we cannot call them equal.

And if we try, if we delude ourselves, that we can make all men and all women and all sexual relationships and all people equal, then as a society we have, whether we are religious or not, committed apostasy not just from what those who came before us believed, but from the truth. We have become a nation living a lie. We are a nation of people living in dreamland.

Do we really believe that Her Majesty the Queen is ‘equal’ to a man queuing up for his benefits cheque? Do we really believe that a gardener for an aristocrat is equal to the aristocrat? Do we believe that a Catholic layman can look at the Pope as his ‘equal’? Do we really believe that everyone is the same, even though everyone is different? Do we really believe that everyone can be an accomplished violinist, or a successful athlete? Do we really believe that women can run as fast as men? Do we really believe that the building trade is composed of a workforce split 50% between men and women?

If equality existed, there could be a Catholic Prime Minister...
Do we really believe that David Cameron, Nick Clegg or David Miliband understand for one moment what it feels like to live on a housing estate in Manchester and have to worry about knife crime, gang culture or where the next meal is coming from in their neighbourhood?

Do we really believe that from a homosexual relationship, by anal intercourse, two men can produce children and raise them as a mother and a father? Do we really believe that all relationships are equal and that this doctrine should be taught to little children in schools?

Christians – and others of other faiths – will face more and more pressure in the public sphere over their beliefs. They will be accused of blaspheming the sacred altar of the modern age, which is nothing but a relic of the 17th century that haunts the world to this day – the folly, the idiocy, the sheer lunacy of the continuation of an antique superstition from which the human race seems unable to be liberated. That all men and all women are equal.

Let us be frank. We are not equal. We were never intended to be equal. It is counter to our very happiness to desire to be equal. To desire equality is to fail to accept ourselves. We are who we are. We are all unique. We are all different. We all have a purpose. We all have a place on Earth, and if we desire it, a place in Heaven. We are all loved by God. If you are a man, you will never give birth. Please accept it. There is no ‘gender equality’. If you are a woman, you will never impregnate someone with your own seed. Please accept it. There is no ‘gender equality’. If your family has an income of £50,000 a year, it is incredibly unlikely that you will be investigated by social services for child neglect - even if you neglect your children.

But some people don't believe in 'gay marriage'. Get over it!
If you are a man who wants to be a woman, remember that you will never fully succeed because you are bioligically a man. Please accept it that you will never menstruate. If you are a dustman, please accept that you will probably never be Prime Minister and you will never sit in the House of Lords.

If you are a blogger, please accept that the likelihood of The Telegraph inviting you to be a Telegraph columnist, or The Guardian inviting you to be a Guardian columnist remains incredibly slim. Please accept that it may happen but it is not terribly likely because there is no such thing as equality even if you have talent. If you are deaf, you will, in this life, probably not hear. If you are blind, it is likely that, until the next life, you will not see. There is equality in this world, but only in the grave.

And if you think this is hate speech, I assure you that it is. You can prosecute me for this reason. I hate lies and I hate this particular lie. I and many others are dissenters from this political charade. This new religion. I do not hate those who have fallen for it, those who believe in this sorry superstition, but I hate the false god, the idol, the word that has miraculously accrued such divinity, the superstition that its adherents worship. As Lucifer knows only too well, an angel will never be Almighty God. He has his place. Don’t join him.

Whether you be great or small, whether you be rich or poor, whether you be wise or foolish, whether you be weak or strong, whether you be 'gay' or 'straight', male or female, whether you be virtuous or full of vice, you are what you are before God - that and nothing more. God has given all men and all women an equal dignity. That is a very different thing. He has not given us, nor will ever give us, equality.

Wednesday 14 May 2014

Constancy, in a time of heresy - Bl John Forest

Consumed by fire...and love - Blessed John Forest

The year is 1538 and, in a few days time, on 22nd May, Father John Forest, Franciscan Friar, is due to be put to death, in a most excruciatingly painful fashion, for his Faith.

He has received, in his prison cell, a letter of love and comfort from the troubled Catherine of Aragon, wife (soon to be ex wife) of King Henry VIII.

And now, in the manner of all good priests, ever concerned for the welfare of their sheep, he replies to Queen Catherine. The text is a direct copy so, at times, the grammar may seem a little odd…

“Most Serene Lady and Queen, my daughter most dear in the bowels of Christ, - When I read your letter I was filled with incredible joy, because I saw how great is your constancy in the Faith.

In this, if you persevere, without doubt you will attain salvation.

Doubt not of me that by any inconstancy I should disgrace my grey hairs.

Meanwhile I earnestly beg your steadfast prayers to God, for whose spouse we suffer torments, to receive me into His glory.

For it have I striven these four and forty years in the Order of St Francis.

Meanwhile do you keep free from the pestilent doctrine of the heretics, so that even if an angel should come down from Heaven and bring you another doctrine from that which I have taught you, give no credit to his words, but reject him; for that other doctrine does not come from God.

These few words you must take in lieu of consolation; but that you will receive from our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom I specially commend you, to my father Francis, to St Catherine; and when you hear of my execution, I heartily beg of you to pray for me to her.

I send you my rosary as I have but three days to live”

This letter should be read and re-read by those to whom false ecumenism is their main goal in life.

An account of Blessed John Forest's death will be posted on his anniversary - 22nd May.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Wider Implications of Pre-Signed Abortion Certificates

Mr David Burrowes MP
Mr David Burrowes MP, who has recently been demanding that the Crown Prosecution Service should take action against the doctors who have been pre-signing blank abortion certificates, should be
congratulated for not letting this matter disappear into the long grass. Mr Burrowes reports that the names of 67 such pre-signing doctors are known.

A love a priest

Catherine, Queen of England, writes to her confessor
Imagine that the Catholic world is turning in on itself, that government is inflicting ever more secular solutions and ignoring the one true Church in favour of heresy and apostasy.

Sound familiar?

Well, we are back in the 16th century and Henry VIII's protestantisation of England and Wales is just in its early stages; yet to come is the removal of the Latin Mass and the imposition of a weak and feeble parody in its, we really are still in the 16th century.

A noblewoman writes to her confessor who is suffering torture and pain in jail where he has been thrown because of his adherence to the Faith and to the foundation stone of the Faith, the Latin Mass.
He awaits news of his impending execution.

The noblewoman is none other than Catherine of Aragon of Spain but much loved by the men and women of her adopted country.

And her priest? Blessed John Forest, Franciscan and martyr.

Here is her letter of love and compassion - tomorrow, Deo volente, I shall post Father Forest's reply:-

My venerated Father,

You who have been accustomed to advise others in doubtful cases know best what advice to give to yourself; and with your piety and learning you know without doubt, and even desire if need be for the name of Christ to undergo death and refuse nothing in such a cause.

Be brave, then, and courageous, for if in these torments you have some pain to bear you will receive an eternal reward, which if anyone were to be ready to lose both you and I would count him to be mad.

But, alas, you leave me, your daughter, born to you in the Wounds of Christ, for a time at least you leave me in the greatest sorrow, for I am losing in you the man who has taught me the most in divine things.

If I may freely say my wish, I had rather go before you through a thousand torments than follow you after a time.

Yet I trust in the Lord that I shall see you not very long hence, when I shall be taken to the calm life of the blessed.

Farewell, my honoured Father, commend me always to God, now and from your place in Heaven.

Your most sorrowful daughter,


Posted by: Linen on the Hedgerow

Thoughts after Storms

Iowa storms clear the sky and feed the land. This past day and into the night, we have had many storms, with heavy rain and wind, and we are grateful as this most likely ends the drought.

Pink and white lightning crisscrossed the sky, just as the setting sun found a break in the line of clouds, causing a rainbow as big as the prairie sky could hold.

Now, in the darkest of darkness, hundreds of frogs are singing in the flooded sections on either side of the Wapsipinicon, which newcomers call the River, not realizing that in these parts there is only one "River" and that is the Mississippi. The Wapsipinincon is just the Wapsi.

All the others are tributaries, feeding one of the largest river systems in the world.

Far away to my left, I can hear a Black Angus mooing. And, unlike most humans, and like my dad, I can hear the high squeaks of the bats venturing out to seize insect dinners.

This part of the world is "big". There is nothing small here. The bats are big, the frogs are big, the cattle are big, the rabbits are big, the sky is big.

I am surrounded by farms of 1,000-2,000 acres, in an area where one does not know one's neighbors and only rarely sees the agents who man the farms. This is the state of agribusiness, not farming.

Last week, the giant machines sprayed the fields with fertilizers, and even in the heat, I had to shut the windows in order to breath properly, but this all is part of the bigness as well.

One cannot get proud in Iowa. Iowa creates a humility which is caused by Nature and Weather.

I grew up in bigness and it does not make me nervous, as it does some people who grow up in small, comfortable valleys and near rivers one can cross on a footbridge.

Bigness reminds me who I am in the universe. I cannot look up at the big sky tonight, as the clouds cover the stars, but, in the colder nights of April, I saw seven large meteors, shooting stars big enough to rival the big land.

God is bigger than all this. We cannot imagine the Almighty. But, staring out the window into the darkness, seeing a few lights miles away, I can just begin to understand myself as merely one more creature in His great world.

Even so, He knows me, like He knows the stars hidden behind the clouds, and calls me by name.

The rain and lightning begin again and I have to decide whether to shut the windows or let some of the cooler air come into the room. I am not in charge here, no one is. One tries to tame this country, but only One is truly in charge, and He is God.

Thursday 8 May 2014

A Comment And A Question

I love Blessed Titus Brandsma. He is one of my chosen personal patrons.

I love the members of this blog as brothers and sisters of Christ.

But, I am wondering what a guild really is?

Here is the simple definition of a guild.

A guild has been defined as "an association of craftsmen or merchants, often having considerable power."

A guild has also been defined as "an association of people for mutual aid or the pursuit of a common goal."

Regarding the first part of the definition, one can see that 
such "craftsmen" must have something in common. 
They must actually be doing something. 

This "doing" for the Guild here is writing, on individual blogs and on this blog.

    If a blogger has decided to make his blog dormant, he is no longer working for the part of the second 
    definition, which is "an association of people for mutual aid or the pursuit of the common goal."

The common goal is the promulgation of Catholic teaching and Catholic thinking on certain subjects.
The "mutual aid" is the support bloggers should be seeing for each other in our work of blogging.

So, my question is this, "How many bloggers in the Guild actually still blog, still add to this blog, and help
each other in the work of the New Evangelization?
Guilds were not merely social gatherings, but organized to facilitate work. And, as indicated in the definition, 
some guilds became 'powerful" because of this working together.

 I treasure this blog and all the good people I have met in the Guild. But, are we a real guild, or an illusion?

 I, for one, as a person blogging away in the middle of ... nowhere, need support and "mutual aid".

 I also need to see work being done for the Kingdom of God on this excellent blog for my own sake.

Can we renew this guild to really be a guild? 

    Can we find ways to support each other in our blogging and on 
    this blog?

    Just wondering....

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