Tag Archives: Catholic

Being Catholic in a nutshell: Why go to Mass every Sunday? (or every day even!)

I’ve decided to write some short answers to the stuff even Catholics don’t seem to know the answers to. I hear these questions a lot. So here’s the first one:

Why do Catholics have to go to Mass every Sunday? What is the Sunday obligation all about?

It’s like this. On the night He was betrayed Jesus took bread and wine during a liturgical meal (a Passover) and said, “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood” and then “Do this in Remembrance of Me.”

He didn’t finish the meal but went out to the Garden of Olives where He was betrayed and arrested. He was put through trails and torture before taking His cross and completing His Passion – a word that means to pour out – on Calvary, where He was crucified and died.

On the Third Day He rose.

Every Mass is a re-presentation (meaning to make present again but not a re-sacrifice, as that’s not possible or warranted) of that once and for all Sacrifice made by Jesus for us and our Salvation. When we go to Mass we are in a way actually there with Him as He offers His Body and Blood and then we can go forward and eat His Body as He commanded in John 6 so we can have Life in us.

Knowing that at each Mass we are drawn into participation with the Passion and can receive Him in His risen self; Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity then we are automatically obliged to do so under the First Commandment. We must put God first.

So, those who think doing something else is more important than being with God in such a profound way are making something else more important than God.

That’s it in nutshell.

Sitting on a hard bench.

I can’t remember where I heard this but someone, sometime said s/he thought the reason churches had wooden pews was so that the pew-sitter didn’t get too comfortable. Christ isn’t a comfortable person.

This weekend we have had the ember days of the Triumph of the Cross and Our Lady of Sorrows. Both uncomfortable remembrances. The Triumph(or exultation) of the Cross came about like this:

St. Helena (mother of Constantine the Great) had found the true cross at Jerusalem and rescued it. She left part of it in Jerusalem at the Holy Sepulchre and took the rest back to Rome. Around 614 the Persians stole the portion of the cross from the Holy Sepulchre. Things went wrong for the Persians after that (an echo of what happened to the Philistines when the stole the Ark of the Covenant). In 629 the Emperor Heraclius took the cross back and carried it in fine procession back to Jerusalem and Calvary. However, upon reaching the city he found he couldn’t go on. Bishop Zacharias pointed out that Christ had not been so finely dressed when He carried the cross. The Emperor changed to a penitents robe and carried the cross the rest of the way.

We are proud to preach Christ crucified and know that He has commanded us to take up our cross each day to follow him. A hard bench in church is perhaps a very small reminder of that.

Our Lady of Sorrows with her seven swords of sorrow comes the following day. Despite the great suffering laid on her she continually said “yes” (Fiat) to God.

imgYesterday I listened to the Catholic Answers programme with Steve Ray talking about the horrible persecution and mass martyrdom of Christians in the Middle East. He spoke of a nun whose entire family had been slaughtered and a Christian man whose heart was cut out and eaten raw by one of the the Muslim terrorists. We know what’s happening in Syria and some of us at least are horrified that our Governments want to aid the terrorists who are murdering as many Christians as they can get hold of.

Then after Mass yesterday a man spoke to us. He had come from Bethlehem with some of the beautiful olive wood carvings that he and his fellow Christians make. It’s all they can do to stay afloat there. The wall has done them much damage and they are trapped between Israel’s need for security on the one side and Islamic persecution on the other.

If you can possibly buy some olivewood carvings that will help Elias and his fellow Christians.  They are sold HERE and at ACN HERE 

Olive wood, he told us, is the second hardest wood in the world. Some of the carvings, which must be done by hand, take 8 months of work.

There’s nothing comfortable about that.


I blame the Catholics.

Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ

St. Jerome

There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

Ven. Fulton Sheen

It’s been known for a very long time that Catholic Schools are not producing Catholic adults. In fact the very opposite. Concerns have been raised over and over again, and no action is taken.  Parents who don’t know their faith cannot pass it on to their children and if they think their children will get the faith in school, they are wrong.

A few things have happened recently that has brought home to me that Catholics are often the problem. Let’s take marriage for example.  Some gay people think Catholics are anti gay marriage because Catholics are anti gay people. They can point to the sudden resistance to gay marriage where before this, the shocking breakdown of marriage, the use of contraception and even abortion among Catholics has barely raised an eyebrow. Catholics are no better than anyone else when it comes to sexual morality, divorce and anti-children behaviour. It does seem quite late for the outcry over what is called “gay marriage.”

Recently, I’ve had two conversations with someone who does take their faith seriously and knows it reasonably well. I was told that she feels isolated at times even among fellow Catholics because she practices and understands her Faith and even some of her friends who attend Mass, simply have no clue and want to follow the culture rather than the Church.

I have also been told that when a few Catholics were faced with a question from a protestant about why Catholic baptise babies that not one person there could answer the question!

Invincible ignorance is ignorance that can’t be avoided – but I really don’t believe all that many Catholics are genuinely invincibly ignorant; they simply can’t be bothered to find out.

St Peter gave us a strict command:

In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone to asks for a reason for the hope that you have. Do this with gentleness and respect.

1 Peter 3:15

If we are going to obey this command then we are obliged to know the answer to the questions we might be asked.

I don’t really blame those young’uns who, having been through years of Catholic school and in at least one case, a (pseudo) Catholic  University don’t even know why we baptise babies. I don’t blame the questioner, who despite belonging to a “Bible alone” church hasn’t enough knowledge of Scripture to see where whole families are baptised and no knowledge of the history of the Church to see babies were baptised throughout. The only time in the early Church infant baptism was questioned was on whether to wait for the child to be 8 days old, in continuity with the Old Covenant law on circumcision; receiving the answer that as “baptism now saves you,” (1 Pet 3:21) that a baby shouldn’t have to wait. Remember infant death was much more common back then.

Catholics in the west are heading towards a third generation of Catholics who haven’t a clue about Christ, His Church, Scripture or even basic morality.  They walk around soaking up the culture and unaware or even uncaring that the most important person in their lives – God – is practically a stranger to them.

I constantly hear a call for the laity to take up the battle. But a laity going into battle with no generals or officers and totally unarmed are going to be spiritually slaughtered. Starving sheep cannot become shepherds.

Thankfully there are some good things happening, mostly coming from America, but some from Australia too. There are good catechetical and Scriptural materials on the market and free radio and podcasts to help us learn our history and faith.

Mother Angelica who surely will be canonised very quickly when her time to go home comes, set up the Eternal Word Television Network and from her work a global network of TV and radio in at least three languages (I’m aware of English, Spanish and German) goes out. Now, I know many people are concerned by the quality of some of the TV work and I have to agree, but some of the radio affiliations are excellent.

ICCThere is also the amazing work done by The Institute of Catholic Culture. They offer all the events free online as video or audio and you can literally learn the Faith, it’s history, Scripture, ethics and morality. It’s all done for parish level most lectures are of a fantastic standard.

Catholic Answers has an excellent  question and answer format where anyone can phone in with a question. They have programs especially aimed at non-Catholics, atheists and others.

The Coming Home Network has freebies including Deep In Scripture.

Like many people I have a wall of Hahn, but there’s free audio too. Dr Hahn also offers Scripture Study for free Buy his books! They aren’t difficult to understand and if God is the most important person for eternity then a few dollars/quid on books by Dr Scott Hahn is an investment – so long as you read them.

There is so much out there now – thank God for American universities like Franciscan Steubenville and Ave Maria and Christendom etc.

Ignorance is not bliss and it needn’t be that way.

Four Popes and an Encyclical

Papa-and-Pop-PopWell, it’s all happening in the Church at the moment! Pope Francis has published the encyclical Lumen Fidei which was begun by Papa Beni and then the two men worked together on it. You can download it as a pdf; look top right corner. Then using Calibre a free ebook converter and ebook manager thingy, you can make the encyclical suitable for your ereader and load it on.

Then the Vatican has announced that both Pope John XXIII and Bl. Pope John Paul II are to be canonised together. They are waiving the requirement for a second miracle from Pope John XXIII. The second miracle from Bl. Pope John Paul II has happened but details havent’ been released and meanwhile the MSM over here are saying the first miracle is dodgy.  I would really like the spokesperson for the Vatican to make some clear statements on all this.

The Anchoress has a good overview including the consecration to St. Michael.

I have to admit I’m a bit foggy about what’s happening here. I don’t know why the second miracle requirement has been waived or why the second miracle attributed to the prayers of Bl. Pope John Paul II hasn’t been released properly and what is going on about the rumours of the first miracle not standing up to scrutiny. Knowing how extra-cautious the Church is about miracles and how even a hint that it could have happened through other means will mean it isn’t ratified as official, I am confused about what’s going on.  The Vatican press office does have a reputation for muddled announcements so it could be that.

Anyway, hopefully some clarity will be arrive over the next few days.

Throwing Stones and Casting out Snakes.

In 2 Peter 3:16 the good saint warns against misusing Scripture to our own destruction. If there are two bits of God’s Word that seem to get the most misuse it’s Christ’s words, “Jusdge not lest you be judged also,” (Matt 7:1) and the Gospel reading we had today about the woman caught in adultery.

I must admit I love the Gospel story of this woman and Jesus.

The Pharisees, who insist publically that they follow the Law and all the extra bits they have added to it and are therefore perfect before the LORD, bring a woman to Jesus, to entrap Him. They are not concerned that she has committed adultery, but rather are out to get Jesus.

As Father noted in his sermon this morning, it takes two people to commit adultery and yet they only brought one to Jesus. So the sin itself, if she was even guilty, was not the issue here.

They tell Jesus that they have caught her in the act and that the Law says she must be stoned. They are sort of correct although the Law (Deut 22:22) says both parties who have committed this horrible sin shall be stoned.

As it happens, however, Judea is under the authority of Rome and the Roman law takes all capital puncishment on itself denying the Jews any legal ability to give capital punishment. If Jesus says “Yes she should be stoned,” as per Jewish Law He would be arrested by the Romans. If He says “No, don’t stone her,” then he is nothing but a puppet of the Romans.

But Jesus is Jesus and silly traps won’t beat Him. We are never told what He writes in the dirt but He looks up and says, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”

So now the Pharisees who declare themselves without sin must either start stoning the girl and get arrested by the Romans or admit publically that they are not perfect. Ouch!

Once they have all melted away Jesus speaks to the woman, “Has anyone condemned you?” She says no one has and He answers her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go on your way…” And that is usually all we hear of this story, but in fact Jesus said “And sin no more.” That is the depth of the message. He asks all of us to stop sinning. We aren’t supposed to take a piece of Scripture, strip it down and use it as an excuse to sin to our hearts content because Jesus will say “Neither do I condemn you.” If we misuse the Word of God as a way to get away with sinning then believe me, He certainly will condemn us. In fact He won’t have to, because by our own actions we condemn ourselves.

The story of the woman caught in adultery who is not condemned always reminds me of the story of Susanna the wife of Joachim who is entrapped with a false allegation of adultery by the elders. It is the child Daniel who speaks out for her. (Daniel 13:1+)

Today is also the feast of St. Patrick who brought Christ to Ireland and is famous for having cast out all the poisonous snakes. We can only pray that by his prayers and the grace God gives to Ireland and the Irish that they  will renew His presence and bring us all closer to God. It was from Ireland that so much of the Gospel was spread over the world; I can only hope, as Britain falls that we can be lifted up again and that Ireland will play a part in that. I think there may be prophecies about that.

Pope Francis and the commission to rebuild God’s house.

In all the joy and excitement last night it was difficult to work out what had made our new Holy Father choose the name Francis. We have never had a Pope Francis so there wasn’t an obvious background to the name.  As he is a Jesuit many of us, even though I wondered about St. Francis of Assisi, assumed he was naming himself after one of the Jesuit Francis’s such as Francis Xavior or Borgia.

734476_552943108069381_394843154_nBut it’s been reported (though I can’t find where the Pope himself has confirmed this) that he has taken the name Francis in honour of St. Francis of Assisi.

HIS FIRST WORDS  were a simple greeting and a request for prayers for Pope emeritus Benedict XVI (who is still much loved; perhaps instead of Holy Father Emeritus we should call him Holy Grandfather).


Pope Francis does look like he fits into the calling God made of St. Francis of Assisi, “Francis,” said God, “Go and rebuild my house, or it is falling down.”

It wasn’t long after Francis set about obeying God’s command that Pope Innocent III had his famous dream in which he saw St. Francis holding up a church that would otherwise have fallen down.

There is a lot for Pope Francis to do. Perhaps this pope with one lung will be able to build on the hard work of Bl. Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI and repair the Church so she can breath with both lungs more freely. It’s not just about communion with the Orthodox churches, but help for our Eastern Rite brothers who are being savagely martyred every day in Islamic controlled countries.

In Francis we have another pope who lives simply. He had a small flat in Argentina and used the bus to get around. He has worked very hard for and with the poor under his care and I am sure he will continue to do this as Holy Father. He saw through so-called “liberation theology” and stuck with Christ and I bet he faced a lot of pressure to embrace LT even after it was exposed as purely political and often very violent.

I have a sense that this Holy Father who has embraced poverty will embrace the suffering of the Passion as St. Francis did.

It seems to me that God has quite an army; the Benedictines at the forefront with the Franciscans and Dominicans coming next and the Poor Clares, Carmelites and Jesuits. The Enclosed orders being the massive powerhouse of prayer.

Pope Francis will be installed on March 19th the feast of St. Joseph patron saint of fathers and workers.


Lent; Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows (mystery 5)

At the foot of the cross

Having walked with Jesus her beloved Son, to the place of crucifixion, Mary stays with Him even as he is stripped nailed and hoisted up onto the cross. If ever you are tempted to see this as “ordinary” try and imagine watching your own child, or someone you love very much being tortured right in front of you while you stand by powerless to intervene.

We love our super heroes who come swooping in, often at the last minute, and save the innocent or good guy from the bad guys But here the mystery of iniquity is played out before us and it is allowed to happen. Jesus doesn’t show His power here.

Mary is not left to suffer alone. Just as Jesus had Simon of Cyrene, so Mary has those with her who are there out of love. Her sisters (that is close kin) Mary the wife of Cleopas and Mary Salome the mother of James and John (widow of Zebedee) are there as is Mary Magdalene and Salome’s son John stands with them.

But even with these kind persons the pain, the twisting of the sword in her soul, must have been something that only God’s grace could have made bearable.

Watching another suffer, has got to be one the most difficult things any of us are called to do.

While she is there Jesus, taking note of her needs but also, as He suffers for us, taking note of our needs, gives her to John and through him, us to her. “Mother, behold your son; son behold your mother.” He doesn’t call John by name because in the word son is the sonship of all of us as Mary is made our mother and we can ask her to pray for us as we are her children.

It doesn’t matter whether you have a mother on earth or not, or whether she is a good mother or a bad one because you will always have a mother in heaven who wants the very best for you. Jesus said He wouldn’t leave us orphans; in His promise we have a Father and a mother.


As I have a soft spot for Mary Salome, I can’t help wondering what she thought at that moment. We are never told, but I don’t think she would have felt that John was being taken away from her and given to Our Blessed Mother. I think she would have realised that this moment was beyond a simple bit of Jewish law ensuring a widow without a son wasn’t left destitute – it was bringing all four Mary’s closer together in their relationship with the B. Mother and St. John.

A deeper mystery still is here in this moment of the crucifixion. Christ suffers and pours Himself out; every last drop of His Precious Blood given for us. But He doesn’t suffer alone. Our Blessed Mother, John, Mary of Cleopas, Mary Magdalene and Mary Salome suffer too. They suffer with Him and their suffering is united with His.

When we contemplate the sword of sorrow that pierced our Mother’s soul, we can follow her example in uniting our sufferings with Him, so that none of our suffering, of the crosses we accept to follow him, need be wasted. (cf Col 1:24)

Conclave; What the next pope will not be doing.

The conclave starts today and the 115 cardinals will be shut in to pray and discern as they choose the next Holy Father. Yesterday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote a blog about some media bloopers. Now the Church has been around for 2000 years and while I might have sympathy for some of those first century pagans who thought we were cannibals for eating our God or whatever else weird they misinterpreted, I can’t see how a qualified journalist with access to the internet could make some of the amazing mistakes shown here.

If a science journo suggested the Big Bang was a large balloon being popped they would never work again but it’s fine for religion journo’s to say Catholics think the pope is a god!

The other thing that is so much part of journalism (the BBC stink of this) is the bizarre idea that the Holy Father has the power to change the truth to fit what the culture (by that I mean western culture because we aren’t getting this rubbish from the east or south) thinks should be true.

Jesus never said to Peter or the apostles “Whatever you make up can be true.” He gave the power of binding and loosing in His Name not whoever is Pope’s name. While doctrine can develop and be taught in better and clearer ways, it certainly can’t be changed.

So, it doesn’t matter who is elected pope, whether he is a good man or a bad one as we’ve had a few times, he can’t suddenly decide that the priesthood can be separated from being a spiritual father, so that women can be ordained. He can’t suddenly decide that something intrinsically evil and against natural law can be allowed. He can’t decide there are too many persons in the Holy Trinity.

It was this limit to the authority of the pope that started me off back to the Church more properly (I was living it out on the edge).

I was a supporter of women being ordained and had bought into the empowerment argument hook line and sinker. I was not enlightened during the Anglican debate which went out via mainstream (mostly BBC) TV as they only ever interviewed men who came across as misogynist for the all male priesthood side. No one explained, or were given a chance to explain, the ontological nature of the priesthood from Adam onwards.

In my search for answers I bought a book called Women at the Altar and read it. I didn’t know enough history back then to spot some of the shocking bloopers. But she had put the encyclical on ordination by Blessed Pope JP II. I read that too and saw that the Holy Father said he didn’t have the authority to ordain women.

The limit of authority fascinated me and off I went in search of answers. When I got to grips with Jesus self claim to be The Bridegroom, I finally got to grips with why priests are men, but more importantly, what authority is and why a Pope can’t just proclaim whatever he likes. The Holy Spirit doesn’t interfere with free will, so all the Popes have been sinners, even the many saints among the list, (and there are far far more saints than bad sinners in the papal list) but He does ensure that when teaching on faith and morals the pope gets it right; that is infallibility and it’s much more limited that I realised.

So the BBC and others can demand contraception, abortion, divorce, killing off the sick and elderly,  and priestesses all they like – the Church can’t change her position on these matters. She doesn’t have the authority to do so.

Home education and the conclave; freebies.

At last we know – the CONCLAVE STARTS on TUESDAY.

So we are going to break out the popecorn ..sorry that was terrible.

Getting ready for the conclave. There’s a nice LAPBOOK PAPAL UNIT STUDY from Shower of Roses.

I mentioned before this reading comprehension and craft for the conclave.

This site has flags of the world to colour; maybe pick your favourite Cardinal’s place and the Vatican flag is there too. Scroll down all in alphabetical order.

Make your own conclave of cardinals and learn a bit of Latin I think this looks great

Lent; Chaplet of Seven Sorrows. (mystery 1)

I thought I should do something lentern, quick before it’s Easter!

The Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows is part of my daily prayer. To be honest I chose to day this instead of the rosary when my concentration got too bad to manage a rosary. This is easier. Yes, I know, not exactly a great reason…

But for Lent it’s a lovely meditation.

The first mystery is the Prophecy of Simeon at the moment of Jesus’ presentation at the Temple when He was 40 days old.

Mary and Joseph, in accordance with Mosaic Law had taken Jesus to the Temple when he was 40 days old to redeem him with the set sacrifices. Mary will have entered the purification baths as her days of postpartum impurity ended.

In the Temple at that time were two holy people, Simeon and Anna the widow of the tribe of Ashur (and Israelite).

They had awaited the Messiah for so lon and now they saw Him and knew Him.

At that moment Simeon prayed the beautiful Dunc Dimittus, said each night at Compline:

“At last all powerful Master, you may let your servant  go in peace according to Your word; for my eyes have seen the salvation which you have promised to the nations. A light to bring the gentiles out of darkness to the glory of your people Israel.”

Then he turned to Mary and made this prophecy on her role in salvation history;

“This child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign of contradiction. And a sword shall pierce your own soul also, so that the thoughts of many will be laid bare.”

God doesn’t keep us in the dark, especially when He asks something of us. Mary kept many things in her heart over the years Jesus grew up. While she certainly didn’t know the whole of God’s plan for her Son or herself, she trusted and accepted that when she gave her “fiat” to the angel she was saying yes to everything God asked of her.

We are all called to say yes to God in some way or other and Jesus Himself says that we are to take up our cross daily to follow Him, so swords in the soul will come along as part of saying yes.

On the last day of Papa Benedict’s Pontificate; from Divine Office..

God of hosts we implore, look down from heven and see. Visit the vine and protect it, the vine your right 558116_10151282141086814_6972549_nhand has planted.

Men have burned it with fire and destroyed it. May they perish at the frown of Your face.

May your hand be on the man you have chosen, the man you have given your strength.

And we shall never forsake you again; give us life that we may call upon your name.

God of hosts, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

Glory be…

Final blessing.

Thank you Papa.

Woman Clothed with the Sun with the moon under her feet (Rev 12)

our_lady_of_guadalupe_4x6Dec 12th is the Feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (Dec 9th would have been the feast of St Juan Diego but it fell on 2nd Advent Sun this year)

That God in His love and mercy has given us such a mother is wonderful all by itself, but that He allows her, sends her, to speak with us and leaves us a beautiful Icon should make us even more grateful.

While it is true that private revelation is not binding on the faithful, I think we should be cautious about using that as an excuse to ignore what God is giving us when He sends Our Blessed Mother and/or other saints to remind us of the Gospel message.

bent-crucifix-cc-odoyle81The tilma made of cactus ayate  fibre is still in great condition and the image remains clear despite some accidents; one with nitric acid and the time someone tried to blow it up. In fact despite being on open display for many years under candle flame and incense, before even a glass covering was made, the tilma image is in much better condition that the Mona Lisa and is only 12 years younger than Leonardo’s famous painting. The great crucifix that was bent right over by the explosion is now on display. The glass covering of the tilma remained in tact.

On Dec 12th 1531 Juan Diego was sent to the barren cold top of Tepayac Hill where he gathered an astonishing harvest of big castellan roses that had suddenly appeared there.

StarThe Icon shows a woman dressed as royalty, but with her head bowed as one in service. The black ribbon that hangs under her prayerful hands shows that she is pregnant. More than that, thanks to some study of the stars on her mantel we see she is carrying the constellations from that very date. She wears the crown of stars (Corona borealis) and under her hands (invisibly) is Leo showing that she carries the Lion of Judah and above that over her heart is virgo saying she is a virgin.

There were more scientific studies that show the eyes of the Icon have the reflections of a real eye showing the bishop and Juan Diego in her eyes. The minute and realistic distortions of the images in her eye show something so accurate that no artist could have done this.

At the time the Indians understood the image better than the Spanish did. They read graphics like words. The tilma is as packed with information about her. She wears the cross of the Christians and the robes of a princess. She is robed in the sun and stands on the moon, so she is greater than their gods, but she bows her head with the cross on her neck and therefore is accepting a God greater still.

Up until this point the missionaries in Mexico and surrounding areas were having a tough time converting the native peoples. Their work was hampered by the unChristian behaviour of many of the Spanish and Portuguese settlers who, feeling that Rome and her rules was far away, took slaves and spent more time chasing gold than seeking the kingdom.

But after the apparition and the miraculous image was left, millions of people learned about how much God loved them and how He had even given them a Mother and they were baptised.

It was this image that was taken into the battle of Lepanto and her prayers that gave victory on the Feast of the Holy Rosary 1571.

I love the way God sends His mother at times of crisis. He sends her and raises up some ordinary person like St. Juan Diego or the children of Fatima, Lourdes, La Salette and so on. Mary appears clothed in the sun at a point where in Europe the book of Revelation is under attack. God has a gentle sense of humour I think.

It’s great to have a wonderful mother.

The death of Judas Maccabees and the feast of Pope St. Leo the Great

Saturday was the feast of Pope St. Leo the Great.  He truly earned his title of “great” as he walked among the rubble of the dying Roman Empire and held tight to the Culture Christ had given His Church, and held back the tide of destruction from the Huns.

If you can get your hands on a copy of Louis de Wohl’s great historical novel Attila or the earlier version “Throne of the World” I recommend it. de Wohl knew his history very well indeed.

Attila was coming after Rome. He  was an ambitious cruel and soon gathered a reputation for his willingness to wholesale slaughter. Attila was no different from any other despotic leader. They all lack imagination it seems to me.  No wonder evil looks to banal. It has no colour.

Leo is most famous for his meeting with Attila in which he persuaded the Hun leader to leave Rome alone. Many people try to make out that Leo didn’t really “win” this concession and I am sure Leo would agree.  He had some powerful help. While famine and disease had left Rome very weak, and should have meant easy picking for the Huns, they also faced the prospect of fighting on empty stomachs.

Leo was well used to spiritual and political battle by the time he met Attila. He had stood his ground against many members of the Church who cut themselves off from her, running after various heresies such as Nestorianism, Pelagianism, Manichaeism  and more. With those who dared to call themselves followers of Christ, being only too willing to rush off after any old golden calf. In the light of this maybe Leo didn’t see Attila as such a big problem.

juxtaposed against the feast of this saint was the story of the last stand of Judas Maccabees. In Divine Office the continuing story of how a remnant of Israel stood against the tyranny of Syria and Persia.

Just as Leo faced a threat of tyranny while many of his fellow Christians prefered an easy life than the cross of Christ, so Judas faced the battle as many of his men gave up and refused to trust in God. Judas went out with his remnant and died a hero.

Judas and Leo stood up against a pagan aggressor who believed in the right of power over the weak; survival of the fittest. The Old Covenant Peoples faced a head on assault at the point when they seemed the weakest, having mostly apostasised already, but in the end we remember the Jews and the valiant courage of Judas Maccabaeus over whoever that Syrian leader was.  It isn’t a fairy tale ending. Our greatest heroes have often had to carry the cross and die on it.

But Jesus warned us very clearly, with the politically incorrect words,  “Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Fear rather the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

So many people say they are Christians but don’t believe a word Jesus said. They have their golden calf and that will do them fine.

God has always allowed people like Antiochus Epiphanes and Attila the Hun to rise up because we are so darned daft we keep inviting them. Be He is merciful and He always gives us Leo the Greats and Judas Maccabaeus’. Thank God for that.

And Jesus said “Do not be afriad.”

Why not use UNIVERSALIS for the Year of Faith

Marriage, oneness and sacrifice – from yesterday’s readings.

Yesterday’s readings were about marriage. I love the way the three readings went together so clearly. First we heard how God took a rib from Adam and made Eve who was “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” so that marriage from that day forward was that

a man would leave his parents and become one flesh with his wife

This is how God designed marriage. One man, one woman become one flesh.

The next reading was from the letter to the Hebrews and describes how Christ suffered and poured Himself out for the Church. As St. Paul teaches, Christ is the head and the Bride, His Church is the Body and they are “one flesh”. As the Bridegroom Christ gave every last drop of Himself for her sake.

Christ and His Church are One.

The final reading was from Mark’s Gospel where the Pharisees try and trick Jesus by asking about divorce. In this Gospel they ask if it allowed for a man to divorce his wife. St. Matthew adds the detail of “for any reason” as the Pharisees had apparently been discussing the teachings of Hillel the rabbi who allowed divorce for the most trivial reason (much like no fault divorce).

Jesus points out that Moses only allowed divorce in the second law he gave Israel (God gave the first law in the Commandments) because Israel was stiff necked and unteachable.

God says He hates divorce (Hosea??) and Jesus adds that God designed marriage from the beginning to be between one man and one woman and they leave their parents and become one flesh.

No valid marriage can be ended by men.  Marriage is a reflection of the Bridegroom Christ and His Bride the Church. It is why families are called domestic churches.

Those who have split Christ’s body have broken His command and forgotten His prayer that “they should be one.”

Jesus then goes on to welcome the children and insist that children should be welcomed.  They teach us to remain innocent for the Kingdom of Heaven.

In today’s Divine Office St. Paul points out that child bearing can help bring a mother to heaven.

When God calls two people to marriage, He expects them to accept His life in their life and all the little lives He might wish to send. He is life, not barrenness. Children are gifts even when they are part of our cross.

If you ever forget that love is about sacrifice and that it hurts, look at a crucifix. Even the “cleaned up” ones show Christ suffered for us. Thank God He will never ask any of us to suffer to the depth that He did.

And while I’m talking about Christ’s crucifixion; don’t forget to pray for those brave Catholic souls who have endured crucifixion over the last few weeks. There’s a photo going around of an unamed martyr crucified by “Islamists”.

Happy Birthday Blessed Mother.

It’s the feast of Our Lady’s birthday today. We are so blessed that Jesus gave us His mother to be our mother too.

I was listening to Catholic Answers (archive  27th August 2012 Dr. Tim Gray). He was explaining some things about the two Temples.

You probably remember that the first Tabernacle of the Lord was the tent structure Moses put up under the instruction of God. It was movable as Israel travelled through the desert. At the heart of the Tabernacle was the Ark of the Covenant with it’s two great angels bowing over the Mercy Seat. Inside it’s gold lined interior sat the stone tablets of the Law, some manna (the bread from heaven) and the rod of Aaron’s priesthood.

Once Israel was settled in the Promised Land God asked that Solomon the son of David build Him the first Temple. It was a huge and magnificent building in the city of Jerusalem. We often see that Jerusalem was a symbolic “bride” as Israel was the bride of Adonai (Beloved husband).

Israel’s sin divorced her from God as Israel broke their side of the Covenant. God in His mercy sent prophets to warn the people and the prophets were killed. So the inevitable consequences occured and Israel was taken from the Promised Land.

At last the tribes of Judah and Benjiman returned and the Second Temple was built. It was not as grand as the first but it allowed the people to serve God faithfully.

Then there is the tradition that Jeremiah hid the Ark of the Covenant in the mountains somewhere.

Finally in about the year 18 BC Herod began the enormous building project of the new Temple in Jerusalem. It was so huge that all the pilgrims from the diaspora could stand within it’s walls. There was even a court for the gentiles (although it was misused and Jesus had to clear out the market that had been set up there).

Jesus calls Himself the temple when He says “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”

The new Ark is His mother. She held Him, the Bread of Heaven, the High Priest of the new Covenant within her womb and within her arms. She is the sign that women are part of the New Covenant. Girl babies are baptised as well as boy babies. Paul says baptism has replaced circumcision which had only been for 8 day old boys or boys and men who converted later.

Jesus is the king, son of David of the New Israel and the new Gebirah (queen mother) of Israel is Mary.

All are welcome now, Jew and gentile, rich or poor and no matter how sick, disabled or developed, we are all children of Mary.  We don’t have to pass an exam to be children of the new Covenant. We just have to accept the Sacraments that are offered us. Thank God for that.

When the Wolves Came; Fr. Francis Pfeifer dodges the bullets of the drug pushers

I’ve been cleaning and tidying and listening to Al Kresta’s interview with Fr. Francis Ted Pfiefer OM whose memoir When the Wolves Came is to be made into a DVD.

He faced the powerful and violent drug cartels of Mexico and tried to continue to serve the people he had been sent to shepherd. He admits he was very much afraid and having been shot at went to kneel before Our Blessed Mother in the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Crying with fear he said he needed an immediate answer. Could he leave? Instead of God giving him permission to get away and find somewhere safer to live, Our Blessed Mother asked him to stay and trust her Son.

In his interview with Al Kresta he mentions in passing that as he was also a trained paramedic he had delivered most of the children of his parish.

Kindle UK book

It is good to see the stories of some of our brave priests being told. I can’t get the book just yet, but if any of you read it let me know what you think.

The Sacred Heart. All that love and thorns

After writing that short piece about why God might want to place a ban on the Amorites, it’s the Feast of the Sacred Heart today.

But if you are thinking that this is the fluffy Jesus, think again. Apart from the heavy crosses the seer St. Margaret Mary Alacoque had to carry in her life as she carried out the requests of her Bridegroom, there’s very clear signs of the Passion on His hands and feet and around His Sacred Heart. It was that heart which was pieced by the spear of St. Longinus and the last drops of Precious Blood given to the world. There’s a crown of thorns around it because love, done properly, does hurt.

Love isn’t a fluffy sentimental feeling meaning you can do whatever feels good (and sentimental). It’s an act of the will meaning sacrifice and often doing things we would rather not do. Ask any mother as she cleans up snot and vomit, or a husband who takes on those extra hours of work so his wife can be at home with the children.

We should resist the temptation to disneyfy Jesus.  In fact the tough, crown of thorns, wounded Christ is the one we know will help us in our trials and during the rough times of life.

Medjugorje and Me.

At the moment the 30 year events going on in Medjugorje in Bosnia Herz are being fully investigated by a team at the Vatican. There’s a general belief that a definitive judgement on whether Our Blessed Mother has been appearing there will be made by the end of this year. In the meantime there’s quite a bit of argument and controversy over the matter. I don’t want to add to that, but I thought I might tell what part this place and it’s events have had on my faith.

I grew up and went to Catholic schools in the 1970’s and early 80’s. It was during the Catechism-free-zone days of Catholic teaching. I was being unpleasantly sandwiched between the dark judgemental “can’t wait for an excuse to send you to hell” god on the one side and the pink and fluffy”how does it feel for you?” god on the other. It was not good.

One thing that began to bug me was the sheer volume of miracles. I don’t mean cures as such, but the spinning sun seemed to happen all the time and then there was the business of people’s rosaries turning to gold. Something about that seemed wrong.

Without going into the rigmarole of my painful Faith journey back then I had reached the point where I knew God existed (from reason) but I had no idea who He was and had a strong suspicion that even if the Jesus of Scripture was God and that He had spent nearly 2000 showing His love for His people, all that had vanished some time after the first world war and He had shipped out, leaving us to ourselves. I could see no evidence at that point in my life that God had anything more to do with the world or His Church (if the Catholic Church was His Church and I was not convinced of that).

News reached me somehow (I can’t remember how) that Our Blessed Mother may be appearing to some young people in a place called Medjugorje. At first I wasn’t able to find out much about it, but eventually I found a magazine about the events and I signed up to see if it was true. I was pretty cautious at first as I wasn’t one to trust anyone very easily, but the stories of the apparitions, cures, conversions and the joy that came with them all captivated me and I began to think it highly likely that the apparitions were true and I was so grateful to have the hope that God hadn’t done a runner. (As you can see spiritually I was way off beam still). The fact that I was beginning to believe in it meant that I decided to make the effort to live the messages; going to Mass more often, praying the rosary, reading the Bible – just trying to be better at this Christianity thing I was so unsure of. I have to admit, it was all very good for me and certainly played a pretty big part in steering me in the right direction. But doubts began to creep in.

I can’t remember when exactly, I began to sense something off about it all. One of the first red flags was the Bishop of Mostar being so against it and the anger towards him by those who supported it. He may have been completely wrong, I didn’t know (and having been brought up in the catechism-free-zone I had no idea that the local ordinary had the authority to declare on local private revelation. I don’t think I even knew there was a distinction between public and private revelation at this point).  The other thing I began to feel uncomfortable with was the number of times I met people who put immense pressure on me to go there. One couple in particular had a really negative effect on me, even though I thought they were very nice people. It was the “come and see the miracles” approach that niggled at me. I didn’t give up hoping it was real though.

Then I met a friend who had been there. He told me that his rosary had turned to gold while he was there. Far from being pleased with this, it had unnerved him. He said that he had thought the event “brash and tasteless” and wondered if it really was Our Blessed Mother doing this. Somehow this conversation vocalised the niggling doubts and strange feeling that had been growing for me and I decided to leave well alone until there was a definitive judgement. Some time after that the Bishop of Mostar asked the visionaries not to speak any more on the visions (or some say he asked them to stop having visions) but nothing has changed. Knowing that in other apparitions Our Blessed Mother has obeyed the Bishop’s request because he has the authority from her Son – this was the clincher for me.

At this point it is 30 years down the line and a lot has been written and said. Many, many of those who have or still support the authenticity of the apparitions are truly good, holy people who I respect. A couple of the leading lights against Medjugorje on the other hand come across as arrogant and snarky. But there are also good, holy people who are pretty sure the Vatican will say it is not authentic.

Where do I stand now? I can’t help thinking this probably was a genuine apparition to begin with. But so many other things have happened that need unknotting or undoing that I can’t see there’s much room for the Commission to say any of it was authentic. But they have far more info than I do- so we wait.

I have to say I think the Church has taken the Ent-Moot far to far on this matter. Countless souls are wrapped up in these events and I am afraid I think they have been left to flounder without proper guidance. Hopefully the Commission will give and clear, definitive judgement. As a matter of fact one of the advantages (to me) of being Catholic is that there are rigorous investigations of purported miracles and apparitions. It is a shame it’s taken so long, but better late than never.

Annuciation; questions about Mary.

It’s forty weeks to Christmas!

This is the feast of the Annunciation when the Archangel Gabriel came to the virgin Mary and told her that she would have the Son of God. He called her “full of Grace,” and she gave her “Fiat”, that is, her consent to whatever God wanted of her.

The first question that often gets asked at this point is ‘how come she gets away with asking how this will be, when poor old Zachariah is struck dumb for 40 weeks (or 41 if you add the 8 days after John’s birth). God isn’t fair is he?’

The answer is that Zachariah, standing in the Holy of Holies before an angel of the Lord says he doesn’t believe it can happen. His wife is beyond child-bearing age. His lack of faith is punished with dumbness and he therefore cannot give the blessing to the people that the High Priest was supposed to give. That must have caused some consternation at the time.

Mary however is asking how she is going to get pregnant. Now this looks like a really silly question when you consider she is betrothed (more than engaged but less than married) to Joseph. The general tradition is that she had made an oath to God to remain His handmaid and therefore a virgin all her life. She wondered if she was somehow to be released from the vow, or if there was some other way she could become pregnant with the Messiah.

Gabriel then explains what will happen- which of course keeps her vow in tact.  It is this that helps St. Augustine and other father’s to see that she had made such a vow. It was very fitting that this should be so. She is now called to be the Mother of God Incarnate and she accepts the call.

OK, you might say, but what about the “brethren of the Lord”?

Of course there is nothing at all in either Scripture or tradition that suggests that Mary had other children than Jesus. There is a tradition based from the Evangelium of James that St. Joseph had children from a first marriage, but even that has not taken off a tradition throughout the Church.

The brothers of the Lord we see are the sons of Mary and Cleopas and of Mary Salome and Zebedee. There is a traditional family tree that shows how Mary Salome and Mary of Cleopas were related to Mary the Blessed Mother and therefore all their children were “brethren”. As Fr. Mitch Pacwa SJ and others who know both Aramaic and Hebrew point out, there is not set of words for extended family and so even today people will speak of uncles and cousins as brothers and sisters.  (I actually think this is a rather lovely aspect of these languages).

It hasn’t been easy to extrapolate who the father’s of all the James mentioned in Scripture might be. the biggest question has been over whether Mary of Cleopas was married to Alpheus before Cleopas or where Alpheus is simply another name Cleopas held (Much as St. Matthew was also called Levi). There has never been a tradition that Mary had other children. But could she have?

Mary has a special role in Scripture. She is called to be the Christ bearer, the Theotokos in Greek. As Christ is the second Adam so she is the second Eve, born without the loss of Grace – original sin – incured by the sin of Adam and Eve. Mary does have free will, just as all have from the time of Adam. She remains true to God though, freely choosing not to sin as she freely chose to give her Fiat to the angel.

In carrying the Christ child she is the second Ark of the Covenant. Only she is more holy than the first Ark. She carries the God Incarnate inside her whereas the Ark of the old Covenant carried manna, the tablets of the Law and Aaron’s staff (symbol of his priesthood). All these are precursors, types and symbols of what Mary and Jesus really are.

The Ark of the Covenant is the holiest object known in Israel. It was so holy that no one but the High Priest could touch it, and we all remember the story of two men who touched the Ark and immediately dropped dead.  No one could touch what was consecrated so completely to God.

So Mary could not have had other children as there is no way Joseph would have dared have children with the woman who was the Mother of God, Ark of the Covemant. She had received her child from God, by being covered with the Holy Spirit. She belonged completely to God then.  Her womb had been the place for the Incarnation and was therefore sacred so it would not be fitting for another child to dwell there.

The question over Our Lady’s perpetual virginity began around the 4th century and was answered by St. Jerome.

I think the root of the constant questioning of her perpetual virginity these days is based not only in a profound lack of Scriptural knowledge but in a loss of the understanding of the sacred – what is holy and set aside. Worse still I think the constant harping about her virginity is based in a bizarre view that sex is the be all and end all of life.  And a subtle, but nevertheless very present, undermining of the belief in the Incarnation itself.

When you can’t pray it’s good to know someone else can.

Lent is about the desert really. It’s the long winding journey to the Promised Land, and it can be really, really dry. I vaguely remember a story of a sister in the convent with St Teresa of Avila who was caught trying to avoid the call to chapel. She confessed that she didn’t feel like praying, and St Teresa said neither did she, but they must do so anyway.  There are times when praying is so dry you can wonder whether the words themselves even mean anything.

The Church as always known this of course and hence she has given us Divine Office. We don’t have to try and make our own words work, when they simply aren’t going to – we can offer back to God His own Words. Much better. Thankfully when He was going about inspiring the writers of the Psalms and other Scriptures, He was offering beautiful Words that are good for the soul peace and of course soul scrubbing.

Nothing worthwhile is easy so it’s always good to persevere in prayer, but it is also quite true that we have what a friend of mine calls “seasons”. In this season with little children, ill health and lots going on, perhaps the prayers, get a bit jumbled and ragged. Perhaps they don’t even happen at all some days.

Fortunately for us we have the saints (the Church Triumphant) to pray for us. We do so every day probably, and it has occured to me a couple of times when I am just so tired, I can’t even see the words of Divine Office, much less pray them, that our friends in heaven can take up our prayer and do some of it for us.

I am not suggesting we get lazy in prayer and simply say, oh if the saints and other people are praying I don’t have to. That wouldn’t be a good idea at all. But on those really awful days, or seasons, where we just aren’t getting it together, then it’s good to know that the saints are there and of course some prayer warriors here in the Church Militant.

Back to the dust

It’s Lent and purple is a lovely colour. I’m giving up the usual so that I don’t forget what I’ve decided to do.  We went to Mass yesterday and received the ashes to remind us that we are both body and soul, material and spiritual and that the body will return to the earth from which it came. But we are not dualists. We do not profess a soul trapped in a body as though the body is merely a material overcoat to the soul. And we do not swing off the other way that the body is merely an animated machine. We are one person body, mind and soul.

From the very beginning the Church has used materials – the stuff of life – to remind us and teach us that God made the world and it is good.

The sacramentals of the Church are part of the God’s story for us. We receive the burned palms as ash on our heads as a sign that we recognise that we are sinners and we know that leads to the death. Then at the beginning of Holy Week we have the palms in our hand reminding us that those who called Jesus king one day, called for His crucifixion only a few days later – and we are like them.

As Avila has been looking at the sacramentals as part of her RE, I’ve picked up more of an interest in them. I’ve always had a bit of an interest as my MA dissertation was focused on how children with special needs, especially developmental delay, can access the Sacraments. When I worked with children with serious disorders including autism, that meant they had little or no spoken language, a multisensory approach was vitally important. In fact the Children’s Hospice I worked in had a multisensory room.

The Church in both her Latin and Eastern Rites is beautifully set up so that all people, no matter how much language or learning they have can be fed and nurtured. We have icons, windows, statues, the shape and colour of the Church. The liturgical colours to mark the year, the candles, tabernacle and incense to see, touch and smell and of course the Blessed Sacrament to taste and see that the Lord is good. We have water and oils and then we use our bodies in prayer. Those whose body works stand before God, sit and listen and kneel in adoration. We genuflect and bow before God and of course we make the Sign of the Cross on our own bodies. At the Gospel we make another Sign of the Cross; making a cross on our foreheads, lips and chest silently praying that we will think, speak and love the Gospel.

We give something up for Lent because our bodies are just as important in our relationship with God as our minds and souls. In giving up chocolate or alcohol or whatever we choose to do without, we are not saying those things are bad (chocolate is soooo good) but we are saying that God is better.  We give up a little of the good for more of the best.

The Winter Roses of Our Lady of Guadalupe

To be honest, we should be somewhat ashamed about the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, but at the same time, like Adam’s sin, the fall out was so wonderful we could perhaps called it “oh happy fault!” as we do with Adam.

The Aztec religion was truly horrible and the mass slaughter at the Temple had left the neighbouring tribes fearful and resentful of their stronger masters. So when the ships arrived from Spain and Portugal it was hardly surprising that many of the Indian leaders were all too keen to join forces and defeat their Aztec enemies and their bloodthirsty gods.

Bringing the Good News of Christ could have been a wonderful turn around for the people. Only it barely happened.  The problem the missionaries faced was the behaviour of their fellow countrymen who thought stealing and slavery were a good way to live. The Dominicans spoke and fought strongly against the enslavement of the Indians and were backed by other orders and by the Pope who wrote strongly against what was happening out there in the New World.  But the evil continued, and so understandably many of the Indians equated Christianity with their oppression.

At that point God stepped in directly. While His sons in the religious orders were being undermined, and his children of the New World were being turned away from Truth and freedom, He could not stand by. He sent His greatest weapon against evil, the one who could stamp on the head of the serpent – His Mother.

When you look at many of the moments where Our Lady has turned up, she has done so when it is about to get dark or is already dark and about to get darker. She came to Fatima in Portugal to beg for prayer and repentance so that one World War could end and we could have avoided the horrific bloodbath of Communism and the Second World War if we had only listened – only we didn’t.

And she appeared at Kibeho for the same reason, was ignored and the bloodbath followed.

She wept in France and in Japan.

And yet we still ignore her message.

But the Indians of Mexico did not ignore her. They responded with courageous willingness to find the Truth and within a few years millions and millions have received baptism and found the love of Christ that He offered through the love of His Mother. The Tilma that the quiet and rather shy Indian St. Juan Diego carried to the the bishop filled with unseasonal Castilian Roses bears a beautiful image – a copy of which I have in my kitchen.

We can be amazed at the miracle of the winter roses and the stunning and deeply symbolic image left on St. Juan Diego’s grass woven tilma – but the greatest achievement was the conversion of the people.

Not all mothers are wise, as she is wise and not all mothers are good as she is good and not all mothers love their children, but she does. We need to accept her love and guidance as Juan Diego did. She is the best Mother we have ever been given; and she points always to her Son as she makes the only command she ever gave in Scripture “Do whatever He tells you.”

All sort of places to visit once you pop your clogs.

limbo of the Fathers by Domenico Beccafumi

As it’s November I thought I might speculate about where various people get to go either to stay or visit after death.

We know from Scripture and Tradition that when Adam and Eve sinned and got evicted from the Garden that the gates of heaven were closed to them. Until the coming of Christ and His Salvific act we were locked out.
Before Jesus came there were plenty of very good and holy men in among the people of Israel and probably quite a few pagans who had tried to live good lives.
So where did they go?
Where did Elijah go when he was assumed in that fiery chariot? Where was Enoch taken to?
According to Tradition there was a place for the dead, the Limbo of the Fathers as it was called. This was not heaven but it was a paradise where those who had died could await the opening of heaven.
Jesus tells the story of Dives and Lazarus. When Lazarus dies he is held in what Jesus called “The bosom of Abraham.” This would seem to be the Limbo where Lazarus awaits heaven.
Jewish Tradition had it that there was heaven, Sheol and Gehenna.  Now we see from Scripture and history that Gehenna was a place on earth. It was the accursed place where the evil king Manasseh, having apostasised from his Jewish faith, sacrificed his children to Molech for riches and power. In the time of Jesus it was a burning heap of rubbish, and as such was a symbol or metaphor for hell.
Apparently Sheol was thought to be a place beneath the Temple where the souls of the dead went, but as the Greek word used is Hades, it seems more like the murky land of a sort of purgatory, not the Limbo of the Fathers or Bosom of Abraham.
Jesus died for us and rose again and the gates of heaven were opened wide. On Holy Saturday we celebrate what is rather misleadingly called The Harrowing of Hell. It was Hell that was harrowed, it was this other place, Sheol and/or the Bosom of Abraham/Limbo of the Fathers. All those who had waited so long as so patiently were welcomed into heaven. In art and tradition (small t tradition) Adam and Eve are the first to be called from their graves.
So, I wonder now, do any of these places external to heaven but not hell and not purgatory still exist? Or are they part of purgatory?
And where are Enoch and Elijah?
We know that heaven is for those who are perfect and at the Resurrection will be where the perfect with their resurrected bodies will live. We know that Our Blessed Mother has her resurrected body, from the Assumption. It would also explain how her appearances to people are more “solid” for want of a better word, than those of other saints.
But neither Enoch nor Elijah have died or received their resurrected bodies yet. So are they in the Paradise – Limbo of the Fathers? How much of the Beatific Vision have they already had? I don’t suppose there are answers to these questions at this point.
Interestingly I notice that just about everyone who has received either visions or visits to purgatory or visits of people from purgatory report on the matter as though, like Dante’s epic, there are chambers and grades that souls work through. The final chamber or circle or whatever is like paradise, but not yet within the full Presence. People in this place sometimes get permission to visit those who have prayed and offered for them and say thank you. I like that 🙂
I suppose I can’t  miss out dear Saint Augustine’s view that there may be a Limbo of the unbaptised. This is one of those things that has caused many of us mothers who have miscarried babies to struggle. Thankfully the Church has said that we leave our unbaptised children in the Mercy of God. Whether the Baptism of desire works from parent to child isn’t decided on I suppose.
We do know in the very end there are only death, judgement, heaven and hell. So I suppose that even if these other places do still exist for any reason that in the end, they wont – and that has to include St Augustine’s Limbo, if it’s there.

Feast day of St. Teresa of Avila, Dr of Church and my daughter’s patron.

It’s my daughter’s Name Day today. I have to confess I have been slack on this business, but I want to try and mark their saint name days a little better. I remember we came to a halt over the day for St. Ronan of Iona, who is so obscure he doesn’t appear to have a feast day. I think we decided to borrow from one of the Irish St. Ronan’s. Anyway today is the feast day of St. Teresa of Avila, a truly wonderful saint who is one of the very few (is it 7) doctors of the Church.

Teresa lived at a time when God was pouring out great downpours of Grace onto Spain and Italy. The saints that emerged in those turbulent times are so many that our St Teresa met many of them.

She met St Francis Borgia, St. John of the Cross. St Peter of Alcantara, St John of Avila, St John of God and possibly (can’t remember) St Robert Bellarmine. It seems that the people of Spain were blessed enough to be practically tripping over great saints in those days.

That’s quite an array of extremely holy people.  It shows that when Jesus said “I will not leave you orphaned,” He really meant it. As unrest, war and political upheaval happened in Europe and the blood of the martyrs particularly in England under the heavy axe of Elizabeth I, spread, God raised great voices for Himself, full of courage and true holiness. These men and women took their oaths seriously, and obeyed them even in the face of hostility from their own fellow Catholics sometimes.

We are reading Saint Teresa of Avila from the Encounter the Saints Series (No I haven’t bought the whole set – but it’s tempting isn’t it?) The children are enjoying it and the illustrations are very good.

Other books and resources –

The Life of St Teresa of Avila by St Teresa of Avila

Life of Teresa of Jesus I haven’t read this one so can’t review it.

St Teresa of Avila by Robert Hugh Benson a well written solid story of her life, which lacks the awful sentimentality that some 19th c authors felt needed to be part of saints stories. Good ol’Benson.

Fantastic St. Teresa resource page

The interior Castle Audio

The Interior Castle (or the Mansions) reading files I read this for Lent some years ago. Then one day as I was reading Charlotte Mason’s Ourselves from the Homeschooling series (its book 4 I think) I thought how much it resembled the work of St Teresa of Avila – in fact it was so similar it couldn’t be a coincident. I have since discovered, without much surprise, that Miss Mason was an avid reader of the great saint. In fact I have heard that a copy of St Teresa’s work was on her night table when she died.

An aside: When I was a child I hated saint stories. I had been given a couple of little saint books by someone. Each story was short and packed with sugar. Each illustration was of a syrupy saint gazing upwards fulfilling the motto of being so heavenly minded as to be no earthly good.

The exception for me was St. Bernadette. She had worked a quiet miracle for my grandfather giving him a good extra 5 years when he had been about to die. I took her as my Confirmation saint and happened to get a book some time later about her life which was written in a straight forward honest way. Even so, I assumed she was one of the “normal” saints unlike the rest of ’em. I heard in passing that St Ignatius Loyola had converted on reading the lives of saints, which astonished me as I wondered how a soldier could have found such sentimentality appealing.

Thankfully I now have access to a world of well written solid saint biographies and can share them with my children. They are growing up with a completely different view of the heroes and heroines of the Church – thankfully.

Why doesn’t God just show us He is there?

So many times I hear the question, why doesn’t God make it easy to believe in Him? If He is really there, why does He make it so hard for us to find Him? Even I have caught myself asking this question.

Of course Jesus answers it in His parable of Dives and Lazarus. Dives is the rich man who walks past the poor Lazarus every day and never so much as notices him as he leads his rich and comfortable existence. Both men die, and Dives is in the fires of either hell or purgatory and he calls out to father Abraham when he sees Lazarus, asking that Lazarus bring him a little water. Abraham says it’s impossible for either man to cross the chasm between them. Dives then (implying he is in purgatory) asks that someone go warn his brothers and receives the famous reply “Even is someone should rise from the dead they will not believe.”

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