Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Mulier Fortis: Another Neat Christmas Video...

Mulier Fortis: Another Neat Christmas Video...

If the Holy Family were using facebook...

Elizabeth comments that her baby John leaps in her womb when Our Lady, pregnant with Jesus, approaches her. The future John the Baptist's jubilant bounce marks the joyousness of the occasion of the visit of Jesus to his home.
At the time of Our Lady's visit to Elizabeth, Jesus would have been an embryo, but even in his tiny embryonic state he is still recognised as fully human and Divine. I don’t mean to sound too preachy, but there’s a profound, echoing message here for our generation. There are endless debates among Catholics and Christians as to whether or not embryos are ‘human’ or not or if they have any ‘value’. Yet the founder of our Christian religion, Jesus Christ was celebrated as the Messiah, when He was an embryo.
Twitch-of-the-mantilla to Mulier Fortis, I saw this video on her outstanding blog.

Poignant video that may touch the coldest of hearts

Hat tip to Robert Colquhoun. I first saw this video on Robert’s ground-breaking blog, Love Undefiled.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Affectionate, warm Padre Pio

A penitent recounted that; “Padre Pio often, stopped in the sacristy greeting his spiritual children and friends by kissing them. I looked with holy envy on those so fortunate and I thought: “Blessed him! If I were him! Blessed! Blessed him! On Christmas 1958, I knelt, in front of Padre Pio for confession. Afterwards, I looked at him and while full of emotion I asked him: “Father, today is the Christmas day, can I wish you Merry Christmas by giving you a kiss? And he, with a sweetness that I am not able to describe with the pen, smiled at me and said: “Hurry up, my child, don’t make me waste time“! He also embraced me. I kissed him and as a bird, joyful, I went toward the exit full of celestial delights. And what can I say about some slaps on the head? Every time, before leaving from St. Giovanni Rotondo, I desired Father Pio gave me a sign of particular predilection. In fact I also wanted two small slaps on the head as two fatherly caresses. I have to underline that he never refused me anything I wanted to receive from him. One day, there were a lot of people in the sacristy of the small church and Father Vincenzo exhorted, with his usual severity: “don’t push, don’t shake Padre Pio’s hands go back“! I sadly thought: “This time I will leave without having the blows on the head.” I didn’t want to resign me and I begged my Guardian Angel to become a messenger and to repeat these words to Padre Pio: “Father I desire the benediction and the two blows on the head, as usual, one for me and the other for my wife”. Padre Vincenzo was still repeating “don’t push Padre Pio...stay far from him!” when Padre Pio started walking. I was in anxiety. I looked at him but I was sad. Suddenly Padre Pio came to me, he smiled and he gave me two taps and it made me also kiss his hand, “I would like to give you a lot of slaps...a lot of slaps, “ he told me the first time that I asked him for the small slaps. Account found here.
It must be said that this personal account of Padre Pio has to be put in the right cultural context. Affectionate 'slaps' are part of cheerful companionship in Italy, whereas in our chilly isles of England and Ireland we think of a slap as a punishment for a child. It’s very touching that the man in the above story sought Padre Pio’s ‘slaps’ so much that he braved the firm Fr. Vincenzo so that he would get tapped by Padre Pio! 

Thursday, 16 December 2010

ECHR rules: ‘Ireland must enact abortion laws.’ Ireland treated like a badly behaved nation of stupid children who need their laws decided for them.

The ECHR unanimously ruled this morning that the rights of one of three women who took a case challenging Ireland’s abortion laws were breached because she had no “effective or accessible procedure” to establish her right to a “lawful abortion”. The woman—known only as “C”—had a rare form of cancer and feared it would relapse when she became pregnant. She claimed she was unable to find a doctor willing to make a determination as to whether her life would be at risk if she continued to term.  In the absence of any medical evidence, the court concluded that neither the “medical consultation nor litigation options” relied on by the Government constituted “effective or accessible procedures”.

“Moreover, there was no explanation why the existing constitutional right had not been implemented to date,” the court ruled, referring to the "X Case" judgement. “Consequently, the court concluded that Ireland had breached the third applicant’s—C’s—right to respect for her private life given the failure to implement the existing Constitutional right to a lawful abortion in Ireland.”

The court ruled that there had been no violation of the rights of the two other women involved in the case—A and B. All three women were supported in their litigation by the pro-abortion Irish Family Planning Association, an organisation which receives state funding.

The Irish Government robustly defended Ireland’s ban on abortion before the court and said Ireland’s abortion laws were based on “profound moral values deeply embedded in Irish society”. Today’s judgement makes a mockery of the very notion of human rights by ignoring the most fundamental right of all, the right to life. If the government believes what it argued in this case, then it must act to ensure that current medical practice which ensures that essential medical treatment is provided to all women in Ireland continues. Medical interventions necessary to save a mother’s life, even if the life of her unborn child is unintentionally lost, are legal and available, but the deliberate killing of the unborn must remain a crime.

Ireland is the safest place in the world to be born or to give birth. Let’s keep it that way.

Full text of the above Family and Life article available here.

Please :-
1) Contact the the following leaders today and tell them that the government must ensure that this ruling does not open the door to legalised abortion in Ireland.
2) Speak up for the right to life of the unborn in discussions on this issue—in the media; on social networks, blogs etc., and when talking to family and friends.

Contact details:

Mr Brian Cowen, TD,
Office of An Taoiseach,
Merrion Street,
Dublin 2.
Tel: 01-6194020 / 4021 / 4043, Fax: 01-6764048

Mr Enda Kenny, TD,
Tucker Street,
Co. Mayo.
Tel: 094 9025600, Fax: 094 9026554

Mr Brian Lenihan, TD,
Minister for Finance,
Constituency Office,
Laurel Lodge Shopping Centre,
Dublin 15.
Tel: 01-8220970, Fax: 01-8220972

Mr Leo Varadkar, TD,
37A Main Street,
Dublin 15.
Tel: 01-6183819, Fax: 01-6184125

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Baby Jesus was seen to appear in Padre Pio's arms. Padre Pio and Christmas Part Four

Padre Pio had a profound humility; he was blessed with extraordinary spiritual gifts, but he always, always considered himself the least of his fellow priests. Padre Pio never asked anything for himself, but he treasured and loved the privilege of offering Midnight Mass. This was a solemn Mass, and the right to offer it usually belonged to the guardian of San Giovanni. But successive guardians, knowing how much offering this Mass meant to Fr. Pio, gave Padre Pio the honour of celebrating it.
It was a long Mass – Padre Pio sometimes finished at five in the morning. But many of the faithful went to great pains to attend it. It was an arduous journey to the friary in the 1920s and 1930s, when the road was a rocky mule path, and in winter it was coated in snow and ice. Before Midnight Mass, Padre Pio waited and greeted those who had come; his face would be transfigured with joy.
Lucia Ladanza recalls a miraculous event that took place, the night of December 24, 1922. The friars had brought a huge brazier (which is a type of fire box) to keep the gathering warm. The people were reciting the Rosary and Padre Pio stood with them, praying too. In the blink of an eye, Lucia saw, through an aura of light, Baby Jesus appear in Padre Pio’s arms. Baby Jesus was glowing and Padre Pio’s face changed into a beaming smile.

An eyewitness to another such miracle, was Fr. Raffaele da Sant’Elia, who had the room next to Padre Pio for 35 years. This is his account: “I had got up to go to the church for the Midnight Mass of 1924. The corridor was huge and dark, and the only illumination was the flame of a small oil lamp. Through the shadows I could see that Padre Pio, too, was making his way to the church. He had left his room and was making his way slowly along the corridor. I realised he was swathed in a band of light. I took a better look and saw that he had the Baby Jesus in his arms. I just stood there, transfixed, in the doorway of my room, and fell to my knees. Padre Pio passed by, all aglow. He didn’t even notice I was there.”

Monday, 13 December 2010

Why was Padre Pio thought to be 'in ecstasy' during Christmas time? Part Three

Padre Pio was advised to become a confessor, instead of a preacher. On account of his ailing health, preaching would have been too tiring and strenuous. His brother friars told how Padre Pio requested that the crib be placed opposite his confessional so that he would be able to adore Baby Jesus while he administered the sacrament of penance (Padre Pio was a prayer multi-tasker!). For long hours, Padre Pio stayed in the confessional, sometimes up to and beyond 14 hours a day, and would rest his eyes on the statue of Baby Jesus.
A spiritual daughter of his, Raffaeline Cerase, received a letter from him that gave powerful insights as to his deep devotion to Baby Jesus. Padre Pio, without any hyperbole, described how he felt his spirit was ‘being born again to a new life’ when the Holy Novena in honour of Baby Jesus began. St. Pio’s exact words to Raffaeline were: “When the Holy Novena begins in honour of the Baby Jesus; it feels as though my spirit were being born again to a new life. I felt as though my heart were too small to embrace all our heavenly blessings. My soul felt as though it were disintegrating in the presence of our God who had become man. How can we not love Him forever with a fervour that never grows stale? Let us open our hearts to the Baby Jesus whose soul was without the stain of sin and we will taste how sweet it is to love Him.

Why was Padre Pio thought to be 'in ecstasy' during Christmas time? Part Two

Padre Pio's great love for the crib started when he is a child. 
Padre Pio practised this great devotion to the crib, which is so reminiscent of Saint Francis, even as a child when he lived with his parents. At his home in Pietrelcina, he always wanted to prepare the crib himself. He would start work on it as early as October. While he pastured the family’s flock of sheep with his friends, he would search for the clay which he would use to fashion the small statues of shepherds, sheep, and the other characters which he would place in the crib scene. He became very quick and accomplished in this task, and would prepare statuettes for his friends, too. 
 The picture above shows examples of clay figures for a crib, but are there any pictures of Padre Pio's handmade figures for his family crib?

He would take particular care when making the model of the Baby Jesus. He would make and re-make the Christ-child continually, remembered one of his playmates, Luigi Orlando. When he had finished he would place the statue on the palm of his hand and say; ‘It isn’t as I wanted it.’ He would then roll the statue into a ball of clay again, and make another statue more to his liking.
The young Francesco, the future Padre Pio, wanted his crib scene to be as beautiful as possible. He also wished to light it up to make the scene as evocative as possible. At that time in Pietrelcina, there was no electricity and it was necessary to use oil lights. They had to be very small to enable Francesco to insert them in the moss, next to the tiny houses and beside the flocks of sheep.
The ingeniousness of the young boy was remarkable for those times. Francisco and his friends had learned to make lights made from snail shells. They would look for empty shells in the fields, clean them well, fill them with oil, add a wick and they would thus have a magnificent little lantern.

From the essay on Padre Pio at Christmas time by Renzo Allegri. 

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Next Thursday might just mark the most dismal day in Irish history

What if only the top of Ireland, representing the North of Ireland is left green after next Thursday?

For all the wrong reasons, next Thursday December 16th might be a drastic turning point in Irish history. It’s the day that the ‘European Court of Human Rights’ may make a decision for Ireland – to legislate for abortion. This court has the authority to rule that Ireland’s pro-life laws infringe upon women’s human rights.
The reason that a far-off court is mulling over Ireland’s law that bans abortion, is because Ireland is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. And this court, the ‘ECHR’ has the authority to decide that Ireland’s pro-life laws are ‘in breach’ of the Convention. Whatever next? The court’s rulings are binding, and Ireland could be under strain to make abortion-on-demand lawful. This is a change from when the women originally took the case, when the rulings of the court/the ECHR were not ‘binding’.

In 2005, the case was originally founded on three women who argue that their health was put in imperil by having to travel out of Ireland to have abortions in the UK. The case is known as the ‘A, B, C’ case; none of the names of the women have been made known as the women have chosen to remain anonymous. There is ‘the right’ of the three women to hold dear to their anonymity, yet surely it is unsettling (and unfair) for the millions of Irish voters who will have their pro-life laws seriously challenged and possibly overturned by three faceless and mysterious persons? What is known about the three women is that two of them are Irish and one Lithuanian. One of the women has made a case based on the unproven fact that she ran a risk of an ectopic pregnancy and this is why she believed she needed to have an abortion. One woman received chemotherapy for cancer, and the other woman’s born children were in the care of someone else, and she feared that she would not be able ‘to cope’ if she carried her pregnancy full-term. I have, in my possession, the ‘statement of facts’ concerning the three women. Let there be no doubt as to who is paying the piper; the Irish Family Planning Association are funding the case, i.e. paying the solicitors’ bills.

Scenario One - The three women ‘win’ their case

The Irish government might be forced to legislate for what we know in Britain as ‘social abortion’. The court will have made a ruling based largely on private opinion – one of the woman thought that she could not cope, another feared she would develop an ectopic pregnancy. As the unborn child’s life ended in a ‘clinic’ in Britain, there is no way of knowing whether the mother would have coped or not. But what is certain is that millions of women in Ireland might have abortion-on-demand foisted on them, because one woman built the case that she 'couldn't cope' for overturning Ireland’s pro-life laws.
If the Irish government follow the ruling, it will mean the dismantling of Ireland’s pro-life laws, as primarily instituted by the Victorian Offences Against the Person Act. The Victorian laws were worded such; Whosoever shall unlawfully supply or procure any poison or other noxious thing, or any instrument or thing whatsoever, knowing that the same is intended to be unlawfully used or employed with intent to procure the miscarriage of any woman, whether she be or be not with child, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour…

Simultaneously, it will be the eradication of a very proud part of Ireland and Britain’s shared history. It has been fascinatingly paradoxical these past decades that while Britain has gone the way of liberal abortion laws and huge abortion figures, that Ireland maintained pro-life decrees are rooted in British legislation.

We must hold dear to the fact that this case has no influence over the pro-life laws in Northern Ireland. If abortion is legalised in the Republic of Ireland, the North of Ireland will still have pro-life laws. The British tax-payer will still be glad that at least his taxes do not fund abortion in Northern Ireland.

However, there would still be hope for preserving Ireland’s pro-life laws. The Irish government could chose, with difficulty, to ignore the court’s rulings. The court cannot enforce penalties when its judgements are not heeded. It may well be remembered that en masse the Irish people have rejected social abortion in three referenda. There is also the current soical context. We must remember that the numbers of Irish women travelling for abortions has decreased steadily in the last eight years. The official figures from the British government show that 4,400 Irish women went to the UK for abortions in 2009, this is down from 6,600 in 2001.

Scenario Two - The three women ‘lose’ their case

There is the prospect that the court could rule that the appropriate medical treatment was
(and is) available in Ireland, which meant that the women’s rights were not breached.In that case, there would be no need to take apart the Victorian Offences Against the Person Act. In Ireland, it is perfectly within the law that women who develop ectopic pregnancies, and women with cancer, are assured of every medical help, even if that results in the unintentional and involuntary death of the unborn child. But, Irish law does not allow for women to have abortions on the basis that an individual woman thinks/fears that the pregnancy in the future may become ectopic.

This is very unlikely, but the court may say that the three women should have had their cases heard first in Irish courts – it would be anomalous for the court to have taken the case so far and then order this. Next Thursday, the court is set to issue its decision at a public sitting of the court’s grand chamber, which is out of the usual routine, considering that a written judgement from this court is more common.

Whatever the judgment of the court, one thing is crystal; Irish pro-lifers must be guarded and ready to protect our pro-life legislation.

Why was Padre Pio thought to be 'in ecstasy' during Christmas time? Part One

Fr. Ignazio da Ielsi, the guardian of the convent at San Giovanni Rotondo from 1922 to 1925, when Padre Pio was still young and had just received the stigmata, wrote in his diary: It is unnecessary to say with what passion Padre Pio celebrates Christmas. He thinks about it all the time. He counts the days to go from one Christmas or the next. The Baby Jesus holds a special attraction for him. It is enough for him to hear a Christmas carol or a lullaby and his spirit soars. To look at him you’d think he were in ecstasy.
Everyone who counts the days to Christmas, and enjoys carols has a lot in common with Padre Pio. It is a surprise for many to learn that Padre Pio yearned so profoundly for the Christmas liturgical feast. A lot of descriptions of Padre Pio throw around words like ‘stern’, ‘strict’ and ‘harsh’, but we need to amend our image of Padre Pio to allow the images of the spirited saint who looked as if he were ‘in ecstasy’ upon hearing a carol or lullaby and who had fervent affection for Baby Jesus.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Padre Pio: Baby Jesus 'is satisfied with humble and poor adorers'

Refused lodging among men, he seeks refuge and comfort among mere animals, choosing their habitation as the place of his birth, allowing their breath to give warmth to his tender body. He permits simple and rustic shepherds to be the first to pay their respects to him, after he himself informed them, by means of his angels, of the wonderful mystery.
Oh wisdom and power of God, we are constrained to exclaim – enraptured along with your Apostle – how incomprehensible are your judgments and unsearchable your ways! Poverty, humility, abjection, contempt, all surround the Word made flesh. But we, out of the darkness that envelops the incarnate Word, understand one thing, hear one voice, perceive one sublime truth: you have done everything out of love, you invite us to nothing else but love, speak of nothing except love, give us naught except proofs of love.
The heavenly babe suffers and cries in the crib so that for us suffering would be sweet, meritorious and accepted. He deprives himself of everything, in order that we may learn from him the renunciation of worldly goods and comforts. He is satisfied with humble and poor adorers, to encourage us to love poverty, and to prefer the company of the little and simple rather than the great ones of the world.

From the excellent translation by Frank Rega.

This statue of Baby Jesus was carried by Padre Pio every year in the procession before Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Padre Pio: the Infant Jesus’ newborn cries were ‘the first ransom for our redemption’

Far into the night, at the coldest time of the year, in a chilly grotto, more suitable for a flock of beasts than for humans, the promised Messiah – Jesus – the savior of mankind, comes into the world in the fullness of time.
There are none who clamor around him: only an ox and an ass lending their warmth to the newborn infant; with a humble woman, and a poor and tired man, in adoration beside him.
Nothing can be heard except the sobs and whimpers of the infant God. And by means of his crying and weeping he offers to the Divine justice the first ransom for our redemption.
He had been expected for forty centuries; with longing sighs the ancient Fathers had implored his arrival. The sacred scriptures clearly prophesy the time and the place of his birth, and yet the world is silent and no one seems aware of the great event. Only some shepherds, who had been busy watching over their sheep in the meadows, come to visit him. Heavenly visitors had alerted them to the wondrous event, inviting them to approach his cave.
So plentiful, O Christians, are the lessons that shine forth from the grotto of Bethlehem! Oh how our hearts should be on fire with love for the one who with such tenderness was made flesh for our sakes! Oh how we should burn with desire to lead the whole world to this lowly cave, refuge of the King of kings, greater than any worldly palace, because it is the throne and dwelling place of God! Let us ask this Divine child to clothe us with humility, because only by means of this virtue can we taste the fullness of this mystery of Divine tenderness. 
From Frank Rega's translation of Padre Pio's Christmas Meditation. Thank you, Frank for translating this work for us, and making it available online. May Padre Pio interceed for you all your days.  

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Little Flower and James Joyce - what do they have in common?

I was rather hoping that the Little Flower's writing style would be more that of Jane Austen, but when I put this section from The Story of a Soul into the 'I Write Like' soft-ware analysis, it came up with James Joyce.
'Jesus set before me the book of nature. I understand how all the flowers God has created are beautiful, how the splendour of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understand that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers. So it is in the world of souls, Jesus' garden. He has created smaller ones and those must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God's glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.'
The above extract demonstrates how she came to be known as the Little Flower, and apparently, her way of writing is most similar to the famous author James Joyce.
I'll stress that maybe it's only their writing style that the Little Flower and James Joyce have in common. The Little Flower's life pre-dates James Joyce's literary career.  It seems almost a crude gag to put them both side-by-side; on one hand the hard-drinking, original lapsed Catholic author alongside the pure and innocent Therese. Yet, love him or loathe him, James Joyce's writing style is renowned as revolutionary - he's credited with having first 'invented' and perfected the stream of consciousness literary 'technique'. This method would  inspire a whole school of authors including Britain’s Virginia Wolfe and the US’s Saul Bellow. Joyce's idea was that presenting the innermost thoughts of a character, instead of fancy plot lines was the heart of a work of fiction and that truly revealing the workings of the mind was the best way to illuminate the soul.

St. Therese, however, was not influenced by Joyce in the least, but  The Story of a Soul is also a ‘revolutionary’, ground-breaking work. In The Story of a Soul, St. Therese of Lisieux, shows her personal faith journey, and instead of a jazzy, suspense filled narrative, she gives her stream of consciousness explaining why she came to be happy that she isn’t a grand flower, but a ‘little flower’. We get to know Therese by the pattern of her thoughts and soul-searching reflections. We know Joyce’s characters – their ugly, pock-marked, struggling lives by their contemplation.
Many complain of Joyce’s works that there is no ending or beginning, that the characters’ thoughts tell uneven stories and just as there is no end to thought, there is no end to their histories. Joyce was dedicated to never giving a conclusion to the schemes in his books. The reader has to ‘take over’ and conjecture as to what becomes of the characters in Joyce’s works.
So too with St. Therese’s book – there is no ending to The Story of a Soul, instead we are invited to inherit her spiritual existence – in this life and the next. We – ourselves –  our lives may become the continuation of St. Therese’s route to personal sanctity. The collection of her thoughts on faith came to be known as ‘the little way’, and this has stirred the consciences of generations of Catholics and will be an essential compass for ages hence.
She has promised to spend her Heaven ‘doing good on earth’. In our prayerful thoughts, we may beseech the Little Flower to help us, and true to her word, she is a saint of wondrous miracles. The great debt that we owe to St. Therese was that she was humble enough to make known her deepest thoughts on how she understood her vocation, doing God’s will in the tiniest of ways, and how she would save her soul. By showing her thoughts so clearly and purely, she allowed us to learn a very instinctive way in which we and the millions of future children-of-faith may follow her.

Cardinal Ratzinger, attempted reforms to Canon Law that would have forced local bishops to observe proper juridical procedures against priests accused of abuse

This picture is the work of Anthony Corner.
In 1988 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then-head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, attempted to bring reforms to the Code of Canon Law that would have forced local bishops to observe proper juridical procedures against priests accused of sexual abuse, and impose specific penalties against them if they were found guilty.
In an article published today by the Vatican’s press office, Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta Ochoa de Chinchetru, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, shows that Pope Benedict XVI has for decades attempted to reform the process by which “graviora delicta,” or grave crimes, including sexual abuse of minors by clerics, are tried in the Church.
Bishop Arrieta writes, “The initiative [for reform] sprang from a deeply-held conviction of the Pontiff, the fruit of years of personal experience, and from his concern for the integrity and the consistent application of Church discipline.”
The article highlights a letter, dated to 1988, by Cardinal Ratzinger, then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), asking the Vatican office responsible for the Church’s Code of Canon Law, for “a more rapid and simplified penal process.”
Ratzinger had argued that as the head of the office dealing with faith and morals, the grave crimes involving the sexual abuse of minors fell under his own jurisdiction. He asked that such cases be dealt with by his office, the CDF, rather than entirely locally by bishops in their own dioceses.
At that time, the cardinal’s request was refused. In a letter to Cardinal Ratzinger, dated March 10, 1988, the head of what was then called the Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law, said, “I can well understand Your Eminence’s concern at the fact that the Ordinaries [local bishops] involved did not first exercise their judicial power in order to punish such crimes sufficiently, even to protect the common good of the faithful.”  Read the full article from LifeSiteNews Here.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

The You-Tube Way to Meditating on the Rosary

Today, is a First Saturday, and I find that the other conditions may be met with relative ease. I, however, find that the most difficult stipulation is fifteen minutes meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary while keeping Our Lord company. This must be a separate spiritual exercise to reciting the Five Decades of the Rosary.
Most days, I usually have the concentration of a flea with dementia, but now that it's December, when I start to set my mind to thinking about the Resurrection, I think of Christmas cards with the Infant Jesus. This You-Tube video really helped me concentrate on the Glorious Mysteries.

I’m offering my devotions today for my friend ContraSign, who has an important job interview soon. I prayed to St. Anthony for the intention that ContraSign become aware of lucrative job opportunities. Now, during this glacial Saturday in London, I will pray to the Immaculate Heart for the intention that ContraSign is successful in getting this job. Of your charity, may I ask your prayers for ContraSign that he gets good, sustained employment? He is very talented and uses his gifts to develop Catholic culture.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Halleluja Chorus - so much better than jingle bells ad infinitum!

Can you imagine if something similar happened in those food courts/restaurants upstairs in Victoria Station? We'd probably have to negotiate with the police and scarper before the secularist 'societies' took a hold of us.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Pope Benedict: The Vatican addressed Maciel scandal ‘slowly and late’ and Maciel ‘remains a mysterious figure.’

From the Regnum Christi website:
Peter Seewald: The Church was shaken also by revelations about the double life of Marcial Maciel Degollado…
Benedict XVI: Unfortunately we addressed these things very slowly and late. Somehow they were concealed very well, and only around the year 2000 did we have any concrete clues. Ultimately unequivocal evidence was needed in order to be sure that the accusations were grounded.
To me, Marcial Maciel remains a mysterious figure. There is, on the one hand, a life that, as we now know, was out of moral bounds—an adventurous, wasted, twisted life. On the other hand, we see the dynamism and the strength with which he built up the congregation of Legionaries.
Meanwhile we have had an apostolic visitation carried out and appointed a delegate who together with a group of collaborators is preparing the necessary reforms. Naturally corrections must be made, but by and large the congregation is sound. In it there are many young men who enthusiastically want to serve the faith. This enthusiasm must not be destroyed. Many of them have been called by a false figure to what is, in the end, right after all.*
That is the remarkable thing, the paradox: that a false prophet, so to speak, could still have a positive effect. New courage must be given to these numerous young men. A new structure is needed so that they do not fall between the cracks but are guided correctly so as to be able to continue performing a service to the Church and to mankind.
Our Pope makes a very important point, in that even if Maciel was ‘a false prophet’, that today, ‘by and large the congregation is sound’ and underscores that ‘there are many young men who enthusiastically want to serve the faith.’
It is quite tragic that so many good people and people with religious vocations who had ties with the Legionaries, have had their names dragged through the mud and their reputations tainted simply because their founder led a double life. Furthermore, the Pope’s resolve that the Legionaries need ‘a new structure’ so that the priests are ‘guided correctly’ does not shy from the fact that even the order must recover.
For further commentary see this Associated Press article where it is reported that Jim Fair, the Legion's communications director, said "the Legion agrees with the pope's comments in the new book."

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Extremely Rare Footage of St. Pio. I never wanted this You-Tube video to end.

Hat-Tip to Mark for telling me about this video. You can access Mark's excellent blog here.

Alphonse Ratisbonne and the Miraculous Medal. Part Two

See Part One for the beginning of the story on how Our Lady appeared to Alphonse in St. Andrew’s Church in Rome.
The baron, having made the funeral arrangements for his friend, went back to Alphonse who was on his knees in St. Michael’s chapel. The baron nudged Alphonse at least three times, and mysteriously there was no response. Then, Alphonse turned to the baron. Alphonse’s face was dripping with tears, and he joined his hands and whispered, "Ah, how this man has prayed for me!" Gradually, they left the church. Alphonse who has poured scorn on the Miraculous Medal was kissing the medal and now his tears covered it. Alphonse repeated: "How happy I am.  How good God is!  How great are the graces of happiness!  How we should pity those who do not know this!" He grasped the arm of the astonished baron, and asked to see a 'confessor' so that he might take instruction on being baptized.  The baron, who was mourning the death of a friend, was so bewildered and shook by Ratisbonne's words that without question, he immediately took him to a priest.
Holding his medal dear and kissing it, Alphonse, carefully recounted what happened to the priest, "I had been in that church for only a very brief time when all at once I felt myself in the grip of a disturbance impossible to describe.  I raised my eyes; I could no longer see anything of the building.  All the light seemed as if it were concentrated in some of the chapels, and in the midst of its shining there stood upon the altar the Virgin Mary as she is shown on the medal, beautiful, glorious, and embodying at once both majesty and kindness.  A force, which I could not resist, drew me toward her.  The Virgin made a sign with her hand that I should kneel and she seemed to say:  "It is well." She did not actually speak to me, but I understood as if she had." 
Later Alphonse said of the apparition of Our Lady, "I saw her just as I now see you!  But my eyes were unable to bear the brightness of this heavenly light.  Three times I tried to look at her face again; but each time I was unable to raise my eyes beyond her hands from whence there poured, just as on the medal, torrents of grace in the appearance of rays of light."
On June 3, 1842 a Roman court of inquiry completed an investigation and a pontifical decree was published stating:  "that it is certain, that a true and notable miracle, the work of God, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, did produce the instantaneous and complete conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne."

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Alphonse Ratisbonne and the Miraculous Medal. A ‘test’ that changed his life. Part One

1842. A young French Jew, Alphonse Ratisbonne, was due to get married, but spent some time travelling on the continent. When he arrived in Rome, he met Baron de Bussieres, a Protestant who had converted to Catholicism. Ratisbonne was candid with the devout Catholic Baron de Bussieres and declared, ‘a Jew was I born, and a Jew shall I die."
"Well then, since you are so strong-minded and so sure of yourself," said the baron to Alphonse, "promise me to wear something I am going to give you."
"We shall see. What is this?"
"It is only a medal." Then the baron showed him a Miraculous Medal. After some discussion, he challenged Alphonse to wear it and placed it around his neck. Alphonse giggled, but did not say no to it. This was just a dare, a test of belief, thought Ratisbonne.
"Now," said the baron, "you must not shirk the rest. Each morning and evening you must say the Memorare, a very short and effective prayer written by St. Bernard in honour of Our Lady."
To Alphonse this deed seemed bizarre, but appealed to his humorous nature, "Very well! I promise I will say your prayer; if it does me no good, at least it will not do me any harm!"
During the days that followed, the baron accompanied Alphonse when he was sightseeing the ‘eternal city’, and they visited many churches and masterpieces of art depicting the key events in the life of Christ. The baron used these trips as a way of introduction to Catholicism. Ratisbonne thought the baron’s efforts a bit too obvious and frankly, quite amusing, he treated it all as if it was a bit of a funny game. He was, however, thankful for seeing the pope in the Vatican (it was a once in a lifetime experience).
More days passed, and the baron was losing hope; "Ratisbonne has not advanced one step in the direction of the truth."
But the ways of grace were at work, even while the baron was despairing. One night, Alphonse awakened from his sleep "to see before me a large cross of a special shape without the body of Christ being attached to it."
The next day, Ratisbonne went with the baron to the Church of St. Andrea della Frate. The baron was rather down, and grief stricken as a friend of his had passed away, and he was visiting St. Andrea della Frate to check on funeral preparations of this friend.
Alphonse described the scene, "The Church of Saint Andrew seemed to me small, poor and forgotten. I felt as if I were alone in it. There were no works of art to draw my attention. I walked about aimlessly, without seeing anything to arouse a thought. I can recall only that a black dog sprang into my path... but soon he was gone! Then the church itself seemed to disappear; and I saw nothing at all... or I should say, O my God, that I saw one thing alone!"
"How can I speak of this? No! Human words cannot even try to convey what is beyond expression... When M. de Bussieres recalled me to myself, I was in tears and was unable to answer his questions... But I seized the medal that was on my breast and I fervently kissed the image of the Virgin... Oh! It had indeed been she! I did not know where I was; I did not know if I were Alphonse or someone else. I felt so deep a change in me that I believed myself to be another; I sought to regain my consciousness of self, and I could not... I was not able to speak; I did not wish to discuss what had happened; I felt within myself something so solemn and so sacred as to require me to ask for a priest."

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Padre Pio and the Irish Part Two

Padre Pio statue in Mamore Gap, Donegal, Ireland.
In June 2002, this life-size statue of Padre Pio was erected and blessed in the Gap of Mamore, and it faces a shrine of Our Lady. It was finished just in time for Padre Pio's canonisation ceremony in Rome. During that summer, in honour of the 'new' saint, St. Pio, the people of Donegal organised for the Rosary to be said by the site of this statue of St. Pio.

Padre Pio and the Irish Part One

This week I have been steeped in research on Ireland's recent economic history. I'm doing some journalism on how the faith in Ireland fell, and economic carelessness rose. This may sound all too coincidental and a fluke, but as Ireland went further from the teaching of the Church on how to manage its finances, it went more towards a very unrealistic continental-style financial model that did not suit our wet, windblown island's interests.
Precisely, how has the faith fallen? Mass attendance has dropped to such low levels, that only in the time of St. Patrick's arrival were there fewer people going to Mass (this might not be an exaggeration!). Fewer people know the basics of the faith. But Padre Pio is still very well-regarded and people are more likely to know the basics of his life story than they are the Catechism. Devotion to Padre Pio, is a golden thread of faith that unites both 'Catholic Ireland' of old and modern Ireland. In the days of 'Catholic Ireland', thousands of Irish people underwent trail-blazing trips to San Giovanni Rotondo in the '50s and '60s. And equally large numbers of Irish people were present for his beatification in 1999, and then his canonisation in 2002. Much of this is recounted in the book by Colm Keane, Padre Pio, The Irish Connection.

There remains a very instinctive drive to pray to Padre Pio. Dónal Enright, who I wrote about in a previous post, has a phone that never stops ringing - mainly sick people from all corners of Ireland invite him to their bedside to pray with them and bless them with Padre Pio's mitt. Books on Padre Pio are bestsellers in Ireland (sorry, that's not true for the Catechism). Liberal Irish newspaper enthusiastically report the accounts of miracles attributed to Padre Pio. These same newspapers are busy discrediting the power of the sacraments one day, and the next day these newspapers celebrate the great intercession of St. Pio. Here is an account reported in The Waterford News and Star about a 12 year old girl who sustained chronic injuries to her spine and back after falling from a pony. She was semi-paralysed, and then developed pneumonia. Her life hung by a thread. Eventually, Dónal Enright was asked to visit and bring Padre Pio's mitt. Just prior to Dónal's visit, the girl's condition was 'critical', but after he prayed over her with Padre Pio's mitt, there was a 'dramatic' improvement. The girl recovered and leads a 'perfectly normal life'.

Monday, 22 November 2010

JFK's RIP prayer card - Catholics just don't make them like they used to

47 years ago today, JFK was murdered in broad day-light. While, it was an impossibility for me to ever meet JFK, but I did meet his sister. I still pray for the repose of JFK's soul. If JFK went to Purgatory, then we may remember that when Padre Pio was asked how long one soul may stay in Purgatory - Padre Pio answered that it could be up to one hundred years. 
 Here is one of my most treasured possessions - the prayer card that was sent out after JFK's death. Let's see, we have an indulgence of 500 days listed on the back. When was the last time you saw an indulgence on a funeral prayer card? And the quote from St. Ambrose, about conducting the faithfully departed to Heaven with our prayers would be considered very old-school in Catholic circles today. Linen on the Hedgerow's post this morning inspired me to take photos of this card and post it. Part of this post reads, ' it is fashionable to name call JFK these days; we hear the woman chaser accusations ad nauseum but, at the time these facts or fictions were not aired and we saw Kennedy as a clean cut Catholic male who had the capacity to bring change into the lives of many thousands. He and his brother, Robert, took on the unions and the racists and the mafia to such a degree that the hold these groups held on the USA was broken for ever.'

Pope Benedict on Communion in the hand

During a long interview with Peter Seewald, Pope Benedict has said that: “I am not opposed in principle to Communion in the hand; I have both administered and received Communion in this way myself.”

But, he explains: “The idea behind my current practice of having people kneel to receive Communion on the tongue was to send a signal and to underscore the Real Presence with an exclamation point. One important reason is that there is a great danger of superficiality precisely in the kinds of Mass events we hold at Saint Peter’s, both in the Basilica and in the Square. I have heard of people who, after receiving Communion, stick the Host in their wallet to take home as a kind of souvenir.

“In this context, where people think that everyone is just automatically supposed to receive Communion — everyone else is going up, so I will, too—I wanted to send a clear signal. I wanted it to be clear:  Something quite special is going on here! He is here, the  One before whom we fall on our knees! Pay attention!

“This is not just some social ritual in which we can take part if we want to.”
This was reported by Independent Catholic News here.

For more information  on The Light of the World, which will be out this Tuesday, see here and here.
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