Thursday, 31 March 2011

A video we've been waiting for...

This is a very punchy video and should be widely used. Maybe it's because I'm the youngest fogey in London, but the soundtrack grated somewhat on me.

Twitch of the mantilla to Mulier Fortis' blog; where I gleaned this video.

B16: The Pope who wanted to be a humble librarian

The footage of John Paul II and Benedict is very touching; theirs was a truly great friendship.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Pro-lifers should be wary of mandatory counselling before abortion says Francis Philips

In a previous post, Nadine Dorries made a powerful case for overhauling the policies on obtaining an abortion. Dorries is not pro-life per se, and so she does not work to make all abortions illegal. Dorries has, however, pushed for new criteria to be met before someone may get an abortion; such as a woman seeking an abortion to get advice and counselling from some sort of organisation that does not perform abortions. This, in effect, would be mandatory counselling.
Over at The Catholic Herald website, Francis Philips has given some sage insights on why this may not be so hot an idea:

'Some pro-life campaigners are wary of this, for good reason. It would establish a condition to be met in order to qualify for an abortion. What information would be given to women? Who would give it? If counselling were required, some sort of certification would also be required. If pro-life groups were to give this counselling they would have to issue certificates. This was the very situation in Germany with Church groups who got involved. In 1998 and 1999 the late pope, John Paul II, wrote to the German bishops instructing them to stop Church counselling services from issuing certificates that could then be used to obtain an abortion. Mandatory counselling might sound a good thing but it is not as straightforward as one might think.'

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

'Taliban Catholic'? Moi? You don't know the meaning of the word...

I do not agree with every point that Micaheael Voris makes in this video, and ideally the video could have been more succinct, but it does make a vitally important point that all Catholics may agree on. Some of our fellow Catholics, who throw around the grave insult 'Taliban Catholics', don't know the meaning of the word 'Taliban', or for that matter what it signifies. Indeed the word 'Taliban', and Islamic terrorism are metaphors for each other. Or at least they were before people in our fold borrowed it! Perhaps Catholics-who-lambast-other-Catholics with 'Taliban Catholics' are like the mother in 2001 who called her baby 'Bin Laden' - people had to point it out to her that this was not the most prudent choice of names!
A better acquaintance with actual victims of Islamic extremism might be needed.

In August 2009, John Pontifex of Aid to the Church in Need reported:  Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad in Pakistan has spoken of his people’s anger and grief after eight people – including two children – were burned alive in one of the bloodiest attacks against Christians in the country’s history.

The victims, who included nine-year-old Umia Alnaf, her mother Asifa, and Mausa Masih, 10, died on Saturday 1st August when nearly 3,000 people rampaged through the Christian quarter of Gojra city in the Punjab Province, 30 miles from Faisalabad. The mob, carrying sticks, clubs and a small number of firearms, set fire to property including more than 50 homes and two churches.

More than 20 people were also injured in the violence. The attacks came two days after a related incident in the nearby village of Korian, where gangs set fire to more than 70 Christian homes and two small churches...

The bishop, who on Sunday 2nd August presided at the funerals of those who died in the Gojra violence, stressed the failure of the authorities to tackle the causes of the violence....  He also criticised the police for not acting quickly. Despite well-publicised threats against Gojra, the police response was “half-hearted and ineffective,” he said....  “In all these cases, the police did almost nothing to stop the rampaging mobs.

“Condolences, apologies and assurances [always] pour in from officials and other citizens after the event, but the timely action required to prevent such incidents has always been missing.”

The bishop alleged that a banned militant religious group was behind the attacks.

The group wanted to carry out “a sort of religious cleansing” to turn Pakistan into an Islamic theocratic state where non-Muslims were told to convert or leave, he told Aid to the Church in Need....

A ninth person, a man aged 25 from Faisalabad, was killed in an accident bringing food aid to the victims in Gojra. The attacks were sparked by Muslim outrage at reports that children had cut up pages from an old school book to use as wedding confetti. They had not realised that the pages contained verses from the Qu‘ran.... Read the full article here.

Aid to the Church in Need recently published Persecuted and Forgotten? This is the 2011 edition, and a concern of this report is to highlight how Christians are being persecuted - especially in Iraq. You may find out more about this report here.

Atlas Shrugs, Pamela Geller's blog that isn't coming from the Catholic point of view, has a post on the events in 2010 that led to Rev. Wilson Augustine (the 26 year old victim of Islamic intolerance in the photo above) having these horrendous injuries.

Twitch of the mantilla to Linen on the Hedgerow, for posting The Vortex video. 
The red ink used to highlight some facts is my emphasis.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: Servant of All - Movie Trailer

Twitch of the mantilla to LeadKindlyLight where I first saw this trailer.

Padre Pio: “If you suffered what I suffered for more than one minute you would be dead”

A woman enquired of Padre Pio about the whereabouts of two of her relatives, to which Padre Pio said that one of them was in Heaven, but that the other was not… One month later, she went to confession with Padre Pio, and asked if her other relative had made it to Heaven. Padre Pio assured her that indeed this relative was in Heaven, and now her two relatives were in Heaven. She said; “I know it was your sufferings that obtained the release of my relation from Purgatory to Heaven. Would you let me suffer what you suffered for my relation’s release?” Padre Pio laconically answered; “If you suffered what I suffered for more than one minute you would be dead”

Padre Pio: “If you are that curious why don’t you take a trip to the other side and find out for yourself!”

A concerned lady was asking Padre Pio about her dead parents. Padre Pio assured the woman that they were in heaven. The woman persisted in asking where her dead mother and father in law were – to which Padre Pio replied “If you are that curious why don’t you take a trip to the other side and find out for yourself!” The woman did not take up his suggestion.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Padre Pio's intercession won a cure for a seriously ill child from West Cork

Ireland 1976. A child from the town of Bandon, West Cork was terribly ill – he was born with a blocked tube going from the kidney to the bladder. This meant that all the impurities of his body came up and into the kidneys and badly damaged them. But this wasn’t discovered before Kieran was two and half – by this time his kidneys were extensively injured and there were nine stones in one kidney. He needed a serious operation. After which, he would have a 50/50 chance of survival, but without the operation, there was no hope for him. The little toddler had an operation on both kidneys. Still, there was also the grave possibility that he would need his kidney’s removed.
Kieran’s mother, Kathleen took him to the Mercy Convent in Clonakilty to be blessed with the relics of Padre Pio. After the blessing, Kieran had a better colour, had more energy, and every time Kathleen took him to St Finbarr’s for his check-up his results were getting better. The best news came in November 1976, when the doctor said that Kieran’s kidneys were functioning perfectly, were growing tissue, and would not need to be removed.  While Kieran’s rapid cure is medically unexplained; Kieran’s mother is certain of one thing; “it was definitely Padre Pio who cured him." Padre PIo had been dead eight years by the time of this miraculous cure, but when he walked on this earth, Padre Pio assured us that: ‘I can do more for you in heaven than I can do here on earth.’

PS - I went to school (High School) in the West Cork town of Bandon. The Irish language for Bandon is ‘Droichead na Banndan’, meaning the bridge of the Bandon River, is just 20 miles west of Cork city and is the doorway to luscious and verdant West Cork. This picture is of the Bandon River.

Who are you in this Lent study group?

I'm the humorist - I can't count the amount of very devout Catholics who have told me that I'm too cheerful for the Lenten season. My cheeriness is not deliberate - I promise!

I gave up being cranky and obnoxious...

Twitch of the mantilla to Catholic Cartoon Blog.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

‘Myself am moved to woo thee for my wife’

Why oh why isn’t this movie used in Catholic wedding preparation courses? The young men could be instructed to say ‘myself am moved to woo thee for my wife’.

Elizabeth Taylor's best film role? 'That wench is stark mad...'

Zefferelli's The Taming of the Shrew.

Elizabeth Taylor died today at 79 - the star who nearly became Catholic

Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor passed away today at the age of 79. While she had a chequered history with religions, she did consider becoming a Catholic, when she was preparing to marry Roman Catholic Nicky Hilton. Francis Taylor, Elizabeth’s American father didn’t agree with Elizabeth’s thoughts of converting to Rome. And before the wedding to Hilton, Elizabeth changed her mind upon learning that she’d have to sign an oath promising to bring her children up in the Church. She did have a Roman Catholic wedding to Hilton in 1950, which not only the celebrity wedding of the wedding, but set the tone and style for 1950’s superstar weddings. 
 She married Hilton at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills, which was also known as 'Our Lady of the Cadillacs' because of the affluence of the parishioners. After Tridentine Mass, Nicky placed a $10,000 wedding band on Elizabeth’s finger, and they kissed so long that Monsignor Patrick J Concannon said to Elizabeth, “I think that’s long enough dear.”  I obtained these facts from reading Ellis Auburn's, The Most Beautiful Woman in the World: The Obsessions, Passions, and Courage of Elizabeth Taylor.

Polly's greatest moments

Click here for Polly impersonating Mr Stubbs.
This has long been a favourite You-Tube interview of mine with clips from Polly's best scenes. Can't wait till after Lent to watch all these episodes in full again!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


Forgive me for posting humorous posts among very serious posts, such as the comment piece on abortion guidelines from Nadine Dorries. It might seem bad taste to couch comical cartoons alongside posts that are achingly serious. It’s just that a blog, taken as a collective work has the mixed flavour of a weekly newspaper in that there is the grimly acidic news, the sober commentary and the light-relief afforded by such cartoons as these.
And the cartoon below did strike a chord with me. Some days, I get an average of ten Facebook friend requests from people who I have never met. Up till now, I have made some wonderful friendships over the net, from good friends and family who I know around the world. I’ve made contacts with others who share my goals of transmitting the faith, share love of Our Lord and especially love for Padre Pio. But, I’ve learnt to my cost that pushing ‘confirm’ too fast on Facebook isn’t always wise. 
There is something to be said for being wary of ‘friending’ someone who has, without any clue decided to friend me, may have nothing in common with me, not share my values, and who later sends dodgy e-mails, post obscene or porno stuff* or attempt to convert me to radical Islam. I press the ‘don’t know this person’ link on Facebook more often than ‘confirm’. Alternatively, there’s always the ‘unfriend’ option; something that I’ve had to exercise more than I would like. *Over a year ago, someone who I knew for a few years posted some ‘soft porn’ before we went our separate ways on fb.

"It is time for self interest in the £60 million abortion industry to cease" says MP Nadine Dorries

On this fascinating post for ConservativeHome, former nurse, but current MP Nadine Dorries makes a few bold points in support of the case that abortion guidelines need to be drawn up by an independent body which is accountable to Parliament. Including: “We are concerned with the legality of the procedure used for drafting the guidelines and the make up of the RCOG [Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists] working group for a number of reasons:  Of the eighteen members in the working group who have drawn up the draft guidelines, eleven are immediately and easily identifiable as abortionists who make their living wholly or partly through the abortion process…. The draft guidelines failed to include a declaration of interests from members of the group including a declaration of monies acquired through abortion industry related activities. The public have a right to that at the very least…. A review into the mental health impact of abortion upon women by the Royal College of Psychiatrists is presently underway. In producing its recent draft guidelines, the RCOG group has completely ignored the findings of a landmark study recently published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, that women who abort are 30% more likely to develop mental health problems than those who don’t and instead, has relied on a highly criticised review by the American Psychological Association. It is logical to wait until the review by the Royal College of Psychiatrists has been produced before proceeding and further with the proposed RCOG guidelines…. The RCOG has failed to uphold the principle of professionalism and ethical responsibility in the way it has behaved in the production of these guidelines and indeed, I would go as far as to say has brought the entire RCOG into disrepute. Such conduct is potentially unlawful….. The RCOG are not free to behave as they wish and certainly, not as they have behaved… It is time for self interest in the £60 million abortion industry to cease."

Nadine Dorries endorses NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) because she argues “they are to Parliament, the RCOG are not. Our amendment will remove the incestuous behaviour of the RCOG and bring the care of vulnerable women back to a balanced, impartial, accountable and caring footing.”

Nadine Dorries previously said in an interview with Ed West for The Catholic Herald that:
“Women don’t know that they have a 30 per cent chance of experiencing mental health problems after having an abortion,” she says. “They don’t know there are links with various other medical conditions. They are given no advice.
“If you want to continue with the pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption you are not given support or help. They are just spoken to and channelled straight in to an abortion clinic where they have their abortion in a factory-like manner, then [they are] ejected into the street, given no follow-up, no support, no kindly words of help or advice.”


With a boss like Basil who says 'fa-fa-fa-fire' instead of 'fire', poor Manuel doesn't have a hope of learning English!

Manuel: "I can speak English..."

I was reminded of this clip today because I filled out the British census form, and one question enquired of me if I spoke English...
See here for another post where Manuel's English pronunication gets him into hot water with Irish builders.

"You know nothing about the horse...."

Check out a previous post where Basil grapples with home improvements.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Are all the Irish ready to meet St Patrick? St Patrick: "I myself will sit in judgment over the men of Ireland."

Saint Patrick's Vigil on the Reek: 441 AD.

The following is the true account of Saint Patrick's Vigil on the holy Mountain of Ireland over the Lenten Season of 441AD. It is recorded, among other places, in the book known as "The Tripartite Life of Patrick" based on the account by his nephew… As will happen, some of the later stories embroider the original narrative, sometimes with rather silly episodes…. If any proof were needed, if anybody will not accept the testimony of witnesses, the proof lies in the subsequent 1550 years of Irish history. In the words of the psalm: "He hath not done thus for every
And now Patrick travelled West to the townland of Achaghower - "Achadh Fhobhair" "The field of the Springs". . . He stayed there some days and wished to remain there.
"Here, in this little land Between the mountain and the lake I could find content. Having travelled over so many mountains and lochs I am weary at last And would rest from my labours." But Victor, his Guardian Angel, replied, "Still you shall go on. Still you shall travel other hills and lochs. Though you have travelled many mountains and lochs. Even though you are weary, still your work shall go on".
And so Patrick left the narrow land of Achaghower and travelled into the West…. Now in Pagan days the conical mountain at the end of the world was called Cruachan Aigle, the Eagle's Peak. Now it is Cruach Pádraig, Croagh Patrick, Patrick's Mountain, often called 'The Reek" (an old word for a conical mountain)….
It is impossible to describe the perfection of this holy mountain…. Impossibly steep, and in contrast to the Parthenon, so immovably and somehow heartbreakingly part of the living rock and at one with the ever-changing Mayo sky - where it can rain five times in one day and show two rainbows in winter gold sunshine… In the morning, with the sun shining on the Reek from the East, the white gleaming speck at the summit reveals the chapel built in the nineteenth century…. Suffice it to say that nobody has ever questioned why Patrick should choose this arena upon which to wage his decisive Battle for the Soul of Ireland.
"And Patrick remained on the summit, without food, without water, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, interceding for the men of Ireland night and day, and he slept in a hollow of the living rock on the summit, open to the gales; and he was grievously tormented during this time by demons in the form of hideous black birds. He sang valedictory psalms against them; but still they came on. He rang his bell against them [which had sacramental power], so that all the men of Ireland heard its voice; but still they came on… But now Patrick was overcome with grief and sank down upon a rock, and his tears overflowed onto his chasuble.
But the Angel came to him, and dried up his tears, and informed him that Heaven was of a mind to look favourably upon his petitions, although he was obstinate and excessive in his demands. And now, after the demon birds had departed, Patrick was granted a
vision of an endless flock of beautiful white birds, who filled all the air and the sky with their beautiful forms and their gentle notes. "These," said the angel, "all the birds you can see from here landwards, are the souls of all the Irish you shall save for Eternal
Life on the Last Day".
"That is not much of a boon", replied Patrick, "for my eyes grow dim with age".
"Very well," replied the angel, "All the birds you see to landward and to seaward also: all these will be saved by thy merits on the Day of Doom".
"Since I have been so grievously tormented," said Patrick, "I must have more."
"Very well," replied the angel. "Three souls for every thread of your chasuble will be saved from Eternal Fire on the Last Day".
"Why, any saint could get that much," said Patrick.
"Very well, " said the angel, "Twelve souls for every thread of your chasuble to be saved from the Eternal Fire on the Last Day".
You would have thought this was a boon indeed; but Patrick replied,
"Since I have been so tormented, I must have more for Ireland than that".
"Very well", replied the Angel, "This too is granted thee: a great sea shall cover Ireland seven years before the Last Day; and so the men of Ireland will be spared the reign of the Antichrist. You have petitioned and you have been granted; and you begin to weary Heaven
with your importunity. Now get you down from the Reek".
"Not yet!" replied Patrick. I must have more."
"What do you want?" asked the angel….
"Not yet!" said Patrick. Since I have been so tormented, I must have more".
"Very well," replied the angel. "Whoever will recite your Prayer "I bind unto myself today" to the end, shall be saved from the Eternal Fire".
"The prayer is long and difficult", said Patrick.
"Very well. Whoever says the prayer from 'Christ be beside me' to the end, and whoever does penance in Ireland, will be saved from the Eternal Fire. Now get ye down from the Reek."
"Not yet!" said Patrick. Since I have been so tormented, I must have more".
"What more would you have?" asked the angel.
"This: that when the Last Trumpet sounds, and the dead are gathered, and the Twelve Apostles sit in judgment on the Twelve Tribes of Israel, that I myself will sit in judgment over the men of Ireland."
"But that surely cannot be obtained from God," said the angel.
"I will never cease praying here on the Reek for this," said Patrick, "and if I die, I will leave another here after me."
The Angel went to Heaven to present these petitions to the Heavenly Court. Patrick offered Holy Mass there on the summit while he waited for the reply. At length the angel returned and said, "All the hosts of Heaven have interceded on thy behalf. Thou hast striven and hast prevailed. Thou art the most excellent man that has walked on the earth since the Apostles, except for thy excessive obduracy. Down on thy knees; Strike thy bell. And all the men of Ireland until the Last Day will be consecrated to God through thy merits.
"A blessing on the bountiful God who has granted all," said Patrick. Thou art the most excellent man that has walked on the earth since the Apostles "And now, I leave the Reek."

From "The Life and Writings of Saint Patrick" by Archbishop Healy
PS - In answer to the question in the headline; I know that I'm not ready to meet St Patrick...yet!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Beautiful Tridentine Mass in Cork on St Patrick's Day!

Fr. Anthony Boucheron of the Institute of Christ the King celebrated Tridentine Mass in Ss Peter and Paul's Church yesterday.
Can you spot the double of Blessed John Henry Newman? This is Fr Pat Mc Carthy, a fomer barrister, who is parish priest at Ss Peter and Paul's.

Twitch of the mantilla to New Liturgical Movement for posting these photos taken by Michael O'Brien.

Ann Widdecombe to be special envoy for ACN

I was at the Aid to the Church in Need (‘ACN’) press conference yesterday, where it was announced that Ann Widdecombe will become ‘ACN’s’ special envoy. On behalf of the charity, Ann will be travelling, reporting and monitory religious freedom. The former government minister, famous convert to RC-ism, and Strictly Come Dancing star will put her considerable media savvy and political acumen to use as Christian minorities’ champion. The post has a ‘global remit’ and Ann Widdecombe will travel to difficult areas where Christians are persecuted for their faith. See here for news on the ACN report that reveals that 75 percent of religious persecution is against Christians.
The great boon about this is that Ann is a very gutsy commentator and does not mince her words. The unknown sufferings of millions of Christians may become better known over here in the UK, perhaps as a direct result of Ann Widdecombe’s reports.
I was very impressed by Ann Widdecombe when I was introduced to her last November. She was a speaker at The Right to Life dinner, and I was there representing The Catholic Herald. At the dinner Ann spoke about the way forward for the pro-life movment working in parliament to restrict abortion.
See a previous post for the advice Anne Widdecombe gave parents who found spliffs in their kid's bedroom. 

The person who got sidelined on St Patrick’s Day?

My tiny efforts to celebrate the feast included; wearing a green velvet dress, and matching green suede shoes with cream-coloured floral lace tights. Going to Westminster Cathedral where Archbishop Vincent Nichols celebrated Mass, and during Mass I sat by the St Patrick’s chapel in the cathedral and saw the candles flicker gold onto the green marbled shamrocks in the chapel. 
Later, the queues for Irish pubs were a hundred metres long in Soho. It's good to celebrate, and have everyone pat you on the back for being Irish. But yesterday, I lost count of the amount of people who said to me ‘this is your day for getting drunk! You Irish just drink all day on Paddy's day.’ People from all around the world commented that they had studied 'the myths of St Patrick' in school. 

From Ecuador to Italy to New York, many people in their twenties said that they had learnt the ‘legend’ about how St Patrick drove out the snakes in Ireland. St Patrick obviously has a firm place on school curricula all over the world. But if his life, mission, miracles and legacy are thought to be made-up fables, what use it is celebrating his feast day?

Maybe this individual got marginalised:

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Sybil: "It's Mr O'Reilly, Basil... O'Reilly is a cut-price, cock-up artist"

Check out this post for the rest of The Builders episode.

Little Flower St Therese finally reaches Jerusalem

The relics of Saint Therese of Lisieux, a widely-revered 19th-century Roman Catholic nun, made a solemn entry into Jerusalem on Wednesday, the start of a tour of the Holy Land until May 31.
While the relics, fragments of the French saint's femur and foot bones, have been on a world tour for many years their arrival in Tel Aviv on Monday marked their first time in the land she longed to visit in life.
About 1,000 clerics, Catholic boy scouts and lay believers accompanied the wood and gold chest containing her remains in a procession through the walled Old City to the seat of Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal, who heads the Catholic church in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Cyprus.

The relics of what Twal described as "the greatest saint of modern times" received an emotional welcome from the crowd, which included many Palestinian and Israeli Arab faithful.
Therese, born in Alencon, Normandy in 1873, entered the Carmelite convent at nearby Lisieux at the age of 15. She died of tuberculosis aged 24 but not before writing "The Story of a Soul" which taught humility and said that a saintly life could be lived through small acts of love and devotion.
She wanted to visit the Holy Land and learn Hebrew and Greek so that she could study the scriptures in their original form.
"She took the land to her heart," Twal said. "She loved all the towns with which she was familiar through the bible."
Her remains will criss-cross Israel and the Palestinian territories, visiting Haifa, Acre, the Galilee, Bethlehem, the ancient town of Jericho and the Gaza Strip.
"We welcome little Therese with emotion," Twal said. "She who died at the age of 24 sends us on an exceptional path of love, bringing the peace of the heart to those whom she visits throughout the world."
That message, he added, was not solely for her devotees.
"We need a spiritual dimension to create unity between we Christians and also Jews and Muslims," he said.
Saint Therese, canonised in 1925 by Pope Pius XI, is patron saint of missionaries, aviators, florists and AIDS sufferers. From Yahoo News.
This is a previous post about the similarities between St Therese’s and James Joyce’s writing styles. Twitch of the mantilla to Luke Coppen for including this in his morning must-reads.

Give up yer aul sins - St Patrick

"All them prayers made him a saint..."

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig - a blessed and Happy St Patrick's Day

Hail Glorious Saint Patrick

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

What do Ireland's St Gobnait and England's John Bradburne have in common?

They were both friends of bees. When John Bradburne lived in a cave in Africa, it was surrounded by bees that gave him privacy and protected him from unwanted guests.Appearances of bees are associated with the intercession of John Bradburne, and may indicate that prayers have been answered. When I read this first, I thought it a bit far-fetched. True - roses are associated with praying to the Little Flower – but bees have a malevolent reputation. Since then, I’ve been proved wrong. The numerous and unusual ‘bee experiences’ that I have had when a prayer has been answered through the intercession of John Bradburne have a key place in my memory. 

Approaching two years ago, I was invited to interview a lady for an Irish newspaper. The lady had distinguished herself by going to the to Our Lady of Good Counsel novena for fifty years in a row, without fail. She had even attended the novena when she was pregnant with Siamese twins, which had caused her much distress. The year that I interviewed her, she was praying especially that the local Cork University would stop experimenting on the stem cells of embryos. She had strong words to say on the subject, including calling the deliberate destruction of an embryo ‘barbaric’. I was concerned that the newspaper might think her views too pro-life to print. I prayed to John Bradburne on the way back from interviewing her. ‘She has spoken the truth’, I said to John Bradburne, ‘and I pray that the newspaper will not edit out the pro-life aspect.’ The minute that I started a Rosary with the intention of invoking John Bradburne’s aid, something yellow collided with the top of my shoe. I looked down, and saw a very large queen bee. The bee was dead, but her yellow stripes looked radiant. The next day, a child that I was teaching randomly put a toy bee into my hands.  It took longer than I anticipated, but the article, complete with the lady’s pro-life view that those who tampered with the human embryos were ‘killers’ got published – in full! 

PS - Ireland's St Gobnait is the patron saint of bee-keepers.

The Ireland after St Patrick: a slave girl is the mother of St Finbarr - Cork's first bishop and St Gobnait scares away rapacious chieftains with beehives

I published this article last week in the Catholic Herald, and got permission to reproduce it here.
A mighty thunder storm shook Cork the night that St Finbarr was born in 550 AD. Finbarr’s parents thought it a blessing. His mother was a slave girl. Unbeknown to the chieftain to whom she was subordinate, she had married a metal worker. The night of the tempest, the young parents and their golden-haired infant fled into the deepest recesses of West Cork. The lashing rain washed away their tracks and they settled in the mountainous region where the River Lee rises, and where the chieftain did not reign. Little did the young couple suspect that this place of epic rural beauty would be named Gougane Barra after their son.
Gougane Barra means “Finbarr’s retreat”. The lake is surrounded by forested slopes and the horizon trimmed with the lace of the mountain tops. St Brendan, who travelled there and baptised Finbarr, was certain that the young man was destined for great things. St Brendan was a foster child of St Ita, one of the most dynamic of the early Irish saints. St Ita’s influence extends from St Brendan to St Finbarr to St Colman, who was a spiritual son of St Finbarr. These were the saints who came after St Patrick, inherited his mission and laid extensive groundwork in Ireland for the Catholic Church in Ireland.
Finbarr did leave the peaceful lake of Gougane to spend years studying the monastic life in Scotland, something which would serve him well during the decades he spent forming seminarians as Cork’s bishop. On returning to Cork, Finbarr founded his first monastery with a number of other ascetics on the tiny island in the middle of Gougane’s lake, known as Holy Island, which today is connected to the shore by a causeway. Not merely a quiet, self-effacing monk, Finbarr was also renowned for his courage. He reputedly expelled a fierce serpent that slithered around the lake of Gougane.
St Finbarr made the journey on foot from Cork to Rome to be consecrated a bishop by the Pope and was Bishop of Cork until his death in 633. Astoundingly, he was reportedly led by an angel from Gougane, down the River Lee to its source, where he established his most important monastery. From there, the site and see of Cork City grew. Now known as St Finbarr’s Cathedral, it is under the care of the Church of Ireland and faces Cork’s university.
In 1900, St Finbarr’s Oratory was built on Holy Island. It is a small chapel that seats 50. The chapel is bordered by wooded hilltops and steep, soaring cliffs, which impress upon the visitor thoughts of the eternal. People may not be escaping power-hungry chieftains, but “Finbarr’s Retreat” is a world apart from our frenzied, secular existence. Close your eyes and there is the serenity of Lourdes.
German tourists come with packed timetables for hill-walking, fishing for trout and cycling along the river, but scrap their plans and bathe in the tranquillity. Often when a boyfriend and girlfriend visit the lake, the man is overcome with a spontaneous urge to drop on one knee and propose. Thoughts of marriage are never far away in Gougane. Up to three weddings are held in the oratory each day. Locals joke that that Gougane must hold a national record for the number of marriage proposals and weddings that take place there.
The faith has been preserved because of Gougane’s secluded and inaccessible geography. During penal times, when the Mass was driven underground, a Mass rock was erected on the South Lake Road, a waterside location between Gougane’s neighbouring villages of Ballingeary and Inchigeelagh. In the aftermath of the Ryan Report in July 2009, a Mass was held at the Mass rock in atonement for the abuse scandals. The theme was “Lord have mercy”.

Ballingeary is a few miles from Gougane and is an Irish-speaking village. It is shaded by the Shehy mountains, which filter the natural light, and a bright yellow glow streams through the village. Ballingeary is home of the first Irish college, built in 1904. Young people from all over Ireland go there to learn the Irish language. Catholic symbols are integral to the Irish language.  One example is that the fuchsia, a flower grown commonly in West Cork and Kerry, is called “God’s tears” in Irish. This is probably because the tight red buds of the fuchsia resemble the tears of blood Jesus shed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
If Ballingeary and its surrounds has St Finbarr, the village of Ballyvourney, which has a 20-minute drive away, has the fearless St Gobnait. Gobnait was a feisty sixth-century nun who scared away rapacious pagan chiefs with beehives. When a plague threatened Ballyvourney she marked the parish out with her stick and the plague did not touch the locals. St Gobnait was given worldwide recognition in 1601 when Pope Clement VIII granted an indulgence for pilgrims to her shrine and in 1602 published a full office for her feast.
Visitors to Ballyvourney may walk through this picturesque village and encounter the ruins of Gobnait’s church where there is an iron ball fixed in the church wall. This is known as Gobnait’s Bowl. It is said that she used it to demolish a fort built by a pagan chief on the north hills of the village. Each year many pilgrimages make a turas, meaning “trip”, around her church, drink the water from the holy well and venerate a wood statue of her from the Middle Ages.
Reading the lives of the early Irish saints and their adventures, one is struck by their go-getting initiative and resilience. Ryanair was not running flights, but this did not stop Finbarr going to Rome to see the Pope on his own steam. While the general perception is that women were only liberated in modern times, a millennium and a half ago Gobnait tackled the pagan chief’s stronghold and crushed it to the ground. Irish saints: do they make them like they used to?
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