Monday, 30 June 2014

Padre Pio on the Mass: "each Holy Mass heard with devotion produces marvelous effects in our souls..."

Pray for Eccles!

I have been asking many priests and bishops to read Eccles Is Saved, the blog run by the Catholic Church's resident satirist.  I send them links to his blog posts.  I keep meaning to ask Eccles how many hits he gets from Rome each day... 

One of the shepherds asked me if Eccles was 'a contender' for my affections. Ha, ha! The simple answer is no.  But it's time to 'fess up and blush 'till my cheeks go postbox red. When I first started reading Eccles' blog - I thought he was a witty (and single) young man. So, that explains the time that I joked on Twitter about throwing pebbles at his window.

Now, I realise that Eccles ain't available, and even if he was, his hands are full with Anti-Moly and Bosco.

Yesterday, courtesy of Twitter, I learned that Eccles is poorly and suffering a bout of ill health!  We must fly to his aid!

It's time to give back. We've enjoyed many a good laugh reading Eccles' blog, and now we can return the favour by praying for him in his hour of need.

I'm already sending lots of requests to Padre Pio, so I think I had better annoy, I mean, petition another saint.

Here's what I suggest. Everyone reading this post - say the prayer below to St Raphael.  It would be nice to have some tally, so please consider leaving a comment if you are praying to St Raphael for Eccles.  We are asking St Raphael's intervention on a health matter - which is perhaps the BEST reason to pray to the Archangel.  

St Raphael is 'the saint of happy meetings', and obviously is called on by singletons to help them source other singletons. I think, however, that we would be better to pray to St Raphael for our health and well-being.  St Raphael's name means 'medicine of God', and he's also one of the patron saints of doctors and medicine.   In the Book of Tobit, St Raphael saved the young Tobias's life, and later he healed Tobit of his blindness, and having had his sight restored, Tobit had the use of his eyes again. 

Prayer to St Raphael for Healing
Glorious Archangel St Raphael, great prince of the heavenly court, you are illustrious for your gifts of wisdom and grace. You are a guide of those who journey by land or sea or air, consoler of the afflecited and refuge of sinners. 

I beg you, assist me in all my needs and in all the sufferings of this life, as once you helped the young Tobias on his travels. Because you are the "medicine of God", I humbly pray you to heal the many infirmities of my soul and the ills that afflict my body.  I especially ask of you the favour (for Eccles) and the great grace of purity to prepare me to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN

Visiting the statue of St Raphael at San Juan Capistrano, California, USA.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Bishop-Elect Kevin Doran: “Vocation is not about achievement or personal advancement.”

The truism that “the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there” is very apt when you compare Ireland of the 1950s to the present-day.  
Bishop-elect Kevin Doran was born in June 1953 in a Dublin that was poles apart from modern Ireland. In the 1950s, the majority of Dubliners attended Sunday Mass. A 2011 poll showed a mere 14 per cent observed the Sabbath in the Dublin area. 
In the Ireland of Fr Doran’s youth, people were more likely to accept the authority of bishops. Fr Doran, who will be ordained a bishop on July 13, will exercise his ministry in a Church in which bishops have to earn respect and trust, and in a society in which, for many, his ministry will not be regarded as particularly relevant. Pope Francis has appointed him to the rural Diocese of Elphin, which has 37 parishes, 90 churches and a population of 70,000. 
Fr Doran was raised in the seaside area of Dún Laoghaire. The eldest child of middle-class Dubliners Joseph and Marie Doran, he has two younger sisters. 

His father was a maths teacher, but also prepared young children for First Holy Communion. He must have done a decent job, because Fr Doran has received letters in recent weeks from past pupils of his father, praising his dedication and his care.
But while his parents were devout, Fr Doran says, “they didn’t push us, they led us by their own example. They showed the importance of service, hard work and care of others.”

They were expected to go to Sunday Mass and every so often said a family rosary. His family nudged them in the direction of doing more than their obligations. He recalls: “During the summer holidays, when we were sleeping in, my dad would walk up and down outside our rooms, asking us if we would not think of going to morning Mass, instead of staying in bed. But it was left up to us. No one forced us.” 
Fr Doran’s family is dotted with relatives who were priests and nuns. There is a London link in that his uncle, Fr Hilary Doran, was the prior of the Kensington Carmel on Notting Hill during the Blitz and had to brush incendiary devices off the priory roof in wartime. 
Years later Fr Doran was at his uncle’s side when he was dying. He says: “He never lost the original purpose of his vocation. He grew into it more and more. That’s something so important for us to learn. A vocation is not something that happens in an instant – a spark that lasts a minute or a day – but is a lifelong relationship.” 
Fr Doran was inspired to become a priest in part by the example of a teacher who was a religious Brother. Brother Finbarr, a chemistry teacher, was 25 years older, but it was his simple faith, his way of living out the Gospel by his life of generous service that inspired the young Kevin to become a priest. 
When he told his parents, at the age of 17, that he wanted to enter seminary they were a bit wary. At that time in 1970s, when priests were still held in high esteem by Irish society, it would have been easy for his parents to keep their qualms to themselves. But they reminded their son of his young age and asked him if he was sure that he didn’t want to do a degree first. 
Fr Doran explains why they were hesitant. “My father had been a novice in De la Salle Brothers for a number of years. My parents understood the challenge and thought that it might be better to wait until I had more life experience.” But once he decided to persevere with a priestly vocation they gave their wholehearted support. 
He entered seminary after finishing secondary school. It turned out that shortly after he was ordained a priest his mentor, Brother Finbarr, entered the seminary. 
Fr Kevin Doran, Archbishop Martin and Pope Benedict

Fr Doran has now served for 37 years as a priest. He has spent the past 18 months in Donnybrook, Dublin 4, one of the most affluent parts of Ireland. His appointment to the Diocese of Elphin will be a dramatic change, from the quarters of well-heeled Dubliners to the rustic confines of the counties of Roscommon, Sligo, Westmeath and Galway. When I mention this, he is completely undaunted. "Sure, I’ll miss Dublin because most of my friends and family are in Dublin. But in Elphin, I’m going to have a lot of new friends and responsibilities. I’ve always felt that wherever the Church asks me to go, the spirit was guiding it.”  
I’m impressed by his willingness to venture into the depths of the Irish countryside, but he did after all spend four years as parish priest in Glendalough, one of the most rural parts of Dublin diocese. “That’s my street cred for a rural diocese,” he jokes.
When I ask about his new responsibilities he explains that, in addition to his own diocese, each bishop is assigned one or more portfolios for which he has a particular responsibility at national level. “I won’t know what they are until after I’m ordained in July,” he says. 
He seems remarkably down to earth about his new appointment, reflecting the type of shepherd that Francis expects. The Pope has underlined that becoming a member of the hierarchy is not a promotion, and Fr Doran echoes this, saying: “Vocation is not about achievement or personal advancement.” 
He seems to have a very steady character, so quietly certain of his own vocation, and I ask him if he ever has drops in his faith. “There’s times, like most people, that I get up in the morning and ask myself: ‘What’s the point?’ If I wake up and think to myself, ‘Oh no, I wish I didn’t have to get up for the 7.30 Mass’, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be a priest anymore, but it may mean  that I should have gone to bed earlier. We can’t let our lives be ruled by transient feelings like that.” 
Have there been any experiences that have strengthened his vocation? “I had been a priest for many years,” he says, “before I realised that God loved me as I was. I didn’t have to prove myself worthy in order for God to love me. God’s love is never taken back. We can become what God wants us to be because of His love.”
One of the tenets of his priestly life so far has been a tireless dedication to marriage preparation. He thinks his awareness of the love of God has made him better able to help couples. “I try to get couples to take on-board that their love for each other comes from God,” he says. “I love working with couples who are preparing for marriage. There’s so much joy, and hope. I like to remind them that is they who will make the love of God real for their children.”
While insisting that “an essential element of the mission of the Church is to reach out to people who do not share our faith”, he says: “It is equally important is to nourish ourselves with relationships with people who do share our faith… St Paul warns against harnessing ourselves in an uneven team with unbelievers. This is the metaphors of horses pulling a plough in different directions, leading only to chaos.” 
But is the Church doing enough for young singletons? He points out that the Church does have organisations such as Youth 2000 which run prayer groups and festivals where young Catholics can meet a huge variety of other Catholics. There are the World Youth Days, too. But he concedes that young Catholics in Ireland feel they are in a minority. This is a sharp swing from the Ireland of Fr Doran’s youth, when practising Catholics were the mainstream. 
What does he think is the inhibitor, stopping this generation of Irish people from practising the faith as a normal way of life? “In my generation people reacted against a situation in which priests and nuns were authority figures in school, who were sometimes perceived to exert too much control,” he says. 
I mention that most young people, my age, did not know priests or nuns as schoolteachers. “They may have inherited baggage from their parents,” he suggests.
“More importantly, however, our culture is far more materialistic than it was and an excessive focus on what we have and what we want inevitably conflicts with a lived faith. Parents of faith experience themselves as ‘battling against the tide’  Many just don’t bother any more. From an early age, a disproportionate emphasis is placed on the material and social success of children at the expense of their spiritual growth. 

We, as the Church, need to support parents, but they also need to support one another. There are some great examples of generous commitment in our parishes; young parents running family friendly liturgies.” 

Fr Doran pauses and concedes: "But somehow it doesn’t carry over into the teen years. That’s a challenge for us all."

This interview originally appeared in the print edition of THE CATHOLIC HERALD.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Pope Pius XII made life much easier for Padre Pio. During his life Pope Pius XII confided in a journalist that Padre Pio was ‘a great saint’

The early 1930s had been a time of great suffering for St Pio. In June 1931, an order had come from the Vatican that forbade him from saying Mass in public and from hearing confessions.  Owing to the fact that the heart of Padre Pio’s ministry was spending as much as 14 hours in the confessional, it meant that Pio’s ministry was utterly restricted. He was like a child who was grounded for two years. From 1931 to 1933 is known as Pio’s 'first persecution’, or drawing on incarceration metaphors, ‘the imprisonment’. 

That said, May 2nd 1939 was an extremely important day in the life of Padre Pio – this summer day started a stage in his life that lasted over nine years. 

Why was May 2nd 1939 such a critical day?  For the precise reason that a new Pope was elected – Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli became Pope Pius XII – and his papacy lasted until 1959.  Pope Pius XII’s time in the Chair of Peter is the exact same time frame that allowed Padre Pio’s good reputation to flourish. Instead of being distrusted by the Catholic hierarchy, they put enough confidence in him that he was allowed to go about his priestly duties in peace. 

The key is that ‘the new Pope’,  Pope Pius XII thought very highly of Padre Pio. Soon after he became the number one leader in the Church, he had commanded the Roman Cuia, “leave Padre Pio in peace.”

According to Renzo Allegri’s concise biography, Padre Pio: Man of Hope, Pope Pius XII once confided in a member of the press that ‘Padre Pio is a great saint, and it displeases us that we are not able to say so publicly.’ 

It is possible that Pope Pius XII passed on his affection for Padre Pio to his sister. The guest book at San Giovanni Rotondo was signed by Pope Pius XII’s sister, Maria Teresa Gerini. 

IF Pius XII had said that Padre Pio was a saint while he was alive – Padre Pio said that Pius XII was a saint after his death. On October 9th, 1959, Pope Pius XII passed away. Padre Pio was very upset at his passing. 

After Pope Pius XII left this world, a nun, Sr Pascalina Lehnert wrote to San Giovanni Rotondo, wanting to know Padre Pio’s opinion of Pius XII. In response, Padre Pio’s face was transfigured into joy, and he and he answered, ‘he is in Paradise.’ 

When Padre Pio was asked to give more detail he said; ‘yes, I have seen him in Paradise.’    Pio was saying that his own eyes had told him that Pius XII was a saint.  The strict definition of a saint is a soul that has earned eternal reward in heaven.

In response to this entire chain of events, Father Agostino wrote in his Diary on  November 18 th 1958: "Padre Pio was very sad for the death of Pope Pio XII. But Our Lord let him see the Pope in the glory of Paradise." 

If it takes one to know one, then in his lifetime Pius XII confided in a journalist that Pio was a saint. And after the death of Piux XII, Pio said that Pius XII had been admitted to paradise: the picture of the life of a saint.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

The extensive interview that I did with Nigel Farage is available...

After blogging about what it’s like to interview Nigel Farage, his supporters and my readers have been asking how they might read the interview. 

First access this link for The Sunday Business Post website.  Then type ‘Nigel Farage’ into the search box. You will access a page with stories on Farage, and the second one down is the interview that I did with him, entitled, ‘Farage aims to divide and conquer’.  My editor gave it that title. When I filed the article, I suggested an unrealistically long headline, a quote from Farage, “leaving the EU does not solve any problems, it gives you the ability to solve problems.”

It is a very long interview, and occupied a whole page in the print edition. I am not able to publish it on my blog, because it’s behind a pay-wall.  Part of the reason that I was awarded a good fee was because people have to pay to read it. 

If you are debating as to whether or not to buy the interview, here are some samplers…

On Ireland, “you were bribed short-term with some cash, and then you joined a currency that gave you the most ludicrous property boom…”

On why the UK should leave the EU, “we’d have the opportunity for a more prosperous economy…”

On the Euro, “we got it right. You got it wrong.  And there’s no chance of the North joining the South now, because of the Euro.”

Farage has harsh words about the decisions that the Irish have made. Yet, I'm certain he's not anti-Irish. He could have insisted on a telephone interview with me, but instead gave me a lot of face time. If he were anti-Irish, he could have treated me as though I were one chromosome from a potato. But he treated me with a lot of politeness.

If you do go ahead and read the full piece, keep in mind that I grew my questions for Farage and my analysis from my discussions with UKIP supporters. 

I went to interview Farage knowing that many of the points made by UKIP voters are not lies or based in fantasy. There are bread-and-butter reasons that explain why tribal Labour voters are defecting to UKIP. I tried and tested one common reason that such voters are going the way of Farage: work and money. 

I have been keeping tabs on Bella (a variation of her real name) who is not a university graduate and who works in a variety of minimum-paid jobs which involve a lot of table-wiping and floor-sweeping. Bella would like to get a job that pays a bit higher than the minimum because ‘it’s quite hard to get by’. Testing Bella’s claims, I applied for work in some of the job agencies which Bella frequents.  

Initially, when I fired off query e-mails and my CV to these recruiters, I thought that I’d get an interview with them, but that there would be a long wait.  No such thing. Half of them never replied, and when I phoned them, they were incredibly harried and told me that they had such high numbers of people cramming their offices looking for work, that they could not even spare the time to see me. 

Maybe I'm not good enough. Although, I did well in university, I have good references (well, a small few) and I speak English fluently. Once upon a time, I taught English literature to A-Level students, so objectively I could fill a job as a nanny for teenagers who helps them with their homework. But there was no space for me – and no place for Bella.

It’s outrageous to remember that poor old David Cameron berated the likes of Bella for being ‘fruitcakes’. Does he not realise that she’s voting for Farage because he talks about taking people like her out of cycle of ‘just earning enough’? You can see why a former Labour voter like Bella would see Cameron as continuing in contemptuousness.  By talking down to UKIP voters, Cameron is effectively convincing working-class voters that he doesn’t know the problems they face. 

Memo to Dave: Trying to court working class voters by saying you understand, but calling them names because they vote UKIP, is not going to endear them to you. 

There are discrepancies in the way that UKIP voters describe Farage to me – and the way that Farage describes himself. Some see him as quite devoutly religious, a true commoner like themselves and ‘not like the snobby Etonians’.  See the interview for how Farage views himself.

Anglican friends and readers of this blog, take careful note:
When I was preparing the write-up of the interview for The Sunday Business Post, I had to leave out this quote from Nigel because of my word count, but you might like to see it…

Farage: “the Anglican Church is pretty fundamental to Eurosceptics because it is part of the wharf and weft of the Constitution of this country. We have an established Church.  And this is a very unusual thing.  The break from Rome was a very decisive thing for England, and I think the Anglican Church should be a lot more muscular in standing up for our traditions."

Friday, 13 June 2014

After many years, I am finally able to see the face of my favourite person...

He was an impassioned preacher, who died at the tender age of 35. Only a year after his death, he was canonised, meaning he had the second fastest canonisation in history. 

He is, of course, St Anthony, and my number one saint. 

St Anthony is my favourite regular person that ever lived. Please don't think that I'm side-stepping Our Lady and Our Lord in a rude and blasphemous way. Our Lady is the masterpiece of God's hands, and Our Lord is His Son. 

It's just that St Anthony is in my most cherished 'ordinary' person, who was like us, in that he was born a fallen creature, and strove to become a saint. 

After watching the Rome Reports video, my main comment would be that the real St Anthony had a very rugged, manly face. He had a firm jaw, sturdy, dynamic feautures and deep-set eyes. 

Such a contrast to the soft-chinned, big-cheeked, oval-faced St Anthony of the statues and pictures in our churches and homes. The St Anthony of our imagination is a more motherly creation, who appeases us by looking gentle enough to hold the Baby Jesus. The reality is that St Anthony cut a dashing figure of a strong father...

Thursday, 12 June 2014

50 years ago Padre Pio was being treated like a criminal, until Pope Paul VI released him...

Fifty years have passed since 1964, when Padre Pio was freed from certain tight constraints that bound him.

The humble Italian friar had been blessed with supernatural gifts such as reading souls, hearts and minds, and also phenomenal intercessory powers such as interceding for the sick so that they obtained miraculous cures from God. But in 1960 Padre Pio’s ministry was seriously limited following a strange series of events.

I find it dangerous for my stress levels to reflect on the way it was started by his fellow friars attempting to manipulate him. A very divisive issue was the money poured into the hospital, which Padre Pio had founded, the House for the Relief of Suffering.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds were donated for the construction of the hospital. Excited by the idea of making quick cash, Padre Pio’s superiors asked him if they could use the donations for a get-rich-quick scheme. Padre Pio refused because the money did not belong to him. When they lost huge sums on the scheme, they commanded him out of obedience to give them the donations for the hospital. To their chagrin, he refused again. This earned him their displeasure, and in order to seek evidence against him, they bugged his confessional – though Padre Pio cut the wiring with a pen knife.

A detailed report on Padre Pio’s alleged wrong-doing was put before Pope John XXIII. It included allegations that Padre Pio had sexualised contact with some women who went to him for Confession. Stefan Campanella’s book is a masterclass in understanding the events leading to the false information given to St John XXIII, and the consequences for Padre Pio.

An Apostolic Visitation was called for. The CDF, then known as the Holy Office, gave the role to Mgr Maccari. In the summer of 1960, the solemn Mgr Maccari visited Padre Pio, during the saint’s 50th anniversary of his ordination, and then drew up a list of sanctions. Fr Apostoli’s broadcast, Padre Pio: The Later Years, covers the topic of Mgr Maccari’s visitation well.

Padre Pio was prohibited from celebrating weddings and baptisms, he was only given a strict 30-minute slot for Mass, which was tight when you consider that Padre Pio spent four hours celebrating Mass on a feast day. Some individuals were barred from going to him for confession, and when he did hear Confessions, he only had three minutes for each penitent.

He was not allowed to speak to women alone. In addition, monks at the monastery who were his friends were sent away, including some who acted in a nurse capacity to St Pio because he was so ill. Also, Padre Pio had to sign over the title of the House for the Relief of Suffering.

Most gallingly, Padre Pio’s superior, Fr Rosario, went further than the CDF. He put up embarrassing signs telling people not to approach Padre Pio, forbade the other friars from showing kindness to Padre Pio such as helping him up the stairs or bringing him a glass of beer in the extreme heat.

For a time it looked like Padre Pio would live out his remaining years being treated as a miscreant. For a wonderfully detailed account of this period of time in St Pio’s life, I recommend Renzo Allegri’s book, Padre Pio: Man of Hope.

But Paul VI changed things around rapidly. The Pope was not averse to St Pio. As Cardinal of Milan, Paul VI had sent a request for prayers to Padre Pio in 1959. In 1964, Pope Paul intervened with the CDF and ordered that Padre Pio be allowed to practise his ministry “in complete freedom” and that he was not to be confined “like a criminal”.

It is now 50 years since Padre Pio’s good name was restored in 1964. This is a cause for celebration in itself, but there is further reason for joy. The fact that it happened in 1964 means that Padre Pio had four whole years before his death in 1968 to practise his ministry and establish his reputation as a saint. For sake of argument, had the sanctions been lifted in 1967, then Padre Pio would have had very little time to freely demonstrate his saintliness, before dying in 1968.

I wrote this post for The Catholic Herald, do visit the website for lively comment and breaking news.  

There was an error in this gadget