The Saint of Our Times

Today is an important date. It is both the anniversary of the signing of the Dubia, which our Holy Father has graciously declined to respond to and it is also the feast of St Serapion of Algiers. St Serapion ought to be the patron saint of our times, because his story is one of true love and obedience towards God. He was an Irishman, born to devoted parents and a father who brought him along to the crusades against the Mohammedan regimes.

He eventually came to be a Mercedarian, and traded his own life for a number of captives being tortured for their faith in Christ. He also converted an inmate of his whilst in prison, and for this he suffered a martyr’s death on the cross of St Andrew.

Today, if that could be so succinctly defined as our experience in life as it pertains with the past twenty or so years, we have become dominated by an influx of Islamic terrorism and mass immigration – we live in western countries increasingly dominated by a foreign philosophy and religion, with a totally different system of action regarding human interaction and etiquette.

Christianity remains queerly under attack – our societies abide by a media that praised the virtues of secularism, admonishing Christians for their common sense, yet pedestals Islam and Muslim tradition and culture and tells us, the citizens of our respective European and North American nations, to be subservient and receptive to these foreign ideologies. I am completely in favour of helping those who need it, as we are obligated so to do by the Lord – yet, while we may have saved lives, we have lost our own. Terrorism now is a phenomena of the local, whereas it ought never to be.

People in Sweden are campaigning to replace the Nordic cross with a crescent moon and star.

Boys and girls are being raped in Germany.

The United States is being feminized by radical feminists and murdered by Jihadists.

The United Kingdom is being overrun by Sharia protesters and supporters.

The Dominion of Canada is completely gone, with a wimp of a prime minister and modernism breathed in each molecule of their air.

In these times, we must raise our hearts to heaven and pray to St Serapion, to help us in our battle to spread truth and true love.

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The Unmeasurable, Unending: the Mercy of God

I am often touched by the stories of Elder Paisios and his interesting life – an Orthodox monk, blessed with grace and wisdom. Some consider him to be a saint, and is canonized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. My favourite tale is regarding an alcoholic monk, upon whose death a battalion of angels came to collect his soul.

“Once on Mount Athos in Greece there was a monk who drank and got drunk every day and was the case of scandal to the pilgrims. Eventually, he died and this relieved some of the faithful who went on to tell Father Paisios that they were delighted that this huge problem was finally solved. Father Paisios answered them that he knew about the death of the monk after seeing the entire battalion of angels who came to collect his soul. The pilgrims were amazed and some protested and tried to explain to the Elder of whom they were talking about, thinking that the Elder did not understand.

Elder Paisios explained to them that this particular monk was born in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) shortly before the expulsion of the majority of Christians there by the Muslim Turks when they were taking Christian boys and forcing their conversion to Islam. So as not to take him from his parents, they would take him with them to reaping in the fields and so he wouldn’t cry and alert the Turks to his presence, they put raki (an unsweeted anise-flavored Turkish alcoholic beverage popular in the Near East) into his milk in order for him to sleep. Therefore he grew up as an alcoholic.

Having grown up in such a way, the elder told him to pray that God would help him reduce by one glass the glasses he drank a day. After a year, he managed with struggle and repentance to make the twenty glasses he drank into nineteen glasses. The struggle continued over the years and he reached two to three glasses a day with which he would still get drunk.

The world for years saw an alcoholic monk who scandalized the pilgrims, but God saw a fighter who fought a long struggle to reduce his passion. The moral of the story is this: without knowing what each one is trying to do what he wants to do, what right do we have to judge his efforts?

This particular version is extracted from “The Meaning of Grace for the Christian”, an article published here by John G. Panagiotou.

We are charged with the practise of virtue – humility is one of these. We have to know our place as children of God, and recall the inability we have with experiencing the ‘other’ limited by the confines of flesh and bone. We cannot judge someone, we cannot judge them for we don’t truly know them as God does.

A Woman’s Right to Choose

One particular person I admire, who is dear to my heart, and remains on my mind every time I pray, is my great grandmother. Nan Uí Bhriain – everyone called her Nan O’Brien – yet she faithfully wrote the full form of her name.

She gave birth to six children, my grandmother was the second; she struggled to carry many children to full term, and so many passed on within the womb. She was a remarkable woman so I’m told. I never did meet her, yet her legacy lives on like a river that never dries up. She died when my own ‘Nan’ was 15. My great-grandfather was stricken with grief from that day on, unable to cope with her loss. He turned to alcohol often, but more often relied on my grandmother – now the oldest; my uncle (the firstborn) had drowned in a boating accident, which added to their collective grief.

But ‘Nan O’Brien’ was a force from God. While her husband worked, she also worked – along with raising a family, she was the housekeeper for the rectory and its four priests. She met many throughout her life, one whose cause for canonisation is at the diocesan level and remains an unofficial patron of the town she loved and lived in. She taught her children that love was an unconditional thing, and that anyone you met was subject to it. I know this is true because of how my own dear nan responds to the people around her: she brings food to her sick friends, and she admonishes those she knows who have gone wrong or members of our family who have made great mistakes, yet she always tells them she loves them. I think whoever meets her confrontation knows her forgiveness is at the end of the tunnel, because she forgives all of her friends, all of our family.

Is that a perfect family? Of course not! Besides the Holy Family, no family is perfect. My grandmother has told me of many lessons she learned in her life, and one of those was about life and forgiveness. Broad topics, eh?

One night as my grandmother lay in bed, her mother came trotting home from her friend’s house. She burst through the bottom door crying, weeping, screeching for her husband. About ten minutes later, after he asked her what’s wrong, he apparently ran outside and cried on the bank behind the house. Half an hour later, everyone was asleep.

Nine months later, my grandmother had a new younger sister.

My dear readers, I confide in you: the dear public, a lesson. That night when love wept, a woman was taken by another’s husband. By force, not by choice. My great-grandmother was raped, and she conceived of a child.

The night of tears wasn’t an ordeal. It was a moment: reality came to light, human vengeance perished, and love overcame all.

My grandmother told me about this after we watched a programme about abortion. Nan always wore her faith on her sleeve. Someone in my family was conceived in an unorthodox way, yet lives today as a mother and wife, an aunt and friend herself.

Abortion is murder.

Should converts have a place in the Church?

Recently in the Catholic media there have been a few opinions voiced regarding the place of converts in the church.

One article I recall, a non germane “expose” regarding Pope Francis and the reception of the pontiff by converts to the faith, speaks brazenly of an opinion that converts dare not hold. Of course, because it doesn’t fit the narrative.

It is disgusting that an author speaks ill of his fellow Catholics in such a way. Regardless if one is a convert, or like myself, a ‘cradle’ Catholic: we are one in faith, one in belief. There is no hierarchy of “catholicness.”

If you ‘google’ around and research the recent articles from the more progressive left, you’ll find a similar critique of orthodox Catholics and converts, again implying a separate level of belonging.

Question: who are some of the greatest of our saints? Were they not converts?

Remember: evil is benign at first.

Correctio Filialis

If you have been following the latest news from within the Church, you are familiar with the ongoing debacle regarding Pope Francis and his questionable teaching on communion for the divorced. It began with the Dubia of the four good cardinals, and now, we have this: the Filial Correction.

Our Holy Father has remained silent in the wake of the Dubia, which out of the signatories, only two cardinals remain living. Read, then and behold: a letter signed and delivered to the Pope.

Most Holy Father,
With profound grief, but moved by fidelity to our Lord Jesus Christ, by love for the Church and for the papacy, and by filial devotion toward yourself, we are compelled to address a correction to Your Holiness on account of the propagation of heresies effected by the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia and by other words, deeds and omissions of Your Holiness.

We are permitted to issue this correction by natural law, by the law of Christ, and by the law of the Church, which three things Your Holiness has been appointed by divine providence to guard. By natural law: for as subjects have by nature a duty to obey their superiors in all lawful things, so they have a right to be governed according to law, and therefore to insist, where need be, that their superiors so govern. By the law of Christ: for His Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to rebuke Peter in public when the latter did not act according to the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2). St Thomas Aquinas notes that this public rebuke from a subject to a superior was licit on account of the imminent danger of scandal concerning the faith (Summa Theologiae 2a 2ae, 33, 4 ad 2), and ‘the gloss of St Augustine’ adds that on this occasion, “Peter gave an example to superiors, that if at any time they should happen to stray from the straight path, they should not disdain to be reproved by their subjects” (ibid.). The law of the Church also constrains us, since it states that “Christ’s faithful . . . have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence, and position, to manifest to the sacred pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church” (Code of Canon Law 212:2-3; Code of Canons of Oriental Churches 15:3).

This is only the opening paragraph. You can already see the amount of talented scholarship and effort put in, and it is not without ground. Even Bishop Fellay has signed, along with other prominent scholars and theologians.

The official website can be found here.

My thoughts regarding the matter are unimportant; I find the need for this public awareness fitting. I love our Holy Father, as every Catholic ought – his authority is given by Our Lord and Saviour and is to be unquestioned. However, something is obviously wrong in the way the texts of Amoris Laetitia have been written and there is a case for certain scandal regarding a certain ghost-writer of the document.

(Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth)

I digress. Let us pray.

Dearest Mother of God, truly the Theotokos and Mother of all the Church: hear our supplications as we call out to Thee. Safeguard, dearest Mother, our Holy Father, from all heresy and error. Protect the Church, dearest Star of the Sea: let not the tempest drown Her, as we raise our intentions up to You. For Thou alone art closest to the ear of the Father, the mercy of the Son, and the breath of the Holy Ghost. Pray for our Church, oh holy Mother of God: pray for us to Thy Son.

To Thy Son, oh Mary, intercede.

Oh Christ, the eternal King and High Priest: protect Thy Vicar upon this Earth and have mercy upon the sins of Thy Church. For we are only human, and only Thy grace can aid us in our hour of trial. Gentlest Saviour, we adore and magnify Thy most holy and divine name. We confess that we have sinned against Thee: in what we have done, in what we have failed to do, for we have not loved our neighbour as ourself and we humbly implore Thy forgiveness. Let Thy will be done, O eternal and life-giving Trinity. One God, in three persons: have mercy on us. Thy love is all around us, like a vast and mighty ocean: we are safe in Thy stronghold.

Through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Through the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Amen.

Seventy Times Seven

Compassion is a talent, a virtue: honed and practised, one we ought to teach to our children from a very young age. When we know compassion, we know also the basic tenet of forgiveness – that big word, the ‘f’ word we dread and use rarely. I hope the word burns within you: forgiveness is humbling, and to be forgiven is even more so…we ought to forgive because we all can recall a time when we have done wrong to someone else, whether it be to someone we love, a community we once belonged to, a mistake against our future. Notice how I write “we” instead of anything more singular? It is because none of us are exempt.

I’ve done wrong to others, and you have. Perhaps I’ve caused you to remember all those people in your life who have caused you harm, betrayal, or turmoil. Perhaps you do not feel vindicated enough for being the ‘offended’ party. Perhaps, you remember with sorrow, the greatest regret of your life – the greatest mistake, the most painful recollection of selfishness. I know I do. ‘We’ are guilty.

It is of great virtue to recall that all of us are of flesh and soul, of mind and body, spirit and blood. That each of us are created by one Father, crafted in His image, and it is literally the sin of the world that Christ bore on the cross for all of our redemption. Therefore, we ought to pray for the grace to be able to forgive, and forgive radically.

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. and since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” St Matthew 18:21-35 (ESVA)

You see here that Our Lord commands not just forgiveness, but forgiveness without limit. The Jews of the time placed a special significance on the number “7,” for it meant a certain height of infinity – and today we know, it remains just as special (the seven sorrows, joys, days of creation). Our Lord doesn’t mean just seventy-times-seven, no, He means again, again, again, and again: today, tomorrow, always. He commands us always to forgive. My friends, it is very important that we read this gospel as often as we can. Weekly, monthly – however, as long as it becomes a habit. Our Saviour continues to teach the apostles that those who sow mercy will also receive it, and forgiveness is contained in every drop of Christ’s Precious Blood.

Oh, but how difficult that is!

If anyone has ever read The Brothers Karamazov, you may recall how Fyodor, the father of Ivan and Alexei (amongst others), reacts towards his own embarrassments, mistakes, and maniacal behaviour – he begins the blame the victim, and even, hate him. This is because he couldn’t bring himself to forgive himself for his wrongdoings, and rather than straighten up and carry on, Dostoevsky, in his psychological way, creates a narrative around hard-headedness.

We as Christians ought not to have hard hearts, and I am as guilty as the next. We have to forgive: radically. Ourselves, others; we do this because God forgives us.

This is why He left us a Church.

This is why He left us the sacraments.

This is why He left us the confessional.

Because He loves us. He forgives us.

Confession is mandatory. Let us pray for the grace of a good and holy confession, for graces that come from forgiveness, and from being forgiven.