The Comfortable Words

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. St Matthew 11:28

These are comfortable words, whom anyone leading a life full of strife or difficulty can take particular enjoyment in. They are the opening words to the funeral liturgy of the Ordinariate, of many Anglican traditions, and are included in common Gospel readings at Requiem Masses throughout the English-speaking world.

Perhaps I am going out on a limb to say that we live in a world disenchanted with its past. A world, a society of people, collectively less aware of God although He makes Himself known. However, anyone with an open mind, if it is truly a mind receptive to establishing the truth of existence, ought to give these words some credence. We never truly grow old. We are always little children, gasping for air and for stability. We can fall on any bridge we wish, and quite often those bridges are made of wood near splintering into a thousand pieces; not close enough to open a gap quite yet, but near the point. We get up on the bridge and cross it many times, going one place at a time yet dependent on where we have fallen. We claim it as ‘life’s lot’, and accept it as our life’s purpose.

But then the bridge opens wide. We fall through. We hit the icy water below. We cannot breathe. We cannot swim. Our feeble hands claw and scrape at that river, yet we cannot find a ledge or a rock to cling to that could keep us steady or grant us a gasp of fresh air. Seldom do we find it. Thus, we hit a crisis. What was wrong? I thought I was on my feet. I thought the bridge that allowed me to travel to all corners of life was steady; a few cracks are normal. We aren’t perfect.

The bridge was a human construction, with human imperfections, made for the world’s use and was therefore unstable. Some of us, when we cooperate with the Grace we are given, fall upon a bridge that has weathered many a storm. It has been beaten and pelted with salty ocean waves, but it has dried and the wood was restored again and again. In fact, this particular structure was so susceptible to the acts of nature that sometimes we didn’t cross it for fear of the life we saw growing upon it. Moss, fungi, other green and brown things we cannot know of. However, when we really needed to come safely home, we could only cross this bridge. Eventually, after the length of time the wood stood, interrupted only time and time again by footstep, it petrified. The whole bridge became a solid rock.

Often our faith is like this isn’t it? Trust and obedience, dependence and doubt. We experience these in fluttering diversions, sometimes hitting us like arrows, mostly the safety net that ought to catch us should we ever fall through. To the non-believer, coming to belief can often be like this. Like walking a new bridge over a deep crevasse. Do you understand the imagery?

We know God would never ever build us an unsafe bridge. In fact, His bridges are perfect – the bridge saints trod. Yet they are filled with obstacles, many our own, many to test us, many to strengthen us. Today’s trials are the cause of tomorrow’s triumph.

The Psalmist St David, in Psalm 139: 6-9 has this to say:

Whither shall I go then from thy Spirit: or whither shall I go then from thy presence?
If I climb up into heaven, thou art there: if I go down to hell, thou art there also.
If I take the wings of the morning: and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there also shall thy hand lead me: and thy right hand shall hold me.

The Lord Jesus Christ never departs from our presence. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday (or perhaps today is, depending which part of the globe you live in). You are going to be reminded, with the placing of a cross upon your forehead, that ‘thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return’, Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Remember, O Man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return.

Meditate on these words. A cigarette only lasts you a couple minutes, and palm leaves burn in less time than that. Our life, because we alone experience it as we can, is but a burning star in the glimpse of time God allows. On the last day, our Lord will announce the faithful of the elect. The Roman Canon asks God to “Be mindful, also, O Lord, of Thy servants and handmaids…who are gone before us with the sign of faith and who sleep the sleep of peace. To these, O Lord, and to all who rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light and peace. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.” Therefore, God wills that we all be saved through Him, through the prayers of the Blessed Mother, and of the saints: yet only we can decide whether to cooperate with that grace He alone gives us, through the various ways He does. We can receive His very body, blood, soul and divinity. He give us Himself. His arms are open to the heavily laboured, the afflicted, the poor, the sinner.

Our abandonment of our pride, our excess, to His will; to let go of our hubris, to ask God where we belong.

It is difficult to lower ourselves, yet we have every means to do it. What can you lose? Death. What can you gain? Life. Be mindful of your sins, and use the sacraments to assist you on your life’s journey. For it is so very short, and eternity is…forever. Hell is real. Heaven is your home.

Throughout this Lenten season, my dear readers, we all must do penance and seek contrition for our downfalls. It is the time. You’re given no other day than the present, for the past is gone and the future doesn’t exist yet. Remember the words of the psalmist when you become weary, and the gospels when you despair. Remember the constant presence of God, who has given us everything, including His Own Son. His Own Mother. His Own Body. His Own Church. We need not fear Clothos, we need not fear the slowing draw of the thread of life. We need only to hope, to fear, to adore, to glorify, to adore the passion of Our Lord. Go to confession.

Go to Him, all of you that labour and weep, all who face darkness, and ask Him to be your eyes: go to Him, let Him embrace you. For you are His. He will give you rest.

 

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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.

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.