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Saturday 6 September 2014


Saturday, 6 September 2014

Bishop Philip Egan addresses SPUC's national conference

Bp Egan 20140906 #2
Bishop Philip Egan
This morning SPUC's national conference 2014 was privileged to be addressed by the Rt. Rev. Philip Egan, the Catholic bishop of Portsmouth, on the forthcoming Synod on the Family and the Sensus Fidei. Here are the main points from Bishop Egan's address.

What is a Synod?
An "Ecumenical Council" means a 'gathering of all', in order to discuss and decide about important matters. Ecumenical Councils are rare. A synod is a smaller gathering of bishops, such as bishops across a region or a province.

In preparation for a synod, the synod's secretariat sends out a scoping document for dioceses. The responses are sent back to Rome; and from those responses the secretariat draws up an Instrumentum Laboris, a 'working document'.

A synod is an advisory body. The Pope participates in the synod, and following the synod he issues an Apostolic Exhortation in response to the synod.

The synod on the family to be held in Rome in October is an Extraordinary Synod. The last Extraordinary Synod was in 1987 on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This year's Extraordinary Synod is also unusual, in two ways:
1) it will be followed by an Ordinary Synod next year. The Apostolic Exhortation will be the Instrumentum Laboris for the next year’s synod
2) The 39 pre-synod questions were circulated widely throughout the Church so as to put forward concerns.

Why the family?
Pope Francis announced the synod on the family at the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio. The Pope said that today many young people do not want to get married. Also, people get married lacking maturity. This is where pastoral care needs to comes in. The pastoral care of the family is very complicated, including issues such as annulments, divorce, and access to Holy Communion. Pope Francis said the family is in crisis worldwide. The topic needs two synods to give an adequate treatment.

Instrumentum Laboris
Instrumentum Laboris, to me, is a remarkable document. It unambiguously restates Catholic teaching on the main family issues. At the same time, it emphasises God’s mercy and the need to spread it; highlights the lack of faith and lack of sufficient catechesis. The beginning deals with the Gospel of the Family, which is the term I especially like. The crisis of faith leads to a crisis of relationships and families. The Instrumentum Laboris ends with the prayer of the Holy Family.

In summary the Instrumentum Laboris deals with:
  • how to communicate Church’s teaching more effectively?
  • how to support those in need more mercifully?
  • how to support families in teaching about openness to life?
Crisis of faith
In Britain the crisis of the family is bound to the crisis of the faith. Secularism separates Church and State. The result is moral relativism. Nothing is solid.

It is no secret that many progressive Catholics look forward to changes in Church’s teaching and doctrine from the Synod. In contrast, Blessed John Henry Newman taught that Christian teaching tends to develop organically, like an acorn, with continuity. Doctrine develops rather than changes. Developments in doctrine must be consistent.

In history the Church has experienced major controversies. Today’s issue is the anthropology of a human being: what it means to created, fallen and then redeemed. The Sensus Fidei is the belief that the Holy Spirit endows each member of the Church, each baptised Christian, with an instinct to live in truth. Some members of the Church do not understand the Church’s teaching on marriage and family. Should the doctrine then be changed?

Bl. John Henry Newman taught observed that it has been the ordinary faithful who have passed on the Church's doctrine. Like others in the Church, the faithful should be consulted, not in a democratic way, but rather as a thermometer to check the weather. It is the doctrine that Christ wills for His Church. The doctrine is not always the balanced view, but it is the truth.

My personal hopes for the Synod:
1) A fresh, attractive, easy-to-understand idea of the Gospel of the Family. I would wish that the Synod requests from the Pope a presentation of the Christian understanding of birth, sex, death, male, and female. This would greatly assist religious education in our schools. I am actively considering appointing a couple in every parish as a ministry for marriage.
2) That the Synod will find a better way how to spread mercy for those in difficulties and irregular situations. Pope Benedict suggested we need a further study on the relation of faith and the Sacrament of Matrimony. Many people fall away from the Catholic Church because they fail to form a personal relationship with Christ.

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Ideas Have Consequences

Catholics have always known this-that bad ideas have bad consequences and good ideas have good consequences. Teaching and preaching have been, from the time of Christ, the basis of evangelization. We have a rational religion, as we believe that man in made in the image and likeness of God and, therefore, endowed with reason, free will and an immortal soul.

Through-out history, we see how ideas inspired men's imaginations and fueled their actions. The beautiful stained glass window to the left is a result of many good and worthy ideas, one being the putting into action of the desire to praise God. Another would be the idea of putting into beauty the truths of the Gospel, thus glorifying God, as well as teaching. The Proclamation of the Good News, one of the Luminous Mysteries, needs to be seen in the mystery of the Holy Spirit inspiring men through Christ to teach, preach, change men's lives, create Catholic culture. We peaked a long time ago with the idea of Christendom. No longer do the ideas of Christianity inform governments, art, music, education, even work.

Ideas have consequences. When we teach our children through actions, they look at the reasons behind the actions. Then, they imitate, and learn to reason. For example, Daddy buys classical music CDs, so Daddy must like classical music. I love Daddy and want to be like Daddy, therefore, I shall listen to his music.

The age of reason in Catholic teaching is seven. Having taught Montessori in the past, I can say from experience that many children can use reason earlier, as early as five. My own son made his First Confession at an earlier age than most because the priest could see that he could reason good and evil, personal sin and consequences. Most children can reason by seven, but their reason may be bent, twisted by either bad training in the home or the lack of training.

There is much discussion on the Net regarding violence as coming from poverty or illiteracy. But, ideas can be the main impetus for some types of violence. One does not have to be poor or deprived to entertain bad ideas.

Father Ripperger's book on mental health begins with the Catholic teaching on what it means to be a human. To be a human is to use the gift of reason. When people are unreasonable, one must ask the question as to why they cannot think clearly. Many times the answer is that these people have an idea which is not based on reality, or natural law, or the Commandments or the Beatitudes. Sometimes, a person has sinned for such a long time that they lose the use of reason. Some mental illness is caused by sin. Father Ripperger proves this convincingly.

Ideas have consequences. One acts as one believes. If one is in love with Christ and loves His Church, one will try to act in love. If one hates Christ and hates His Church, one will act against God and His plan for salvation.

All heresies began with bad ideas, bent wills, stubborn blockages of the Truth and rebellion. Too often in today's world, we make excuses for bad ideas, bent wills, stubborn blockages and rebellion.

We have psychoanalyzed away sin. The psyche is the Greek word for soul. We know the soul to be immortal, and therefore, not only affected by physical realities, such as nature and nurture, but spiritual realities, such as the virtues, and the vices, prayer or the lack of prayer, responses to grace, or the turning away from grace.

The ideas we put into our heads affect our souls directly and some theologians have thought through-out the ages that the soul is the seat of the mind, of thinking, not the brain, which modern science wants us to hold as a truth, denying the fact that a brain-dead person may still be alive, that is, that the soul has not left the body because some doctors are only looking at the brain, ignoring the soul which is manifested in other ways in the body. The rational capacity in humans is the thing which separates us from the animals, who do not have immortal souls and which cannot think like we do.

Remembering that the soul is the form of the body, one is responsible for feeding the soul with good ideas which have good consequences. This happens in the best of Catholic homes with the training of the virtues in children, as I wrote about last summer in that long series.

What we read, listen to, watch, observe, reflect upon, goes into our imaginations and minds possibly until we die. Part of the Dark Night of the spirit is the purgation of those thoughts and images stored in our spiritual database. I know from experience that God is taking away my memory in certain areas, especially in the sins of my past, so that I can be free in my imagination, so that my imagination is cleansed of evil memories. Those who have never sinned seriously do not have this problem.

It is imperative that we guard what goes in, and what goes in is what comes out.

Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, makes it clear that ideas have consequences. He also makes it clear that we are not bound to act on some bad ideas. We have free will. We make choices. We are not slaves to circumstances, nurture, or nature. We choose to believe, to assent to certain ideas which have consequences.

For example, if one has a bent will, an uninformed conscience, one will make different choices than a person who does. How one person decides on priorities in life depends on their idea of life. Why am I here? Where am I going? What do I want?

In Mark 7, we read Christ's words on sin. For the Jew at this time, the heart was the place of reason, not the psyche. (See my other posts on this point from over a year ago). Whether one wants to place reason in the heart or in the soul does not affect this discussion. God allowed Christians to be influenced by Greek thought. The Jews gave us Revelation and the Greeks gave us the examination of reason. Reason and Revelation form Catholic Tradition.

Now, what is significant in this passage is not merely the words of Christ concerning our responsibility in dealing with sin, but the miracles which follow. There are connections here.

The woman's daughter has an unclean spirit. This is not explained, but it could be an oppression, or obsession, which are demonic influences bearing down upon the soul, usually from sin, or possession, which God allows to show forth His glory and power. From the words, it seems like possession, which can come about without a person willing it, such as in very young children being given to the devil. We do not know the details, but we do know that Christ spoke of evil and then met evil straight on in this miracle. Perhaps the girl lived a horrible life, made bad choices, became possessed. Christ freed her from this bondage of the demon whatever the source, showing all His power over evil and evil consequences.

The second miracle is related not to any sin of a parent or someone contemporary to the deaf and dumb man, but to the Sin of Adam. The man was in physical bondage as a result of Original Sin, as no person would ever had experience illnesses or impediments if there had been no Fall.

Again, Christ is showing His power over the consequences of sin, in this case, the sin we all bear from birth until baptism. That God allows suffering to show forth His glory and His love has been referred to in the posts on Providence early this summer.

The point of these pericopes is that Christ undoes the consequences of sin, of evil influences, of bad ideas, bad choices. Only in Christ can one find freedom and regain the type of personal responsibility which leads to holiness, to which we are all called.

Following on the teaching of Christ on sin as coming from the heart of man, one can extrapolate that the heart, in reasoning badly, chooses sin and corruption.

In Mark 7, we read this:

[14] And calling again the multitude unto him, he said to them: Hear ye me all, and understand. [15] There is nothing from without a man that entering into him, can defile him. But the things which come from a man, those are they that defile a man. 

[16] If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. [17] And when he was come into the house from the multitude, his disciples asked him the parable. [18] And he saith to them: So are you also without knowledge? understand you not that every thing from without, entering into a man cannot defile him: [19] Because it entereth not into his heart, but goeth into the belly, and goeth out into the privy, purging all meats? [20] But he said that the things which come out from a man, they defile a man.
[21] For from within out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, [22] Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. [23] All these evil things come from within, and defile a man.

 [24] And rising from thence he went into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon: and entering into a house, he would that no man should know it, and he could not be hid. [25] For a woman as soon as she heard of him, whose daughter had an unclean spirit, came in and fell down at his feet.
[26] For the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophenician born. And she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter. [27] Who said to her: Suffer first the children to be filled: for it is not good to take the bread of the children, and cast it to the dogs. [28] But she answered and said to him: Yea, Lord; for the whelps also eat under the table of the crumbs of the children. [29] And he said to her: For this saying go thy way, the devil is gone out of thy daughter. [30] And when she was come into her house, she found the girl lying upon the bed, and that the devil was gone out. 

[31] And again going out of the coasts of Tyre, he came by Sidon to the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. [32] And they bring to him one deaf and dumb; and they besought him that he would lay his hand upon him. [33] And taking him from the multitude apart, he put his fingers into his ears, and spitting, he touched his tongue: [34] And looking up to heaven, he groaned, and said to him: Ephpheta, which is, Be thou opened. [35] And immediately his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke right. 

We see Christ teaching us about the consequences of bad thoughts, bad ideas, which "defile" a man. We see Christ using His Divine power to cast out a demon and to heal a Son of Adam, two bondages from bad ideas, bad choices.

Adam could have said no. Eve could have said no. We can say no to bad ideas which have consequences. Pray for God to purged your imagination, memory, understanding and will

Here is a good prayer with which to start:
Suscipe (St. Ignatius of Loyola)
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace.
That is enough for me.

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Paul's House in Rome

I had an excellent class on Paul when I took theology and, of course, I have read his epistles almost daily.

However, when one is older, one begins to think of difference things, seeing nuances perhaps not seen as a younger person. St. Paul, unless he was shipwrecked, had a plan.

He first went to the Jews, even the synagogues, and preached to his own people.

When they refused to listen, he went to the market place and preached to the crowd of gentiles.

Then, he would make converts among that group, who would take him in and he would teach and work from his new friends' homes.

Sometimes, some of the people were already Christian and invited him in.

When St.Paul was in Rome, he was under house arrest for two years, a house he rented with his own money.

But, what struck me recently were all the people who came and went into Paul's house, hearing the Gospel and discussing it. They came to him. He could not go out, but he had an open door.

It must have been both hard and exhilarating.

Sounds like a blogosphere.

Here is the Scripture relating to that from Acts 28.

 16] And when we were come to Rome, Paul was suffered to dwell by himself, with a soldier that kept him. [17] And after the third day, he called together the chief of the Jews. And when they were assembled, he said to them: Men, brethren, I, having done nothing against the people, or the custom of our fathers, was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans; [18] Who, when they had examined me, would have released me, for that there was no cause of death in me; [19] But the Jews contradicting it, I was constrained to appeal unto Caesar; not that I had any thing to accuse my nation of. [20] For this cause therefore I desired to see you, and to speak to you. Because that for the hope of Israel, I am bound with this chain. 

[21] But they said to him: We neither received letters concerning thee from Judea, neither did any of the brethren that came hither, relate or speak any evil of thee. [22] But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest; for as concerning this sect, we know that it is everywhere contradicted. [23] And when they had appointed him a day, there came very many to him unto his lodgings; to whom he expounded, testifying the kingdom of God, and persuading them concerning Jesus, out of the law of Moses and the prophets, from morning until evening. [24] And some believed the things that were said; but some believed not.  

[25] And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, Paul speaking this one word: Well did the Holy Ghost speak to our fathers by Isaias the prophet,
[26] Saying: Go to this people, and say to them: With the ear you shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive. [27] For the heart of this people is grown gross, and with their ears have they heard heavily, and their eyes they have shut; lest perhaps they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. [28] Be it known therefore to you, that this salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it. [29] And when he had said these things, the Jews went out from him, having much reasoning among themselves. 

 [30] And he remained two whole years in his own hired lodging; and he received all that came in to him, [31] Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, without prohibition.

Scheduling; one of many posts

One of my priest friends told me not too long ago that he appreciated this post. I repost it for those who may have missed it.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Sanctity and Schedules

Now, a disclaimer. As an INTJ, I am scheduled. I get up at the same time everyday and I have regular habits of eating, praying, writing.

I do most of my work in the morning.

When I was in Ireland, living alone for months and months, I could pray four to six hours a day, as I was living in silence and solitude.

I love this.

But, even though it was just me, I was scheduled.

Daily Mass same time, prayers, writing, etc. only interrupted by parties at night in the flats next door, or personal illness.

Same in Malta, even though for most of the time I was sharing a flat with one other person. Daily morning Mass, prayers, breakfast, and so on....Dinner was always about the same time as well.

Recently, living with other people without schedules, people who are not INTJs but ESFPs or variations of unscheduled types, I am observing something which the ancient fathers understood. One good thing about living in community is that those who naturally gravitate towards schedules can help those who do not.

Those who are more easy-going can help with the obsession some may have with schedules.

It is much harder for those without schedules to become holy. Going from one activity to another as these present themselves to the mind does not allow for prayer or reflection. Merely reacting to things rather than planning or reacting to situations on impulse are methods of living which impair the way of holiness.

Holiness demands scheduling.


Prayers, the reading of Scripture, the reading of holy books, daily Mass, or Adoration demand planning.

Those who have never had schedules, or who have avoided scheduling do not plan formation into their days.

Every semester when I was teaching college, the first thing I did was introduce my students to Time Management Skills.

I would, in some extreme cases, find up to 40 wasted hours in one week of 168 hours. I would mostly find between 17-27 wasted hours, enough time for my students to really study. They all had too much "down time" or just wasted time.

Waste is a sin.

Wasting time can create a habit of avoiding God and holiness.

Wasting time can lead one to hell.

A few days ago, I was speaking with a person who use to read the Scriptures daily for at least a half-hour.

He no longer does this. He is "too busy", "too tired".

He works, and he works hard, but his home life is not scheduled and never has been. He goes out a lot. He is single.

I see many, many elderly people out and about here-and they have lively social lives. There is nothing wrong with that, but one must face preparation for death. They are not scheduling in prayer, the rosary, meditation or contemplation, silence.

Sanctity must be a cooperation between work and grace. Without a schedule, it is hard, perhaps impossible to find out who one is and who God is.

Schedule. Follow the tag for more posts on scheduling.

Repost Because It Is Timely

Monday, 31 December 2012

Well, yet another Gramsci post; without the Spirit, the intellect stagnates and dies

Did philosophers and revolutionaries honestly believe that humans can be intellectuals without the life of the Spirit? Did and do they honestly want a better life while denying the soul?

Some critics of the Church since the Enlightenment state that the teachers and Popes did not address the modern issues of politics, science and modernism. This is a misunderstanding of the times and the teachings. Since the publication of Marx and Engels, the Church has been on the offensive, not the defensive regarding teaching concerning the effects of tyrannies, the materialists dialectic and the supposed war between the classes. All the popes since 1848 have addressed these ideologies. The problem has been in the implementation at the local levels of the clarity of the Teaching Magisterium.

Why? Many priests fell into error and carried those errors into the pulpit for the last two-hundred years. Many priests and even bishops themselves were and are communists and push for that version of a world-view, based on materialism, rather the the spiritual message of the Kingdom of God.

As laity, it is our duty to take care of our brothers and sisters in poverty or troubles.

Gramsci was clear that the Church was the only institution to understand what he and other revolutionaries wanted in the culture wars and the destruction of Western civilization, itself created largely by Christendom.

Here is one of  his quotations. Gramsci understood that both Faith and Reason were held together in the Catholic Church, that Revelation and the Teaching Magisterium provided a cohesive block against the fragmentation of society.

The strength of religions, and of the Catholic Church in particular, has lain, and still lies, in the fact that they feel very strongly the need for the doctrinal unity of the whole mass of the faithful and strive to ensure that the higher intellectual stratum does not get separated from the lower. The Roman church has always been the most vigorous in the struggle to prevent the “official” formation of two religions, one for the “intellectuals” and the other for the “simple souls” … That the Church has to face up to a problem of the “simple” means precisely that there has been a split in the community of the faithful. This split cannot be healed by raising the simple to the level of the intellectuals  .... but only by imposing an iron discipline on the intellectuals so that they do not exceed certain limits of differentiation and so render the split catastrophic and irreparable. 

Catholic intellectuals, including the laity, have a duty to combat the lies of the ideologies which have almost overcome the concepts of freedom and individualism. Our definition of the individual is not that of the socialist.  We are unique creatures, each one having a purpose, not to be subsumed by the bloated government. 

Those who are the enemy delight in the fragmentation of society, and society is built on natural, moral law and not the laws of men. This is the key to the strength of the Church...that we have recognized that man-made structures are doomed to tyranny and/or chaos.

Tyranny will come to America and chaos to Europe for the purposeful loss of the culture wars has occurred. 

That Gramsci only saw the discipline of the Church as evil, rather than a guideline of the Holy Spirit intended to persevere Truth mirrors his own lack of Faith and Reason. 

The man or woman who will not bend to God, will not bend to the Church. Humility in scholarship is key.

We are on the edge, as most people will choose material comfort over truth. This is the sad decline of the human spirit. The remnant Church holds the real intellectual unity of a society, which Gramsci wanted through his groups of intellectuals at all levels.

Of course, this burgeoning of intellectual life has not happen, and in fact, societies are less intellectual now than in the recent past. Atheism makes one closed to the entire spiritual world, and therefore, the world of creativity and newness.

There has been a split in the Church, but not the one mentioned in the above quotation. The real split is between those who see the Spirit working in the Church and those who want to make the Church into their own image and likeness, into their own ideological institution. Hence, the liberal intellectuals have sold out to the Gramscian ideal of "intellectualism" but separated from the soul.

This state in a person or government is suicide. The intellectual gifts are connected to the spirit of man and woman, to the soul, to prayer and illumination.

Gramsci's material mind-set could not imagine an institution which is actually empowered by  GOD HIMSELF.  That the Trinity dwells in each baptized Catholic and that there is insight and intellectual freedom partly defines us as made in the image and likeness of God.

Gramsci wanted men and women to be made in his image and likeness--and that is the primal sin of the angels; I will not serve.

Without the Holy Spirit and the individual free spirit of men and women, the intellect dies.

We are in that stage of Western Civilization. At the end of the year, we can only look forward to making ourselves and our families strong against the Gale of Stupidity and Barbarism which will engulf some reading this in their lifetime.

Popes on The Family

I discovered a long time ago, that when people discuss a concept at length which has to do with culture or society, it means that thing disappeared long before the discussion.

For example, in the 1980s, the priests began talking about the need for Catholic communities, because such had fallen apart.

The door of the stable was being shut after the horse had bolted.

The same with marriage, education of children, and morals. In days before the later half of the Twentieth Century, things were talked about from the pulpit which were immediate needs, such as in the sermons of St. John Vianney, some of which I noted on this blog in the past several months.

St. John Vianney changed his small village by pointing out over and over again the need for Confession and repentance of the sins of the culture around Ars.

If such problems like drunkenness and wild parties did not exist, he would not have had to discuss these.

Our culture, our civilizing is dying in a manner which would have staggered the inhabitants of decaying Rome. The demise of Western civilization is discussed now after the fact, when families are either broken or dysfunctional, when nations no longer recognize Christ the King as the true ruler and His laws as necessary for order. We have come to the point where those who do not want to face the coming crash must be said to be blind on purpose or just plain silly.

That God will punish the earth is a given. We were told this over and over in the Old Testament as well as the New.

The difference, however, is that we have had almost two-hundred years of excellent Popes, who have, sadly, been largely ignored in their teaching regarding the unit of society, the family.

I am putting some links on the writings of the Popes on the family. Please take time to read, reflect, act, pray. This list is not exhaustive, but would make a nice study for a couples group or home schooling unit.