Sunday, February 14, 2016

BLOODY MURDER AND VIOLENCE BY POLICE AND ARMY : BUHARI'S NIGERIA

POLICE AND SOLDIERS BEGIN TO TAKE POSITION 

 have had more than a passing interest in the agitation for a Biafran State to be carved out of Nigeria, and repeated stories of atrocities committed against the Biafran (Igbo) advocates. I have to admit that I had tended to discount these at least partially because of the passionate language used in the telling.
To-day, I had the opportunity to view a 44 minute video taken on 9th February at the National High School in Aba. Normally I would not watch a lengthy video of news, but this made specific claims and I wanted to test their truthfulness. The Video had the advantage of being narrated by someone there as it was being taken, and the fellow was moderate in language and no rabble-rouser.
I saw gathered on this High School playing field several thousand people demonstrating for the creation of a Biafran State and praying to God for that to happen. Now, of course, I could not understand what they were saying and had to rely on the narrator, except in the case of praying when the hands raised in supplication and the eyes raised to Heaven made it obvious what was happening. The crowd was noisy , even boisterous in the Nigerian way, chanting, singing, and occasionally dancing and waving Biafran flags about.
In a public place like a street or square, one might have said they were "disturbing the peace "- but they were on a huge playing field far from others and from traffic. They were entirely peaceful, there was no violence of any sort. In a way, one could even say it was a proud, happy gathering.
Then the Nigerian Police drove onto the field accompanied by elements of the Nigerian Army. They first surrounde the crowd at a distance . Then they moved in and grabbed some of the relatively few women there and forced them into the back of a Utility truck handling them roughly and then beating them with long rods. Then they opened fire with Tear Gas in huge quantities to force the men away from the vehicles and then they opened fire with rifles wounding a large number of men and killiing ten of them . These bodies they loaded into other vehicles along with a few of the wounded The poor , rather innocent narrator was left saying "This is terrible", "This is terrible".
Well, I can assure you that for me it was horribly affecting. It had an immediacy and an impact I could not have imagined. After the event the camera went about the side streets the crowd had retreated to with their dead and wounded - some had finally died there in the street, as the departing Police /Military convoy went away with its vile modern sirens blaring and screaming. To watch this atrocity recorded as it occurred, and only a few days later,was an appalling and revealing experience.
I went outside later into beautiful sunshine and blue Aussie skies, under which the biggest problem is the price of petrol, and contemplated what it is like in Nigeria to-day where people do not have freedom of assembly in effect, do not have the freedom to go about their "lawful occasions" cannot even be sure that their physical safety or life is secure from the depredations of the Police and the Military.
It is the world turned upside down, those who should protect, attack,and their violence is arbitrary and irrational and illegal - but committed with impunity.
I am greatly shocked and affected by all this as you might gather. But don't let anyone ever again suggest to me that FB is useless.

Pray for the people of Nigeria that they might be freed from this corrupt and oppressive Government.  Pray for the dead, the wounded, the widows and orphans and for the beaten ladies.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

LOVE THE TRUE NATURE OF LOVE

First posted on 16th February,2013  , this is timeless and nicely completes our recent posts on Love.

LOVE

DOES NOT WITHDRAW ITSELF

BUT ALWAYS GIVES TO THE TRULY BELOVED


During the holy season of Lent, the subject of Love is continuously brought to our attention. God's Love for us, our love for Him, and our love for one another. 

Many people scorn the "Social Media" e.g. Facebook some of the same folk also disdain the Internet! 

But this morning I noticed a Post on Facebook by a young African Seminarian from Nigeria with whom I have occasional contact. It is beautiful and shines from the goodness of his soul and heart : 
"
I have so much Love in and around me!
I was fashioned out of LOVE
I breath in LOVE and breath out LOVE
I act in and out of LOVE
And I know my earthly mission will only come to an end as a fulfilment of this same LOVE
It is this same LOVE we celebrate today.... The LOVE upheld by the New Testament,
The Love that is boundless,
The LOVE that breaks no heart
The LOVE that is ever faithful...
The Love I have for U all."



 UMEH, ALPHONSUS What a good and holy Priest he will make!
Then, within a few minutes I came across another Facebook post by a Frenchman, Jacques Bouchet, consisting in the text of an Edith Piaf song : (please forgive my clumsy effort at translation)

“Oui la vie, c'est l'amour    Yes life, is love

Et l'amour, c'est la vie        And love, is life

Pas de vie, sans amour       There is no life, without love

Pas d'amour, sans la vie      There is no love, without life

Notre vie pour l'amour,        Our life is for love

Notre amour pour la vie       Our love is for life

("La vie, l'amour" (Michel Rivgauche / Robert Chauvigny)


Whilst the Piaf song is written about romantic love, as is so often the case, much of it is directly applicable to our love for God and His love for us, and his expectation of our love for each other. 

Now the two streams of thought call to mind, and find their completion in, the familiar writings of Saint Paul on the subject, which are exquisite as is the writing of Saint John - "the beloved disciple" in old age which are called to mind also :  

Saint Paul  Corinthians 1 :13

1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
 3If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
 7Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
And :
Saint John 1 – 4: 7-12
"
My dear people,
let us love one another
since love comes from God
and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God,
because God is love.

God's love for us was revealed
when God sent into the world his only Son
so that we could have life through him;
this is the love I mean:
not our love for God,
but God's love for us when he sent his Son
to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.

My dear people,
since God has loved us so much,
we too should love one another.
No one has ever seen God;
but as long as we love one another
God will live in us
and his love will be complete in us."

SUMMARY 
We have the evidence of God Himself - who "is Love" - that Love gives of itself. It does not withhold itself, either to penalise, to be "hurt", or to contemplate its own purposes.
Genuine Love cannot restrain its giving even unto Death - Death on the Cross. Genuine Love is concentrated on the good of the beloved. 

What a powerful example our loving Saviour has given us, for our proper response to him, and to those He has placed in our lives.

And we must never forget the seal He placed on the obligation to love, with His " New Commandment" :

Having moments before, for the first time, called these burly fishermen and men of the world 
" Little children..." on this sacred Holy Thursday , he says -

" A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." John  14 - 13 : 34

" As I have loved you...?" How is that?  Totally, self-lessly , sacrificially.Our Divine Lord had always known the horrors tomorrow - Good Friday - would bring . But He yearned for it for the good of those He loves - even until the end of time. How fortunate we sinners are.


Friday, February 12, 2016

LOVE - REVEALING THE CENTRALITY OF LOVE

SAINT JOHN ON PATMOS
Recurringly in his Gospel and his other writings, St.John leaves off his narrative, for a major reflection on the meaning of the Life of Christ, and the significance of aspects of it


In his Gospel , ( 3:16) he opens up the subject of God's Love:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish
but have eternal life.
For God sent the Son into the world,
not to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through Him.
He who believes in Him is not condemned;
he who does not believe in Him is condemned already,
because he has not believed in the Name of the only Son of God.
And this is the judgement, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light,because their deeds were evil.
For everyone who does evil hates the light,and does not come to the light,
lest his deeds should be exposed.
But he who does what is true comes to the light,
that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.

Later, in the First Epistle of Saint John (iv : 7 -11), he reveals how that Divine Love flows through us outward to transform the world:
Beloved, let us love one another;
for love is of God,and he who loves
is born of God and knows God.
He who does not love does not know God;
for God is Love.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us,
that God sent His only Son into the world,
so that we might live through Him.
In this is love,
not that we loved God but that He loved us
and sent His Son to be the expiation of our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 
No man has ever seen God; if we love one another,
God abides in us and His Love is perfected in us.

There we have laid out for us, by the Divinely inspired Saint John, the beloved disciple, the full significance of Divine Love for each of us and for the world at large. It is inspiring and challenging and gives us the measure of our success or otherwise as followers of Christ.

THINGS ARE GETTING BETTER

Sometimes it pays to look back, to see just how bad things have been  - and to realise how much they have improved.


ARCHDIOCESE OF BRISBANE - THE BATHERSBY YEARS 2001 CYCLONIC DEPRESSION PART IV

ARCHBISHOP BATHERSBY OF BRISBANE  -  SHEPHERD OF THE BRISBANE FLOCK
BANNED IN BRISBANE


On 26th November, 2001 I received from the Administrator of the Cathedral Father Peter Dillon the following letter of confirmation :
""Dear Tony,
As I stated in our conversation on Monday morning 26 th November,I believe it is no longer appropriate for you to continue as a lector and minister of Holy Communion at St.Stephen's Cathedral, effective 27th November, 2001.
Yours sincerely,
P.Dillon
Fr, P.Dillon
Administrator
St. Stephen's Cathedral
cc Archbishop J.A.Bathersby

ARCHBISHOP BATHERSBY  - Not, not, not responsible.


I allowed several days to pass before responding:

Reverend & Dear Father,

I have received your letter dated 26th November 2001 confirming in indirect language your decision to ban me from the roles of reader ( not "lector") and Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist ( not "Minister of Holy Communion") after eight years of faithful service at the weekday 8.00 a.m. Mass and Sunday 10.00 a.m. Mass . You did not confirm your reasons.

For the record, your reasons given to me on Monday 26 in an interview in your office were:

i) that I had sent a copy of my letter to His Grace, requesting that he act to end the abuse of liturgical texts in his Cathedral, to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in Rome;

ii) that I had in an article in The Courier Mail "criticised"the Archbishop;

iii)you said that I did "not seem to be in sympathy with what we are trying to do here";

iv)you made a confused reference to an article I wrote in The Courier Mail on Archbishop Rush, but did not seem to be able to reach any precision - perhaps you mistook it for one written by Father Bill O'Shea in The Australian .

You well know that in seeking to avoid abuse of liturgical texts in the Cathedral I had in late 1999 spoken to Sister Kari Hatherall, then to you. Finally as you know, you relayed to me His Grace's decision "that he would not allow the use of the NRSV translations because too many people had been making trouble for him in Rome". Is it any wonder then, that after two years of increasing abuse of liturgical texts despite that decision of His Grace, I wrote to him again? And noting the reasoning that His Grace used, is it any wonder that I sent a copy of the letter "to Rome"?No reasonable person could argue that I had no right to do so.In fact, given the knowledge I had, it was my duty to do so.

I did not criticise His Grace in The Courier Mail . I did question the decision to appoint a local nun ( whatever her position) to investigate the witchcraft and lesbianism issues tainting several religious orders, and suggested that it might have been more appropriate to have the matter examined by the Congregation for Consecrated Life. I am not an advisor to His Grace, I am not an employee of His Grace, therefore I am not bound in any sense to refrain from public comment on his discretionary decisions. In the role of Reader and Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist there is no atom of conflict between the exercise of those roles and the expression of a legitimate difference of opinion with His Grace on procedural decisions in public matters.

As for not "being in sympathy with what we are trying to do here", when I respectfully asked what that was, you responded after reflection that it was "to reach out and be more inclusive"". You then proceeded to exclude me. For my part I confirm my response that all I have ever wanted was to do what the Catholic Church does and see taught what the Catholic Church teaches.

To conclude Father, I believe your action is unwarranted and unjustifiable. It is not as if I were a cleric attacking in writing a  formal document issued with the Holy Father's approval or one who allowed it to be published in a church publication. No, I have only done what was my right and duty. And for that you have done me a grave injustice. Your motives only you know.

Yours sincerely
in Our Lord

TONY DIXON

cc Archbishop Bathersby


THE COURIER MAIL SEES A CHANCE TO
RESURRECT THE STORY - "THE HEX FILES"



The Courier Mail using its reporter Wayne Smith whose uneven efforts we saw in the Part III, reported on the INSIDE MAIL page on Saturday, 8th December, 2001in a full page account. on an interview with Archbishop Bathersby newly returned from Rome after his encounter with the Anglicans and, it later became evident with the Holy See. Whether the interview was sought by the Paper or by His Grace is not made clear , but considering the situation, it is unlikely that the Paper would have been aware of his return and seems more likely that His Grace sought the interview which was conducted in his office in his residence at "Wynberg". He may have felt he had a point to make.


The major Heading was The HEX Files"and the mocking sub heading was "Bizarre rituals, shadowy figures, spies and special investigator Scully.Wayne Smith reports on the Catholic Church in Queensland."


The introductory paragraphs set the tone

"Take Christ out of Christianity and what you have left is almost enough letters to form the word "insanity", which is precisely what John Bathersby, Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, is fighting on the left and right of his unruly flock.
In His Grace's own words, a lot of " silliness"has crept into the Church since the Second Vatican Council, with well meaning, even divinely inspired priests and religious so zealously pursuing social justice objectives that they have lost contact with what should be the touchstone of their faith, Christ Himself."
(Emphasis added.)

Witchcraft, Lesbianism,support for Pro- Abortion groups : "silliness"! Even "divinely inspired""silliness"- a first indeed!

But wait, there's more : another can of worms has its lid lifted for a peek :

"But other disturbing activities also caught his eye. He already has had a quiet word to those at St. Mary's church in South Brisbane responsible for inviting the congregation to ring the altar during the Consecration of the Blessed Eucharist during the Mass. That in itself is no more than unusual. One imagines that it is precisely how the early church celebrated Mass.

What takes it into the Bathersby realm of "silliness"is that the lay people at St. Mary's are not just silent onlookers but effectively co-celebrants with the Priest , saying the words of Consecration - a sacred act of the Catholic Faith and one that is the preserve of Priests alone.

There are, too, reports of Brisbane Priests advising their congregations to pray for the death of Pope John Paul II, on the grounds that not until this dogmatic traditionalist dies will the Church be able to move forward and re- establish its relevance in the lives of the faithful. Silly stuff, indeed."

"Yeah, that's the big danger. If the Church is not praying at the same time as its engaging with the world, things can go haywire"Archbishop Bathersby is quoted as saying.

But now we seem to come to the reason for the interview:

""What Bathersby sees as silliness , they( "many within the Brisbane Church") view as heresy and want it stamped out, hard and ruthlessly. And if the Archbishop, by any measure a compassionate caring man, doesn't have enough steel in his backbone to purge his Archdiocese of these blasphemers, then he himself will have to be stamped out.
 That is precisely the way those on the right are playing it , hard and ruthless, as His Grace well knows.

"Oh, they'd like to have me removed, no doubt about it" Bathersby said.


Archbishop Bathersby  -  "have me removed"
His alleged failures to bring the radical left to heel - indeed, his own tacit support for such revolutionaries - regularly are reported to Rome, a grown-up version of "school yard snitching"he finds particularly distasteful.
"It is not the type of way I would operate"he said,. "It doesn't seem to me to be a very Australian thing to do. If they feel this is the way to promote the reign of God according to their vision, if they can get rid of this (arch)bishop, well O.K. - that's the way it is."

After a long excursion discussing who might be out to get him, Opus Dei, Catholic Advocacy, Latin Mass groups ( scary) ,the National Civic Council, and so on His Grace is quoted again ::
"I just feel the Second Vatican Council gave a much more dynamic vision. Gosh, I believe so deeply in Christianity...I hate to see it when it sets out of kilter. And it can get out of kilter one way or the other
 Christianity can never be a little , narrow view of life. It's an absolutely magnificent broad view of life.........I don't mind if they're emphasising the authority of the Pope, which I follow too, but again, it has to be the whole picture. The Pope would be so far to the left of some of these people that it just wouldn't be funny, you see."

By now the construct  of the article has become clear His Grace portrayed as "a compassionate, caring man"is beset by the evil "hardliners" , witchcraft and lesbianism and support for pro-Abortion groups by nuns is "silliness"and here he is loving the Pope and loved by him....what is wrong with everyone else??? Recently, one of the Archbishop's most outspoken critics, former Archdiocesan manager Tony Dixon , was removed as a reader and a Minister of the Eucharist at St. Stephen' s Cathedral.
Bathersby was unaware that the action was going to be taken but nonetheless he approved of it. "I certainly did not give those orders, but it seemed reasonable"", he said. "The Cathedral is the Archbishop's church. If it was your own household.....

I really want to put this strongly. I didn't do that. But it seems reasonable to me. I wasn't surprised. It wasn't the first time there has been disagreement there."

"The only hint of testiness from the Archbishop during this interview came when it was suggested to him that Scully's investigation should be widened to look at suspect practices across the Archdiocese, not merely confined to the vexatious WOMENSPACE issue.

"Oh, no,no,no"", Bathersby responded No, definitely not. I mean, I'm going around the Parishes all the time. Apart from this odd , inappropriate behaviour ( an apparent reference to WOMENSPACE) its not widespread.".........."My job has to be to be a focus of unity for the Church, I have to try to hold people together and you get people at both extremes.....""

"Compassionate and caring"for witchcraft , lesbianism Pro-Abortion supporting Nuns,but at least uncaring , perhaps even publicly vengeful toward one who seeks to have wrongs righted and duty done? A "focus of unity"........

We behold the man.

Having been so wrongly described and publicly attacked in the Paper, I felt obliged to respond.:

"10th December, 2001

Attention Mr. Terry Quinn
Managing Editor

Dear Sir,

In Wayne Smith's article The Hex Files ( CM 8.12.01) I am wrongly described as "one of the archbishop's most outspoken critics."

I have twice written for The Courier Mail and on neither occasion have I criticised His Grace. Nor have I done so in any other publication. The description is false. I did question the appropriateness of having a local nun investigate local nuns.

For his part, His Grace has in the view of a very large number of people , attacked me in an unprecedented manner in his letter to The Courier Mail  and condoned an unwarranted and unseemly administrative attack on me in the abovementioned article. His Grace's Advent Pastoral Letter delivered in the Cathedral called for "Peace, Justice and Freedom". I pray for it. I am no "spy"but I won't ignore outrageous actions when they confront me in the normal course of worship.

I am not an advisor to His Grace, I am not an employee of His Grace, therefore I am not bound in any sense to refrain from public comment on his discretionary decisions. In the role of reader and Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist there is no atom of conflict between the exercise of those roles and the expression of a legitimate difference of opinion with His Grace on procedural decisions in public matters. Where is my "freedom", to express an opinion? Where is the "justice"in my banning? Some it seems , favour freedom of speech only as long as they are doing the speaking.

All I have ever sought is  to do what the Catholic Church does and to have taught what the Catholic Church teaches - no abuse of the Liturgy and no bowdlerized Sacred Scripture.

There is no need for imagining hidden enemies. The interview was quite revealing.

Yours sincerely

TONY DIXON.

The letter was sent by Email and Fax.


The Paper published in its "Snippets"Section the following:

"In Wayne Smith's article "The HEX Files"( INSIDE MAIL Dec. 8) I am wrongly described as "one of the archbishop's most outspoken critics. TONY DIXON)

Having allowed me to be publicly attacked in its pages, the Paper cynically had denied me any chance of effective rebuttal . An interesting glance at "" the freedom of the Press".Several of those who subsequently wrote to the Paper and to His Grace provided me with copies of what they had written, which evidenced how clearly they had seen the truth of the situation.


PRIESTS SUPPORT


I received  a copy of a summary of the proceedings at a meeting of Priests "" In support of Archbishop Bathersby"which had been called a week before following contact from Rome by the Archbishop to a Priest here.

36 of the Archdiocese's approx. 250 Priests attended and they are named in the document - they included Father Peter Dillon, Father Bill O'Shea a past Rector of the Banyo Seminary and the then current Rector  and the Moderator of the Archdiocese appointed by His Grace and on priest very long retired and sadly demented, and a number of Priests I know were there simply to see what went on.

at Priests'Assembly 2002


The Chairman noted that the Council of Priests had already passed a motion in support of the Archbishop sending a copy to the Nuncio. The Chairmen hoped the Priests would support this "He then gave the Archbishop the opportunity to speak in reply - and to tell us what terrible things happened to him in Rome".

"The Archbishop immediately declared that he was amazed at this show of support. He was deeplymoved by and appreciative of this gesture. By word and gesture, and repetition, he could not have been more emphatic in driving this message home, given his customarily understated speaking style."

"In Rome by the way, there had been no Court - Martial , no trial, he had not been put in any dungeon. "

He recounted two hours spent with Cardinal Kasper on ecumenism, then he was received by the Pope "who gave him his Blessing"He the visited the Archbishop of Canterbury and "did a retreat there".He then said "I ENJOYED Rome". There followed an extensive talk on his appreciation of Vatican II."There were those who did not like him - and he really could not understand why. He then corrected himself and said no, he did understand why they did not like him"

The Meeting concluded without any significant further comment.

RINGING TRUE?

There is an evident falsity about the account. If everything in Rome was so jolly and congenial, why was the meeting summoned and why was there a Council of Priests Motion of support sent to the Nuncio? All of  this and the early obvious request to The Courier Mail for an interview suggests the Archbishop seriously" had the wind up."

He had come to this Meeting from Adelaide where the President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference is Archbishop of Adelaide.  Seeking support?

But for Australia , like the rest of the Western World Christmas was approaching, the media was tired of Church abuses for the moment and looked for stories better keyed to the big advertising season as they see it.

 A breather for the Archbishop.


LOVE SAINT PETER AND PURSUIT BY THE HOUND OF HEAVEN

So many people are still attracted to this Post, that we thought it appropriate to present it again to all our readers and their friends.

THE MIRACLE OF LOVE - SAINT PETER AND THE HOUND OF HEAVEN

SAINT PETER


This post had an unusual origin but I believe it will be useful, perhaps to a particular person I shall never meet.
Saint Peter is of particular importance in the long history of the Church. We know a reasonable amount about him. He came from Capharnaum where he lived with his wife and mother-in-law. He was a fisherman together with his brother Andrew, and it seems they had more than one boat , so they may have been significant among the local fishermen. Fishermen are proverbially rough and tumble folk , hardy and hard living. So it might seem surprising that Jesus chose Simon Bar-Jonah - for that was then his name, to be an Apostle.Jesus knew all about Simon of course, but Simon did not yet know that.
 Such was the power of God's grace at work, that when Jesus bade Simon and Andrew to "Come follow Me, and I will make you Fishers of men", they dropped their nets and followed Him. In those earliest days their following of the Master was evidently not full time. For a day or so later , we find the two have been fishing when Jesus comes to them and bids them to push out into the deep , and put down their nets for a catch. Here, the Fisherman in Peter comes out fully and he tells Jesus they have been out all night and caught nothing, but, God's grace gets the better of the Fisherman, and because it is Jesus who makes the request, Simon will do it.
And what a catch it is! The nets are full to breaking!
Simon is no fool- he knows that what he is seeing is supernatural and that Jesus is the Person responsible for it. He still does not understand that Jesus knows everything. He kneels before Our Lord and begs Him in great humility :"Depart from me, for I am a sinful man O Lord".
Centuries later , the poet Francis Thompson ( 1859-1907),  because of the misguided medical practice of his day, became addicted to the tincture of Opium, called Laudanum , then very widely used for the relief of pain. Thompson was a devout man , and haunted by his addiction, which after repeated relapses killed him. He was always conscious of God's love and of God's pursuit of him no matter how seriously he fell. He wrote the marvellous, harrowing poem "The Hound of Heaven" to describe the unremitting character of God's love for him, even when -  in the grip of his addiction - he was rejecting it. He wrote of the Hound of Heaven pursuing him "down the labyrinthine ways". He was aware that this loving pursuit was part of a process , and cried out in anguish "Must Thou char the wood, ere'st Thou can limn with it?"

Saint Peter was at the beginning of the discovery of the constant faithfulness of God's Love, at the beginning of being "charred"that the Lord might "limn"with him.

We know even more about Saint Peter, for his personality radiates strongly from the Gospels and his Epistles. Saint Peter is seen to be a man of burning enthusiasms which cause him to often commit himself beyond the strength of his will or common prudence.He is a spontaneous, big hearted man .He means well but often stumbles. Jesus in due course let Peter know that He had him summed up all along. For He said to him "Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not,: and thou being once converted confirm thy brethren."

This was a remarkable Revelation of the Life of the  Trinity in effect, but Simon's personality has no time for reflection on Divine wonders : his gratitude and enthusiasm wells up and he positively gushes : "Lord, I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison, and to death." We will return to this exchange in due course - but for the moment it clearly reveals the generous, well intentioned  character of Saint Peter.

Earlier on , Our Lord had given Simon Bar - Jonah  a new name - the beginning of the ancient tradition of adopting "names in religion" - e.g. Brother Albanus, Sister Austin, Father Antonio and Pope Pius XI. In many areas this custom begun by Our Lord has been abandoned by those who say"I gotta be ME". Be that as it may, Our Lord gave Simon the name "Cephas"( in Greek) that is "Petrus"(in Latin) and "Peter"(in English).
The word means "Rock" and Our Lord went on to say "And upon this Rock , I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it."

There are two times in the Gospels when it seems to me anyway, we can, between the lines see a loving affectionate smile likely on Our Lord's face. One is when the rather short, rich publican Zaccheus clambers up into a sycamore tree in his enthusiasm to see the Lord. He must have looked ridiculous, short, rich , no doubt overweight hanging up there in a tree like some street urchin. And Jesus bids him by name to come down quickly "for this day I must abide in thy house". Each time I read it I cannot avoid the thought that Our Lord was gently, kindly looking upon this man who was in haste and desperation to know Him. Similarly, Our Lord chose the name "Rock"for Simon to reflect the historic role this improbable man was to have in the history of the world. Yet, knowing Simon as the Sacred Scripture presents him to us, warts and all, is there anyone who could be in essence less like a "Rock"? Solid, reliable - that is not the Simon we come to know. But Jesus knows EVERYTHING about Simon Peter and knows all his weakness, and He also knows what he can become with the Holy Spirit's help. Jesus loves Simon Peter, he loves that big-heartedness, that generosity of spirit, and even that weakness that brings all the positives so often undone.It is hard to resist the thought that there was a certain gentle, loving irony in Our Lord's choice of "Rock"for His very wobbly Apostle.

Time and again we see Saint Peter revealed in  various situations, acting in the same way. On the Lake the Apostles  see the a figure walking on the water as they fear their boat will sink in the storm. "Be of good heart : it is I, fear not"Jesus says. Peter as usual in moments of stress or trouble is the one to speak up :"Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come to Thee upon the waters."

Now, a more natural response would have been " Lord , come here and save us ". But Peter was no doubt inspired to say what he did in order that a salutary lesson could be taught.Jesus simply answered "Come"" and that was enough for Peter, over the side he went and began to walk on the water toward Jesus! His Faith drove him. But, what was this? The wind was howling in his face and the sea was lashing him and :"seeing the wind strong, he was afraid: and when he began to sink he cried out saying : "Lord save me".And immediately Jesus stretching forth His hand took hold of him , and said to him : "O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?"The lesson is plain for the Church and for all of us, our Faith must be strong and constant in good times and in the face of horrendous opposition, and Our Loving Lord will always see us through!

Still later, very late in the day , as Our Lord , in the Upper Room, goes to wash the feet of Peter, we see typical Peter - he has looked askance as Jesus  washed the feet of the others - this is not fitting he thinks, and he  cannot stop himself saying "Lord, doest Thou wash my feet?"  Unworthy me - and you the Christ - the Son of the Living God! But Jesus answers simply : "What I do thou knowest not now;  but thou shalt know hereafter."Peter is determined and emphatic : "Thou shalt never wash my feet."

Jesus is calm , but resolute : "If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with Me." The response is typically Peter - the big heart, the great enthusiasm : "Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head". Jesus answers him gently, correctingly, as one might speak to an excitable child: "He that is washed, needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly. And you are clean, but not all of you."( The discourse goes on to deal with Judas Iscariot.)

Later in the evening, in the Garden of Gethsemane, when the Temple police/soldiers come to arrest the Lord, and they move to lay hands upon him, Peter - ever excitable- forgets Jesus' foretelling that He must suffer, and whipping out a sword lashes out and cuts off the ear of one of the Temple police. Instantly Jesus commands him to put up his sword and heals the man's ear. Peter is slow to learn , but very quick to act and talk. Earlier he had, as we know assured Our Lord that he would gladly go to prison or to death with Jesus. And the Lord had promised him that before the cock crowed Peter would deny Him three times - not once, but - systematically - three times.

So it happens ,in the outer courts of the High Priest's home, whilst the Lord of the World is being questioned and insulted by the proud High Priests who had bought their offices from the Roman conquerors, and assaulted by their crude troops, Peter is hovering safely outside hoping to hear what happens. Not so safely, as it transpires. For three time in succession he is challenged as a follower of Jesus by common servants of the household.The cock indeed crows and as the Lord is being led out . He is to be imprisoned for a few hours until they can hurry Him as early as possible on Friday before the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate. The Gospel is dramatically sparse in recording the scene. Here is Peter, still in the panicky flush of his third denial of Christ - Jesus is led out past him, and Peter sees his sorry, bloodied condition and the rough handling He is receiving. He is stricken and sick with guilt. And Jesus... and Jesus.. the Gospel tells us simply two words : "Conversus Dominus". The Lord turned and looked at Peter. No words of reproof, no accusation, no correction. The Anointed One - the Christ -  simply, sadly looked at Peter. And Peter, we are told, burst into bitter and uncontrolled tears. Tears which were to recur and recur as the years passed and he absorbed the horror of what he had done. Tradition has it that his tears created great furrows down his face.

SAINT PETER - El Greco 
Time passed, the Resurrection, the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and Peter is transformed - there he is , the Leader preaching to and converting thousands, speaking out boldly in front of the Temple authorities and defying their strictures not to preach about Christ.He is transformed - largely - but still human. When there are no Jews around Peter rightly ignores the now displaced old Law dietary restrictions. But when some Jews come to town, rather than risk a confrontation with them, Peter conforms to those dietary restrictions. Saint Paul , not without his own human weaknesses , as he tells us elsewhere,and we see for ourselves, will have none of this and confronts Peter on the point and wins the day. A little glimpse of the old weak willed Peter had been seen and put down.

Peter is now no longer a young man. This work of evangelisation had obviously not come easily to someone who had known nothing but catching fish. But he had walked with Jesus Christ and learned from Him and he had received the Holy Spirit, and years on the Mission had made the most of him, from Capharnaum to Jerusalem, to Antioch and finally to Rome the home of the Beast the monstrous pagan Empire. Now as an old man, he works on in the heart of the Evil Empire when persecution breaks out. It seems that the whole future of the Church ( Christ's promise to be with her always forgotten perhaps) is at risk. It is decided that Saint Peter and numbers of the disciples should save themselves by escaping the City. Out they tramp along the Appian Way, until Saint Peter meets, he meets Jesus Himself carrying His Cross in the opposite direction! Peter cries out to Him "Quo Vadis , Domine?" "Where are you going Lord?"

The answer is concise "Iterum Romam Crucifigi!' "I am going to Rome to be crucified again!" Saint Peter, even in his old age is still being pursued and humiliated by his failings. He turns about and returns to Rome against all human wisdom. Here traditionally. he was martyred on the very same day as Saint Paul. Paul a Roman Citizen - that proudest boast of the ancient world - had the "privilege"of being beheaded. But this Jewish Fisherman Peter is to be Crucified as befits aliens. But now he has courage in word and in deed : he asks that he be crucified upside down, saying he is not worthy to be crucified as was Jesus Christ. And so it happened on the Circus of Nero across the road from the Vatican Hill and he was taken across that road for burial in the cemetery there which can now be seen in the Scavi or Excavations under Saint Peter's Basilica.
Crucifixion of SAINT PETER - Carravagio

The Hound of Heaven , the Love of God , had pursued Peter across the Roman world and won the conclusive victory at what is now the Heart of Christ's Church. The lesson is immense for all of us, God's Love for us is relentless and ardent. No matter what our weaknesses, no matter how often we stumble, God loves us and pursues us for our salvation .The Miracle of Love - how could we fail to respond?
TONY DIXON  

Thursday, February 11, 2016

LOVE CHANGES EVERYTHING


LOVE
VIRGIN AND CHILD JESUS

Love, the song tells us: “Love, changes everything….” This was of course written about romantic love, with its myriad complications. But it is no less true of all other forms of love and there are numbers of them.

Where do we see Love? We can most readily recognise it by its concomitants:

Communication, Respect, Joy, Spontaneity, Loyalty and Attention.

Yes, even outside romantic Love, Love changes everything.
It is important to test our relationships with those we love along these lines, to see how well we are playing our part.

But when we come to consider the ultimate non-romantic Love – our love for God Most High, our testing needs to be intense, for this is a matter of an entirely different order, and some of those concomitants even change their realities and their  names.

For Communication we have Prayer,
for Respect we have Worship
and for Attention we have Devotion. 

PRAYER, WORSHIP AND DEVOTION  IN THE ACT OF GENUFLECTION

Joy, Spontaneity and Loyalty, in regard to our love of God, seem, strangely to become, in many cases,  victims of the modern world and its pre-occupations.

That this is so, suggests that some prior intrusion has subverted the person’s love of God. For, if through Prayer , Worship and Devotion one is evidencing commitment to God, Joy, Spontaneity and Loyalty would be such as to “ overcome the World” especially with the aid of the Holy Spirit.
So perhaps we are driven back to re-assess the quality of that Prayer, Worship and Devotion.

The old saying “Familiarity breeds contempt” is deep in wisdom and applies in many ways and situations. But in the case of our relationship to Almighty God the risks are too great to neglect the most extraordinary measures to avoid it being a factor. Yet this seems to be the very nub of the matter.

We see of course, in times of woe, a rapid and intense scurrying back to God for help – in times of war, disaster, grief, illness etc. even on a community wide scale. This phenomenon is hardly new; consider this poem by the English Poet Francis Quarles from 1632:

Our God and soldier we alike adore,
Even at the brink of danger, not before;
After deliverance, both alike requited.
Our God’s forgotten, and our soldiers slighted.”

But this Season of Lent, which leads us, and should condition us, to enter into Holy Week and to experience the glorious joy of Easter, seeks to help us to “ get real “ , to wake up to ourselves and shake off that familiarity that breeds contempt or even carelessness.

And, if you had the slightest lingering doubt that “ Love changes everything” pay attention to Saint John who speaks to us, not about our love for God, no, but about God’s love for us-

CRUCIFIXUS ETIAM PRO NOBIS


“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

The Word made Flesh, for the love of the Father, burst out of Eternity into the sad confines of Time, to manifest the Father's infinite love for us.And to suffer grievously , and to die horribly, that we might be saved from our sins. 

Truly God's Love changes EVERYTHING.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

FAITH AND REASON VERSUS EMOTIONALISM

YOUR SCRIBE STANDING HAPPILY BEFORE SAINT PETER'S BASILICA IN 2009
PLENTY OF EMOTION THERE
At the heart of Catholicism is Faith. Faith in the God Man Jesus Christ who died on the Cross to bring to everyone everywhere the chance of Salvation -  if they choose it.For this reason He established his Church which, after only a few decades came to be called Catholic - that is universal.

The handmaid of that Faith, in authentic Catholicism ,has always been Reason.The relationship has been explicit since the time of Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas later on.In more recent times it was thoroughly examined by  Pope Saint John Paul II  in his Encyclical " Fides et Ratio" - Faith and Reason.

In the course of a casual exchange with friends to-day, it became clearer to me how very much this insistence on " Reason" has put the Catholic Church at odds with the modern world. At first blush, this might seem odd for an institution founded on Faith. For the modern world in its glibness, would inevitably assume Faith to be the antithesis of Reason.

But strangely enough, it is largely the modern world that has abandoned the use of Reason. Reason flourishes on truth - and the modern world is inclined to reject the very concept of absolute truth.

 Instead we are increasingly experiencing a world run on Emotionalism.And this Emotionalism slides so easily past truths , whilst making "everyone" feel good in the process. This phenomenon frequently brings the modern world into direct confrontation with the Catholic Church. Furthermore it is often used as an instrument when the Catholic Church is singled out for attack.

And Emotionalism walks happily hand in hand with " Niceness" which is the adopted badge of the modern world .

Let us look at this phenomenon in action. The Catholic Church opposes in vitro fertilisation for the sound logical reason that in the process of its operation, very many "unwanted" fertilised human eggs are destroyed once the desired fertilised human egg has been implanted. These are true human lives - destroyed as " unwanted".The IVF Industry is a big one peopled by highly educated and remunerated professionals and its clients are emotion -stirring would-be but can't be parents.

The Industry and the Media employ the most primitive Emotionalism in defending and expanding  their patch. The newly become parents and the IVF child are used most effectively to melt hearts and promote the trade. Who can resist a new born baby and loving parents. The deceased "unwanted" are not to be seen - flushed away in secrecy.Not present to the parents' minds. Emotionalism 10  Reason NIL in the public mind.

If we need another example let us look at the selling of " Homosexuality" in the Media. We all know that the Catholic Church teaches that Same Sex Attraction is not in itself sinful but that Homosexual Genital Activity is.It follows rationally that the promotion of an active Homosexual Lifestyle is immoral. But in the mainstream media an active Homosexual Lifestyle IS actively promoted in TV ,Film, print media etc. In the Media active Homosexuals are presented as happy, handsome, nice, clean, socially acceptable and entertaining. They are inevitably shown as "fun" people.Anything that would disturb the Happy Emotionalism is hidden in secrecy. 

When recently a movie was made on the life of the late pianist  Liberace and his homosexual partner, it was apparently quite graphic concerning their more intimate life. It was not accepted for distribution by any of the American distribution networks. Morals? No! They simply did not want people to see, or rather they knew the 97% of the population not Homosexual did not want to see, the ugly truth about Homosexual life. Nothing must disturb the " nice" Emotionalism within which its promoters thrive with warm and fuzzy talk of "rights" and "equality" etc. So the field is left clear for their campaign to hide the reality.  Emotionalism 10 Reason NIL in the popular mind.

Again , let us consider the issue of Sexual Abuse. The Catholic Church is totally opposed to any form of sexual abuse by Clergy, Teachers or anybody for that matter. It is , nevertheless a fact that at any time it is possible that some cleric or teacher within the Church might abuse their position of trust in this matter. It is a patent fact that in the past, particularly in the 1960s, 70s and the early 80s the number of such offences rose to equal the level in the general population. Because of remedial action it has since fallen way back to its historical negligible level. ( So much so that in the USA where there are over 38,000 Catholic Priests, only 6 credible allegations were made according to an independent agency, in the last year.) 

But these are horrendous offences and several decades of victims, well organised by fee for success lawyers and the delight of the media are used to keep the matters alive by Emotionalism. No number of apologies by Priests, Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals and Popes satisfies the cameras. Did you apologise? - you were insincere. Did you pay compensation? - not enough. Did you follow legal advice like we do ? - Heartless!

Of course the real victims themselves are tragic figures and one can understand their emotion and perhaps passionate demands. But the media and the lawyers and the victims organisers need to keep the thing going.Emotionalism is the means. Reason is nowhere welcome. Emotionalism 20 Reason Nil.

Sometimes the perverse influence of Emotionalism is more subtle. Take for instance, the bumper stickers which urge one to "Perform Random Acts of Kindness". But Christ's Catholic Church urges us to perform systematic acts of kindness, in fact to make our lives reflect God's Love at all times.The modern world's citizen is satisfied by Emotionalism's " niceness" and the quick fix of the idea of " random acts". None of that commitment stuff - " you can't expect me to change my life". 

The more we reflect on it, the more it becomes apparent to what extent people are abandoning Reason and embracing Emotionalism. How often do we hear people ( and even Government leaders) say " I feel that we need to..." Or " I feel it is time we....". It is so much easier to "feel" than to rationally argue why a thing ought to be done or to happen. And it is so much easier to hide unwelcome truths from people, or to act in a manner that cannot be justified, if one only has to tell them what one feels.

Emotion has its place. In fact it can often reflect a complex of ideas which we would find it difficult at the time to rationalise. But Emotionalism as a substitute for Reason is not only inadequate, it is mostly perverse.