Father Ed's Blog

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Dehumanisation causes violence not religion!

We witnessed evil at play in Manchester this week. Children and young people targeted by a depraved man. What darkness must have infested his soul to lead him to this demonic conclusion. And after the prayers and tears a nation is, again, left aghast. Why? Why must we endure these ever frequent horrors of terrorism? Why so much bloodshed and hate?

The answer is, of course, complex. And to answer satisfactorily we must explore various strands that combine to produce the modern terrorist. One strand is undoubtedly Islam itself. Because, leaving aside the millions of peaceful followers which are to its credit, a question remains; why does Islam so dominate the landscape in the production of hate crazed lunatics?

With over 90% of terrorist activity stemming from the Islamic world- there is much for the Muslim community to ponder in seeking a solution and answer to this question. Apologies if this question offends politically correct sensibilities but it is reasonable. And my own Muslim friends acknowledge it. How might we stand by these, the decent Muslims, to denounce the wicked in their ranks? A subject I have written about in a previous post

We must also acknowledge the influence of politics. For there is no doubt that the rise of Wahabi fanaticism is linked to Western meddling in the Middle East. How the media demonise refugees whilst failing to acknowledge that the West created these refugees thanks to bombs we dropped. You cannot wreak havoc and not expect backlash. And as we tend wounds and bury our dead we in the West might ponder how such carnage is now daily reality for Middle Easterners. Why did the Arab Spring, so lauded by the Western press, turn into a desolate winter of suffering not a summer of liberty? Is it not because our real intentions were centred on greed not decency?

Finally let me put a silly (but widely held) supposition to bed. One rife on social media. Namely that religion is to blame for violence. This argument will not do because it does not stand to reason. Firstly because most every conflict was started by politicians not priests.  Religion is just a convenient banner to justify brutality theft and dominance. Only a cretinous grasp of history would deny this.

Secondly if religion were the cause of violence you would produce peace if it was removed. But Pol Pot, Stalin and every other dictator prove, beyond doubt, this is fantasy. History demonstrates atheistic regimes, if anything, produce more death not less. So how can it be religion? So where might we look for peace? Is it even possible given that humanity is the problem not religion?

The answer does exist, though its implementation seems unlikely at present. It can be discerned when we ponder an interesting fact. That the secular atheist has more in common with the militant terrorist than any authentic Christian. I say ‘authentic’ because nominal Christianity, though widespread, is a total sham, it is simply secular atheism wrapped up in Christian clothing.

See both the terrorist and secularist deny that life is sacred. Both endorse, albeit in slightly differing ways, the right to choose- who is worthy of life and who is not. The former dehumanises and then discounts ‘filthy infidels’ where the latter opts for unwanted children in the womb. But both play the same philosophical game. Both claim a right to state which life is worthy and which is not for their own gain.

If you doubt that secularists do this; explain why a foetus of 24 weeks is termed a ‘premature baby’, and given care, on the ward where parents desire the child. But in a different room of the same hospital a foetus of the exact same stage is washed down the sluice every day and deemed to be medical waste? Dress it up however you want, justify it as you like. Nevertheless when you endorse abortion you embrace a philosophy of winners and losers- one in which equality does not exist and death comes at the hands of another.

Whereas the true Christian (and to be fair those of no faith who see the importance of upholding the dignity of life) cannot play this game because they reject the atheistic claim that man is merely a clump of cells fighting for dominance, in the same breath that he/she rejects a fanatics claim that God only loves those of pure creed. Rather the Christian espouses a firm belief in human beings as embodied souls of infinite worth to God. And it is this belief – and this belief alone– that has the capacity to bring peace on earth. A consistent, uncompromising pro-life narrative. Whereby every one is held to be valuable and worthy of dignity from conception to the grave. No exceptions. Life is sacred.

So peace is possible but only if we embrace a belief in the sanctity of life and refuse to dehumanise others. Alas then that both the present Western culture and the lunatic fringe of the Muslim world are a long way from that position at present.  I guess we better prepare to deal with more of the inevitable fallout then, the fallout that comes when humanity is in denial of its true identity. When we refuse to accept that we are all children of God, and brothers and sisters one of the other.

Pray for the martyrs of Egypt

This dear little boy went to church on Palm Sunday to worship God alongside his family and community. He never made it to the dismissal at the end of Mass because his life was cruelly taken by wicked men. He is one of 44 martyrs of the Coptic Church in Egypt killed by Muslim fanatics in this latest terrorist attack. We must pray for them and those they leave behind.

The photographs are truly devastating and bring home the full horror of terrorism. Blood pools around pews, and a place of holiness is turned into a battle scene. People who gathered to praise God were left dead and/or traumatised. There are more pictures showing the dead, but I felt them too graphic to share. Too upsetting. but they tell the fuller story and point to the awful reality.

This week Cardinal Nichols travelled to Rome with Muslim clerics urging us to listen to the voice of Islam. That is to be applauded given the need for a working towards the building of friendships that will enable people of all faiths and none to live alongside one another with respect and love. But these photographs remind us of the greater need at present to hear the voice of the persecuted Church in the Middle East.

But we do not seem to hear them well. Perhaps it is because, in contrast to their oppressors, they are peaceful? Had this attack happened in Paris I  imagine our Facebook feeds would be full of flags and badges of support. Had the victims come from the ever trendy LGBT group the press would have done wall to wall coverage and encouraged appeals. But because these were unfashionable Christians at Mass the news only briefly registered. That is the norm, lamentably, for Christians in the Middle East who, despite having been almost driven to extinction in certain areas, cry out in need as the world looks on and does nothing.

We also need to talk far more honestly about the problems stemming from Islam. And it is Islam that is the problem not what apologists argue is ‘extremism’. For if I am ‘extreme’ in following a creed calling me to love neighbour as self and God above all things- well I will only shower blessings on the world. If, however, I am extreme in seeking the destruction of those I oppose, because there is no room for them in my creed, I become a dangerous despot. Perhaps this explains why so many terror attacks come from one particular source.

Fortunately the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, sensible seekers of God. As Cardinal Nichols helpfully reminded us. We need them to come to the fore. We must support them and vocally. But we also need call out the vile sub-section who take a literalist reading of the Koran and are a menace. As well as those who look the other way, stay silent, tacitly support etc. Which is to say you cannot keep claiming to be “the religion of peace” whilst watching your adherents carry out 90% of global terrorism. It will not do. Time to get your house in order.

Come on then Muslim leaders the world over- silence the hate preachers, stand up for peace and make cleaning up this grot your first priority! And come on leaders in the West- stop being scared to name this a Muslim issue. Stand wth the sensible Muslims and work together for peace. Enough of the bloodshed.

UPDATE: There is now some suggestion that the little boy in the first photograph was not in fact one of the martyrs. This does not change any of the facts in this post but I share that news in the interest of truth. Misinformation is always a problem in areas of war.

Will the West wake up?

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Another hideous murder by a Muslim fanatic, this time in France where a brother priest was martyred at the altar, and still the voice of elites refuse to confront the issue honestly. You know how the drill goes; we are told  Islam is not the problem, that the actions of the few are not representative, that all religions have bigots and lunatics, etc. In other words, whatever conclusion we reach about the violence, we must not single out Islam for criticism.

This is bizarre given that Islam is the connecting theme behind all recent attacks. Why the fear to admit this? Why do our leaders prefer to ban an episode of Fireman Sam- because it showed a page from the Koran and might offend the Muslim world- than ask hard questions of a religion which, whilst claiming to be peaceful, wreaks havoc across the globe?

It is time those in authority stopped swapping the uncomfortable truth for the comfortable lie. What is needed is sensible but honest rhetoric that can help us move forward. How can the problem of Islamic violence be sorted?

In defence of Islam it must be said, and loudly, that terrorism is not Islam and Islam is not terrorism. To equate the two is prejudiced on millions of decent, law abiding Muslims who deserve freedom to worship and places of honour within our community. Wherever Muslims live peacefully and with respect for people of other faiths they need to be applauded and encouraged.

More needs to be done  to highlight the voice of these sane Muslims, pointing to their example and helping them to speak out against the fanatics. When I found a story about Muslims in Syria helping Christians rebuild a church, I was quick to spread this fantastic story on social media. Wonderful! Well done those Muslims- what a credit to Islam they are! But why didn’t the mainstream media cover it? It doesn’t help when we do not get to hear about the positive contribution of Islam.

But acknowledging many Muslims are not violent does not mean Islam doesn’t have a unique problem with violence. It does. So let us stop the frequent moronic claim that equates Islam with all other faiths. That voice that loves to tell us the violence has nothing to do with Islam. It does. For whilst it is true that every religion (and the atheist world too) has a minority of violent lunatics; in terms of frequency and intensity the Muslim world is out there on its own. In just one month – June 2016- there were 238 Muslim attacks causing 2055 deaths and 2006 injuries. There were 43 suicide blasts and the attacks took place in some 33 different countries. The crimes of all other creeds pale into statistical insignificance next to these facts.

Clearly Islam alone is inspiring violence on a scale that causes 2055 deaths across 33 nations in one month. And it is this that needs addressing and acknowledging. So that hard questions get asked of Muslim clerics across the world; they are clearly  not doing enough to inspire heroic Muslims or to discourage blood thirsty tyrants. And hard questions need to be asked of Muslims who remain silent in the wake of the violence- for silence is support. Then we might isolate the monstrous that they can be dealt with and crushed- with military intervention if necessary.

Having highlighted tough questions for the Islamic world there are, of course, tough questions for the West. What part did we play in creating the monsters and why? Why did we help in the creation of Isis and arm them? How can we apologise for our part in what was billed anArab spring but turned into violent disaster? How can the Muslim world help in the essential and pressing task of ending the terror attacks? How can we better work together?

And whilst we seek the answer to that vital question can we end the fallacy, so common in the West, that Islam and Christianity are somehow the same? It might be an uncomfortable truth, but Islam is the only major religion that seems to inspire more violence in its followers the more seriously they follow their faith. The same is not true for Christianity; where the New Testament followed to the letter creates Saints, like Mother Theresa, the Koran followed to the letter seems to breed terrorists at present. It is a uniquely Muslim question then and not a multi-faith one; how can the Koran be better interpreted to ensure an end to the terrorism?

Ultimately Christianity and Islam, people of all faiths and none, must learn to live  alongside one another, with mutual tolerance and respect. That is if the world is to have peace. How do we achieve this? How do we appeal to the Muslim world for greater mutual flourishing in the face of so much Islamic violence at present?

And if the answer is that a significant group of people have zero interest in such mutual flourishing…what then? What if there is a large group who seek global domination via acts of wickedness and have no desire to change? Is it not then time for a more robust defence of the Christian world and of our Christian values? A time to consider how to thwart those whose hearts are fixed on darkness that we might protect those whose hearts are set on God. Both Christian and Muslim alike….

Kyrie Eleison.

Acton course begins 

Yesterday afternoon was busy with registration and welcome and meeting lots of interesting new people. There are nearly 1000 delegates here from 55 different countries. Dinner at my table was spent with three Americans, one Spaniard, an Irishman who works in Angola, an Argentine, a Lithuanian, a Ghanaian (yes he knows fr Jo!) and a priest from Brunai! 

After dinner the first main lecture was delivered by a most impressive woman by the name of Magatta Wade. A Senagalese Muslim business leader she is spending her life on an inspirational crusade. To challenge the system whereby Africa is dependent on aid by bringing about economic growth through the establishment of local thriving businesses. This work is, of course, hampered by how very difficult wealthy nations, Western corporations and the International Monetary Fund make it for businesses in the third world at present. Red tape exists to ensure the playing field is never fair and the wealthy will always grow richer as the poor are made to depend on them. Much of her work at present involves raising awareness and pressurising nations to do better. Do watch the film she has been involved in, which is called Povert inc; you will never view charitable work the same again!  I plan to show it in the parish on my return. 

From Burma to Rome

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Last night Benedict Rogers treated us to a cracking lecture in which he shared some truly extraordinary tales. Tales arising from his life campaigning for religious freedom and speaking out for the powerless on behalf of Christian Solidarity Worldwide. This is a truly impressive Christian man.

We heard about; a visit to North Korea, his being deported from Burma, his defence not only of Christians but of Muslims and atheists too. He told us about some inspirational characters he has met along the way, including Colonel Chris Keble whose faith was found on the battle field of the Falklands war. And we heard a very personal account of what compelled Benedict, some three years ago, to leave the Evangelical wing of the Church of England, which had fed him well, to become a Catholic at the hands of his great friend and mentor- Cardinal Bo.

After the address people snapped up the book ‘From Burma to Rome’ which Benedict has just written. It is available on Amazon for those who did not secure a copy. I began reading it last night. It is deeply devotional and inspiring in equal measure. Benedict’s sincere faith shines forth from every page. I heartily commend it to you.

An audio link of the speech will be available soon, on our parish website. The next ‘Year of Mercy’ talk will be delivered on April 13th by Fr. Paul Mason and is entitled “Blessed are those who mourn”

Thoughts at the end of the Synod

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As the Synod on the family drew to a close I was teased by a former Anglican colleague who simply said “Welcome home!” I had to laugh. He is right. It was/is hard to believe this Synod was a product of the Catholic church with its fine reputation for clarity and fidelity to revealed truth. Instead it contained all the hallmarks of an Anglican equivalent. From overly politicised divisions, stemming from obsession with the sexual revolution and relativist thinking, to an agenda centred on this life not the next.

Little wonder the final document was also thoroughly Anglican in feel; it said nothing new, the language bureaucratic and platitudinous and the real importance found in what is absent not said. Meaning the end result- failing something heroic from the Holy Father-  will be further division due to intended ambiguity that allows all and any to take from it what they will.

We already see it happening. Faithful Catholics breathe a sigh of relief because nothing changed on paper. Modernists cheer because victory is won! Doctrine may not have changed on paper but the ambiguity created provides the smoke-screen they needed to usher in change via the back door. And what is more they tested the water and were not scalded. Cardinals publicly endorsed the sexual revolution over the teaching of the faith and remain in office without censure. So now they know they can push yet harder. At present they are clearly supported, despite heterodox views, by the very body they want to overthrow. What crisis for the church of the Apostles…did John Fisher give his life for nothing?

It isn’t a case then, at this stage, of asking “who is right?” At this point we must step back and acknowledge the bigger picture. When we do a daunting image emerges; one that, however painful, must be transmitted to every soul who still cares for the church. Those who would yet guard the deposit of faith, with their lives if necessary, that it may survive without taint for future generations.

In this cause those who upheld the faith heroically on the floor of the Synod deserve our thanks. They won a battle, at some cost, but let us not pretend they won the war. It was important that the final document of this confused and confusing synod contained no change in doctrine, this helps the Catholic cause and avoided deep scandal, but such small victory does NOTHING for the cause of truth long term. It means little if the modernists continue their march unfettered and with renewed vigour. We should fear what they plan next given their clear power and influence as they walk away from this Synod.

So despite an embarrassing loss in this Synod  (using a stacked deck, so take heart) the modernist spectre remains a growing menace. And it  MUST be overthrown if we are to rid the church of the gravest menace to  faith in recent history; if we are to avoid the pit into which, lamentably, Anglicanism has fallen. To stop the rot of the dictatorship of relativism. To stand by the faith of the saints and martyrs of old.

That is not a sensationalist conclusion. The evidence stares us in the face. Helpfully, albeit tragically, elements within the Anglican church have already mapped out where this path of liberal relativism leads within the Christian faith. It is no co-incidence the most bonkers examples of practice are found where the liberal agenda has enjoyed most success. That is currently America and Scandinavia though England is fast catching up.

Nor is it co-incidence that where liberalism flourishes there you find disunity. Consider how clergy in the C of E now require bishops, out of communion with one another and aligned to different parties, just to hold the ship together. Unity comes from shared proclamation of truth not ambiguous statements designed to please all. Which is why the very fabric of the Anglican communion is unravelling. Christian decline is sharpest where relativism dictates. A truth within Catholicism too, we face the same storm at present, as the decimation of faith in Holland and Belgium make clear; liberalism leads to decay.

It strikes me this Synod was only helpful then in that it made an inescapable truth clear. There is deep division within the Catholic body which fast approaches crossroad from which Anglicanism already departed…and in the wrong direction. Ever since Vatican II prelates have been unwilling to confront this reality, papering over differences for fear of conflict at best. Advancing a false cafeteria Catholicism at worst because they themselves are in thrall of the menace. And so the spectre has only grown stronger, the threat more serious. Soon it will be too late.

If we allow synodal models of government within Catholicism, where the tricks oligarchs apply to manipulate democratic process in the world can then be used against the faithful, Satan will win the day. I have no doubt about that. Only divine intervention will then save us. Rigged synods, stacked decks,  vague documents and creeping reform are quite as effective as nails and thorns in pinning Jesus Christ to the tree. They serve well as fatal blows against his Church whose vocation never was to reinvent the faith afresh in every generation but to guard the faith in fidelity that his voice may be heard.

It is all rather gloomy then isn’t it? And the confusion of this latest papacy really isn’t helping regardless of whether you think Pope Francis is a part of the modernist game or just another victim.

What can we do then? We who, despite being concerned, have no voice in Synodal process and no way of effecting change at high levels of ecclesial life? How do we keep heads above water and remain optimistic when the battle for the life of the church falls into our laps.

Firstly by recalling victory is won. As long as we hold the line, profess the faith without compromise and keep eyes fixed on Jesus, all will be well.

Secondly by prayer, fasting and the sacraments. This battle is spiritual not political.

Thirdly by witnessing to faith within faithful parishes. We must no longer shrug our shoulders and put up with poor liturgy and bad teaching. Complain when clergy are not upholding the faith. Vote with feet and support those who are struggling to swim against the tide of relativism. Back the solution not the problem with your presence. Then parishes will come together where the faith is lived out in fullness and these can shine as lights in the darkness to recall people to where they should be. I have no doubt at all that God will bless them.

And finally dare to be a living confrontation to the lies. Dare to live out the faith courageously and unashamedly. I have long believed that society will not be healed until the church is healed and that the church will not be healed until the family is healed…so be that family that witnesses to truth. Be the holiness the church needs to recover.  Don’t look for the solution- be the solution. Be the change you want to see. This battle will be won one soul at a time. Sign up with Jesus today.

A final thought. What is presented here is my lived experience as one who entered Rome following the collapse of Anglo-Catholicism. What is so, so obvious to me is that the game is the same, the tactics of the modernists identical. The only question then is this- can Rome hold out where Anglicanism caved in….

….the answer to that will be written in the coming years and months. And it will depend on how many Catholics today cared enough to do something about it. How many were the concerned clergy and laity who did nothing out of fear in the years leading up to Anglican collapse? How many rue their timidity now as the house falls around them. The time to bury heads in sand is over. Now is the time to stand up for the faith and to fight against the modernist heresy. Lord Jesus give us the wisdom, inclination and courage to fight this battle for you and never give in to despair. Recruits should sign up at Mass in any faithful church.

Tolerance is not a Christian virtue

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One of the main things dragging Christianity down in the 21st Century, making it so weak in the fight against secularism, is a mistaken belief that “tolerance” is a shining Christian virtue. It is not and it never has been. The reason should be obvious; if we uphold “tolerance” as a major virtue soon all criticism and discernment is silenced in it’s name. All is to be tolerated….including that which is evil. An obvious affront to God for it leads to this fanciful notion that we can somehow preach mercy without justice or truth. Try telling that to victims of abuse.

The reality is that the Christian must learn how to hate. How to seriously detest the sins of this world, and their own sins too, that so mar and damage other people. They should abhor with passionate conviction false creeds too, those that lead to estrangement from God or worst to the enslavement of souls. And special hatred must be found for those false ideologies spreading violence and fear across the face of the earth. We must hate because it is linked to our love. We have to love the things of God and hate the things of the devil. But how does this work in reality?

Under such an understanding I would be justified hating the beliefs of an Isis terrorist, loathing the vile acts of murder he sanctions. But I must ever love him as a creature of God for through possession of an immortal soul he yet has the capacity to repent and embrace the life God desires of him. And should I meet a non-violent Muslim my anger subsides significantly- so much so that friendship can blossom. Not because we value tolerance understand- indeed we would probably remain intolerant of one another’s faith for we both have conviction in what we believe- no what brings us together in love would be the real virtue- the  desire for peaceful living.

Why is it then that so many of ‘that generation’ – who now occupy seats of power in the Western Church – delight in the fake virtue of tolerance over the true Christian virtues? Why is it when faced with moral issues they act as if toleration is more precious than chastity, say, or diversity more important than purity? It is as though they were government agents, employees of a secular think tank, not Apostles with zeal for Christ intent on delivering the Gospel.

Perhaps, as Chesterton suggests, the problem is loss of faith. They have lost the conviction necessary to represent Jesus Christ on earth?  It would certainly explain why so many are largely silent in the face of abortion, attacks on the family et al but positively engaged when speaking out about environment Sunday or anti-bullying Tuesday.

It is as though the Western Church has been duped. Fooled into thinking its goal is not not to save sinners and preach the faith of Christ but to teach good manners and produce right thinking citizens of state. A call to be nice and docile and keep on living comfortably not a call to faithful service which demands certain standards in service of God and in fidelity to his command.

And it is this mistaken crusade for tolerance and niceness that drained the testosterone and fight from the church. The real men have died or left long ago. (Our education system produces few to replace them- so deep is the cultural war on masculinity)  We have bred generations of nice people, clergy and laity alike, a generation scared of offending anyone and deeply resistant to conflict of any sort at all. What good is that when the church is under attack? We face the enemy with a million Larry Graysons!

And that is a major problem because kindly cowards never did build up the kingdom of God. They never were the ones  who risked all evangelising hostile nations, standing up to genuine evil and causing annoyance wherever their God was being ignored. The real men and women- the Saints- cared not a jot if the whole world hated them, just so long as Jesus loved them. On such heroic terms the martyrs went to their deaths. Men and women of God…where are you now? We need you!! Yet all I see is “roll over and tickle my tummy I want to be loved by the world”…

So to my conclusion. If I am a little cranky it is because I am ill but I really do believe that, if we are to overcome a century of decline, we must rip up the modernist copybook and start again. Its time to pull out the ancient manual that produced the saints of old. We need to form and raise a new generation of heroic men and women. We must call Christians to the lives of the Saints of old.

We need true Christian mothers and fathers, wives and husbands, teachers and priests and religious, doctors and government ministers. And when you have learnt to be real Christians with zeal and backbone- unafraid of the world and in love with your God- then please, for his sake, learn how to hate. Become a deeply intolerant people. Intolerant of all that is wicked and all that is wrong that we may build up again a Christian nation under God.

We need another Pentecost

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Below is a slightly adapted version of the sermon preached this morning on the feast of Pentecost. It helps us reflect on how we might bring about a genuine revival of faith in our day and it also reflects on the vote in Ireland yesterday.

Today we celebrate Pentecost- or Whitsun- when the descent of the Spirit gave birth to the Church. It was, quite literally, a world changing event. The moment the outward mission of the Church began and, miraculously, in just three centuries the Roman Empire, the mightiest in the world, would be won over for Christ by a handful of simple people. A people who had no resources, no contacts, no structure and no plan. In terms of global history it is unique. What happened cannot be explained, I do not think, other than by faith in the power of the Spirit.

And since then the miracle has not died. The Catholic church goes on! The only institution to have survived since the Roman Empire. It may be under attack on these shores, waning in the West, but it still grows year on year and now encompasses over a billion souls. It’s remarkable in human terms, but what is more remarkable- the mystery pointing to the presence of the Spirit- is that it has survived despite being, at times, unbelievably weak, corrupt and chaotic in terms of its organization.

Napoleon famously told the Pope he would destroy the church- the Pope told him to give it his best shot because we Christians had done our best to ruin it for over 1000 years but it just refused to die! And it is true – every crisis of the church should have killed it, every heresy should have corrupted its central message – yet despite everything it marches on- again and again- doing the work of the kingdom. What becomes clear is that the church moves in spite of not because of human involvement! Through it, no matter what befalls, God works his purpose out through the Holy Spirit.

But how to receive the Holy Spirit ourselves? That is the BIG question. How can we ensure we are directed by God’s spirit and not led by the fallen world or our own selfish thinking. What is striking to note about the disciples is that they only received the gift of the Spirit at the end of play.  Think about it. They had a solid Jewish upbringing, a knowledge of scripture. All had clearly encountered Jesus Christ, followed Him and learnt from Him. They lived through the Passion and death, the Resurrection and Ascension – but still they had to wait for the Spirit.

We do not have to wait. At baptism the Spirit is given freely and special gifts of the Spirit are imparted through Confirmation. But the necessary waiting of the disciples does suggest something. Namely that the ultimate gift of the Spirit- the thing we deeply yearn for as Christians, sanctification- is not a gift cheaply given but the result of serious prayer. The Holy Spirit comes to devoutly holy souls.

Jesus is there for us. He ate with sinners, even Judas who betrayed him. But the Holy Spirit only descended on the eleven purified by Christ. And it was this which turned them from hopeless cowards into giants of the faith willing and able to spread the Gospel to the world. We might say Pentecost was ‘the moment’ ordinary men became living saints- the reward for years of spiritual preparation.

And this sanctification- this transformation into Saints- is a gift open to all who draw near to Christ. The ultimate gift of God for the believer. With respect to our protestant brethren, who act as though the spirit can be called down at whim and put to work at our command, the evidence in Scripture says otherwise. The Spirit comes only at God’s will to sweep us up and take us to where God has directed. Our duty then is not to demand the Spirit but to prepare our hearts for him. Which we do by living the faith. By taking up the cross and following. Through obedient, humble and holy souls. By actually taking up the challenge of the Gospel. And if we do not do that it should not surprise us when our civilisation starts to falter….

Our Western culture is in a mess today as is a great deal of the church. Not because secularism is strong but because faith is weak. Because few have taken up the challenge of the Gospel. Because few have been conformed to Christ. Consider Ireland where, only this week, the church produced only a limp wristed defence of the family; telling the faithful they were free to vote by conscience without pointing out that only one vote could be made with fidelity to Christ. Doubtless they were scared- trembling behind locked doors. For heaven’s sake some clergy even spoke out for the yes vote!  But that just isn’t good enough because Ireland’s faithful needed Saints of God, sanctified men of strength, to speak God’s truth with clarity. But when the time came the saints were absent. And so the victory went the way of the world at a cost to Christian values. 

What a farce! And how easy it should have been to speak out! After all the debate was fake. Framed as a crusade for justice, presenting only a choice between loving homosexuals or hating them; when it is perfectly possible  to love people without conceding moral ambivalence concerning sexual practice. What was really at stake but never debated was the question of how to order sexual lives given the reality and needs of children. And because the issue of procreation was dodged at best- and wilfully ignored at worst-adult desires now trump a child’s need for a mother and a father in Ireland at every turn. Another nation colludes in the populist nonsense that pretends- against the clear evidence of every baby  born- that there is  no difference between gay and straight unions. 

And understand this whole revolution of gay marriage is more about belief than practice.  The reality is that very few gay people want marriage. Most were perfectly content with civil partnerships. Many, like Dolce and Gabbana, quite understand that the needs of children are what make marriage heterosexual by nature. Why then is it pushed with such vigour? For the same reason, I suspect, we don’t see orthodox Jewish bakers taken to court or Muslim nurses disciplined for praying with patients. This is not a fight for gay rights but a culture war against Christian values.  The bringing of homosexuality out of the closet that Christians my be put their in their place and the key locked forever.

How could this happen in a land that is supposedly Catholic? Let us return to our thoughts on sanctification for the obvious answer. Alas-sanctification- given only to those souls who prepare a place for Him remember- is woefully lacking for weak, compromised faith has become the norm throughout the West. Saints of God are sorely lacking. Catholic Ireland died long ago in truth as the abuse scandals made clear. Too many hirelings not enough shepherds. A nation raised to be Catholic but not taught the faith or how to be holy. That is the cause of the present malaise.

So if we want a better world, if we want a Christian world. If we want a better church, a church alive for Christ, then first we must win souls for Christ. And the first soul to win is our own.

Yes revival is not rocket science. It simply requires YOU (and me) to draw closer to Christ by means of the sacraments, to learn about the Faith, to pray and repent of sin and sincerely prepare the soul to be a Temple for the Holy Spirit. Then- and only then-  will he come. Then and only then will Saints be born again that the church may arise and transform the face of the earth.

Don’t insult his mother…

Fist-Pope

The pope surprised more than a few people this week by suggesting he would punch the person who was rude about his mother! Boom! Cue a little bit of South American machismo culture to stir up an over feminised Western Church and culture. It has led some to condemn him for inciting violence and others to suggest his words fall foul of Jesus’ commands to love the enemy and do good to those who hate us.

But I think people are in danger of taking his jokey quip, which was possibly ill advised, more seriously than the point he was making. Namely that our condemnation of the terrorism perpetrated in France does not condone the offensive material produced by Charlie Hebdo. Two wrongs do not make a right. And given that insulting people unnecessarily can cause aggravation – we should recognise the gentlemanly limits of freedom of speech.

We are justified in our outrage regarding the violence of the terrorists. But are we also appalled at the magazine that thinks it is ok to lambast people’s deeply held religious convictions? A magazine that has depicted the Holy Trinity in an act of buggery and which has also deeply offended Muslim sensitivities repeatedly. Hardly. For this week ]millions of copies of the puerile magazine have sold ensuring the offensive grow wealthy on the back of the death of their colleagues. Something is rotten here- and it is that which the Pope is highlighting.

Charlie Hebdo’s crimes may not be in the same ball park as those who perpetrate acts of terror. But there is nevertheless something sick in it. And Western culture does itself no favours by holding the magazine up as some sort of modern day hero of freedom of speech. We will not bring about world peace by delighting in offensive material. We need to do better than that. There, in a nutshell, is what the Pope was driving at.

A religion of peace?

behead1

Once again Islam rears its head in an act of extreme violence that shocks and disgusts the world. Some suggest the terrorists in Paris were justified in their anger at the purile publication, Charlie Hebdo. Others salute the satirical magazine viewing it as an expression of liberality and freedom of speech. Which is it? The Western Media is full of such discussion. They miss the point entirely. This is precisely what the terrorists want us to discuss.

I happen to abhor the tasteless juvenility of Hebdo. Freedom of speech is one thing. Depicting the Triune God in an act of buggery is something else entirely. As is mocking Islam. It is unnecessarily offensive and fosters division within society. For that reason I believe those involved should hang heads in shame. But so what? Let us shelve that discussion. Because Hebdo is not the problem in the wake of recent murders. The violent manifestation of Islam is.

Meaning the hard questions should be aimed at that faith that promotes itself as a “religion of peace”. For how long should we defend it when most every global act of terror is perpetrated by its followers? We might want to project onto it an image of peace. We might wish to pretend all religions are equal and treat it as all others. But do such views hold water when the bodies mount and streets flow with the blood of the victims of Islam?

I would love to have ended that last sentence suggesting the violence comes only from  radical Islam. The problem is that I am increasingly doubtful about that. It rather seems that violence stems from normative Islam and that the peace flows from the radicals who dare question the faith that they follow.

Which is to say- I do not doubt the presence of millions of decent, peaceful, law abiding Muslims. These people are a credit to their faith and the nations they inhabit. But increasingly I want to challenge them, and all Muslims, to review the darkness so apparent in their faith. I want to ask, “If you truly seek peace, why do you follow one who not only taught, but practiced warfare, oppression, discrimination and humiliation of non-Muslims?”

Read the Koran for yourself. Read the early Islamic writings for yourself. You will find very little about love and peace and plenty about brutality and the crimes Muhammad committed. Sometimes people point out to me that the bible is also full of violence. But there is a crucial difference. All biblical violence is bound up in the Old Testament, in that time before mankind was redeemed by Christ. After Jesus, a founder who exhibited love and forgiveness in stark contrast to Mohammed, the tone shifts. A redeemed people in the New Testament preach love of enemy, neighbour and self. There is no violent instruction to be found.

Thus I find myself wanting to ask the millions of wonderful, peaceful, Muslims in the world. Does their good behaviour absolve their faith- given those who, quite legitimately according to certain high profile clerics, commit acts of brutality and violence? From Indonesia to Syria, Thailand, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Paris, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria… wherever you find a version of Islam that has not been softened by Western (that is Christian) values you find serious atrocities and violence. You find women oppressed, people not free to leave the religion and those who refuse to follow it subjected to barbarity.

Which leads to my deep sense of unease regarding this religion above all others. It does not seem like a religion of peace to me, despite its many decent followers. It strikes me, rather, as a religion of violence founded on a dark creed written by  a warlord and despot. Which leads to the big question the world needs to ask. If this is indeed true, and I hope I am mistaken, then how is it to be dealt with?

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