Saturday, 6 October 2018

Dangerous Days

As I wrote at the start of the year (see A Momentous Year and What's the Agenda?) the pro-abortion lobby is planning a major offensive this year. 

The date of the next skirmish in the House of Commons has now been revealed: it is 23rd October, when there will be a 10 minute Rule Bill put before the House for a vote.

The vote on 23rd October is the start of the process: and it will give great heart to whichever side wins, influencing when and whether further attempts are made to remove abortion from all specific legal oversight.

What should we do? I have spoken with a number of MPs and former ministers over the years, and they all agree that personal lobbying by individual constituents is the thing that is most likely to influence how they vote on many issues. This has far more influence than (eg) large postcard campaigns organised by lobby groups, which are easily disregarded (I am old enough to remember the huge Mail Maggie A Mountain campaign back in the day: thousands of postcards delivered - and disregarded...)

Of course, the die-hard pro-abortionists will not be swayed, and the die-hard pro-life MPs can be relied on. But they are a minority (in both cases). There is a large 'muddled middle' and these are the MPs who are open to influence.

It is worth noting that an MP need not be pro-life to recognise that the proposed de-regulation is extremely unwise - as long as someone takes him or her through the implications.

So what we must do is make the time to visit our MPs' surgeries, if at all possible, or failing that, to write clear and courteous personal letters or emails, outlining why this is a bad idea.  If you don't know why it's a bad idea, or think that as we have virtual abortion on demand already, then it makes no difference, read my posts linked to above; or better still, perhaps, go to the excellent introductory brief  video by Life, and more importantly, read and use their excellent comprehensive guidance, that gives all the background you need.

If we lose this legislative battle, we risk setting the pro-life cause back by decades in this country, and opening the door to abortion on demand for any reason up to birth, to the indoctrination of our children in schools, to the imposition of abortions as a compulsory aspect of training for medics and nurses, and of course, the continued bullying and exploitation of young or vulnerable women - and worst of all, even more young lives destroyed before birth.

Don't tut and do nothing.  Don't salve your conscience by sending a pre-printed postcard. Take personal responsibility and lobby your MP personally: it is the most powerful political tool we have. Encourage others to do so.

And pray.

--

Lest you be in a position to ask: Lord, when did I see you unborn and fail to protect you?...

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Problems with Silence

I have been greatly influenced - and I think largely for the good, by reading Cardinal Sarah's book, The Power of Silence (about which I have previously blogged, here and in the following posts).

One of the fruits of that has been that I have been blogging far less; and praying rather more. And that has delivered a level of peace to my soul.

However, here I am blogging again, and with reason; and my reason is to reflect further on the problems with inappropriate silence.

In this morning's readings (in the new Lectionary) we hear of Our Lord opening the ears and freeing the tongue of the deaf and mute man. The applicability to those in authority was immediately apparent: may they listen to Our Lord's voice, and may the tell forth the truth!

But of course, for each one of us, the readings should speak to us individually.  So I need not only to listen, (and to find the silence to do so) but also to have my tongue freed, to tell forth the truth.

And one of the truths I think it important to tell forth is the problem that arises when those in positions of power, authority and knowledge use silence as a shield.

I won't comment here on our Holy Father, though what I say here may, mutatis mutandis, be applicable. I will limit myself to something I know rather more about, and about which I have previously written. And that is the scandalous CES document, Made in God's Image.

Regular readers will recall that there are many and varied problems with this document (the label CES Scandal will take you to my 35 previous pieces on the subject); and that I had heard a rumour it was to be revised and reissued (see here). In my naive and optimistic way, I had hoped for substantial corrections, but that was not what has happened. It is substantially unchanged, though there are one or two improvements (eg we now know who is responsible for it, and they at least acknowledge more of their unholy sources...).

But the problem with the silence surrounding its production, its reissue, and its blackballing by some dioceses is that it leaves many questions unanswered, and that leads to a culture of suspicion and mistrust that is toxic.

For example, given that the Church faces an unprecedented crisis, centring on problems of chastity and cover up, one can't help wondering why the bishops in our country have commissioned a document that seeks to rehabilitate gravely sinful sexual behaviour? Is it that they are ignorant of the implications of the Stonewall agenda that they are introducing into our schools?  Or is it that they are actively seeking to advance that agenda?  If they are, is that because they (or some of them) are part of the network of homosexuals who we are told have infiltrated our hierarchy, or are beholden to them?

And such questions lead to others: why the silence about this? And why the silence about everything else that is a bit difficult to discuss? Such as who knew about Kieran Conry, and when - and why did they say or do nothing about that scandalous situation? What else are they concealing from us?

And so it goes on; and even the good bishops are enmired in the toxicity: why haven't they spoken out about some of these evils?

And on: how deep is the rot in our hierarchy? How have bishops been selected for appointment? How far back does it go? Does it account for the various CAFOD scandals (qv)?  And on... and on...

You see how it leads us ever deeper into murky waters: that is why the silence of such people on such topics, in such circumstances, is wrong. The good along with the bad are put under a cloud of suspicion; and necessary change is entirely blocked.

--

Initially when the Holy Father said we should all repent for the errors of the past, and that clericalism was at the root of the problem, I reacted defensively: it's not me who had covered up for McCarrick et al. However, we know that Our Lord uses those in high office to proclaim truths  (the case of Annas springs to mind), even when the apparent meaning is.... (I think I'll leave that sentence unfinished...)

And I reflected that the Holy Father is right: we the laity are complicit in this. I am complicit.  I have failed sufficiently to challenge bad teaching, to call errant priests and prelates to account, as well as to pray and fast as I should. 

I think, in fact, that the laity have struck a complicit bargain with the clergy (which dates back at least to the scandalous clerical response to Humanae Vitae): you go easy on our preferred sins (particularly sins of the flesh) and we'll not be too demanding of you. The laity don't want to be reminded that artificial contraception is gravely sinful, for example; or that divorce and remarriage results in an objective, and scandalous, state of sin. And when they hear clergy defending or promoting other sexual sins, or simply maintaining silence about these ones, it makes them feel better about their own... So they turn a blind eye to things that should be confronted, and don't even notice that they are doing so: internalised clericalism...

--

So whilst I am still a fan of The Power of Silence, there is a time to speak, and situations in which our silence is a collusion with evil.



Saturday, 16 June 2018

Chartres 2018: Meditations (13)


This is the thirteenth and final meditation on the theme of St Joseph, the patron of this year's Chartres pilgrimage.

St Joseph, Guardian of the Mission


Introduction

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear: but of power, and of love, and of sobriety."

Dear pilgrims, 

These words of Saint Paul... are an 'exact portrait' of Saint Joseph!

He is: a perfect spouse, a model father, and an exemplary humble servant. He is a shining example for us to follow!

He is not: insignificant, uncertain, mediocre, cowardly, weak. That is a caricature of Saint Joseph and we should steer well clear of it.

Main Points
Saint Joseph is the protector and guardian of all missionaries.
Saint Joseph is quick and generous in his response to God’s will. 
Saint Joseph is the guardian of our mission in our everyday lives.

Development

Saint Joseph, protector and guardian of all missionaries.

Which mission are we talking about? The quintessential mission: to show others the way to Christ. It was Our Lady who gave the Incarnate Word to the world; but Saint Joseph brought it about, he ‘organised’ God’s entrance into the world by dealing efficiently with all the necessary practical arrangements and by being present to protect and care for Our Lady.

Let us remember the thousands of ways in which Saint Joseph took care of Our Lady, during her pregnancy, at the birth of Our Lord and throughout Our Lord’s childhood! These are the type of things that a missionary is called to do whether in an orphanage in Africa... a steppe in Mongolia... or a Muslim suburb in France! Allow divine grace to work in souls, cut a path for them to God’s word in order to help them to believe. Why? So that this divine grace, this salvific word of God brings the fruit of conversion. Are we concerned with this in our apostolates and in our spiritual lives?

Saint Joseph, hero of realism and of good sense. This brings us to some thought-provoking questions as we reach the end of our pilgrimage; "am I an activist who is disconnected from God? Am I sentimental and full of false illusions about the spiritual life?" Consider when Jesus was lost in the temple; there was no panic and there was no hesitation! There was just an immediate about-turn, to go and look for the child... And he was found at the time, and in the place where God wanted him to be found.

Saint Joseph, hero of silence, of prayer, of Christian nobility Pilgrim... Priest, religious, father, mother, spouse, single person, student, child...

  • Do you want to be 'men of God?'... Really? Then guard your heart from the agitation of feelings and emotions. This will allow the light of your faith to shine more brightly, and will let others perceive in you the dignity of a child of God that you received at your baptism.
  • Dear pilgrims, do you want to be 'the light of the world?' 
  • Will you pray?... tirelessly, endlessly.... Even when it appears that human stupidity, cruelty and spitefulness have the upper hand?
  • Do you know how to hold on to the joy that God gives us, how to be a missionary of truth as well as of charity? Do you follow the advice of little Saint Teresa of Lisieux: 'always have a smile ready, even on joyless days'?
  • Do you know how to carve out a period of silence for God each day? When, how much time... In place of what? (screen, computer, mobile phone, online chat, films, getting up late...) The Gospels recount for us seven of Our Lady’s sayings, but there are none from Saint Joseph. May their charity inspire our words and our silence
Saint Joseph, always ready to do the will of God

God gave Saint Joseph his instructions in a dream... But Saint Joseph wasn’t a dreamer! He responded to God’s call without question. And he responded immediately and generously.

  • Are we going to recognise and accept 'God’s unexpected requests' with such willingness and generosity? Even when they go against our plans both small and large?
  • Let’s think about this... an accident, an illness, a professional setback, a disappointment in love, a hurricane...Would we accept these with the conviction that God never asks of us anything 'that we do not have the strength to bear?'
  • Saint Joseph takes up challenges, without rush or delay. It is the golden rule of apostolic work; generosity and prudence. Confidence in God does not leave room for stupidity, weirdness or absurdity !
  • In our apostolate do we know how to keep the right balance of availability and detachment with souls, in order to truly serve Christ and his work of redemption ?
  • Through Saint Joseph... perseverance ! When he was put to the test he accepted God’s will to the very end, even though he did not fully understand it.
  • What do we do in the face of a cross, a temptation, a repetitive spiritual fall that seems to never end? We would like to go 'elsewhere'.... However, we need to remain with God in the discomfort we find ourselves in ! And to become more like the living image of his mercy and love....
Saint Joseph, our protector in our daily mission.
What are our daily calls to mission? Because we are all called to mission! A student who has to correct firmly and respectfully a teacher who denigrates the faith in front of a class... A young girl who defends purity in the face of the crass vulgarity of her colleagues... A doctor who with professionalism and kindness dissuades someone from having recourse to surrogacy. A mother of a family who protects her child from evil influences by removing them from occasions where they are likely to be encountered....

There have been and there will continue to be heroic missionaries in our day!

For these situations, Saint Joseph is our model and our ally, he watches over us just as he watched over the Infant Jesus. Yes, just as closely and just as well!

Great Saint Joseph, make us missionaries with strong and steadfast hearts: for the world has great need of such missionaries!

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Chartres 2018: Meditations (12)


St Joseph in Civic Society


Introduction

Dear pilgrims,
When we learn about the saints we often find that what we love most about them is their realism, their balance between "a head in Heaven and feet on earth!" In this regard Saint Joseph is an excellent role model.

He is a moral man, a virginal spouseand foster father,” “head of the Holy Family”, “craftsman”, and contemplativeguardian of the Mystery.

But he is also ... a Nazarene, son of the earth, homo politicus. Saint Joseph is rooted in a civic society, in the history of his people. He belongs, like each of us, both to his celestial country and to his earthly one.

So let’s rediscover this little known message of Saint Joseph.

Main Points

  • Saint Joseph rendered to Caesar what was Caesar’s and to God what was God’s. 
  • Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus, gave Our Lord His familial identity on earth. 
  • Saint Joseph, guardian of the civil law, natural and divine.
  • Saint Joseph, patriot in his fatherland.
  • Saint Joseph, son of the Church.
  • Saint Joseph, servant of the common good.

Development

Saint Joseph rendered to Caesar what was Caesar’s and to God what was God’s.
He obeyed the law of Caesar Augustus (the census). On a deeper level he obeyed the Jewish Law of Moses (The Presentation of the Child in the Temple).

Foster father of Jesus, he gave Our Lord His family identity on earth.
Saint Joseph had the responsibility of conferring the name of Jesus, which the angel had requested of Our Lady (and certainly, there would have been no dispute over which name to choose for the new baby!) It was under his guidance that Our Lord became an adult man and affirmed himself little by little as just that; true man and also true God, the only Son who had to be about the affairs of His Eternal Father.

Saint Joseph, guardian of the civil law, natural et divine.
He is par excellence "a just man;" He lives the Law as gospel, he seeks the path that brings law and love into a unity. And so he is inwardly prepared for the new, unexpected and humanly speaking incredible news that comes to him from God.  (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives).

Saint Joseph, patriot in his fatherland.
Saint Joseph, like Jesus in later life, was attached to his country in every ‘fibre of his being.’ He received his heritage and patrimony with great piety, he guarded it and he passed it on. He loved its history, and he shared in its joys and sorrows. And what a country! The "Land of God," the Holy Land!  The Church never decries a man’s love for his country; it is a duty (under the 4th commandment), an extension of familial love. This is an important truth that is often either ignored or misunderstood!

Saint Joseph, son of the Church.
The Israel of the Old Testament is the figure of the "new Israel of God", the Church. Saint Joseph is Her first witness. With the unfaithfulness of the old Israel, he sees the advent of the Church that will be founded by Christ. He is there at Her beginning. He is among Her first members, from the start, at Bethlehem and at Nazareth.

Servant of the common good.
"He was a committed man" (Paul VI). Committed to serve the highest cause: the Reign of God ! "Committed, absolutely, to the compromise of his honour, his tranquillity, his happiness, his royal dignity...he committed himself without a backward glance.... He was a committed layperson; he didn’t live his consecration to the reign of God as a priest, by carrying out religious actions, but he lived it through his family life and his professional life, similar to our own, except that he had the immediate benefit of Christ as his adopted son. In civil life, he also held a role; that of a craftsman in the society of his time." Joseph was the father of fidelity (civil and religious) in a situation where his faithfulness was put to the test. The right of entry into the Heavenly City is bought by blood and tears, whether the martyrdom be bloody or not: "He that loved father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me. And he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." (Mt 10, 37). "If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14, 26).

Dear pilgrims, let us imitate Saint Joseph in serving the Church, without neglecting our natural communities. He is our example in this regard. His way is, according to Paul VI, "a path that God has drawn for our footsteps."

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Chartres 2018: Meditations (11)


St Joseph - Model of Workers



Introduction

Dear pilgrim friends !

On the 10th May 1955, Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of Saint Joseph, artisan and worker, choosing the date of 1st May for the feast. By establishing Saint Joseph as ‘patron saint of workers’ he gave as an example to follow in our own labours.

Main Points
Saint Joseph teaches us the benefits of work
Work : a curse, or an inevitable evil
The nobility of work, the activity proper to man.
Technology in the service of man, not the other way round
Work,adifficultgood;theplaceofresponsibilityandhumility.
Work in the service of the common good, an act that is both charitable and respectful of others a structure - a culture of welcoming diverse talents
Good and bad inequalities.
Contemporary plagues – lack of work, the disappearance of Sunday as a day of rest. 

Talk
Saint Joseph teaches us the benefits of work. At Nazareth, he provided for the material needs of the Holy Family by his modest work as a carpenter, even though he was, like Mary, a member of the royal race of David. (Gen I,27). He worked all his life, teaching his trade to his adopted son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who thus sanctified work and in particular manual work. Life at Nazareth seemed to run on the three pillars of : "Work, family, prayer."

Let us begin by clearing away the popular misgiving that work is a curse : Genesis affirms that : "God placed Adam in a Paradise that he would cultivate it" (Gen II,15). From the time of Creation work has corresponded to the will of God for men. Adam and Eve worked in the terrestrial paradise; however there would have been no suffering involved in their work. It was original sin which brought an element of suffering into work. "You will eat your bread by the sweat of your brow" (Gen III,19). Pope John XXIII spoke of this in a radio message on 1st May 1960, the feast of Saint Joseph the worker: "Work is a sublime mission. It allows man to collaborate with God in an intelligent and efficient manner (...) all the difficulties in work, can be made part of God’s redemptive plan, who having saved the world by the love and suffering of His only begotten Son, made human suffering, united with that of Christ, a precious means of sanctification."

In contrast with animals, man has to work to tame nature to meet his needs: to feed himself, dress himself, protect himself against the elements, but also to honour his dead, to engage in artistic or intellectual activities, to think about the meaning of life. By his actions man takes part in God’s work of creation. He is the image of God who is pure Act.

Work is the actualisation of God’s commandment in Genesis: "Fill the earth and subdue it." The words of Scripture teach us that everything in Creation is at the service of man who, himself, is at the service of God. "All are yours, and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s" (1Cor III, 22).

This subjugation of nature by man is achieved with tools and technology, which are man’s allies when they are at his service. Unfortunately though, it often happens that in place of technology remaining at the service of man, man ends being enslaved in the service of technology.

Work is man’s ‘good’. But as Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us it is a difficult good. This is true under two aspects: initially, man transforms nature by adapting it to his own needs, and subsequently work becomes fulfilling for him. Working hard becomes a virtue: "In working, man perfects in himself the image of God" (Pius XII, Christmas 1955). Work educates and develops a great many natural virtues: fortitude as well as prudence, justice as well as temperance.

This is on the condition that man is not used just as a tool, a ‘human resource’, but that work is organised so that people can work as human beings able to use their initiative and take responsibility.

Another benefit, is that through work, man learns humility because he is faced with reality, and with knowledge of the true order of things. An engineer, a farmer, a manual labourer, a craftsman are, daily, confronted with reality, and with the more or less immediate consequences of their actions. This is less true of ‘intellectual’ professions where work has less interaction with practical realities.

Finally, work has an undeniable social dimension:

  • Through work, man carries out acts of charity by responding to the needs of others. He makes himself a "minister of God" producing goods and services of use to others: works of art, knowledge, bread, clothing, health services, transport, banking etc. etc.
  • Work is also a place where one learns to practice respect for others and solidarity with others. It is rare in work not to depend on one or several other persons: suppliers, colleagues etc.
  • Work is a socially structured activity which requires respect for time-keeping, team working, and listening to the needs of the ‘customer’ in order to give him, at best, satisfaction.
Work enables us to serve the common good, and each of us does this according to the talents that we have been given, in order that these bear the best fruit possible.

Therein lies a certain inequality. But inequality is a fact of life. Our Lord affirmed this to Saint Catherine of Sienna in the Dialogues: "I do not give all the virtues equally to everyone (...) I use the word temporal for the things necessary to the physical life of man; all these I have given indifferently, and I have not placed them all in one soul, in order that man should, perforce, have material for love of his fellow. I could easily have created men possessed of all that they should need both for body and soul, but I wish that one should have need of the other, and that they should be My ministers to administer the graces and the gifts that they have received from Me. Whether man will or no, he cannot help making an act of love. It is true, however, that that act, unless made through love of Me, profits him nothing so far as grace is concerned. See then, that I have made men My ministers, and placed them in diverse stations and various ranks, in order that they may make use of the virtue of love.”

The inequalities which are condemned, however, are those iniquitous ones, which are contrary to equity and social justice. Most prevalent of these in our society today is widespread unemployment. Modern Western society, in particular France, has seen the emergence of an ever increasing number of people who are not working, several million people without work, and consequently deprived of all the benefits of work, except (when they meet the necessary criteria) the benefit of collecting a wage. There are those who even propose paying a universal income, that is, an income which would be paid whether one works or not! 

Saint Paul writes against this: “If any man will not work, neither let him eat” (2 Thessalonians 3, 10)  The lesson is clear. For man, there is no bread without work. Each one can however ask himself: Is my work a means of personal sanctification and of real benefit to the common good? Or is it simply a way to earn money and at best, ensure the subsistence of my family, or at worst finance a life of holidays and parties, dubious privileges of squanderers, the selfish, and the immature, who are failing to pass on the precious heritage they have received?

But there is another, less widespread, pitfall and that is disregarding Sunday as a day of rest; turning it into a workday just like any other. This pitfall makes work into an idol, sacrificing everything to it: family life, intellectual life, spiritual life, relaxation etc.etc. In this regard we turn to the teaching of Our Divine Master, who, when observing Martha becoming stressed about the meal she was preparing, said to her: "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and are troubled about many things: But one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke X,42).

Conclusion
Although God has commanded man to work, the essential is not there. Work permits man to be free of material constraints so that he can ensure his condition as a child of God in the different states of life in which he finds himself. It is this condition of being a child of God which is the essential, because we are made for God. Work itself should serve this quest for eternal life with Him.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Chartres 2018: Meditations (10)


Those who read my reflections on this year's Chartres pilgrimage will recall that Jamie Bogle gave us a talk on Blessed Charles; he was also the patron of the third day of the pilgrimage; and this is the official meditation on his life and legacy.


Blessed Charles of Austria, Emperor of Peace (1887 -1922)


I. Introduction


Dear Pilgrims, 
"If you want to forge a straight furrow, then hitch your plough to a star!"

The saints are our stars. They guide us from Heaven on the narrow path of Christian perfection. The Church reminds us of this daily in the liturgy. Just read over and reflect on the many prayers in the missal in honour of the saints.

Our star today is Blessed Charles of Austria, Emperor of Peace. The Church has given him to us, as:

  • A modern sovereign who was aware of his responsibilities, and 
  • An intercessor who is a model of a Catholic husband and father, so necessary today in this time of moral decay and the corruption of marriage and the family.

Let us consider Charles’ holy life in three acts and an epilogue.

The 3 acts

• 1887 - 1914: Charles’ birth and youth. 
• 1914 - 1918: Charles’ turning point.
• 1918 - 1922: Charles’ final days

• 1949 - 2004: Charles’ epilogue and triumph.

1887 - 1914: Charles’
early years
1887: Charles was born at the castle of Persenberg, in Austria... Under the watchful eye of his mother Maria Josefa, Charles lived to the full the maxim of Saint Paul; "The exercise of the body is somewhat useful. But piety is useful in all things as it holds the promise of eternal life!"

And you, pilgrim friend? Do you love and frequent the Mass? Charles assisted at Mass every day.
What is your attitude before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar? Charles encountered Him daily in communion and adoration.

Do you pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary? Charles prayed the rosary every day just as she asked us to. He also greeted her three times a day with the Angelus.

Do you meet the merciful Christ in the sacrament of confession? Charles examined his conscience daily and went to confession weekly.

Are you looking for a life free of contradictions, a life where all your actions, even ordinary every day actions are undertaken with the same spirit? Do you avoid excess and addictions? Are you enslaved to modern technology? Through his offering of each day, Charles received from God all that was necessary for his body, and he asked that God make use of him for the greater good.

After his studies at the University of Prague, Charles became an officer in the cavalry. In 1911 he married Princess Zita of Bourbon Parma; their marriage was one of mutual faith, love and piety. Their ultimate aim was clear from the beginning: "Now we must help each other to get to Heaven!" God crowned their marriage with eight children. Throughout their lives together Charles and Zita encouraged each other unceasingly with a devout and lively faith, they "loved each other in God."

1914 - 1918: Charles’ turning point
On 28th June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated! Charles’ destiny, and that of his empire, Europe and the world, was turned upside down. He was now the heir to the imperial throne... On 21 November 1916 he acceded to power. Charles was a pragmatic man, and he knew that his country could not win the war – he wanted to stop the conflict in an honourable manner. However, how could he, on the one hand, reform the monarchy and improve conditions for the Slavs, and on the other hand, make peace with his current adversaries?

"He who attempts nothing.... has nothing!" Charles launched secret negotiations to obtain a separate peace; his was the only response to Pope Benedict XV’s call for peace. Tragically however, he was betrayed by Clemenceau who made the negotiations public. Charles was now stuck between the fury of the enemies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire who were bent on its destruction, and the spirit of all-out war which had consumed his own allies. In November 1918, as predicted, the Austro-Hungarians and their allies were decisively defeated. After the armistice Emperor Charles and Zita left for exile.

1918 - 1922: Charles’ final years
So it was in 1918 that the imperial Royal family’s exile began. It was a period of trial and tribulation similar to that of Saint Joseph and the Holy Family. After two unsuccessful attempts at being restored to the throne, Charles and Zita were placed under house arrest on the Island of Madeira. It was the middle of winter and the house that had been lent to them was cold and damp. By springtime Emperor Charles had fallen fatally ill. On the 1st April 1922 he called his oldest son, the Archduke Otto, to his bedside, “that he would see how a Christian returns to his Creator.” After four hours of agony, Charles gave his soul to God. He was 34 years old. His final two acts had been to forgive his enemies and to offer his sufferings for others - for his own family, for his own peoples and, for the biggest family God had entrusted to him - his empire.


1949 - 2004: Charles’ epilogue and triumph
In 1949, the Church began the investigation into Charles’ life and virtues. Pope John Paul II had been baptised with the Christian name, Charles (Karol) because of his father’s admiration for Emperor Charles of Austria, and it was this Pope who ensured that the investigation was carried through. He declared Charles Blessed in 2004; "His chief concern was to follow his Christian vocation to holiness also in his political actions. May he be an example for all of us, especially those who have political responsibilities in Europe today.” The message is clear: holiness is a personal ideal certainly... but not selfish nor individualistic.

Blessed Charles of Austria, be our role model on earth and our ally in Heaven !
Help married and engaged couples to live out their marriages as means to their own salvation and to that of their spouse.
Help the Church authorities and the civil authorities "to watch over law, justice and peace for the good of God’s Church and those people entrusted to it."
Help political decision makers to search for and promote a fair and just peace within nations and between nations.
Help us, in particular us men, to maintain a deep and virile piety which is free of human respect and for the greater honour of God !

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Chartres 2018: Meditations (9)


St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church


Introduction

Dear pilgrim friends,

There may be some hunters among you ... and surely they know St. Hubert well! An unrepentant hunter, converted on Good Friday by the cross appearing between the antlers of a stag, he became patron saint of hunters ...

Maybe your car or scooter keys are fixed on a key ring with the effigy of St. Christopher! One day he was carrying a child on his shoulder to help him to cross a river and stay dry; he was surprised to fall under the weight of the toddler ... who was none other than the Child Jesus, and who ended up carrying him!

How many of us have invoked Saint Anthony of Padua to find a laptop, a key, a wallet, etc ... This saint was envied by one of his brothers; his annotated Bible was stolen, but later then returned, including a precious collection of his sermons!

Finally - perhaps you know what a cruciverbist is? He is a crossword player ... who has Saint Laurence as patron saint, as he was martyred on a grid!

Saint Joseph, is the patron of the universal Church ... Why is that? Let's rediscover it together.

Major ideas
• A little history...
• Why Saint Joseph is patron of the Church.
• Saint Joseph propelled into postmodernity!
• Saint Joseph embodies and rehabilitates fatherhood and authority.



Development

A little history...
Saint Joseph is ... prodigious! At the same time he is a worker and a boss ... What a beautiful reply to Karl Marx. Carpenter workman, and boss of the largest and most lasting enterprise: the Church!


It was under Blessed Pope Pius IX that the persecuted Church was placed in the hands of St. Joseph in 1870. Then Leo XIII, St. John XXIII, St. John Paul II recalled the role of St. Joseph. In 1962, his name entered the "very exclusive" Roman Canon of the Mass; a text so sacred that we rarely alter it like that...

Why Patron of the Church?
To sum up, he exercises over the Church the very same role he had with regard to Jesus:

  • He protected Jesus from the slaughter of the innocents. He now protects the Mystical Body of Jesus, the Church ... "Jesus spread and communicated" !!
  • He is above all loved by and close to God. He reflected in time the eternal Father... He closely followed the beginnings of the Incarnate Word in this world... He is a friend of God, an intimate friend of God. He teaches God's approach: supernatural intimacy with Jesus and Mary.
  • Joseph watches over the growth of the Church, as He watched over the growth of Jesus. The Church must grow in the world, as Jesus grew in this world... by the zeal of missionaries, preachers, Christians who bring Christ to the world. By the grace that flows in the sacraments.
  • The life of Saint Joseph is a perfect "tutorial" for the zealous missionary; faithful - hardworking - discreet - modest ... A good antidote to the easy and servile postures of the modern world!
  • Joseph is silent ... And his silence tells us again: "In you, through you, in your thoughts, your words, your actions, we must hear the word of Jesus, we must see the light of Jesus shine. "
  • He is an "upstanding watchman"! He knows everything about family, work, country, etc.


Saint Joseph propelled into postmodernity!
This "big word" of the philosopher Rémi Brague designates our era and its tendencies; it means "After modernity" (so far, so easy) ... Modernity refers to the cultural atmosphere that appeared in the Renaissance and culminated in the Enlightenment.
To put it briefly:

  • Reason separated from God, "autonomy", is the only source of "values".
  • History is driven by increasing and unlimited progress.
  • Faith and reason no longer recognise each other; they are separated, opposed, and eliminate each other.
  • Religion only pertains to the private sphere.

Obviously, the crazy dreams of modernity were shattered... in their encounter with facts (the history of the twentieth century).
And that brings us to postmodernity

  • Reason is weakened, disqualified. No more intelligence, only feeling. No more objectivity, only subjective impressions; to each his own truth!
  • Progress leads both to improvement and to deterioration. Technical progress is cumulative (we add discoveries, advances), but wisdom is not (madness of ideologies). Atomic fission gave electricity to our national grid ... and resulted in the atomic bomb! Hence the pessimism of Michel Houellebecq: "The worst is yet to come ..."
  • Once reason and religion are separated, both disappear behind sentimentalism and syncretism. A large domain of vague, exotic religiosities, where everyone chooses ... Hence the proliferation of sects, "wisdoms", superstitions, gurus, manipulators ...
  • And finally, the search for one’s own comfort, one’s own individual interest with complete disregard for everyone else.

After this depressing little description, it is clear that Saint Joseph does not seem very "postmodern"! 

Saint Joseph embodies and rehabilitates fatherhood and authority. 
There was a true marriage between the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph. From this true marriage arises a true legal paternity for Saint Joseph. He receives a natural authority and exercises it perfectly. What excellent teaching on the family, paternity, authority, which is so attacked, exploded, recomposed, "reinvented" in our time...

Conclusion
In the last apparition at Fatima on October 13, 1917, Saint Joseph appeared with the child Jesus. Both seemed to bless the world with gestures they made with their cross-shaped hands. He is the great protector of the Church, of marriage and of the family, especially in our time, marked as it is by the rejection of God, of paternity and authority.