Thursday, 21 November 2013

Supplici confessione dicentes

We have heard a rumour that God has put this on a loop in Heaven.


Something to cheer us up on a wintery Thursday. 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

SSPX vs Beauty

How does a Catholic bring themselves to shout the Rosary as if they were words that could express anger? When the SSPX disrupted the Kristallnacht commemoration in Pope Francis's old Cathedral, this is exactly what they did. For a group of people who claim to be attached to the beauty of Tradition in the Church, I just do not understand it: the Our Father and Fatima prayers often seem very prosaic to me, by the Hail Mary and the Glory Be? Those are poetry aimed at God. That the SSPX were hurling them at humans rather than at God seems to verge on blasphemy, they're using prayer to God as protest for people. It's beyond my ken. Maybe if they reconcile with the Church, they'll reconcile with her founder too. I can't imagine he's finding their antics particularly pleasing at the moment.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Let the toastie brown, and the heretic burn

Cosmas here. The chaos of term (two essays a week bleuuuurgh) has prevented me from being particularly vocal, but my translation can now wait: it's text-a-toastie time again.

After very few hours sleep, much coffee, and plenteous reading on the image of the Virgin Mary in erotic medieval German poetry, I'm bloody starved. But thanks be to the God of all consolation, who allows this inhabitant of Oxford's own bastion of Catholicism to end what has been a strenuous day discussing Wagner's sexuality avec Damien with a decadent combination of my two all time favourite pass times: eating food and toasting protestants.

But where to start? The cornerstone of all protestant theology is 'sola scriptura'. The end of all protestant theology is the laws of logic. I'll start there.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Fr Z says something sensible

Mark the date and celebrate it henceforth as a feast of 3rd and a half class unless its a leap liturgical year where it becomes 4th class feria. Fr Z has said something sensible. Sensible and beautiful in fact. Louis XIV may never have said "l'état, c'est moi", but I don't mind nailing my colours to the mast with "l'église, c'est nous".

Fr Z before the inquisition

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Text a Toastie

From time to time our lovely Christian Union, fine upstanding kind people, of their kindness, ferry toasties to students in college in return for questions relation to Christianity. Tonight is one such night. Being the debt laden, poverty stricken student that I am, free food is a rarity not to be passed up. Thus I chose at random a paragraph from their "doctrinal basis" and happened by chance to fall upon a particularly heretical tenant of their organisation: imputed righteousness. The paragraph reads
"Those who believe in Christ are pardoned all their sins and accepted in God's sight only because of the righteousness of Christ credited to them; this justification is God's act of undeserved mercy, received solely by trust in him and not by their own efforts."
This, I thought, is too good an opportunity to pass up. I thus fired off my toastie winning question:
"Does the doctrine of imputed righteousness preclude the concept of a just god? Considering that the conventional Christian understanding of forgiveness requires reparation for sins, does it also preclude the possibility of a merciful god? If imputed righteousness is true, why did Jesus bother dying?"
Call it the New Evangelisation. The workers wages being a toastie...

Veniat ad me, fra

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Priestly Celibacy

I wrote this some time ago but forgot to put it up.

Whilst NBC news is reporting that Archbishop Pietro Parolin has said clerical celibacy may be relaxed, the interview transcript is saying quite a different thing. The secretary of state elect actually explained that celibacy is a tradition of the Church, not an irrevocable doctrine. NBC is spinning this as a sign of change in the Vatican but in fact it is the opposite. Pope Benedict XVI made it very clear that this was the case when he established the Ordinariate structures of former Anglicans who have converted to Catholicism in which, if a vicar was married as an Anglican he remains married if he chooses to be ordained a priest. If this had been an irrevocable dogma, Benedict would not have been able to allow this exception, but since it is only a Church tradition the source of canon law, the pope, was able to make his generous exception.

"You mean... I wrote something that twists the truth into something unrecognisable?"
Since the Secretary of State has made it abundantly clear that we are free to disagree with this issue, I think I should give my personal view priestly celibacy.

In the past it has been used by some men as a way of repressing and escaping from their homosexuality. No one would wonder why a man wasn't married if they were wearing a cassock. I suspect that this repression was a contributory factor to much of the child abuse that was perpetrated by priests ordained in the 1940s and 50s. The emotional and psychological support was not available during their time in seminary and so they came out warped.

Now, not only have seminaries changed but society has too. Seminaries take great care over the men they accept, the emotional support available and the human formation they are exposed to. There is also no longer, by and large, the compulsive desire or social requirement for homosexual men to repress their sexual orientation. We have all shades of homosexual identity from Graham Norton to Russell Tovey on telly and almost everyone knows a gay person personally. Society has an increasingly sophisticated grasp on gender and sexuality as concepts. My parents, Monica and Huldrych, not unrepresentative of your average Brits, don't expect to be able to tell if one of my friends is gay and don't care anyway. People trying to hide their sexual identity probably isn't the problem it was and if in an individual there is that desire, it can be dealt with once the mechanisms of seminary pastoral and spiritual care are underway. That there was no more likelihood of a celibate Catholic priest abusing a child than a married Anglican vicar is certainly an interesting statistic and maybe it had more to do with the deep rooted clericalism.

I think therefore that in this day and age that an end to clerical celibacy would have no benefit for child protection.

Many have suggested that we need to abandon priestly celibacy because we lack vocations. I would tend to disagree because we do not need more priests, we need more good priests. We need courageous, generous, mature priests. It takes an awful lot of courage, generosity and maturity for a man to decide to enter the celibate priesthood.

Behind the veil of "Damian" I can write very openly about this:

I am in the process of trying trying to work out what definite service God wants from me and I think it might be to be a priest. We'll see: I've got a bunch of people I trust around me, priests, family and a handful of friends and between us all we'll get to the bottom of it. I've been living a celibate life for some time now and it's got to the point where I'm starting to reap the rewards. I have really close, open and frank relationships with friends because they know that there's no alterior motive behind me being kind to them and so my ear is more available to listen and my shoulder to be cried on: I'm a safe person in their lives and that's what a priest needs to be.

I also feel that it suits my temperament and personality. I feel more like me when I'm living celibacy. I'm in a very unusual situation of having fallen in love already by my age and I know that it will happen again. When it does I expect I will still be celibate, and whilst that could be painful I know there are ways of integrating it healthily into my celibate lifestyle. If the pope were to turn around tomorrow and say priests could marry, I wouldn't choose to stop being celibate. If I woke up tomorrow morning to the realisation that I'd wasted my life and God didn't exist, I think I'd stay celibate because I think it's good for me on a human level.

There's a reason clerical celibacy has survived as a tradition of the Church, and that's because it's useful for priests themselves and for their people.

Offer it up

If you've ever wondered just how Oxford students cope with so much work. This is how.

Lots of coffee, cheap meat products and occasionally a helping hand from the boss.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Term begins

It seems fitting that as we start the new year and new term we're celebrating the feast of the man who invented the tutorial system we love and hate today.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Lord Leveson Who?

Two days ago The Independant published a thoughtless piece which realised that the pope is a Catholic.


Being a meddling kid, I felt that this should not go unchallenged, so published a response in the comments box. It was quite a lengthy response because the errors contained in the article were so numerous and profound. In hindsight, I think I should have altered the tone to be less confrontational and more conciliatory, but that's how it goes I suppose.

For me one of the most startling things was that Ms Smurthwaite does not seem to have learnt the lessons of the Leveson enquiry. Simply because a person is in the public eye does not give you free reign to defame their good name. I believe that her last sentance: "He might have been media-unfriendly, hard line, sexist and homophobic, but at least we knew what we were getting with Pope Benedict" does precisely this.

Below is my entire response:
Dear Ms Smurthwaite

This has so many basic misunderstandings in it. I'm amazed that a reputable newspaper felt able to publish it. Please do your research before you write about any Catholic next time.

It is not a hard-line Catholic stance to oppose Gay marriage or abortion. In fact both are fairly secular issues. Marriage is a thing and is therefore not other things. Just as a pencil is a thing and is therefore not a typewriter, though there are similarities between them. It existed before government or Church did so neither have the right to attempt to alter it. Marriage is a lifelong relationship between a man and a woman to bring up children. Matrimony is when that relationship has a theological element, but that is not what is being discussed. "The family, founded upon marriage freely contracted, one and indissoluble, must be regarded as the natural, primary cell of human society." Without a true understanding of marriage (not matrimony), society will suffer. We have seen this with the Divorce Act which has created socially vulnerable single parents and children deprived of equal and free access to both parents. The rights of the parents to the protection of the other parent of their child, and the rights of the children to their parents have violated. Further tampering with marriage will have similar effects. The way in which the Gay Marriage Bill was brought before parliament without a mandate from the electorate is shocking and an affront to the democratic traditions of this country. If this were not enough, as I see it, that it was raised at the time it was, was prompted by nothing more than the petty motive of distracting the headlines while the Tory government snuck some fairly hefty news about just how badly they were managing the economy under the radar.

Abortion is a similarly secular issue and one which I feel is far more important than the gay marriage palaver. You appeal to science and to human rights, the same two concepts which mean that abortion can never be a moral act. If you will permit me to repost a few paragraph's of a blog post (for the rest, please see I published earlier today:

"The necessity for the preservation of human rights is discernable by reason alone. It is true that the preservation of human rights promotes a safe society for the individual. All individuals need safety in order to flourish and their flourishing benefits other individuals and society. Human rights do not work as a protection for society unless all living humans are afforded equal rights. Human rights are not innate or self evident or magically imbued into every person, they are social necessities which society affords to all living humans for its own benefit. These rights operate in a similar way to a jenga set, piled on top of each other with those lower down being more integral to the structure of the edifice that those higher up. You can afford to take a piece from high up without the whole thing collapsing. The right to life is the table upon which the jenga tower rests. Remove that and the whole thing comes tumbling down because one cannot have any rights if one is already dead."

"The right to life must, therefore, be accorded to every living human."

"There is an objective definition of what is alive discernable by science. An organic entity which is capable of moving, respiring, reacting to changes in its environment, growing, reproducing, excreting and taking on nutrients. At the moment of conception a zygote is objectively and undeniable alive. There is also an objective definition of what is human: an entity with human DNA."

Whilst we Catholics have additional beliefs which preclude the possibility of us procuring an abortion such as the sanctifying nature of the incarnation and that the gift of life is from God, these reasons would not be sufficient for us to campaign against non Catholics doing so. For example, we believe that we should go to mass each Sunday, you don't see us campaigning for a law enforcing that view on others because it is purely from a theological perspective that we believe it is important to attend mass.

Clearly if Pope Francis were to attempt to change the Church's doctrine on abortion it would not only be a denial of the Incarnation and of God's generosity in giving us life, it would also be a denial of objective reason. If he were to do so, which, being a Catholic, he would not, it would be a grave problem. Beyond that, I believe that in two or three hundred years our descendants will be horrified to think that we performed 40-50 million abortions a year. I look back at situations in the last 2, 000 years and wonder why the Church didn't do more about them. I hope our descendants do not find the Church lacking in our dealings with the abortion industry. One would hope that the 20th century alone would teach us what happens when the rights of unseen millions are removed.

From this fairly terrifying prospect, you then move onto what you see as yet more terrifying. At once you make it clear that you know that Vatican City constitutes the territory of the Holy See, it is a sovereign state and that the laws apply to that state. You then lament that the Church in the past has not obeyed "long-established secular laws". Pope Francis has not introduced some new law for the worldwide Church, he has introduced legislation for the territory of the Vatican City State, those who live and work there or have Vatican citizenship. At some point your comprehension of these issues got lost... presumably it was not a deliberate conflation...

Clearly this was necessary. Then again, having established that the laws enacted apply to a sovereign entity and those who work there, including in its government, you say that it's shocking that the sovereign head of that state has banned leaking. What provoked this was the theft and publication of state documents which were leaked by Benedict XVI's butler about the machinations of the state's civil service. In the United Kingdom such a security breach would constitute a criminal act. If you think that the current state security provisions are problematic in the United Kingdom, might I refer you to a certain first century Jew of whom I am most fond who said "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

Finally, let's address the calumny that constitutes your last sentence clause by clause:

"He might have been media-unfriendly". I'm sure you'll forgive him if he had bigger things on his somewhat massive mind than how he came across to journalists of a calibre that anything but the most basic research into what their writing about seems too much effort. If you were to take the time to read some of his work, you'd realise just how subtle and incisive his thinking is. It is probably not the sort of thing that translates well into a couple of quick paragraphs, especially with the lamentable standard of journalism currently predominant, as exemplified in your own article.

"hard line", Since you've already demonstrated your utter lack of comprehension of what constitutes "hard line" for the Catholic Church it seems a bit of a waste of time to go into this further, but never mind. This is the pope who gave practical guidance on the pastoral application of the Church's doctrine on contraception. He basically said that if someone is going to have sex in a situation which it is inappropriate to do so and the consequences of not using contraception would be worse than if they did, that in those situations it's less of a sin to use contraception than not. He used the example of a male prostitute, it would apply just as much to a boy who was adamant that he was going to have sex with his girlfriend. Hard line... sounds it doesn't he...

"sexist": Benedict XVI thought and wrote a great deal about gender theory. He saw in it good and bad. This sort of nuanced thinking may be beyond the possibilities of today's journalism. In 2004 he wrote that "the promotion of women within society must be understood and desired as a humanization ". Oh the wicked old misogynist! How dare he!

"homophobic": Similarly I suspect that Benedict XVI thought much more thoroughly about this issue than you have. The idea that he had anything but love for homosexual people is rubbished by the fact that he said "the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin".

All of these epithets, hard-line, sexist and homophobic, are ways in which you seek to discard Benedict's views without having to address them. This is an unfortunate state of affairs and sums this article up nicely. Not a great deal of thought, but an awful lot of bluster.

"at least we knew what we were getting with Pope Benedict": well, we know that we'll get the same from Francis as we got from Pope Benedict: the truth. Benedict XVI just didn't care what other people thought of what he said because he had justified confidence in his own intellectual prowess. Francis seems to be treating the media as a means of evangelisation in itself, which is certainly a fine way to go about things. The style may have changed, the substance has not changed one iota. Everyone knew that once the media realised that, it would turn against Pope Francis, it's inevitable.

Sincerely yours,
A young catholic lay person.

Not a religious issue

125, 000 abortions are carried out each day. That's more than 80 sinkings of the Titanic every single day.

One of the Catholic Church's most public and controversial activities is its ongoing campaign against abortion. Generally the public sideline it as a religious issue because it is a religious community working against it. Damian will argue below that the religious ideas behind the Catholic Church's involvement in the pro life movement should be put on the back burner and the secular ideas be brought to the fore.

March for Life 2010
No one likes to talk about abortion and for good reason.

It's a grim reality that people do chose to "terminate pregnancies". The culture of death we hear so much about is not yet winning in our society against the culture of life in which, by and large, pregnancies are still seen as a cause of rejoicing. Even when those in favour of laws which allow abortions couch them in satitized terms such as "terminations" and "procedures" the phrases send a shudder down our cultural spine which is used to supporting outflung arms of rejoicing when discussing pregnancy and unborn babies. Yet, there are cases where people chose to end these pregnancies and the only way to do so is end the life of the unborn child.

Therefore it's a grim reality that we do have to talk about abortion. People have very strong feelings about the issue. Being pro life and willing to stand up for that belief can cause estrangement from friends. Provoke confusion in other people who cannot relate such an absolute stance with the loving personalities Catholics a required to cultivate or who assume a myriad of other political beliefs with a pro lifer which bear no relation whatever to one's real political persuasions.

It's a grim reality that we need to be pragmatic about putting our message on abortion across. As Catholics it is inescapable that one of our reasons for opposing abortion is because we believe that in the act of becoming incarnate God sanctified humanity. Catholicism is imprinted on our minds, our hearts and our souls. We are made in the image and likeness of God and were given life as a gift by Him. We can't deny that this belief influences how we think.

It is however, not how most people in today's United Kingdom think so we need to engage with people on a shared axiom. The most obvious being a belief in human rights.

The necessity for the preservation of human rights is discernable by reason alone. It is true that the preservation of human rights promotes a safe society for the individual. All individuals need safety in order to flourish and their flourishing benefits other individuals and society. Human rights do not work as a protection for society unless all living humans are afforded equal rights. Human rights are not innate or self evident or magically imbued into every person, they are social necessities which society affords to all living humans for its own benefit. These rights operate in a similar way to a jenga set, piled on top of each other with those lower down being more integral to the structure of the edifice that those higher up. You can afford to take a piece from high up without the whole thing collapsing. The right to life is the table upon which the jenga tower rests. Remove that and the whole thing comes tumbling down because one cannot have any rights if one is already dead.

Jenga set
The right to life must, therefore, be accorded to every living human.

There is an objective definition of what is alive discernable by science. An organic entity which is capable of moving, respiring, reacting to changes in its environment, growing, reproducing, excreting and taking on nutrients. At the moment of conception a zygote is objectively and undeniable alive. There is also an objective definition of what is human: an entity with human DNA.

Those who support laws which allow abortion typically accord the right to life to an embryo at an arbitrary point such as when it gains consciousness, can feel pain or can survive independently outside of the womb. These processes are all just that: processes, whereas with life and humanity, something is either is alive or not and either human or not. Trying to map a living human onto a scale of consciousness, sensitivity to pain, ability to survive outside the womb or whatever the criteria used is would be fine if what were being calculated were also a scale, but something either is alive or it is not. With some jenga blocks you can slide them out part of the way and the tower will remain, but if you move the table from underneath it at all, it will collapse. Being a feminist, I believe in a woman's right to make decisions about her life but I know that that right is less fundamental than the unborn child's right to life.

The other problem with the pro choice practice of assigning human rights to the embryo at these arbitrary points is that humans who have been born map onto these scales lower than other humans and so would less important rights based on these same principles. Are my rights worth less when I've had a drink and so feel pain less acutely, when I'm on a life support machine and so incapable of surviving without assistance or when I'm asleep and so less concious than someone awake?

For the application of the right to life we need a decisive and objective cut off point because life itself is either on or off. The only acceptable point at which to do so it the moment of conception at which the inadequately gened gametes become human and alive.

We need to be utterly convincing on this issue because our responsibility as the Church is to draw people to God. In the context of abortion, we need either to convince people not to have one or to embrace forgiveness when they have chosen to have one. The pastoral response of love for the woman who has had an abortion (whether they were free to chose to or not) is paramount. Therefore it is these terms in which we need to present our argument because it is these terms, human rights and love, which we share with the people to whom we are talking. Bluster about the incarnation and imago Dei is meaningless to most people, but human rights is a language we all understand.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Turning our backs on death and facing the Life of Christ

This is bound to get a bit earnest, but give me a chance.

I want to share a truly moving post from Protect the Pope about a former abortion practitioner who gave the abandoned instruments of abortion to the Holy Father who prayed over them that evening. I was particularly struck by the doctor's words:
“The instruments of death were abandoned at the foot of the successor of Peter in the world, as death is put at the feet of Jesus in favor of life.”
I wish I had the courage to give up my will to sin like he has, to say like he does "never more death until death".

I can intellectualise and have all the external signs of faith, but unless I actually find the courage to live out my convictions, as the doctor has done, it is nothing more than a mind game. I am not naturally a desparing person, I see the goodness of God before noticing the evil committed by those he loves, but I can't say that this Christian life is easy. I was struck by something in the talk I heard today from the local ordinary. He was asked to take the title of "Can I really be a Catholic?" and he said very plainly "no". I can't really be a Catholic, but in the context of the Church, with the support of the community of faith, we can.

What I took away from that is that it's not only that the Church dispenses the sacraments and so I couldn't be a Catholic without it, or that it speaks with authority on faith and morals and so I couldn't be a Catholic without it or even that it provides a structure into which I fit and so could not be Catholic without it. These are important and I cherish them, but above all of these, I find great comfort in the other Catholics in my life, in other members of the Church. We all know just how hard trying to live the Christian life is: we have that shared experience of struggle and failure and of renewal and rebirth. I never wish so ardently that I could deny the existence of God as when I am cut off from other Catholics for extended periods of time. I find myself just wishing I could ask Him to go away. I know that if I did so he would respect my free will and do so, but then I would be nothing. No man is an island and certainly no Catholic.

Parental Strictures

My dad, Huldrych, has asked me to come along to a talk a local bishop is giving this evening but only on condition that I'm not nasty to him.

Moi? Nasty? Never...

Also! I can't believe that our frankly hilarious Legend of St Abihu of the Wine isn't being better received! That took us ages!

Obamacare. A step too far

I am a left leaning softie liberal when it comes to politics and thus I naturally gravitate towards President Obama on that basis that he's better than the vile republicans whose draft budget that cries out to heaven for vengance.

I also naturally supported the idea of affordable health care, something aking to our own beloved NHS (may God bless her and all who serve Him in her and may He defend her mightily against the ravages of ungodly tories) I thought. 50 million Americans live without healthcare insurance and that number is rising. Clearly this needs to be addressed. The profit motive is a dangerous principle to adopt within healthcare because it ends up with a company putting a price on a God given life. The Republicans haven't got an acceptable solution. Obama's offered Obamacare. Fine then.

Alas and alack.

It seems that I was naïve and that in fact Mr Obama was being somewhat scurrilous.

The US national debt is currently at an astonishing level. Beyond the comprehension of the people organising the attempt to pay it off. Obamacare would add an enormous sum onto the already mountainous total. The simple truth is, however brilliant Obamacare might have been, the US simply could not have afforded to implement it. Just not a possibility. To buy things you need money or the ability to borrow money. The US have no money and no longer have the ability to borrow money.

To manage to get the Bill to the stage it's at, Obama had to be devious in his winning over its opposition. Basically, he let them off it. Be they supreme court judges or Nanci Pelosi's electorate. It reminded me very much of the ancienne regime in pre revolutionary France whereby the third estate the bulk of the tax and the clergy and nobility paid very little. For all the excpetions he's willing to give, he's not willing to let the Catholic Church have one on paying for contraception and even abortions, which bizarely he considers to be part of healthcare.

Obama presented the Bill for discussion with a day's notice. It is a very large document and almost none of the senators have had time to digest it. Is it any wonder that the Republicans find this unacceptable. That said, I suspect if they got no pay for the time during which the government is shut down and they're not doing anything, the situation would not have arisen.

Mr Obama will call it a tax when it suits him (like when he wants to have the Supreme Court hold it as constitutional) and an optional purchase when it doesn't. Even if not purchasing it provokes a fine.

I fear that much of the blame for the current shutdown must be left at the door of Mr Obama. The republicans haven't got a better solution to the problem, but Mr Obama has gone about this very badly. If he had been more honest, I imagine that the Republicans would have kicked up a fuss because that's what they do. Even so, I imagine he would have managed to get it through. The fact that not a signle Republican voted for the Bill says to me something is out of joint and I suspect that being up front is that joint.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Initium Legenda Sancti Abihu Vini

In diebus illi erat monkus* nomine Abihu. Dignus fuerat magna laude pro pietatis suis ad Dominus Noster et pro pietatas suis ad dono suum de vinum roseum atque haec distributio de estis donum maximum Dei, plurimos ad fidem Christi conversi. Quotidie vinum offerebat populo suo dicens: "Ecce! Certe Deus existit! Sine quo non potest esse vinum!" et omnes crediderunt.

In eisdem diebus, rumore per totam orbem terrarum perambulaverabat que episcopum quemdam centralis Italian dioecesim voluit consulens novum. Hoc consiliarius dicerent ad hoc centralis Italici Episcopi, qui incensi Domino facibus placuit maximum. Hoc centralis Italici Episcopi respexit per orbem ut invenirent intelligi hominem prae subtilitate de favorite Domini incensum.

Tandem invenit homo, cui nomen Piero. Piero in his rebus sapientissimus erat ipse credidit et nuntiavit centralis Italici Episcopi: "Ego sum valde sapiens. incensum scio quod Deus vult propter Ego enim valde sapiens sum." Et centralis Italici Episcopi credidit Piero propter vestimenta suis erat coloratus, et possederat vehiculo qui non marcum bonum in MOTum suum obtenebat. Humiliatem Pieri erat mirabile de quo saepe locutus.

Deinde, Abiu audito rumore estis et obstupefacta. Sciebat Piero bureaucratus erat qui transverberabitur alios clericos a tergo ut positionus meloire obtinere ut portabat plurimos vestimentes de colore sui favorito: purpureo. Ira justum de Abihu surrexit. Episcopum italica centralis no habuit gustus bonum. Eheu! Centralis Italici Episcopi requiritur bonum Consiliario!

Cum Piero eius consiliario sint, ut esset possibulum de repeatere calamitatem quae acciderant ad centralis Italici Episcopi emeriti, quo vestes caerulei coloris portabat. Sunt valde deformis et nemo  poterat vadere centralis Italici Episcopi emeriti de periculo de subito mortem. Piero hominem perniciosum erat.

Ultimo centralis Italici Episcopi portaverat vestimentis caerulei coloris deformisque 
Ergo, Abihu congregata omnia de coragio suo et omnia de vinum roseum ejus et pellegrinabat ad  dioecesim centralis italiani pro pugnare cum consilare malum, Piero.

Post multa quaerentes, invenit Piero in coquina de Banco Vaticano ubi aliis clericis monitoriabat cum magno diligentia dum preparabant cena magna pro ipsiis. Ingregientus principale de cena illis erat libris coctis.

Abihu elevabat digitos illis ad Piero dicens: "Malum virum! Male scripsisti et non scribe cum mentibus tuis! verba tua ridiculum sunt! Repente de stupiditate tuae propter non volo te occidere."

Sed Piero non repente. Ergo abihu illi occidebat cum thuribalis suis et mundus totus laete erat. Abihu consiliabat centralis Italici Episcopi usare optimum incensum et surplus indutu dum episcoporum alium institutione. Centralis Italici Episcopi, qui sancti viri erat, accepit consilium de Abihu et mundo securi erat de vestibus deformis et caerulei colori.

Speramus aliquid viri purpurae togatam studui pro officio habent in aevi quod magisterium eorum de lingua ecclesiae attenuatus est ut efflueret cum hoc legenda ludicra de S. Abiu Vini, pro cujus précibus reciprocata grata sumus.


From an idea by Augustine

*We know the word's "monachus", but that doesn't work so well in pig latin. 

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Importance of Good Liturgy

Damien and I have a monk friend, who does a lot of monkery according to the rule of St Benedict, whose teaching on wine he finds most agreeable. His prime focus is the sacred liturgy, and he devotes a lot of his time to helping others with their liturgical formation. He's a wonderful man. A point to which he always returns is the necessity of beauty infiltrating all the senses in order to elevate the mind to a level of transcendent worship of the one God, Living and True. Nothing is more important than this - in the gospel our Lord chastises Martha for worrying about everything, and praises Mary for choosing to spend time with Him. The Catholic Church has in recent times done a fairly poor job where beauty is concerned; translations are increasingly ugly, the mass has been thinned out, and music is all over the place. As a linguist, the translations are the part I find most repugnant. I want to look at the Common Book of Prayer and see how the Anglicans are doing for beauty.

The first thing which strikes one when looking at this little book of heresy is that there is a huge amount of variety. "I confess to Almighty God..." may be nice and convenient, but is there any reason at all why things couldn't be spiced up? Check out these little prayers of confession for Christmas (there are several according to the time of year/occasion):

"The Virgin Mary accepted your call to be the mother of Jesus. Forgive our disobedience to your will. We have sinned: forgive us and heal us."

Or this:

"The wise men followed the star to find Jesus the King. Forgive our reluctance to seek you. We have sinned: forgive us and heal us."

The Roman Missal does of course have season specific prayers, but they absolutely drench the Anglican liturgy, and it is beautiful.

The second thing which strikes one is the antiquity of the language, particularly in the psalter. Anglicans don't seem to think that the common man is so stupid that leaving in traditional second and third person singular verb endings and the second person pronouns would completely confound him. Nor are they afraid to use words whose meanings have changed but remain perfectly clear from the context. These principles create truly beautiful translations, such as this:

"...He sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty,
He shall come again to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost,
The Holy Catholick Church..."


"...He remembering His mercy,
Hath holpen his servant Israel,
As He promis'ed to Abraham and his seed, forever."

The sense of tradition, the sense that one is pronouncing the same creed as our forefathers since the 16th century, not 2008, is profound and important. It reminds us that we are not saying the creed 2000 years after the death of Christ, but throughout all ages. This is one of the motivations for using Latin, but just because we have translated the missal from Latin doesn't mean we ought to throw away the underlying principles of beauty of language, as indeed we have.

I'm writing this primarily because I love Anglican things, and I don't actually expect the Church to change anything because some anonymous, indignant student writes a blogpost complaining about Her dreadful choices. Nevertheless, I really really hope that someone, somewhere in the Vatican, has common sense enough to stop this awful 'Good News' business where the text should quite clearly read, 'The Gospel'.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Uh Oh

We've heard a rumour that we may be hearing more of the man on the right in the coming days. The man on the right being responsible for the fiasco going on in the very immediate vicinity of Pope Benedict at the time.
Pope Benedict having been dressed up as the Atlantic

Thursday, 26 September 2013

I've worked out why the priest was so distracted, irritated and yelpy the other week. He must have been infested with flees from all the poor people he'd so kindly been looking after.

Not that scary

The Francis Libby created in her own image seems not to bear much resemblance to the real Pope
 When I heard Cardinal Tauron announce the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the papacy, I'd never heard of him. I called up his wikipedia page and saw "SJ" and saw that he was ordained in 1969. Having been born in the 90s, this scared me. Slowly I've become less and less worried about him. He's a Catholic.

I read an article by Libby Purves in The Times this week which seemed to me not really to be representative of Pope Francis. It showed, in part, a pope of whom I would be scared and in part just an ignorance of who and what Pope Francis is. If it was a Pope Francis that existed in real life then I think I might have had good reason to be scared.

The first and obvious fault of hers was to suggest some sort of dichotomy between Benedict XVI and Francis. I don't mean this in a inflicting-one's-own-opinions-upon-Benedict-and-then-onto-Francis kind of Fr Z way, but rather that she seemed to present a picture of Benedict which would have opposed Francis had it actually ever existed in the real world. She described him as "a rigid German", conjuring the media myth of the jackbook wearing rottweiler with an obsession with regulations and imposing it on the cuddly professor from Regensburg and then proceded to make a list of misrepresentations of both. The first on her list was inevitably homosexuality. Francis has yet to say anything about homosexuality. He has spoken about the innate value of people who are homosexual and that's a very different kettle of fish, though he seems to have caught them in the same pond as Benedict who said "It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the church's pastors wherever it occurs". Then came the role of women in the Church ("It is theologically and anthropologically important for woman to be at the center of Christianity"... said Benedict XVI).

The next bit brought a snort from deep within the walls of Lazarus College. She described Catholicism as "legalistic, literal, authoritarian fundamentalism". My suspicion is that she just thought up some epithets commonly applied to religion without giving too much thought to which ones she used. Some people within the Church are certainly guilty of all three, but the idea that the Church advocates that or that it's common would be tricky to defend. Legalistic in the sense that we have laws which are applied, yes. But they tend to be about things like clergy fiddling the books or the altar boys. As it goes, I'm quite keen to keep those laws. We have laws about clergy not misleading their people too: an australain priest was defrocked and excommunicated by Pope Francis recently for teaching contrary to the Church. This is I suspect what she is getting at, but she needs to remember what the role of a priest is. He is there to pass on faithfully what the Church says. He may have a myriad of personal opinions, but he ought to have the humility to know that his opinions are not what his parisioners need from their priest. They can get whacky notions from reading The Tablet. It takes a fairly extreme situation, like the one in Australia, for the legal mechanisms of the Church to be put into actions. As for the importance of observing Catholic practices, which is the other thing I think she's getting at, maybe asking why they are there would be good before discarding them without a thought. She gives the example of "no-meat Fridays, not joining the Freemasons, Sunday Mass and Holydays of Obligation". These aren't ends in themselves, they're a way of improving and protecting our relationship with God. We don't think for a moment we can understand God with these rules, but they create an environment in which we can start to meet Him.

I remember when Pope Benedict was elected in 2005. He didn't know how to be pope. He'd never wanted to be one and never expected to be so had not prepared for it. The obvious example is that of the Regensburg address when he was just an excited professor who'd found an amazing quotation from a historical source. With Benedict it was easier because he wasn't trying to reform the curia so let them reign him in a bit. Francis needs to get some heads rolling, so can't take the chance of letting any of them control him. It's a tricky situation, I could never do it as well as he seems to be doing it, so I'll keep him in my prayers and take him as an example of Christian living.

Pope Francis is a Jesuit through and through. In one or two respect he even shows what generation of Jesuit he is, but you can tell a lot about a man from his enemies. In the past that's meant other South American Jesuits. Today it means the curia. That speaks volumes.

As an aside, I think we'll see Pope Francis helping greatly with the vocations shortage we're experiencing. I think that it's easy to make sacrifices for a person but that it's hard to make sacrifices for an idea. For so long as we make Catholicism a cerebral exercise, as is so tempting with a religion founded on logic, we create an idea. When we realise that actually it's all about a person and the relationship we have with Him, it suddenly becomes a lot easier. In the situations where the relationship with the Lord draws a person towards His priesthood, then I suspect it will be easier for men to make the sacrifices necessary when the bloke in the white cassock is so obviously not viewing his faith in terms of intellectualism but in terms of that same relationship. We'd be lost without the intellectuals because we need true doctrine, but we'd have no idea where we were at all is we became disconnected from the fundamental reality of our faith which is that God is alive and with us.

By Damian

Our feast

On our feast today, see if you've got time to mention us in your prayers. We could always do with help with our studies, perseverance with the faith and general well being. We'll be praying for the areas Cosmas and Damian worked.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

The Christian foundation of Thatcherism.

In Britain, the 1980s are still today remembered for the titanic political conflict which took place between the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. The two epitomic figures of the blazing ideologies were Tony Benn and Margaret Thatcher (Our Lady of Finchley). Both were profoundly Christian people, and yet their individual crusades for true justice led them to be dichotomously opposed to one another in political terms. Tony Benn branded her "a great ideologue", but declared her underlying philosophical problem to be that, "She measured the price of everything, and the value of nothing." When asked if Thatcherism had left a nation divided, Our Lady said: "[The trade unions] were out to use their power to hold the nation to ransom... to stop power from getting to every house in the country; power, heat, and light, to every housewife, every child, every school every pensioner. You want division? You want conflict? You want hatred? There it was! It was that, which Thatcherism if you call it that, tried to stop." I shall now outline what I, Cosmas, perceive to be the Gospel underpinnings of Thatcherism, and why I think that Liberation Theology, even if it were resurrected in a changed form, would be intellectually flat.

The words of Lord Himself have always seemed a very good place to start when discussing matters of morality, so here indeed I shall start. In Mark's Gospel, the Lord is asked by a rich man what he must do to inherit life eternal. The man tells the Lord he has obeyed the commandments always, and yet the Lord tells him one thing is still lacking; he must sell his possessions and give to the poor. Jesus then declares, "How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus, Creator and Redeemer of the rich man, did not exercise any authoritarian power over him in order to bring about an objective good, and to take down any impediments to the entering of the kingdom of God. We must then ask, why not? A simple answer may be that He knew that the rich man would do as he had requested, so force was not necessary, but this is not a sufficient answer. In Luke's gospel, Christ gives us the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. It was Lazarus's love of wealth which ended up with him being cast into hell, and yet, Our Lord did not take the wealth from him.

The true answer is that the removal of will is an objective evil, and we cannot dilute this principle in any way. It is for this reason that the Lord allowed Eve to eat from the tree. Allowing Eve free will caused an objective evil, but it was truly necessary that this felix culpa was a product of Eve's choice.

The Bible teaches us then, that God would rather suffer an objectively bad situation, than take away a person's act of will. There remains no basis for the Christian to claim therefore, that it is morally acceptable for a government to take from a person beyond the amount necessary for the provision of public goods. It may not happen. Communism is a heresy because it takes this taxation principle to the extreme and says the individual may own nothing. Cardinal Ratzinger talks about how when politics tries to do the work of God it becomes demonic, and this is what he meant by such a seemingly dramatic statement. The fruit of our free choice is made clear to us by the Lord in Matthew 25:34-36: "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me."

As ever, I think I can prove beyond all reasonable doubt that God is on my side and not Damian's, but, as promised, I shall criticise the intellectual foundations of this left-wing nonsense.

The principle underlying tax and spend economics is that redistribution of income can cause a morally better world. Those who hunger can be given food, those who are sick can be made well. This is true. It assumes however that the redistributors are: capable of identifying want, incredibly fair, not corrupt, etc etc. The list of necessary qualities could be taken much further, and none of them would one be able to connect with Ed Miliband or David Cameron!

The wealth/income redistributors are known to be none of these things by history, hence the development of modern democracy. Surely this is better and nullifies my criticism? Alas, not. The (im)moral principle underlying democracy is that C is morally obliged to carry out the will of A and B simply because the outnumber him. This has led to indefensible outcomes such as the 50p tax rate and government ministers with a few more perks than your average 'servant'. With only two near identical major parties capable of forming a government, an uneven distribution of people per seat, an election once every four years and so on and so forth, there is very little case for even establishing that the British parliamentary system displays so much as the smallest correlation between the will of the majority and the economics which occur.

Bearing in mind all of these issues with any left-wing ideology (I'm counting the modern Conservative Party in there), and our Lord's words in the gospel, is there any room left for some kind of liberation theology in the Catholic Church today? I think the answer's a resounding 'no'.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Liberation Theology's Rehabilitation

Last week I took a strole in the gardens of a seminary with a friend in his second year there, Augustine, who had been in a friendly intellectual tussle with a brother seminarian who had just started his first year. Augustine is known to be higher in his liturgical tastes than, for example, our Holy Father. With this, assumed the first year, came right wing politics. By the end of the tussle he was acused of being a communist.

The entry into the world of the world of Marx's ideology, one which is, in certain respects, very similar to that of Christianity and the practices of the early Church but in others demonstrates a profoundly anti-christian lack of concern for the individual, is a challenging problem for Christians. We do not want others to think that when we are promoting moral society founded on compassion for the disadvantaged that we are promoting an agenda whose logical end, by virtue of the fact it places greater value on one group of people (be they workers or farmers or serfs or whatever group a particular adaptation of marxism adopts) over another, is Yezhovshchin and is thus incompatible with a faith which hangs on the fact that God became a human being and so human beings are themselves sacred. Without wanting to put words into Augustine's mouth, all he is in fact doing with his political beliefs is remaining faithful to the teachings of Christ; that he acknowles that he finds the psychological triggers of external beauty fit well into his spirituality and help him to pray seems to have little bearing on the matter. I am no theologian, but from my layman's perspective (in both senses of "lay"), a comparison of the aims of Liberation theology with the doctrine that Christ taught indicates to me that they fit quite snuggly.

The problem in the Liberation Theology that I have read, as I see it, is the language it employs. It is that of class struggle, a struggle which has no place in Catholicism which teaches that all people are equally children of God no matter what their class. The authors were writing for people in South America who had already come across socialist ideas and so were were speaking in terms appropriate to them. The world has moved on. Marxism is a spent force and an irrelevance to anyone's day to day life.

I see a genuine Liberation Theology at work in the Order of Malta but coming from the other end. Until very late in its history, the OM was comprised exclusively of nobility but the Order grew into a way that the Church could encourage the very wealthy to take on the responsibilities of that wealth in looking after the poor. No one was forced to do anything, but the presence of the Order made it much harder for the rich to ignore their obligations. It continues that work today. The OM group I work with is drawn from a very middle class background due to its links with a University limited in its ability to take people from other backgrounds by the failings of the secondary education system. This coterie of privilege works with the least privileged people in society to make their lives more comfortable and provide a bit of companionship to those who would otherwise be alone.

Politically, I (though not Cosmas) would support a more pragmatic approach than that and would vote for heavier taxes on people like me who have more money than I need, to be spent for the benefit of those who have less than they need in what is fundamentally a distributist model. I don't think that fulfilling responsibilities should be optional and I don't trust people to do so.

The pope has distanced himself from the views of Archbishop Müller who is a keen supporter of Liberation Theology, presumably to distance himself from any suggestion that he might support the marxist tendencies parts of the movement still hold dear.

This is where I think that Liberation Theology got somewhat out of hand. There is nothing marxist about the fundamentals of Liberation Theology, that was baggage it acquired later. A preferential option for the poor is one thing, the neglect of the wealthy is another. That I think the responsibilities of the wealthy should not be optional certainly does not mean that I think they should be impoverished in order to squeeze them through the eye of a needle. I believe in a right to property, but I also realise that I'm already in a position where I have more property than I need. Priests promise to live simply and everything that is required of a priest should be required of the laity. The requirements for a priest may be more specific (eg to pray the breviary rather than to pray daily or to live celibate chastity rather than the chastity which could be within the context of marriage), but they come from the requirements of us all. I think a refined Liberation Theology, stripped of its now irrelevant allusions to class war and embodying the theology of Rerum Novarum, Populorum Progressio, Laborem Exercens and the rest of the extensive corpus of social doctrine, has an enormous amount to give not only to the Church, but to the wider world. I think its potential to save souls is huge.

Above all, I think it's crucial that we stop thinking of it as "Catholic Social Teaching". In once sense of course, that's exactly what it is, but a better way of thinking of it would be as "Christian Doctrine", that is, the declarations of Christ applied to the modern world. They are teachings in the sense that we have to learn from them, but doctrine in that word's implication that we are bound by them. We have a very limited choice in whether to live by them since the consequences for not doing do are encapsulated in the infinity that is outside the circumference of the eye of needle. Liberation theology can fit within the space, but only if it sheds the camel's saddle bag of marxism.
By Damian

Monday, 16 September 2013

Purgatory 2.0

As ever, Cosmas sweeps onto the scene to undo the damage of Damian. I'll be explaining purgatory from my perspective.

Firstly, we should understand the biblical basis for purgatory. Some try to place it in Christ's teachings, but this is quite difficult. The main passage is, as always, in Paul:

"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."

Yes, I am aware that this is a heretical translation.

One way to think of purgatory then is this: Perfect faith brings forth perfect works, perfect works point to perfect faith. Purgatory is God's mercy compensating for our own failings.

Purgatory is not the remnant of some kind of dodgy works-salvation theology, whereby we have to pay the price of the broken window, as Damian puts it. This is not biblical.

The role of purgatory can also be put into these terms: Sin has three consequences: It separates us from God; we enter a debt to goodness that we cannot pay; and it taints us, preparing us to sin further.

Purgatory is not the paying of the debt to goodness.

The separation from God is healed by his omnibenevolent forgiveness. "Man, your sins are forgiven you." Luke 5:20b.

The debt to the transcendent Good is paid for by the Holy Cross of Christ. "You know that you were ransomed (redeemed/paid for) from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot." 1 Pet 1:18-19

The taint of sin is removed by the obedience of faith, and it is this which, when left incomplete by us, is finished by God's mercy in the fires of purgatory.

Protestants often criticise the doctrine of purgatory for the reason that it seems to promote works salvation. This is not true. When properly understood, it is absolutely biblical.

The Catholic Church requires of believers relatively little regarding what purgatory is like. Drawing from Isaiah 6:5-7. I understand it to be a personal encounter, whereby the soul meets the Lord and is purged by the burning, passionless passion, which is love divine. When we behold him face to face, we become perfect. This links back to my first way to understand purgatory. Perfect faith means that man behold God as he is, and hence brings forth perfection. At the moment of death, faith is abolished and we behold God as he is, and this makes us perfect.

The Joy of Purgatory

My mother, Monica, with whom I am very close, was brought up a Catholic in the 1970s but has somehow maintained her good taste. My dad, Huldrych, is the son of a very holy, very inspiring protestant minister. They're left wing intellectuals and proud. Both have a political outlook informed by their religious convictions and rely on God heavily when times are hard and keep in touch with him pretty well in the mean time. As such, religion is a common topic at the dinner table.

This week we had a good talk about purgatory.

I believe in purgatory for two reasons. The first is that in Heaven the souls are perfect, but at the moment of their death they were not perfect. There must be some process by which the imperfect soul becomes perfect.

The second I found easiest to explain in terms of my own family. I asked my little brother, Quiricus, to imagine that he was in the habit of throwing a tennis ball agaist the back wall of the house. My mother, Monica, warned him not to do so as there are two large windows which he could easily break. Obviously being in my family he ignored his mother (who often reminds us that she is not only all good and merciful but also all just) and continued throwing the ball. As Monica (who also informs me that she is omniscient) knew would happen, Quiricus broke a window. He came running back into the house, avoiding the miriad shards of glass strewn across the floor of the kitchen, in tears of contrition and said how sorry he was. Of course Monica, being all good and all merciful, forgave him at once. However, the window still had to be replaced, so the just thing to do was to dock Quiricus's pocket money till he'd paid for it. That, helps me understand purgatory and I think it made it plainer for Quiricus too.

I, however, do not believe in a purgatory based on temporal punishment. I can see that it can be a useful image to explain that greater sins need greater purification, but it doesn't make any sense to me. I had a latin teacher when I was little (it was that kind of school...) who described purgatory as a bath. A nice image for a nine year old, but I think that maybe Cardinal Ratzinger has greater insight into the issue than even she did.
The transforming "moment" of this encounter cannot be quantified by the measurements of earthly time. It is, indeed, not eternal but a transition, and yet trying to qualify it as of "short" or "long" duration on the basis of temporal measurements derived from physics would be naive and unproductive. The 'temporal measure' of this encounter lies in the unsoundable depths of existence, in a passing-over where we are burned ere we are transformed. To measure such "Existenzzeit", such an 'existential time,' in terms of the time of this world would be to ignore the specificity of the human spirit in its simultaneous relationship with, and differentation from, the world.
This is basically a reference to scholaticist thinking of "aeviternity", as opposed to the "time" we experience here and the "eternity" which is God's. An existential experience of the passage of being. The saints are not eternal because they were begotten and made and so there was a time when they were not existing. This does not negate the necessity of praying with the saints for those having that ultimate experience of enlightenment: I'll need all the help in heaven and earth that I can get if I ever get to see the face of God.

By Damian

Sunday, 15 September 2013

A Short Reflection on God's Forgiveness.

In today's mass readings the gospel was that of the prodigal son. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful parables which Our Lord gives us, and one to which all of us can relate too well. In it, the son who has fallen into a life of vice acknowledges the fundamental lack which his sin has led to, as well as the true joy he had before it. He resolves to return home, and as he stands at the gate, his father runs out to greet him, embrace him, and immediately calls for celebrations.

The most prominent feature of this parable is the joy of the father, as he who was lost is found. There can be no greater comfort as we prepare for the Sacrament of Penance, than that the God from whom we have by our acts of will wandered is running more than halfway to meet us. Receiving the Lord's forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation can be one of the hardest aspects of the spiritual life; the stains we would rather leave in the dark all called out into the light by Goodness himself. It is to be highly recommended therefore, that before the examination of conscience and the entering of the confessional, the Christian rereads or at least recalls the message of this parable.

Fr Pacelli is less than pleased to see Damian again

The second reading I wish to discuss is taken from the first epistle of St Paul to Timothy. In it Paul writes, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith." He continues, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am the greatest of them; and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the greatest evidence of his inexhaustible patience..."

Now, this gives me great hope for my vocation, whatever it may be. If the apostle to the gentiles who almost single-handedly managed to spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire after an intimate encounter with the Risen Lord can confidently assert that God's mercy is inexhaustible, I no longer need to worry! Not to mention that we all know what a rotter Paul was before he became a Christian - I still haven't killed anyone! Though Damian is a potential candidate for stoning.

Conversion of Fr Roncilla on the M1 North

Finally, I wish to mention briefly the Old Testament reading taken from the book of Exodus. Moses is interceding with the Lord on behalf of the Israelites, and he says, "Why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched...?" There are only two things I wish to say; firstly, Moses' role for the Israelites wandering in the desert prefigures "...the one mediator between God and mankind, the man Jesus Christ" who intercedes before God for Christians, who, like the Jews, find themselves in a foreign place which is not their home. Again, this should be a great source of hope for us.

More significantly however, Moses' words point forward to the event underpinning that reality. "...With arm outstretched..." As the Lord says in the psalm, "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint...", again prefiguring His Crucifixion. The last thing I wish to say about the Lord's forgiveness then is that this wonderful free gift I have described above was given to humanity at a very large price, for the debt we entered into when we committed our first mortal sins was far greater than we could ever pay. Receiving this ineffable love inevitably sets us on fire, so we pass on this living flame, as we learn to love all men. That is the ultimate catechesis for heaven.