A Powerful Force…

Earlier this week the famous British children’s comic artist Leo Baxendale died (RIP) He was probably most famous for his characters like Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx, and the Bash Street Kids in the Beano comic. I wasn’t much of a comic reader when I was a child but I can appreciate their appeal to the young reader for harmless fun and mischief- at least they were when I was growing up in the 1970s.

There have been many tributes to this talented artist this week in the British news items, media and press and one of his fellow cartoonists quoted him thus:

‘Once the imagination of a child is set alight, it takes persistent dousing with cold water to put out the fire.’

I was struck by that comment. Not least because from a positive perspective a child’s imagination is a marvellous thing, and it can be a delight to see a child’s creativity come alive in the way they make up songs, dances, imaginary friends, spectacles and role play. It’s all part of childish fun and healthy development

And then I got to thinking about explicit sex education and Leo Baxendale’s observation. Just as the nation is about to vote for a new government, no matter who wins [and it’s most likely to be the Conservatives] the juggernaut to make so called “relationships education” compulsory from age 4 with all that that implies means that it will take “persistent dousing” of the “holy waters” of sanctifying grace and prayer for conscientious parents to de-tox their children when they arrive home from school. One day a future generation will bitterly condemn this generation for what they exposed the young imagination to ….and whom many have and will pay the price of lost innocence.

A word from our sponsor

So often when we hear that phrase we know it’s going to precede a marketing gimmick or plug for some kind or other organisation behind a particular event or related group. It got me thinking as I prepare myself spiritually and emotionally to “sponsor” a young cousin of mine [a young woman of 18] who will receive the sacrament of confirmation this weekend. Apart from feeling honoured to be asked by her to support her in this momentous soul-changing moment and event in her life, it causes me to pause and reflect on just how much a responsibility it is and will be ….

It also causes me to refresh my own sense of being sponsored by my patron saints, but also and most importantly by the Spirit of God Himself. I know the Spirit inspires me to pray for without Him I cannot pray but  I also know I don’t pray directly to Him enough for his sponsorship of me. So as I stand behind my cousin tomorrow with the reassuring hand of an older brother in the faith on her shoulder as she kneels before the Bishop to be “sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit” – I shall be asking for that same Spirit to teach and guide me in to continued dependence on the Father, so that I too may promote (sponsor) the well being of others in my daily life especially by my words.

A blessed Eastertide

 

Silence gives consent

This evening after first vespers of the fifth Sunday of Lent we enter the beautiful but solemn season of Passiontide. And since the great events of Holy Week are always challenging to enter interiorly [not least because of the increasing demands of everyday life and distractions] I heartily recommend reading [in sections over the next two weeks]
The Mental Sufferings of Our Lord in His Passion – Discourse 16 by Blessed John Henry Newman

here is a link to the complete text. Find time to read it in quiet, silence and peace. Immerse yourself in its richness of language and descriptors and increase the levels of silence in your daily life between now and Holy Saturday, where and when the Grand Silence of the Lord in the tomb is where he awaits our consent to join our sufferings to His

http://www.newmanreader.org/works/discourses/discourse16.html

 

A Daughter’s Love

I wish to share with you all this additional and very special guest blog (see below).

It comes from the pen and heart and soul of a daughter of a good friend and colleague of mine whom I was privileged to meet a few weeks ago. Christina, who you will read about below is 15 years of age.

I was so struck by this young lady’s grace, the depth of her spiritual/emotional maturity, her poise and innate sense of dignity that I felt compelled under the Holy Spirit to pay her father [and indirectly his wife and her mother] a huge compliment on their parenting skills which have evidently borne fruit.

Her father told me that amongst all the many things that he and his wife have done for their two daughters, they are convinced that a decision they made a few years ago for the overall well-being of their youngest [difficult and as challenging as it was] the graces and blessings of that tough love are plain to be seen.

So I asked him if she’d be willing to share that decision her parents took out of love for her and its consequences from her perspective.

She agreed and what you have below is the result of her generously and bravely deciding to do this. Indeed I am honoured that she has done so with her parents’ consent and full support.

I also post it today on Mother’s Day as a tribute to all Christian parenting. I’ve entitled it “A Daughter’s Love” because as I read Christina’s account with all the virtuous qualities inherent in it due to the grace-filled influence and example of her parents.

I will let the blog speak for itself as a message of encouragement for all parents, and for our children and a special word of hope and quiet trust in God for our young daughters that they may grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord to be the best mothers they can be themselves one day, if God wills.

– Edmund

A Daughter’s Love: How my parents protected my purity during my teens

My name is Christina and I am nearly 16 years old.

I am in Year 11 approaching my GCSE exams in May. My parents decided that it was best for me not to have a mobile phone throughout my school years. I asked them many times throughout my early years at secondary school to allow me to have a phone, but they never wavered.

Although I understood the reasons why they refrained from allowing me to own a phone, I didn’t agree and I thought that they were just being too protective and controlling. Only in the last year or so, have I come to realise that the decision they made was right.

But most of all, I came to realise that the decision they made was necessary, since I live in a secular society and because I am surrounded by people with different beliefs and morals. Now as I look back at my years at secondary school, I am very grateful to my parents for the decision they made.

If I was given a phone, I know that I would have made many mistakes and jeopardised my relationship with my family and with God.

The many of the times I have been out with my friends I am left feeling bored and unimportant. It seems that their phones are much more interesting than I am! I find that some teenagers today are poor at keeping conversation with those of their own age, let alone talking to adults. Their social skills have not developed so well over the years since they are absorbed in social media and their phones more and more.

I have noticed that some teenagers find it difficult talking face to face and prefer to message people. On reflection, I think that my upbringing has enabled me to mix with people of different ages more easily.

Social media allows people to post horrible pictures or phrases with the aim to hurt another person. This ridicule of others deeply upsets me, as some of my friends talk to me about how upset they are, due to what has been said about them online. I am aware that in the past some people have posted mean things about me, but I did not experience them first hand since I have not grown up with social media.

This means that I am not directly involved in the culture of slander and I have not developed the anxiety of what other people think of me, unlike my peers.

This anxiety is especially evident among my girlfriends. Many girls feel pressurised to look a certain way in the pictures they see posted. Boys and girls often comment on other people’s pictures which makes them overly self-conscious and increases their awareness of their looks.

Thankfully I have not been involved with the sexualised culture that is evolving. For example, I hear at school many pictures that are posted on Snapchat that are indecent. This make girls feel that the only way to get attention, especially from boys, is to pose in a sexual way, which is creating a disgusting culture that uses people.

As I look back at my earlier years of secondary school, I realise that if I had a phone it would have been far easier for me to disobey my parents and talk to whomever I liked, even if they had a bad influence on me. As I had not fully developed all my morals I could have been so easily swept along by our secular culture.

It would have meant I would have engaged in inappropriate conversations that would have led to sin and opened doors to temptation.

I am so very grateful to Our Lady for giving me parents who are helping me to protect my purity, and to my sister who helped me to stay strong along the way.

Christina Hogan.

A Very Bitter Lent

In September 2015 I was privileged to meet the Maronite Archbishop of Damascus Samir Nassar during the World Meeting of Families.

I was deeply moved by his accounts of the bitter suffering of the Syrian people during the relentless war, then almost 2 years ago.

Now with an eyewitness record of a suffering people who have endured longer now than the Second World War itself, I want to share with you his words which he posted to me personally last week.

Remember to pray for our brothers and sisters in Syria; never forgetting that it was en route to Damascus that Saul was converted by Christ so must we pray for such deep conversion and an end to all bloodshed.

– Edmund
A VERY BITTER LENT

1) An Apocalyptic Scene – In six years of war, the face of Syria has changed quite a lot.
It is a huge disaster zone of debris, carbonized buildings; burned down houses, ghost neighborhoods and towns destroyed to the ground.

More than twelve millions Syrians, 50% of the population, are lacking a roof.

They form the largest mass of refugees since the Second World War. Several million have left the country in search of more merciful skies. Many are waiting for mercy in camps of misery, some have drowned attempting to leave, and others are in line at embassies, nomads in search of a welcoming land. How can they leave this Syria of torments?

2) A Shattered Family – The family, which fortifies Church and Nation and has saved the country in the past is heavily shaken.

Seldom is a complete family found.

Violence has scattered this basic cell of society. Some family members are in graves, others in exile, in prison or on the battlefield. This painful situation is the cause of depression and anxiety and forces those few left without support to beg.

Young fiancées, separated by this exodus, the immigration of their partner or military mobilization, cannot marry. Crisis surrounds them. A hope for their future has crumbled.
How is it possible to follow course without a family or with a broken family?

3) A Sacrificed Childhood – The children are the most fragile. They have paid a great price for this merciless violence.

According to UNESCO, more than three million Syrian children haven’t attended school because they have to prioritize their physical wellbeing.

Those that have been to school witness the demise of the quality of teaching due to fewer faculty and students in remaining schools. These overwhelming circumstances impose academic failure.
The centers of psychological support cannot overcome the number and depth of wounds and psychic blocks.

How do we restore the spirit of these children destroyed by violence and barbaric scenes?

4) Threatened Parishes – Parishes have seen the number of parishioners diminish and pastoral activities reduced considerably. The priests are deprived of the means to provide human and spiritual support.

The Church of Damascus has witnessed the departure of one-third of their clergy (27 priests).

This is a hard blow weakening the place and role of the Christian minority already in decline.
The priests struggling to remain without any reassurances consider negotiating their eventual departure. They only wait for humanitarian agencies to arrive to assist broken families.

How do we fix this alarming hemorrhage? Can we imagine a Church without priests?

5) Between Pain and Freedom – The Syrian people are no longer looking for liberty. Their daily combat is finding bread, water, gas and fuel, which are harder and harder to find. Electrical shortages have become more frequent and lengthy.

These darken nights and reduce any social life.

The search for lost brothers, parents and friends is a very discrete, anxious and hopeful undertaking.

Finding a little room for shelter in a country in ruins has become an impossible dream for families and even more for young fiancés.

Fighting for liberty or searching for bread, what course should one take?

Final thoughts 

This little Syrian population lives this reality with pain visible in silent looks and streams of tears.

This bitter Lent of 2017 offers us time in the desert to take a good look at our commitment to the Church in the midst of faithful in distress, to lead the way towards Christ Resurrected. Christ Light of the world who knows the hearts of men and women says: “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Samir NASSAR
Maronite Archbishop of Damascus
Translated from French by Sarah Sierra and Sr. Margaret Kerry, fsp

A helper on the way

These thoughts come to you on the eve of his solemnity the 19th March. Last year I had a few ideas about how this great Saint can and must play a significant part in our family and faith life.

The urgency of our need for his heavenly intercession hasn’t waned. Indeed, in these deeply uncertain times, I believe it’s in his divinely appointed role as Protector of Holy Church (just like he guarded and protected the Mother of Christ and Jesus Himself) that St. Joseph really comes into his own.

My wife and I are just at the conclusion of a novena to him for some special intentions, and I for one have felt the power and effect of his intercession in a very real and concrete way only this last week. So take it from me, if you call fervently on him, he won’t fail you.

Novenas I think can be done both before and after a Saint’s feast, and I’m sure Jesus doesn’t mind if we turn to his earthly guardian and foster father for help even during the season of Lent.

After all, one of the titles we attribute to St Joseph is “Terror of demons” and since Lent is all about exorcising our idols out of our lives, then he’s a great supernatural aid to invoke especially half way through our journey to Easter.

To that end, I recommend the Devotion to the Seven Sorrows and Joys of St. Joseph as a fitting way to help prepare for Holy Week.

Be blessed,

– Edmund

“Lest We Forget…!”

The phrase above is one we adopt and use year in year out to recall with gratitude and solemnity the countless war dead who sacrificed their lives to defend and preserve our freedoms

There’s another “war” we must not forget..the war to fight for truth, goodness, justice and above all the natural and inalienable rights of parents to educate their children according to their conscientious beliefs. Nowhere was this more fiercely and forthrightly defended than by Pope Pius XI in his famous encyclical letter to German Catholics [before the start of the Second World War] -namely Mit Brennender Sorge [With Burning Sorrow]

It will be the 80th anniversary of this momentous document on Tuesday, March 14th. I think all parents, grandparents and priests who care about marriage and the family ought to revisit this document:

MIT BRENNENDER SORGE – ENCYCLICAL OF POPE PIUS XI ON THE CHURCH AND THE GERMAN REICH

We should make it more widely known those troubling times, both in state and church, where the rights of parents were ever more ignored or diminished. Here is some historical background.

In early 1933 after reluctantly signing the concordat with Hitler, a British diplomat asked Cardinal Pacelli [later Pius XII] whether Hitler would respect the concordat.

Pacelli replied: “Absolutely not. We can only hope that he will not violate all the clauses at the same time.”

And in fact, Hitler immediately began persecuting Catholics at every turn, so much so that the Holy See sent 50 protests to the government.

Despite the official protests, the Nazi persecution increased, in education, in the press, with the imprisonment of priests. By 1936, the German episcopal conference asked for public intervention. The archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Michael von Faulhaber, secretly composed the first draft. Pius XI signed the definitive text of the encyclical on March 14, 1937.

Printed copies were brought to the nuncio who passed these on to the bishop of Berlin, and had them distributed by secret couriers to all the German prelates. Twelve printers reproduced the text under the noses of the Gestapo. Several bishops had copies printed in the hundreds of thousands.

Afterward, again in total secrecy, the text was distributed to every parish priest, chaplain and convent.

The language was clear and explicit: Hitler was deceiving the Germans and the international community.

The encyclical affirmed that the Nazi leader was perfidious, untrustworthy, dangerous and determined to take the place of God, not least by usurping parental rights. The Jesuit priest Fr Peter Gumpel [who was 14 at the time] states that “the reaction of Catholics was enthusiastic” while “Hitler was furious.”

It was said that, in fact, Hitler was so beside himself that for three days he did not want to see or receive anyone. The international community reacted enthusiastically. The Jewish communities were elated since the encyclical presented the strongest condemnation of racism. All the Jewish newspapers in the world showed their enthusiasm for what the Holy See had done.

Despite this, England, France and Italy came to an agreement with the Nazi regime at the Munich conference in 1938. Gumpel emphasises that “the harshest statements against Nazism were Pacelli’s, and Hitler knew it.” So much so that Hitler considered Pacelli his No. 1 enemy and feared his moral power. Now that there is more access to the Vatican Archives of the papacy of Pius XI, hopefully, the symbolic and prophetic nature of this encyclical will receive the attention of scientific historical analysis it rightfully deserves.

Here is the key passage on parental rights and duties which Bishops and clergy would do well to remember that they will one day face judgment for failing to protect such rights!

Furthermore, one cannot read this passage as a conscientious Catholic parent and not feel that the menace of mandatory sex education from age four by the UK Government for introduction in September 2019 is something that puts our children in ‘clear and present danger’ about which we remain silent at our peril.

– Edmund

39. “We address Our special greetings to the Catholic parents. Their rights and duties as educators, conferred on them by God, are at present the stake of a campaign pregnant with consequences. The Church cannot wait to deplore the devastation of its altars, the destruction of its temples, if an education, hostile to Christ, is to profane the temple of the child’s soul consecrated by baptism, and extinguish the eternal light of the faith in Christ for the sake of counterfeit light alien to the Cross. Then the violation of temples is nigh, and it will be every one’s duty to sever his responsibility from the opposite camp, and free his conscience from guilty cooperation with such corruption.

The more the enemies attempt to disguise their designs, the more a distrustful vigilance will be needed, in the light of bitter experience. Religious lessons maintained for the sake of appearances, controlled by unauthorized men, within the frame of an educational system which systematically works against religion, do not justify a vote in favor of non-confessional schools. We know, dear Catholic parents, that your vote was not free, for a free and secret vote would have meant the triumph of the Catholic schools.

Therefore, we shall never cease frankly to represent to the responsible authorities the iniquity of the pressure brought to bear on you and the duty of respecting the freedom of education. Yet do not forget this: none can free you from the responsibility God has placed on you over your children. None of your oppressors, who pretend to relieve you of your duties can answer for you to the eternal Judge, when he will ask: “Where are those I confided to you?” May every one of you be able to answer: “Of them whom thou hast given me, I have not lost any one” (John xviii. 9).

 

Yearning…

Early yesterday morning (and this is no exaggeration) I almost had a nasty if not near-fatal road accident.

As I was driving along a dark pre-dawn minor road, a young deer came bursting out of the undergrowth from the left. It was one of those split-second moments that one can experience in motoring where the difference between reflex, instinct and sheer good fortune is so narrow that you realise you just had an incredibly lucky escape.

As I was driving in a 50 mph limit, and even a doe (which I think this beautiful creature was) is no small animal, there’s no mistaking we both encountered one another and survived. We survived only because I swerved violently to the right as it jumped quickly back. No doubt both our natural instincts to survive kicked in at such high-speed levels of the subconscious (with help from my guardian angel) that we moved on from the experience as rapidly as it had happened.

Except as I continued my daily commute of 72 miles drive, I didn’t move on so quick. I spent the next half hour wondering and pondering and appreciating the words of Scripture (which we sing at the Easter Vigil),

“Like the deer that yearns for running streams, I long for you, my God.”

If nothing else my near miss with that deer taught me a new value for that word of God. That life is short. Life is precious. Life is not worth taking for granted, and our yearning for deep love can only be satisfied by God. And so my journey into Lent continues with that thought as I hope will yours.

-Edmund Adamus

Catholic “Jihad”

We’ve all heard time and time again of so-called “jihad” concerning Islamic fundamentalism and its ideological links to tyrannical radical Islamic terror.  But “jihad” is really about declaring “war” on self – i.e. self-mortification; self-denial; self-control etc. in order, fundamentally to be a better person, to be a more rounded human being. Selfless, more compassionate and considerate and full of humility, which as CS Lewis wisely said, is not about “thinking less of oneself but thinking of oneself less.”

As Christians rapidly approaching the penitential season of Lent, it’s time to embrace our very Christian “jihad” as it were, a firm purpose of the amendment to all aspects of our lives that draw us further away from Jesus and deeper into patterns of conduct that are selfish, self-seeking and self-pitying.

I for one know I have many bad and sinful habits to conquer, and I do want to sincerely undertake my own war on self through the power of Lent to help me improve my friendship with Christ and His mother. There are so many things I need to work on I hardly know where to begin, so I am journeying into Lent with the little book called, Getting Free – How to Overcome Persistent Personal Problems, by Bert Ghezzi.

This book is a very short but practical guide to self-awareness and improvement reliant on grace and prayer to start overcoming sinful habits.

One of my frequent sins is impatience, especially towards my wife and family [often due to sleep deprivation], and I all too often absolve myself from it far too readily with lame excuses….until that is I read what St. Catherine of Siena had to say about it. [see below]

So time to take Lent [this Lent of all Lents in this centenary year of Fatima] very very seriously. Let us be prepared to call the sins in our lives by their proper names, make no excuses [which are veiled lies anyway] and get on with working out our salvation, starting with a good examination of conscience and confession. Pray for me as I will pray for you dear readers.

      “It is because anger and impatience are the very pith and sap of pride that they please the devil so much. Impatience is a close cousin of anger. It loses the fruit of its labor and deprives the soul of God. It begins as a foretaste of hell, and later it brings men to eternal damnation. In fact, there is no sin in this world that gives a man such a foretaste of hell in this life as anger and impatience.”

– Edmund

The Medicine of Healing

One of my 6 year old boy’s favourite songs that he likes to repeat over and over again (well it’s more the first line of the chorus rather than the whole song) is “Just a Spoonful of Sugar helps the medicine go down…” from the hit musical Mary Poppins!

I guess he just loves the catchy style and easy to sing-along nature of it.

There was something of this more palatable message of sin, conversion, repentance and healing that came across when I saw the images of the visit of Pope Francis to the children’s hospital in Mexico. There was even a moving photo of the Holy Father assisting the clinic in launching a polio vaccine by administering the drug to a little boy.

A little bit of kindness can go a long way when recovering from illness, he told a group of young patients. “Not only medicine but also ‘kindness therapy’ can make you live your time here with greater joy,” And then he evidenced that by embracing the youngsters and filling them with spiritual and emotional delight by chatting to each of them and making a gift of Rosary beads to them, asking their prayers.

As I’ve said before we mustn’t underestimate the power and efficacy of children’s’ prayers especially those of sick children.

Lent, as we know, is that season of penance; time to administer to ourselves some much needed spiritual medicine to help us overcome the sickness in our souls, our sinfulness, towards being better and healed inwardly.

As Catholics, we know that the best “medicine” for this sickness are the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and of Reconciliation, and we also know that it often feels better and more fitting to make sure the latter precedes the former.

Parents know how sometimes one has to sweeten the medicines we administer to young children, in order for them to find them palatable enough to take and swallow so that they can get better and recover. It’s the same with allowing the Lord, the Divine Physician, to administer his healing grace to us through the sacrament of penance (confession).

It can sometimes feel like a difficult “medicine” or “treatment” to take, especially if there is something heavy weighing on the conscience or it’s been a long time since we last availed ourselves of the sacrament. So what we have to do is view the confessional as less of a tribunal (though it is in a sense a very sacred tribunal) and more of what the pope calls “kindness therapy.”

The Lord Jesus’s dying words on the Cross were; “I thirst.” That is to say his thirst for souls, for you and me and everyone without exception. He awaits us then in the confessional with arms outstretched, yearning for us to run to him. He only wants to enfold us in loving kindness.

So why delay? Take the medicine, it’s sweeter than we think and far more palatable than we imagine it to be. Be kind to yourself this Lent, so that you in your turn can bestow abundant kindness and mercy on those around you, especially in the same household.

Edmund Adamus