Summer Reading!

August 19 2016

By the time you see this I will be on my annual leave (Deo volente) enjoying a much needed and I hope well-earned rest. I guess like many busy people [especially those with young children] the summer holiday, is among the rare chances to not just slow down and get some refreshment for body, soul, mind and spirit, but to do so, aided by some edifying books to read. I love books, but I must confess to allowing my good habit to read good books all year round to have slipped because of a disproportionate amount of time and attention I give to the i-phone and emails etc. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea máxima culpa.
So for the next 3 Fridays, you won’t be hearing from me. Not least because one of the books I have been itching to read on my shelf is the sequel to the bestseller Fr. Elijah –An Apocalypse by Michael O’Brien, entitled: Elijah in Jerusalem
I absolutely love Michael O’Brien’s books. They are the epitome of classical Catholic literature, great novels, page-turning and gripping reads. But more than just being “entertaining” reads that edify the mind and heart; they are in fact works of rich mystical and theological/spiritual insight with the union of God and souls seen through the prism and lens of the eternal truths of the family.
So if you’ve never heard of or read O’Brien’s books, I urge you to start taking them up, especially the Fr. Elijah trilogy; Sophia House; Fr.Elijah –An Apocalypse and now, after a period of twenty years, the final part, Elijah in Jerusalem – a story of how one utterly faithful Catholic priest [secretly ordained bishop by the pope in pectore as the saying goes] is charged to confront the world’s most popular politician as the prophesied “Man of Sin” – the Anti-Christ.
All of that may sound like a very heavy and foreboding storyline for a restful summer read but here’s the thing. If your life is anything like the frenetic pace of mine with the hustle and bustle of family, home, work and travel day in day out, with a few respite breathers around the solemnities of the Lord’s birth at Christmas and His dying and rising at Easter, then where and when would you possibly get the time to make a retreat?
I haven’t been able to make a full week-long retreat since 2001! Well, maybe that’s your own fault Edmund I can imagine some readers might say – and yes before the children came along I can hold my hand up and admit I ought to have tried much harder at going on retreat – [though my wife and I have been on weekend retreats a couple of times over the last 10 years]. Anyway, my point is that in the absence of making a retreat, a second best option is good spiritual reading on a regular basis and, if for some reason that’s not possible or difficult to do, then a third best option I would suggest is ensuring you undertake to absorb a thoroughly good book whilst on holiday, even if it is last thing at night. Hence my recommendation of the Michael O’Brien books, especially the trilogy above.
He sums up the reason why in the preface of his latest offering Elijah in Jerusalem; ‘It is my concern that readers…do not bring away from these stories any thought that they have been given a neo-gnostic key to the Apocalypse – in other words, a hermeneutic for survival. It is my earnest desire that they return to daily life with refreshed eyes and hunger for the living word of God in sacred Scripture. And that we might cry out with renewed fervour, with the entire Church: “Come Lord Jesus!”
I was privileged to meet Michael in the summer of 1990 whilst on holiday in Canada and I drove up state Ontario to Combemere where he lives to join a priest friend of mine who was leading a retreat in the locality.
I will always be grateful for that introduction, not just because I have found his work over 25 years to have inspired and edified me as a Christian but because the person I met that day was a man of profound humility and towering wisdom – indeed I would argue an infused knowledge – akin to all great saints, or if you prefer souls of tangible sanctity. And as a loving husband and father [which I make pitiful attempts at being], he inspired me then as his sublime example and witness to Christ inspires and humbles [even shames me] today. He is a true friend in the Lord – albeit virtually and 3000+ miles away from me.
May your summer be blessed and peaceful in Christ.
“Life on earth is not an ultimate reality; it is the penultimate reality. It is entrusted to us to be preserved with a sense of responsibility and brought to perfection in love and in the gift of ourselves to God and to our brothers and sisters.” St. John Paul II

-Edmund Adamus

Making Assumptions

August 12 2016

We make all sorts of assumptions every day. Some are trivial, others are potentially devastating. I think if we’re honest a great many of them are faulty. So why do we do this? I think that it’s part of human nature to base our understanding of other people and the world, not just on the facts we observe, but to a greater or lesser extent on what what’s going on inside us, psychologically.

Instead of basing our understanding of people and events on what we observe and what we know for a fact, we often prefer to make judgments based on our emotions, beliefs, expectations and wishes. We can all too easily confuse these psychological mechanisms with reality, and the assumptions that spring from them become the basis of our own version of “reality,” even though it’s not actually real. This is why the great pope and now saint of the family – John Paul II, as the philosopher Karol Wojtila, was so immersed in the philosophy and ethos of the person known as phenomenology. However, the thought of Wojtila/St. John Paul II, which I think I have weaved into all of my blogs since 2014, speaks for itself but we will save phenomenology for another occasion.
But it struck me, as we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven this weekend [and Monday 15th], that She is the one person who only ever acted in faith on observable facts. Her assumptions were never false or imperfect about anything or anyone because “she pondered all these things and treasured them in her heart” from the get-go and because she lived in the real world, feet firmly on the ground, but always in a constant state of praeternatural contemplation [which is how God intended our human experience to be from the beginning]. It is right and fitting that the final experience for her in this world was to be mystically ASSUMED body and soul into heaven.

So if we want to avoid making false assumptions about things and others, let’s stay close to the one whom God assumed into heaven because by imitating her we will, as St. Paul says, stand more of a chance of ‘putting on the mind of Christ.’


-Edmund Adamus

Talismanic Words

This was an ingenious phrase that a good friend reminded me of in recent days. I first came across it when I read the extremely helpful booklet: Preferential Option for the Family which you can download for free here, Option for the Family.

It’s a gem of a book which has been described thus:

“A handbook of 100 questions and answers explaining the Church’s doctrine on marriage and the family.. With the aim of clearing up confusion ahead of the October Synod of Bishops on the Family.” This booklet authored by — Archbishop Aldo de Cillo Pagotto of Paraíba, Brazil, Bishop Robert Vasa of Santa Rosa, California and Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary of Astana, Kazakhstan — is described as a “vademecum [handbook] on the family.”

“Vade mecum” literally means ‘go with me.’ The idea being that you want the reader to explore a very important point or issue in more detail but not in an overly lengthy way. Occasionally the Holy See issues vademecums (one might call them clarifications if you like) by way of a little ‘tonic’ as it were, or ‘tiramisu’ [a pick-me-up] for the spiritual and pastoral life of Faithful. The last official vademecum [so far as I am aware] was the 1997 “Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Morality of the Conjugal Life” from the Pontifical Council for the Family. I explained what I think are the most significant aspects of this document in a letter which was published in the London Catholic Herald in April this year:

‘[It] is absolutely correct to state that perhaps a pastoral solution to difficulties in marriage might be to prepare priests for the confessional better. This was explored in great detail and with much precision in the vademecum of 1997. With its 20th anniversary coming up next February, we should revisit this document, in the light of Amoris Laetitia, especially paragraphs 9 and 10:

“9. The pastoral ‘law of gradualness’, not to be confused with the ‘gradualness of the law’ which would tend to diminish the demands it places on us, consists of requiring a decisive break with sin together with a progressive path towards total union with the will of God and with his loving demands.

“10. On the other hand, to presume to make one’s own weakness the criterion of moral truth is unacceptable.” Striking the balance on the first so that an individual receiving guidance realises the full import of the second is more important than ever for the integrity of matrimony. Or as Benedict XVI so wisely put it in his address to the Congress for the Diocese of Rome in 2005: “The educational relationship is, by its very nature, something delicate: it implies the other’s freedom who, even with gentleness, is forced to make a decision.” Amoris Laetitia ought not to be misinterpreted to dispense with this approach to pastoral care.’

My point is that what a vademecum should do is clarify important points, clear up confusion concerning crucial questions. After all we all need to do this from time to time don’t we? Being clear about what we mean and meaning what we say and ensuring that others clearly understand what it is we communicate, is the “currency” if you like of maintaining good harmonious relationships, whether that’s at work or home or among relations and friends etc.

As Blessed Pope Paul VI so eloquently put it in his first encyclical Ecclesiam Suam:

“Clarity demands that what is said should be intelligible. We can think of it as a kind of thought transfusion […] all of us who feel the spur of the apostolate should examine closely the kind of speech we use. Is it easy to understand? Can it be grasped by ordinary people? Is it current idiom?” n81

And he reinforces the need for clarity by saying how the virtue of prudence is essential for fruitful dialogue;

“…the prudence of a teacher who is most careful to make allowances for the psychological and moral circumstances of his hearer, [Mt.6:7]  particularly if he is a child, unprepared, suspicious or hostile […] is always at pains to learn the sensitivities of his audience, and […] adapts himself […] to the susceptibilities and the degree of intelligence of his hearers”

So words, and how we use them are important and the language of authentic loving as Christ loves is especially important. “Let your no mean no and your yes mean yes,” as Jesus says. So when we witness a talismanic use of words, we should be vigilant as to the intent behind the one using them. Why? Because, according to the dictionary, a talisman is an object, typically an inscribed ring or stone, that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck. Now luck, chance, confusion and constant indecision is not of God but from an altogether different source; some might legitimately argue – the Father of Lies, instead of the Prince of Peace.  And we must all be on our guard against it especially in our most important relationships.

As the authors of the Preferential Option for the Family put it on page 50:

‘A “talismanic word”, while legitimate in itself, carries strong emotional content, and as such is perceived as being entirely flexible and changeable, assuming different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. This elasticity makes it susceptible to being used for propaganda purposes and abused for ideological ends.

For example, a talismanic word is a useful tool to create an “unperceived ideological transhipment,” i.e., a process that changes a target person’s mindset without his realising it, moving him from a legitimate to an illegitimate position. Manipulated by propaganda, the talismanic word gradually assumes meanings ever closer to the ideological positions to which the target persons are being led. 

This process can be easily applied also to the Church community. In fact, the use of certain words and not others can push the faithful to replace a moral judgement with a sentimental one or a substantial judgement with a formal one, coming to regard as good, or at least tolerable, what at first was considered bad.’

-Edmund Adamus




Down Time!

Yes, the school and university vacation times are upon us and hopefully for most of us [however humble the means] this period of recess can provide some opportunity for us as families to rest and recreate; to revive the drooping spirit, so to speak and get some refreshment of soul, mind and body. “Come away and rest a while” said the Lord to his disciples. He above all others knew only too well the need for “time out” from the demands of those around Him. And let’s face it, being busy literally saving humanity had to be the best reason ever to rest and get some peace.
I was pondering on this reality the other day when I came across this insight of the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen:
“We will never leave the world a better place until, through silence, contemplation and prayer, we improve ourselves. We must leave the world to help the world. This is when we learn of the terrible defeat and futility which come from excessive absorption in detail and action.”
There’s something striking about the futility of “excessive absorption in detail and action.” Seems to me that this so aptly describes the frenetic pace of modern day living these days and the pressures it can place upon all our relationships, but especially those within marriage and family, where the members can crave [often unheeded] the much needed attention of one another but don’t get it.
So I admire those families who can declare an internet-free and mobile phone-free zone for the duration of a family holiday if not an entire summer like this one has:  Summer without an e-sitter
And if we aren’t able to factor in a little family pilgrimage to a shrine or a major solemnity or feast whilst we’re away (after all August has the Transfiguration and Assumption!) then let’s at least pledge to recite a decade of the Rosary daily on holiday as a family, at least to punctuate the time away with a contemplative intent.  But how is such a disposition possible I hear you say, when there are so many demanding things to do [especially with younger ones] on a vacation?
Easy….it all depends on the lens through which you choose to view everything you’re doing or aiming to do on a break. Take for example this insight from the great Cardinal Manning of Westminster, so famed for his indefatigable work in helping resolve the famous London Docks Strike of the 19th century:
“The holy house of Nazareth was to the eye commonplace while for God it was divine and human perfection”
Now take that sublime and lofty view of the ordinary everyday activity of the Holy Family and apply it to the “messy” busy, non-stop energy of your own household. The truth is, the sanctity of Nazareth is as present [or can be] in your own home as it was among Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
We just have to be at peace in the heart to see the gems of grace all around us each day. Something that is so beautifully articulated in this sermon to homeschoolers [who probably more than any of us have reason to moan about the busyness of family life]: Why homeschool
We can joyfully embrace pretty much everything in our day to day lives as the will of God –even the demanding and unpleasant stuff – depending on how we view it with a universal perspective. But the only way we’re going to sustain that vision is by constant prayer and some very important time out – or down time, to decompress as it were from the relentless pressures of daily life and come up for air….the fresh divine air of the Holy Spirit who wants to breathe new life into us on our vacations and help us live the reality of what Pope Benedict XVI so beautifully describes thus:
“By his incarnation, the Son of God united himself in a certain way with every man. He laboured with human hands; he loved with a human heart. He truly became one of us in all things but sin. And we must say that if Christ fully discloses man to himself, he does so beginning with the family in which he chose to be born and grow up.”

-Edmund Adamus


A few weeks ago I attended two of the Friday [final] morning lectures at the annual Sacra Liturgia conference which this year was held at the prestigious campus of Imperial College, London.

Both presentations, one by Professor Michael Cullinan on the Ethical Character of the Mysteries [of the liturgy] and the other by Professor David Fagerberg on the way the liturgy can inspire us to stewardship of creation and service of the poor, were fascinating, highly informative and most edifying, as was the Q & A which followed them. As someone with a longstanding professional interest and applied theological expertise in moral theology and ethics, I was particularly interested in what Fr. Cullinan had to share. And I have to say, I was not disappointed.

Drawing on some deep, one might say, almost mystical insights from the Eastern Orthodox tradition about how the Divine Mysteries [the public worship of the Church] should and can actively influence us to act more virtuously in our daily Christian lives, Fr. Cullinan emphasised the point that in fact the aspect of daily Christian life that ought to be most affected and impacted by the reverent and dignified celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is the life of the domestic church, the place where one first learns the Gospel of life. And it is spouses in particular, the primary agents of evangelisation, whose moral and ethical living ought to derive the most energy and spiritual empowerment from the Holy Mass. Well….at least that is the ideal. And as Pope Francis has declared in Amoris Laetitia, not achieving the optimum “never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to human beings.

So does that mean we should settle for mediocre style worship? Not one bit. Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church, His Bride who worships Him ought to have the best and only the best form of liturgy to display in public the depth of love and affection for Him.

So as I reflected on the words of these two scholars, both of whom complemented one another in their papers [one a priest, the other a married layman] I realised that in fact the poverty of the quality of most of our liturgies doesn’t always deepen the sacramental witness of spouses to one another and to their families; it suddenly dawned on me that in fact we have come [for the most part] to expect so little of our parochial Sunday worship that we can end up settling for second best. And as I was musing to myself about this phenomenon in our ecclesial life a sign on the wall caught my eye. It was a graphic, or emblem I guess you’d call it, of a couple [in this case a male and female- thank God, but for how long?] locked in an intimate embrace in a red circle with a diagonal red line right through the middle of them. You can see an example here.

And I kept thinking why on earth that sign is posted inside a university lecture theatre where one is supposed to be learning and studying and listening to the expert speaker at the podium on any given day. And it dawned on me of course that the “NO PDA” motif (No Public Displays of Affection) was posted on the walls of the lecture theatre precisely because students obviously had been and were guilty [in the past and present] of far too many public displays of physical intimacy during lectures, to the point that the University authorities of Imperial College were forced to put up such warning signs.

A wave of momentary despair came over me when I realised that this in fact was symbolic of just how low and undignified certain aspects of our culture have become where what Pope Benedict called “the commodification of sex” is all around us to the extent that, even in the confines of a university lecture hall, two people who can’t exercise enough self-control and decorum to keep their hands off each other and not risk embarrassing themselves and others, actually have to be told by sign and image how to behave properly in public.

And then I think, how bizarre that in our culture that is obsessed with sexual orientation of so many and varied “persuasions” the one orientation that’s needed is the one we must adopt interiorly to the Living and Eternal God in the worship of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This in turn of course [because we are human and we need outward signs and gestures to help us] can only happen if what is exterior about the way we worship and pray to God [as the two professors were proposing] orientates us interiorly in the correct manner away from self and how we think we are viewed by others, to the loving service of others in and only in and through Jesus Christ.

The family founded on marriage is [as Pope Francis states] an icon of the Blessed Trinity. When we pray and worship [especially publicly] we adore Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Three Wise Men we are told came from the East to bow down in humility before the Infant King flanked by his Mother and Guardian, a living triptych of celestial grace. And that, in the end, is the ONLY PDA [public display of affection] ever worth showing; the one that allows us to be oriented to the Spotless Lamb of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit to the Heavenly Father.

If the liturgy [for whatever reason] does not stir in us that depth of devotion and love for Christ, so that we in turn love Him in our neighbour, beginning with our nearest and dearest, then we should think carefully about the liturgies we regularly participate in and the effect it is supposed to be having upon us.

-Edmund Adamus

Exploring the depths of love

There is a beautiful scene from the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin where the father of the leading lady offers her some tender but challenging advice on measuring authentic love: He says;

‘Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it
subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your root was so
entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of
eternal passion. That is just being in love, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left
over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate
Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all
the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and
not two’
One of the most important and increasingly urgent tasks is to pass on to young people the gift of hope….particularly, the hope that they will one day fulfil the natural yearning for lifelong committed matrimonial happiness and family.
To that end I’ve been working very hard since 2013 to build up the presence and impact of the Explore (remote marriage preparation) project in Catholic high schools in Westminster diocese and elsewhere. is a unique and extraordinary educational charity that brings volunteer married couples into high schools so that young people can have an open and informal dialogue with spouses about their unique experience of marriage.
The interaction between the students and volunteers is always richly rewarding and feedback from the youngsters gives exceedingly high levels of approval and appreciation.
I knew that this apostolate was really making serious headway recently when one student wrote on the evaluation form: “marriage is cool!” I didn’t think any other comment since could really improve on that from an adolescent perspective; until this week when one 15 year old boy asked if he could ask a question in the form of “wrap”?  I allowed him to with some degree of apprehension, but I was astonished by his words;
“If you bleed internally, would you bleed eternally to become a better you?”
Given that the couple in question had spoken eloquently and with passion about their individual and shared faith in Christ to help their love, the young man’s question was all the more poignant and poetic as we witnessed a loving act of service to young people by this couple in the month of the Most Precious Blood. Metaphorically speaking to “bleed internally, to bleed eternally to become a better you” is surely what lies at the core of true Christian marriage….that ultimately it’s the endlessly beating Sacred Heart of Jesus that must pulsate between husband and wife so that it’s His Precious Blood which gives true life to the marriage (in so far as spouses are prepared to suffer in service of one another) thereby priming that sacramental love unto everlasting life.
And in that one unusually delivered question one young man encapsulated an entire theology not just of marriage or indeed of the body….but of The Mystical Body of Christ Himself.  The Explore charity really is a tangible expression of the new evangelisation. May it go and grow from strength to strength.



The Tree of Life

I love July not just because it’s yet another reminder of Summer –despite the weather so far here in Britain- but because it is the month dedicated to the Most Precious Blood of Christ. An extra moment as it were in our cycle of prayer and worship to think, reflect and ponder again on the immeasurable sacrifice that Jesus paid for each and every one of us by His death on the Cross.

Frankly, one cannot have enough time and occasions to ponder on the depth of this love, so another whole month, outside of Lent is a grace.  It has often been written and said that one single drop of the Precious Blood of the Lord would have been more than enough to save the whole of humanity from death and damnation.  So the almost endless outpouring of his Blood in his passion and death points to a higher truth… the love of parents and teachers and educators who will so often go well beyond the bare minimum of love and duty and care in order to show service, concern and care to others, especially the young.

I was thinking of this reality, especially as we approach yet another conclusion of an academic year as older adolescents have concluded exams and younger children are looking forward to long summer holidays, when I saw the news item [which probably slipped past most people’s attention last week] of the Church of England primary school which has decided to remove to Cross from its logo to replace it with an oak tree instead. This news item.

Now I don’t know the precise details of this case of a school removing the Christian cross from its logo to favour an oak tree to symbolise the amalgamation with 2 other schools, but what is undeniable is the official response of the school saying the reason for the removal of the cross was:  “to give more prominence to the tree, which not only reflects the school name but is also an ancient symbol representing many beliefs.”

When I read that I couldn’t help feeling a tinge of sadness about yet another institutional denial over our shared Christian heritage, especially something so universally accepted [even if not always fervently believed in] as the Cross of Christ.  And then one is reminded of the story of St. Boniface (Winifrid) who back in the 8thcentury with papal mandate [having already left Anglo-Saxon Christian Britain- Winchester to be precise] went to evangelise the region of the Netherlands and northern Germany; He took an axe to the oak tree idolised and worshipped by the pagan warlords and soldiers and, with the full miraculous force of his apostolic power as bishop, destroyed the object of division and disharmony.

Don’t get me wrong. I love oak trees. There’s nothing more glorious than a mighty ancient English oak and basking in its shade on a hot summer’s day with a family picnic or praying the Rosary alone. But like St Boniface, sometimes it takes Christ-like courage to take an axe [metaphorically-speaking] to the root of our moral and spiritual problems and, with all the force of the grace of the cross of Christ, to chop it down and plant ourselves firmly in Jesus. And that act of will [the axe] soaked in the blood of Christ is what makes all the difference to the journey and being able to see the wood of the cross from the trees!

And here’s something devotional for July….a Litany of the Precious Blood to recite in your home with the family….
Something devotional for July.

– Edmund

The “Church” of the Bouncy Castle

Last weekend two days after the “Brexit” result of the EU referendum we went along to our local parish school summer fair to participate and show support.

It’s a highly organised event with many parents and school staff working well together to provide lots of amusement and fundraising activities. The curious thing though was that no one (so far as I could ascertain) was in deep discussion or intense debate over the referendum….but then after all why would they be at a summer fair. I guess my point is that people at such events simply focus on the thing itself and enjoy it for the simple pleasure that it is, not least because it’s always a delight to see families having fun; parents, grandparents and most of all children.

So as my wife I took our turn to help supervise the endless stream of kids coming and going on the inflatables, and I watched them having enormous fun tumbling and bouncing in all sorts of directions without anyone getting hurt…..I thought….that’s how God wants his children (all of us) to feel within the safety and security of his Divine laws.

Children adore bouncy castles precisely because they know they can be safe within the soft but relatively firm environment of the play area. And if there’s a collision or two, it’s rarely if ever deliberately intended and all is forgiven quickly and without fuss or resentment. God’s laws, His commandments and the Church’s teachings of faith and especially morals are also meant to be a firm but gentle framework where, so long as we respect the boundaries and don’t try to do our own thing beyond the confinement of the “play area” i.e. the Christian code of living, then the more free and joy-filled we will become.

It really ought to be that simple; like the principles of kids having fun in a bouncy castle. So when I hear people moaning and groaning about the Church’s teachings on this or that issue of morality and especially sexual ethics, I just think we should try to learn more from the humble submission to supervision and authority that children naturally give especially when they want to be free to play and have fun.

Therefore, when we think about what really makes for Amoris Laetitia (the Joy of Love), the rules and laws of the Gospel interpreted for us by the Church bring a confinement that in the end doesn’t restrict but unites truth with freedom. And while I’m on the subject of bouncy castles one of Søren Kierkegaard’s sayings applies perfectly to this: “The old Christian dogmatic terminology is like an enchanted castle where the loveliest princes and princesses rest in a deep sleep; it only needs to be awakened, brought to life, in order to stand in its full glory.”

Our task then is to reawaken dogmas and always give them new life and, as I’ve said before, we can learn a lot from observing the humble simplicity of children, not because God wants our faith and loving to be childish, but as Jesus said: to be childlike.

– Edmund

Friday 24th June 2016: Shazam the 23rd June!

I know what you’re thinking. What on earth does “Shazam” mean? Unless of course, unlike me, you’re au fait with the well-known and well used [over 100 million people worldwide] App.

Shazam works by analysing the captured sound on your mobile phone which then seeks a match based on what’s called an “acoustic fingerprint” in a database of more than 11 million songs. The user tags a song for 10 seconds and the application creates an audio fingerprint. Once it creates the fingerprint of the audio, Shazam starts the search for matches in the database. If there is a match, it returns the information to the user; otherwise it returns a “song not known” dialogue.

I only came across this app this week and I was amazed I had not heard of it.  But then again, I only started blogging two years ago and using social media earlier this year!

But what intrigues me is that people now utilise the descriptors of these modern technologies as if they were new verbs. So for example, I saw an advertisement the other day which literally said: “Shazam this poster” which was promoting a pop concert of some kind…I think! And then I saw another advertising the University of Sussex with the slogan: “Let’s move beyond ‘male’ and ‘female.’”  So I thought, if I were to “shazam” that particular slogan what “song” or melody would the app find me? Short answer? None. The response would be “song not known” so to speak. There is no song or melody, metaphorically-speaking, for the denial of sexual difference. There’s only a cacophony of noise. The denial of the beauty – the via pulchritudinous (way of beauty) – of sexual complementarity emits dissonance not harmony, the jarring sound, instead of the perfectly pitched note that resonates deep within the soul of the one who can hear it and feel it.

So when I contemplate the 23rd June, it is not that it was this unrepeatable and historic day in British political and social history upon which the nation voted to remain in or leave the European Union.  By the time you read this, the outcome will be known!  Rather it is the fact that 23rd June was my son’s 7th birthday.  And when I “shazam” it, i.e. the memory of it, the melody and song that comes back to me is that upon reaching the age of reason, where he can now and must begin to distinguish for himself, with the right help from his parents, all that reflects the authentic way of beauty, the song that fills his heart and soul, mind and body will be what he witnesses from us, his parents and grandparents, to the “sacrament of creation” as Pope Benedict called it – Matrimony.

So when I think about how to help my seven year old boy reflect on the culture around him that is increasingly anti-Christian, anti-family, intoxicated with the ‘anthropological heresy’ of so called gender theory aggressively promoted by the lobbying organs of the EU, it will be the unchangeable authoritative Word of God and Catholic Tradition which I will encourage him to “shazam” so that the melody returned to him is that of human love glorified in the Song of Songs.

Friday 17th June 2016: Fathering is about Inspiring…

Last month I was invited by a friend of mine, who is a Deputy Head teacher in a boys Catholic school, to give a 20-30 minute talk on the various ways the Church supports and promotes healthy marriage and family life and why.

The key purpose of this presentation was to help the students prepare for a particular Religious Studies examination and the question regarding marriage would have about 6 marks attached to it. So it was a case of providing the students with some key things to utilise when answering the question in the paper. Bearing in mind these young chaps were about 13-14, the material didn’t have to be too detailed nor too heavy. So, in addition to speaking about why marriage in the Church is a sacrament which we call “matrimony” and how, as well as profiling some of the projects and programmes I facilitate to support matrimony, I played my favourite 2 minute clip of Pope St John Paul II speaking in 1988 about the importance of the family.

I encouraged them to be really inspired by St John Paul’s visible, tangible masculinity and his strength of character and courage to speak with conviction, a very unpopular message in today’s culture. My friend sent me an  exam answer from one of the boys a few weeks later which received top marks and I have his permission to share it anonymously as I think it’s inspiring to read:

“Firstly, marriage is a permanent thing. It is when a man and a woman come together through Christ to unite as one, to create a family and to teach them too about Christ. Secondly, marriage is like a rose bush. This suggests that although it is thorny and hard to go through (which is why churches offer marriage courses) marriage is something beautiful like the rose, and fruitful. Thirdly, marriage is a covenant to teach the faith. Pope John Paul II liked to speak about how the domestic church is the centre of the Church and where God is first heard of by children making the family holy.”

When a young adolescent boy is able recount something so profound and true in simple and unequivocal language because of something he has heard or seen, it shows how the example and leadership of Catholic men, especially fathers can and must have a continuous impact.

Of course that’s not to say the girls and young women don’t need and aren’t equally capable of being inspired by an encounter with authentic Christian manhood. But I would argue that the boys among us have an acute need at this time.  “Without the impact and guidance of men as fathers, boys are left behind in a vacuum” as my friend Jonathan Doyle so wisely says when addressing the highly sensitive issue of pornography use and addiction in society today. At his excellent website he says “absentee fathering means no sexual discipleship” during a masterclass on pornography and all its implications.

So if we want the boys of today (so many of whom are at high risk of being routinely exposed to grossly indecent imagery impoverishing their affective emotional maturity) to truly become the well-rounded, courageous, self-sacrificing men of tomorrow, we have to model for them today a wholesome, spirit-filled witness to faithful fatherhood, that is strong, masculine, truly generous and servant-like.

So on this coming weekend of Father’s Day, let’s really magnify not just our appreciation and need for authentic fatherhood in society but for the spiritual paternity so desperately needed in the Church; one that is exercised in truth and love by all men, both lay and ordained, for the sake of the boys, and, in turn for the sake of the girls and the women. For in the future, those boys will be called to step up, respect, serve and cherish.