The Interior Gaze

This week I was shocked to hear of a new form of criminal sexual exploitation – “sextortion”.

Sextortion is a form of blackmail where criminals use fake identities to befriend victims online and then persuade them to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam.These webcam images are recorded by the criminals who then threaten to share them with the victims’ friends and family unless they are paid.

On first hearing about this my first reaction was – how can people be so gullible ? and why on earth would anyone in any way feel remotely interested in exposing themselves to complete strangers.

But then on reflection I thought that this is yet another major symptom of the chronic obsession with the commodification of sex which leads to what Pope Benedict calls “the banalisation of sex” – rendering something beautiful and tender to the vulgar and ugly.

I suppose deep down in the heart of these unfortunate victims to such appalling exploitation is the natural desire to be admired, loved, cherished and wanted, In short, they are looking for the right thing but in the wrong place, in the wrong way and most definitely with the wrong kind of persons.

St John Paul II once said that the “opposite of love is not hate but to use” and so with sextortion and so many other emotionally devastating assaults on human dignity we see the opposite of authentic love all too often and everywhere.

The “interior gaze” is what really counts. The disposition of the heart and soul to see first – not the sexual value of the person we encounter and see – but their true selves, their embodied self – the beauty of their soul made in the image and likeness of God. Another word for intimacy is “in to me see” – see in to me. This is what everyone truly yearns from others, from their gaze, not the lurid, self-gratifying look of lust that can often bedevil relationships.

And to be continually inspired to practice the interior gaze, we must allow ourselves to be in the gaze of Christ and his light of beauty and truth and in turn gaze on His Holy Face so that we see Him in others as we gaze upon them in person, not via a screen.

Edmund Adamus

The Four Last Things

The beautiful penitential season of Advent is once more upon us this weekend. Advent is a two part symphony as it were, with the first two weeks focusing our attention on the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time. But how often that focus gets pushed aside by all the rush to bring the goodness and beauty of December 25th far too early, and when we are often ill-prepared spiritually and even emotionally for it.

I must admit, I was dismayed by my son bringing home from school a knitted Christmas crib set [which each child in his class will have a turn to bring home] even before the liturgical year was over let alone Advent having started!

Maybe I’m a bit too serious about these things ..? But if we’re about helping our children prepare for the life hereafter, shouldn’t we talk to them about the Four Last Things?

Four Last Things – death, judgement, heaven and hell.

Death – well, in terms of family – and we’ve all experienced it to various degrees – loss, grief and mourning affect us all. And when we pray for the eternal rest of our loved ones, it’s that useful reminder to us especially in talking to our children and grandchildren that as Christians death is a friend, not an enemy and we prepare for it every day, hopefully by remaining close to Jesus who conquered death.

Judgement – judging, assessing, evaluating, being prudent and cautious is the stuff of everyday life, especially in family and work aspects. We all do it all the time, so the thought of being judged one day – both in the particular judgement immediately after our death and in the general judgement at the end of time – shouldn’t frighten us. Trying our best to consistently live by and with the inner peace of a clear conscience helps us know that when THE judgement of God comes, we will face the One who knows what justice really is and who tempers His justice with unfailing unending mercy.

Heaven – think of all the beautiful, cherished and rich memories you have of joy in your life especially those family moments and events which brought profound happiness and fulfillment. They are all a foretaste of what we will experience in heaven. Why else does God invite us to the eternal wedding feast of heaven?

Hell…. Can any of us really not relate to those hellish moments in our lives when all seemed desolate and, instead of sensing a real presence of God, we felt a real absence of Him, mostly because of things we had done rather than injustices suffered by us? We’ve all had harrowing moments, and who in their right mind would want an eternity of those? Christ harrowed hell on Holy Saturday, and He waits for us to surrender to Him what’s hellish in our lives so He can fill us with His pure light and grace.

And if we don’t have time to discuss all this at the meal table, at least let us pledge as parents, grandparents and godparents to witness to these Four Last Things by making a good confession before Christmas where in that sacred tribunal of the confessional we die to our sins – death – by exposing them to the light of God’s truth – and judgment – so that we’re building the Kingdom by a clear conscience.

May Immaculate Mary, watch over us all this Advent as we honour her in a special way on 8th December as the sinless one.

– Edmund Adamus

Patient Realism

“Patient Realism” is the title of a section within chapter 7 of the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia -The Joy of Love ‘Towards a Better Education of Children.’  One line to define patient realism is ” changing a child’s behaviour involves a gradual process, but also that freedom needs to be channeled and stimulated, since by itself it does not ensure growth in maturity. ”
All parents go through constant self-doubt that they might not be getting this patient realism right. In fact, if we’re honest, most of us won’t..at least not all of the time. And then just occasionally something happens, or a child says or does something that restores your confidence in your parenting abilities. I thank God for just such a recent boost which came in the form and expression of a piece of work from my 7 year old son. He wrote:

A Recipe for A Happy Home

Ingredients:
Faith Courage
Love Peace
Happiness Caring

Method:
1. First, put a teaspoon of courage in to a bowl.
2. Secondly sprinkle 100g of love

3. After that carefully pour a teaspoon of faith in a cup.

4. Next gently place 87g of peace.

5. Now put 38g of caring in to the mixture

6. Finally make 51g of happiness icing to put on top of your happy home.

I was most edified by this simple piece of writing from my son, so much so that it made me feel touched by the mercy of God in my fatherhood.  A fitting end to the conclusion of the Year of Mercy…..to receive an expression of mercy through my child’s simple uncomplicated love and faith. May your own conclusion to this jubilee year be one of knowing the gentle peace of Christ.

 

 

A Cleansing “Fire”….

If like me you’ve often wondered time again what Purgatory might be like [that much neglected -in my view- doctrine of Catholic truth] then naturally our imagination during this month of the Holy Souls might be drawn to ponder on this supernatural reality which lies ahead [hopefully] for most of us if we die in a state of grace and repentance. And if there is a baptism by desire, then surely there has to be a state of purification [after death] by desire too; i.e, purgatory; even if one cannot avail of final absolution [through no fault of one’s own] at one’s dying hours and moments?

There is a story about Saint John Vianney in which a woman sought him out regarding her husband, who had recently jumped to his death. But the line to see the Saint was so long that she gave up on getting a chance to speak to him. Suddenly the priest received a flash of divine insight regarding the woman’s plight. He yelled out over the crowd, “He was saved! Between the bridge and the water he repented!”

Now I accept that taking the example of suicide to illustrate the power of God’s mercy to intervene in a dire situation might be extreme. But the sad fact is, suicide brought on by terrible depression in most cases amongst other things, is a daily occurrence and blights so many families [as it has my own in the past]. So it naturally leaves us wondering about the fate of the soul in question and therefore our own when the time comes. Whatever manner a person uses to kill himself, it takes some measure of time. During that time, God can reach out to the person and inspire a genuine repentance. With this in mind, the Catechism concludes:

“We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to Him alone, God can provide the opportunity for repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.” – CCC 2282

And surely one of those ways for ongoing repentance for all us is to experience purgatory. Note; I say “ongoing repentance” not excluding some act however small, of repentance prior to death. So yes a final cleansing after death ought to be a source of comfort to us even if it’s very possibly and no doubt will be a painful [emotionally and spiritually speaking] process.

Think of how great it is to have one’s young children back in the house after they’ve been playing in the garden or outdoors and come in “stinking of fresh air” as my mother used to say (God rest her soul) and in need of a bath and wash. Parents are delighted to have the children back in doors in the home but before the comfort of a family meal perhaps and eventually bed, the washing and the cleansing of the face and body has to take place. Children, young ones especially are almost angelic when they are freshly washed and scrubbed from the dirt of the day.

I think that’s how the Lord sees us -in a way- through the process of purification after death. We are all his little ones as Jesus called his disciples and He wants us to be spotless again. And since like infants who cannot wash themselves properly without help, so too do the Holy Souls need us to pray and offer sacrifices up for them on their behalf to speed their final journey to heaven since they cannot pray for themselves. I think this is put well in the book “God and the World: Believing and Living in our Time” by Pope Benedict XVI and Peter Seewald where the pope states:

“With regard to turning out right, which is what we all hope for despite all our failures, Purgatory plays an important part here. There will be few people whose lives are pure and fulfilled in all respects. And, we would hope, there would be few people whose lives have become an irredeemable and total No. For the most part, the longing for good has remained, despite many breakdowns, in some sense determinative. God can pick up the broken pieces and make something of them. In any case, we need a final cleansing, a cleansing by fire to be exact, in which the gaze of Christ, so to speak, burns us free from everything, and only under this purifying gaze are we, as it were, fit to be with God, and able, then, to make our home with Him.”

Let us pray as frequently as possible…especially for the most forgotten souls and those most in need of God’s mercy in Purgatory…and especially on this Day of Remembrance and Remembrance Sunday the deceased of all wars.

Eternal rest grant unto them

Oh Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them, may they rest in peace.
Amen.

-Edmund Adamus

Unique Mercy of a Father’s Love

Friday November 4 2016

November as we know is the month of the Holy Souls. I’ve already had a stark reminder of the fragility of our mortality and the utter dependence upon God’s grace with the shocking news last week of the sudden death of a second cousin of mine.

His name is Jason. Aged 44 with two children (his daughter’s 12th birthday was the same day as the funeral) he was instantly killed by a speeding car whilst walking his dog. The driver confessed he was using his mobile phone at the time!

Amidst the shock of the news I spoke on the phone to Jason’s father. As you’d expect he was still distraught even after the funeral had taken place. And amidst the searing pain of loss and devastating impact of the incident upon so many (the driver has a young family too) my first cousin shared something remarkable with me.

He told me the father of the driver had the incredible courage and humility to attend the funeral and beg forgiveness for his son’s actions which led to this awful loss of life. He wasn’t making any excuses…he just (I suppose) was seeking some gesture of mercy that he as a father and grandfather of the other family might vicariously convey to them on their (the victim’s family) behalf. So often when Jesus performed His miracles he would say “your faith has saved you.”

I think this poor man’s own heartache was consoled by the acceptance of his plea by my cousin (the victim’s father). Maybe it was a unique exchange only possible between two fathers in deep pain. But one thing is for sure as fathers that mercy from the Heavenly Father showered upon them will ripple outwards in to both devastated families and in time turn acute sadness and pain in to bearable sorrow by virtue of the shared Christian Faith.

So please keep these poor families in your prayers and remember Jason especially this month that he may have eternal peace.

One final thought which this encounter has reminded me of is that; “Humility simply means being as interested in other people as you are interested in yourself. … You’ve heard it before: humility doesn’t mean thinking less of yourself. It just means thinking of yourself less.”

 

-Edmund Adamus

 

 

 

 

Quotable ….

Friday October 28 2016

This week after 13 years of service in the Diocese of Westminster as Director for Pastoral Affairs and then Director for Marriage and Family Life I am moving on to take up a new post in Portsmouth Diocese Catholic Academies and Schools Office.

I am still pondering on whether or not to continue with this weekly blog [thought for the weekend] but as so many of you have kindly thanked and encouraged me for it, then it’s most likely I will. And I have my good friend and former colleague Charlotte McNerlin to aid me in this as I am [almost] a complete technophobe!

So, as all of us in some respects stand on the shoulders of giants as we look back to look forward…my blog this week is just a wee selection of some of [and these are tiny] my favourite quotes. As you can see there is a variation on a theme here especially when we think about the truth of the family.  Enjoy. They have all helped me in different ways.

“We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures. We are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son…”  Pope Saint John Paul II

“To see the miraculous within the ordinary is the mark of highest wisdom.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The dogma of equal opportunity is the most influential of all and is maintained stoutly by some who would shrink from what seems to me its probable consequences. It is an ideal which can only be fully realized when the institution of the family is no longer respected and when parental control and responsibility passes to the State. ” TS Elliott Notes Towards Definition of Culture p 103 Faber and Faber 1948

“Banishment of the corporeal, or sexual, into pure biology, all the talk about the ‘merely biological,’ is consequently the exact antithesis of what faith intends. For faith tells us of the spirituality of the biological as well as the corporeality of the spiritual and divine. On this point the choice is between all or nothing. The attempt to preserve a spiritual, distilled remainder after the biological element has been alienated denies the very spiritual reality which is the principal concern of the faith in the God made flesh” (Ratzinger, Daughter Zion, p. 53. 1977).

“The law was given that grace might be sought. Grace was given that the law can be followed.” St Augustine

“The holy house of Nazareth was to the eye commonplace while for God it was divine and human perfection” Cardinal Manning

“There will be no renewal [..] without renewal of the Catholic Church, and no renewal of the Catholic Church without renewal of the Catholic family, and no renewal of the Catholic family without a bold proclamation of the sacred truths regarding the transmission of human life.” Archbishop Charles Chaput

“To learn who rules over you simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize” Voltaire

Artful denial is a common disposition of those who will not compromise their ideology with reality, lest they be discomfited by the fact of evil.

God bless

 

-Edmund

Change comes with one small step…

Friday  October 21 2016


The truth of the above statement is undoubtedly a known experience for most if not all of us. Virtuous lifestyles and healthy living (whilst to some extent) are things we know instinctually because of what we call natural law, nevertheless growing in goodness and virtue is also a step by step process. Like the poet says

“Sow a thought, reap an act.
Sow an act, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny.”
So I was mindful of this maxim on reading the story of the Mayor and other civic leaders of the town of Twowoomba, Queensland Australia who have launched A City Free From Porn” campaign, which asked supporters to take a pledge that was handed out to all in attendance on business cards. The Pledge reads thus:
“I acknowledge that viewing pornography promotes exploitation of women and violence against women and it damages families,” I commit that I won’t view porn and I will help create a city free from porn.”
Commenting on this the Mayor, Paul Antonio said; “We must begin a journey with one step. I think what we’ve focused on today is the real value of proper relationships.”

Here is a link

Bravo to this Mayor and the citizens of this town for taking a massive countercultural step.

God willing this initiative will spread to other towns and communities and gain a gradual critical mass for change in attitudes towards pornography. A US campaign runs a slogan; “Porn is Lame.” Well use of it can certainly cripple people emotionally spiritually and morally as clearly evidenced now by the neuroscience and behavioural psychologists treating porn addicts. It leaves many people lame so to speak and especially those caught up in the industry. Pope Francis says the Church must be a field hospital for the spiritually wounded. So before this Year of Mercy ends in November if you or someone you know has been crippled by the use of porn never forget the unfailing promise of Christ to St. Faustina of His boundless mercy.
“When a soul sees and realizes the gravity of its sins, when the whole abyss of the misery into which it has immersed itself is displayed before its eyes, let it not despair, but with trust let it throw itself into the arms of my mercy, as a child into the arms of its beloved mercy. Tell these souls they have a right of priority to

My compassionate Heart, they have first access to My mercy. And tell them that no soul that has ever called on My mercy has ever been disappointed or brought to shame.”
Diary of Faustina (#1541)

Personal Note:

Last week I informed readers of my imminent change of employment. After almost 13 years working in Westminster diocese I am moving on next month to serve the Diocese of Portsmouth as Professional Adviser to the Episcopal Vicar for Education and work as a diocesan Schools Commissioner.

It’s going to be a big change but an exciting opportunity to continue to build up the Gospel of Life and the Family as creatively as possible. Please say a prayer for me. !

Godparents or godparents?

 

Friday  October 14 2016

I have often wondered time again which is the better way to describe [as well as being grammatically correct] this essential role in the transmission of the Faith within the family.  Interestingly this FAQ website about “godparents” uses both terms: and it uses “Godparent” in the section to describe what is expected of one within the Roman Catholic Church and customs around infant and adult baptism.

I don’t much go in for these ‘quick info’ sites but to be fair I think the opening statement is making a pretty accurate assessment of where we are with it in regard to a custom in the Church:

“Traditionally, godparents were responsible for ensuring a child’s religious education and had the duty of looking after them if they were orphaned. Today it has come to mean an individual who is chosen by the parents to take a well-meaning interest in the overall development of their child.”

 As far as I am concerned, being a godfather to no less than 2 boys and 3 girls [thus far] and soon to be a sponsor/godfather again at the confirmation of an 18 year old daughter of my wife’s cousin places upon me spiritual /pastoral burdens I probably don’t carry too well and most certainly don’t reflect on enough.

Madeleine Teahan [now married herself so forgive the maiden name for now] of the Catholic Herald wrote about this recently [23rd September] in the magazine and one of the useful suggestions she makes that godparents can do is to try to remember the anniversary of the Baptism of the godchild and make that the special day to send them a card [preferably a prayer card or item of devotion etc.] rather than just bunging them a few pounds willy nilly when the birthday comes round – oh and of course to keep them continually in your prayers not least asking their guardian angels to watch over them and guard them.

OK so that’s covering some of the spiritual stuff…but what about the pastoral stuff? Well I think I‘ve done my fair share of mentoring and encouraging of the older godchildren I have and I’ve tried to be there for them best I could when they needed help, materially or otherwise but as I think about the younger ones I have to consider [2 girls age 12 and 2] I am now beginning to wonder if, how and when I can be there more for the parents as they accompany their children on the journey of faith.

Not an easy one as [like grandparents] it’s difficult to know when and how to intervene [gently] and or make suggestions about their child’s spiritual/moral development.  So I’ll be pondering this one big time as I prepare myself to be a godfather at the confirmation of my 18 year old “niece” (she prefers to call me ‘Uncle Edmund’ even though technically I’m not) so that I’m a little more mindful and intentional according to the needs of the particular godson or goddaughter, of when to be the “Godparent” or the “godparent” whilst never actually separating the two – if you know what I mean!

Incidentally, one of my [now] grown-up and married goddaughters is about to emigrate to Australia, so I guess I will need to ramp up my frequency to intercede for her [lighting a candle, a decade of the Rosary] her being so far away physically but always close by spiritually in the Mystical Body of Christ, just like all our godchildren are both living and dead.

-Edmund Adamus         

 

 

New horizons!

Friday 7 October 2016

In his great essay,
Conscience, Consensus, and the Development of Doctrine, Blessed John Henry Newman wrote;

“To live is to change, and to change often is to become more perfect.”

Changes in life are sometimes small and sometimes big but if they are generally for the better then in Providence they are going to be specifically good for the soul and therefore another step in the right direction of our efforts to respond to the call to holiness.
So I wish to let all my readers know that by the end of this month I shall be moving on from my current post as Director for Marriage and Family Life for Westminster Diocese. It’s been an incredible 13 years and like all of us when we look back its hard to know just how quickly the time has gone! I feel sure this is going to be good for my soul as I’ve done a lot of soul searching over the decision.
Please pray for me and my family (my wife and I celebrate our 11th anniversary this weekend) as we face this huge transition together. God has granted me an opportunity to embrace a new set of challenges and encounters to serve the proclamation of the Gospel in a whole new context and environment which I will share in future posts but for now…..say one for me!
Edmund
Ps. I always try to make these posts practical in some way for living out family life so despite my personal news here below is a link to a great piece about a new book for parents on how and when to talk to your children about sex and sexuality…

 

The Little Way is the best way

September 30 2016

It was this time last year, as the second synod on the family was about to get underway and would be closed with the first ever canonisation of a married couple (namely Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of the even more renowned St.Therese of Lisieux or Little Flower) that much comment was made about the holiness of the married state.  That despite their outstanding heroic virtue and personal sanctity, nevertheless, the raising to the altars of St. Therese’s parents reminded us that;

  1. Ordinary everyday faithful married life and love witnessed to by redeemed sinners is a sure path to heaven and entry into the eternal wedding feast with Jesus the Bridegroom. It is not some kind of ‘second class’ status or sacrament in the Church as was often falsely perceived.
  1. That because of the indisputable heroic virtue of their children, not least Therese, the canonisation of Louis and Zelie also reminds us of the duty, responsibility and absolute right of parents to be the primary educators of their children and the first and best educators of them in the ways of faith. Perhaps Ss. Louis and Zelie could become the patron saints of the dogma of the primary educator in these times where it is so much under constant attack and threat.

And because their daughter’s globally recognised spirituality of the “Little Way” (i.e. depending on how you pick a pin up from the floor, it’s possible to release a soul from purgatory and send it on its way to heaven) essentially came from the visible daily witness of her parents which she saw from a very young age….. then we too must remember that sainthood is not some way off,  lofty, well-beyond-our-reach status; but in fact something we can and do begin building little by little, unfulfilled promise after unfulfilled promise, broken but repented of vow after broken but repented of vow all throughout our lives.

Yes we have to and must believe this, that despite our sins, our betrayals, both administered on others by us and ones we suffer, we are nevertheless [with one foot pointing to heaven and the other on a banana skin] slowly but surely…. getting there. It may not feel like it, but the essential thing is to never, ever completely give up on prayer and hope and especially the sacrament of penance and reconciliation.  Just keep going no matter what happens…..   and if you don’t believe me, here’s a gem of wisdom from a wise and holy priest in America I know of who captures it all better than I.

“St. Therese’s Little Way is often a little way of darkness.  It’s about putting up with ourselves and not getting discouraged because we confess the same sins over and over.  As Pope Francis says: “The Lord never tires of forgiving!” To live the Little Way is to do 3 things: 1) Recognize our brokenness, 2) Keep trying to grow in holiness, and 3) Keep trusting that God will satisfy our desires for holiness, even if we don’t understand how.  If we truly live this Little Way, we will become saints.”

Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC

So as we begin the Month of the Most Holy Rosary tomorrow…let us bring this day by day, bit by bit, little by little mentality to the recitation of the Rosary in our lives.  No lover ever truly gets tired of hearing the words “I love you” from their beloved.  Likewise, Our Lady, our Mother of Mercy, never ever tires of hearing us recite over and over and over again, “Ave Maria” – “Hail Mary, the Lord is with thee…..”

 

-Edmund Adamus