As we strive over these days to deepen our love and fervour for the Real Presence of Christ, Body Blood Soul and Divinity, in the consecration at Holy Mass and in the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, I’d like to share a beautiful insight I came across a while ago. Blessed Vladimir Ghika, a Romanian priest was killed in hatred of the faith in Bucharest in 1954.
Blessed Vladimir has bequeathed to us a particularly beautiful text in French with the meaningful title: La liturgie du Prochain (The Liturgy of our Neighbour), to explain that benefiting the poor means “celebrating the encounter of Jesus with Jesus.”
He wrote: “A twofold and mysterious liturgy: the poor person sees Christ come to him under the species of the one who helps him and the benefactor sees the suffering Christ appearing in the poor over whom he stoops. However, for this very reason it is a single liturgy. In fact, if the gesture is properly made, on both sides there is only Christ: Christ the Saviour moves towards the Suffering Christ, and they are integrated in the Risen and glorious Christ in the act of blessing”. Basically, he added, “it is a matter of extending Mass throughout the day and throughout the world, like a concentric wave that ripples outwards from Eucharistic Communion in the morning.”
Nothing is more precious to us as Catholics than the Real Presence of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist. And equally precious to us are our loved ones both alive and dead. But even more precious to us, if we are parents, are our children, especially our young infant ones. In their natural innocence – Pope Pius XI refers to them in the encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge as ‘the sacred altars of God’ because of the innocence of their souls – they are icons of the Eucharistic love of Christ in our life. We don’t idolise or worship them but we do adore them just as we seek to adore the Lord on our altars. And like the Lord Jesus who gazes on us with love from the altar, so too do our children gaze at us at times with that divine love. As the saintly old man in the parish church of St John Vianney of Ars, who used to spend hours on end before the Blessed Sacrament, said in the patois when the holy cure asked him what he did all day; “Le bon Dieu m’aveuse, et J’aveuse le Bon Dieu” – The Good Lord looks at me and I look at the Good Lord. The more we increase our devotion to the Blessed Sacrament the easier it becomes to cherish our loved ones especially our precious little ones.
(Paragraph 58 of Evangelium Vitae)
Every night at the ending of bedtime prayers with my 9 year old son, we pray the Eternal Rest for the faithful deprated, especially ouir loved ones and I encourage him always to pray for the most forgotten Holy Souls in Purgatory because in return their prayers for us are very powerful and beautiful because they have the sure and certain hope that they will enjoy the Beatific Vision and earnestly desire us to follow them to that same Glory. In short, what I am trying to instil in my son is a faith-filled confidence in the life to come, a real hope that no matter what evil may befall us in this life, it is only by holding on to the hope of eternal life in Christ that we can overcome all obstacles to that joy we are destined for.
In a short time I will be speaking to him about the beauty and gift of human sexuality. I ask the Holy Souls to help me in this task so that I can spiritually inoculate him for what lies ahead.
“Be not afraid” said the great St John Paul II, and in that vein I highly recommend the excellent book;“Beyond the Birds and the Bees – Raising Sexually Whole and Holy Kids” by Greg and Lisa Popcak. This is a gem of a book full of practical advice for parents but suitable for anyone who wants to be better equipped intellectually and spiritually to pre-empt and fend off the inevitable attacks which will come our way and already do for many families on a daily basis. It deepy disturbs me that from September 2020, despite all the assurances of the UK Government that the parental right to legally withdraw children under 15 from classroom sex education will remain, but that nevertheless head teachers [according to the draft guidance] will be able to override that right in so called “exceptional circumstances.” For now I leave you with a comment on the cover of the Popcak book: “An answered prayer for parents working to raise faithful Catholic children in a sexually confused culture.”
I was privileged to meet Mr and Mrs Popcak and their family at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in 2015. What a powerhouse of evangelical Catholicism they are. But whilst they espouse Catholic vision and truth they recognise that many fall short of it and are wounded so their innovative online counselling service (www.catholiccounsellors.com) tries to provide professional, practical, pastoral assistance to individuals and families facing all manner of problems.
‘On the 28th June 1978, a little more than a month before he died Paul VI said, “You will thank God and me for Humanae Vitae.”’ Cardinal Carlo Caffara March 24 2014.
I have refrained from commenting directly on the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae; not because i don’t think it’s important [I do very much so] but because I’m not sure I’ve much to add to what I have said on the 40th anniversary here http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/edmund-adamus/love&responsibility-part1.htm and here http://www.christendom-awake.org/pages/edmund-adamus/love&responsibility-part2.htm
Besides it is difficult to improve upon the analysis of the importance of this milestone anniversary than that given by Mgr Livio Melina thanks to the excellent work of Edward Pentin http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/msgr.-melina-applying-a-paradigm-shift-to-humanae-vitae-would-distort-its-m
What I would say however as we draw near to the Feast of St John Vianney the patron of parish priests on 4th August is that if he had been alive in 1964 and since, there’s no mistaking how he would have faithfully preached/taught consistently on the evil of contraception for as Blessed Paul VI says “it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ” but he would be a tireless confessor vigilant for the care of souls, “bitterly severe toward sin, but patient and abounding in mercy toward sinners” (HV 29)
So it seems to me that there has been an almost irrevocable crisis in marriage and the family [and therefore society] because there has been an almost irrevocable crisis in the sacred priesthood. Just as contraception splits the procreative from the unitive in spousal love, so too does the spiritual fecundity in the priest diminish if he fails to guide and teach the faithful in to the truth of this “irreformable” teaching.
How ironic it is that so often people obsess about marriage for priests whilst at the same time singularly failing to acknowledge and own the sin of omission as Church for decades of neglect in formation of the faithful in marriage itself, especially authentic human sexuality embodied in the commitment for life open to life.
As a church we are very good a building hard, physical institutional infrastructure. We as faithful communities have for generations built parish churches, schools, hospitals, care homes, bought and sold plant, refurbished at great cost former convents and religious houses into youth centres and formation/retreat centres; the list goes on. Furthermore we build them to high standards and rightly so and we commit ourselves and the next generation to repay their cost.
We do this because we know they are important to our mission and from these good things arises our charitable activities, the care of the poor and sick, our overseas aid, care of refugees and migrants, which can all flourish.
We are very good at physical institutional infrastructure, but for perhaps the first time in our history we have not viewed marriage, a core of our non‐physical institutional infrastructure, in the same way. If we did, truly forming entire generations of children growing in to adolescents and young adults with a generous capacity to put out in to the deep and embrace both the physical and supernatural fecundity that matrimonial graces bring –then the vocations to priesthood and religious life would come, they would come with the healthy size of faithful families and the celibate priest would swim in that ocean of married love, eager to serve it, guard it, give it diligent pastoral and spiritual care. So the irony now is that we obsess about marriage for priesthood brought on by a crisis of countless buildings and infrastructure not being manned when the one “soft” but keystone of ALL the physical infrastructure has been left uncared for to reach staggering levels of spiritual poverty which if it were a building would be like a diocesan cathedral crumbling from disrepair. In short we would never allow such a thing to happen because we can see it, touch it, feel it, enter it, hungry to fill it with the Presence and worship of the Lord. Yet we allow what we cannot always see or think we cannot feel [matrimonial grace] to be left to fend for itself, go unacknowledged and unaffirmed in ways that leaves the individual spouses within their unique sacramental identity to feel truly alone and unappreciated as part of-indeed central to-the evangelising mission of the Universal Church.
It’s the ultimate irony. In an era of ‘desacralising’ ecclesiology, we end up viewing a key solution to a contemporary crisis from a distinctly clericalist mindset; i.e, in neglecting the most important, most popularly chosen sacrament among the laity [marriage] in an epoch of dumbing down the sacrificial priesthood; the inverted snobbery towards the laity decides that marriage is absolutely,suddenly critical for clerics more than it is for the salvation of the laity called to live it, freely, faithfully and fruitfully with a lifelong open to life mentality.
It is often said that the revival of the Church depends on a renewal of the priesthood. I agree, but this needs to be in the context of the renewal of the family, from whence [hopefully] vocations to the priesthood stem. After all, fewer babies means fewer children to hear God’s call. This is why Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia encapsulates what lies at the heart of the renewal of the Church so succinctly: “There will be…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.”
Author Devin Schadt writes: “Human fatherhood, having its share of failings and sins, appears to offer ample excuse for humanity to disbelieve the proposal of its iconic value. Despite this problem, however, the frequent ability of imperfect, fallen men to love and desire good for their children powerfully signifies the perfection of an all loving and completely merciful Father.”
Father’s Day on Sunday is a time to be thankful for and remember our fathers or the men who have been like fathers in our lives, but especially to be grateful for our Heavenly Father! Many have a great relationship with their father, but sadly, others have fathers who are absent emotionally, spiritually or physically. This can create a “father wound” that can then negatively reflect onto God the Father. A father’s love, example and teaching should lead us to the ultimate Father, God the Father. Sometimes our father is a wonderful example and other times he is not. Nevertheless, we need to remember that we all have human fathers, so we all need the ultimate Father regardless of how good or bad our human father is or was.
We see and feel the effect of broken fatherhood in our society daily: the family is breaking down. Most men are called to be husbands and fathers and to lead their families. In leading their families in a spirit of undying sacrifice and service, their children can see an example of true masculinity. They can see a man who protects, defends and leads with love and courage. He is someone who is not afraid to die to self to serve those around him.
So what if your father has fallen victim to the illusions society promotes and has rejected his responsibility to love his wife and family as Christ loved the Church? Pray for him, pray for him again, then pray for him some more. Also pray for yourself and all the people that he may have hurt. Then work on forgiving him, even if he has died, which can be a great challenge! But that’s part of living the Christian life, isn’t it? Accepting and embracing the challenge of truly forgiving him will set you free. There’s such a beauty in forgiveness, which enables us to love them and want their good. We are all sinners in need of God’s mercy; fathers aren’t exempt from this need.
So if you or someone you know has a ‘father wound,’ I pray that you will pray extra hard for them. If this seems like a daunting task, ask God the Father to help you forgive your father. We must be like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son – equally prodigal in our forgiving. During the Year of Faith I ran a pilot spiritual exercise programme for adult children of divorced parents called Recovering Originswhich enabled the participants to arrive at a point of forgiving their parents for the break-up of the family and move on from their inner pain, precisely because they were individually helped to reconnect with their heavenly and always faithful Father Almighty. So ask God the Father to reveal Himself to you as Father, to show you what true and perfect fatherhood looks like. Also ask Him to heal you from your father wounds. Remember, God the Father is perfect, your earthly father is not! So let the love of the Almighty God who created the universe and created you, out-pour His love onto you. He wants to embrace you and heal you from all your wounds! Sometimes you just have to ask and allow Him to do so!
So Holy Week this year begins with Palm Sunday coinciding with the great Solemnity of the Annunciation -the Feast of the Incarnation. Despite the fact that liturgically we won’t celebrate the Marian feast, we know all too well that the Mother of God, the humble Virgin rejoices in heaven to know her children give all their attention to her son on this day. And yet when we contemplate the ‘fiat’ of Mary to conceive in her womb the only Son of God at the word of the Archangel, it reminds us all too well of the ‘fiat’ the ‘nevertheless, not my will but your’s be done’ which Christ uttered in prayer to His Father in Gethsemane as He took upon Himself the sins of the world. Both Jesus and Mary are always complete servants to life, guardians and stewards of ALL life, especially human. They embody the fullness of supernatural fecundity in the face of wave upon wave of the sterility of sin and selfishness.
This year, as we enter Holy Week once more I am mindful of the journey the Church makes to the 50th anniversary of the encyclical “On Human Life” (Humanae Vitae) promulgated by Blessed Pope Paul VI in July of 1968. Those of us in the Church and beyond who care about the prophetic message of this most crucial of magisterial documents will need to collaborate more and more in prayer, action and solidarity to uphold its truths and beauty to a world craving, thirsting for a new liberating message of truth in love. In that spirit of collaborative discipleship I am honoured to have a guest blogger this week – Vicki Thorn, Founder of Project Rachel post abortion ministry in the US and Corresponding Member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
Humanae Vitae 50 Years Later – let the science speak.
As we approach the anniversary there is much discussion about whether it should be modified and modernized. It’s time to realize that it is a prophetic document in light of contemporary science!
- The first significant issue is that women who are using hormonal contraception when they are looking for a spouse, will choose the wrong partner based on scent cues (pheromones—scent molecules of affiliation). They are initially attracted to a male whose immune system is too much like theirs. Because they are not ovulating, their body thinks it’s pregnant and is attracted to a man whose immune system is too much like their own. This can create infertility issues and when she goes off the contraceptives to try and conceive, by scent, because her partner will be adverse to her. This can destroy intimacy and the marriage.
- Extended use can lead to brain changes, causing women to have significant shifts in brain activity and in adolescents, this can affect the development of the pre-frontal cortex.
- In an abstract entitled “Do the emotional side-effects of hormonal contraceptives come from pharmacologic or psychological mechanisms?” a number of emotional side effects are listed . “Hormonal contraceptive users, in contrast with non users, were found to have higher rates of depression, anxiety, fatigue, neurotic symptoms, sexual disturbances, compulsion, anger, and negative menstrual effects.” The abstract concludes “Furthermore, it is reasonable to hypothesize, given the present data, that contraceptive activity itself is inherently damaging to women.” This is a stunning conclusion! Might it be that when we deviate from God’s plan that there is intuitive outcome.
- There is much concern about the environment in many quarters. The possible effects of the residue of hormonal contraceptives that pass into water systems around the world is serious but often dismissed by the secular media. Fish, birds and people are impacted by this. Waste management people say they don’t know how to remove the residue from water.
- Other health issues arise. Ovarian shrinkage and old ovum have been recorded. Many other health risks have been discovered but are often dismissed by saying “The risk isn’t that high”. Unfortunately, if like a friend of my daughter,who was on the pill for medical reasons when she developed blood clots throughout her body that lead to her death, it is 100%.