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%.
At the end of April there is going to be a mass rally of prayer all around the island of Great Britain https://www.rosaryonthecoast.co.uk/
It is described as a “day of Pilgrimage and Prayer for the re-flourishing of our Faith, for the grace to build a culture of Life and for true Peace to reign in the hearts of all peoples & Nations.
Coming as it does during the season of Easter, this is yet another laudable offering of faith and love for Christ and his Holy Mother to proclaim the Gospel of Life and the Civilisation of Love. This is important given that in 2010 there was a nationwide 9 month novena pilgrimage of the miraculous relic image of Our Lady of Guadalupe http://catholicherald.co.uk/news/2010/06/18/england-has-a-special-role-to-play/ to prepare for the State visit of Pope Benedict
and in 2012 when the National Association of Catholic Families facilitated the UK tour of the replica Icon of Czestochowa as part of the worldwide http://www.fromoceantoocean.org pilgrimage in the cause of life. It is beautiful to see that this icon which has travelled so far now is currently being venerated in Ecuador.
Each of us has to make their inner pilgrimage through Lent to the joy and light of Easter and make sacrifices of prayer and praise along the way with deeper intentionality than we normally do. So this morning I decided to go to confession but bring my 8 year old son with me so we could celebrate the sacrament together in some precious father and son time. To prepare we recited the Holy Rosary together for the 15 minute drive to a neighbouring parish. What a joy it was to do this and it was so confimred for me as a parent when at the end of our prayers after receiving absolution my son said simply: “I feel blessed!” What more can one ask …let us all embrace the opportunities God might send us to recite the rosary with others for as the great St Louis de Montfort once said:
“Somebody who says his Rosary alone only gains the merit of one Rosary, but if he says it together with 30, 100, 1000 or more people, he gains the merit of all those Rosaries.”
My thanks to my good friend and brother in the Lord, Fr Jeff Steel, for being my guest blogger this week:
Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult to reconcile the Christian faith with a spirit of ingratitude? Being ungrateful for the gifts of God, all He has provided, and the graces and people He puts in our lives is a spirit not of Christ but of sin, the evil one, and the world. The reason we lack peace in our life is due to a spirit of ingratitude in our hearts. Gratitude is the sure path to peace. If we are lacking peace in our lives due to very difficult circumstances, we should look at the thermometer of our gratitude to God. If all we can do is complain about what we don’t have, resent every situation of life that makes us feel powerless and out of control, blame, point the finger, see negative in others and not ourselves, rant to God in prayer about everything and everyone but ourselves, it is a good sign that our gratitude virtue is on empty. And peace is completely absent from our lives. This is a serious issue for us all to consider.
This theme of gratitude runs through the entire book of Colossians. In the course of just a few pages, the apostle exhorts believers about being “always” thankful (1:3), “abounding in thanksgiving” (2:7), devoting themselves to prayer, “being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (4:2). Then, as if summing up this whole idea, Paul seals it with one comprehensive, all-inclusive exclamation point: “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (3:17).
Do we lack peace right now in our lives? Then ask the question: Am I grateful to God for all I have? To lack peace and gratitude is a road to much destruction of joy in our lives and in the lives of others who are in contact with us.
I applaud Archbishop Aquila of Denver for his Pastoral Letter for 2nd February – The Splendour of Love – reminding us of the beauty and truth of the Church’s vision for sexuality and married love in the light of the irreformable truth of Humanae Vitae -the encyclical which will mark its 50th anniversary this July.
“I write this pastoral letter to you, my brothers and sisters, to affirm the great beauty of the Church’s consistent teaching through the centuries on married love, a love that is so desperately needed today,”
The full letter is here http://archden.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/splendor-of-love_web.pdf
But even if you don’t read the full beautifully produced brochure, at least reflect on his introduction which includes testimony of such a moving nature, that pastors, educators and catechists who for decades have neglected and denied the truths of Humanae Vitae should feel ashamed and contrite for their sins of omission. Go to paragraph 3…it will blow you away!
Aquila writes elsewhere…
“Defending this love in our culture requires strong commitment,” Aquila continued, saying “it is crucial to reaffirm our commitment to the truth, goodness and beauty of Christ’s teaching on marriage and sexuality.”
According to Archbishop Aquila, Blessed Pope Paul VI “prophetically defended the integrity of married love and warned us against the danger of reducing sexuality to a source of pleasure,” in his landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae.
The first evangelizers of society, Aquila said, are parents and married couples, who are the primary educators of children. Because of this, parents and couples have the responsibility to faithfully teach their children in the truths of the Church.
Unfortunately, today’s children are bombarded with distorted sexual ethics at a young age, with exposure to pornography and the lure of casual sex, the archbishop said. These dangers present new challenges to parents in their efforts to raise children of God, but Aquila encouraged honest conversations with children to promote healthy relationships.
God bless Archbishop Aquila and may many more Bishops and priests follow his example and proclaim the truth!
In Sacred Scripture, the symbol of the Holy Spirit is the “finger of God’s right hand.” I love this symbol not least because of the way time and again in sacred art this symbolism has been illustrated with such beauty, especially in the way artists have depicted Christ, e.g. the Calling of Matthew by Caravaggio. Jesus points to Matthew with the index finger of his right hand as if to indicate the exhortation from His Spirit to call Matthew forth to a new life and mission. In like manner by virtue of the grace of our baptism and confirmation it is the same Holy Spirit upon whom we must depend and place our total reliance in order to overcome all and any of life’s trials and tribulations and especially to help us overcome all that makes us feel afraid and vulnerable.
It was with such thoughts in my mind and heart that I watched this 2 minute video below breathless disbelief but a sense of awesome wonder. And I was touched by how the clip concludes with the words of love from a father to a son. Truly an incarnational moment.
As the days draw nearer but darker towards the Nativity of the Lord, it has been small but significant comfort to see a beacon of truth and reason and honesty emanating from the US Catholic Bishops Conference shedding some much needed light of “leadership” amidst the ever increasing gloom and darkness of so called “transgenderism” and its ideology that eclipses the truth about the Divine Plan for Humanity; male and female made in the image and likeness of God. The full statement on this question can be read below and in the link. I for one am deeply grateful for this timely statement as the UK government in particular is hell-bent on forcing gender ideology down the throats of children and young people in our schools. The continuing saga of gender ideology starts to feel like a never ending soap opera of hyperbolic, emotive clap-trap of superficial lines learnt by rote from robotic untalented actors. Gender ideology, that “anthropological heresy” which flies in the face of all right reason and most of all in the sacred gift of human sexuality, made most holy by its embodiment and personification in the Christ Child – a boy, who would grow to be the man who would offer his life in sacrifice to rescue and redeem all of humanity from its damaged state. So as the “soap” opera of trans rights etc drones on and on and one is reminded of that ubiquitous catchphrase at the end of each episode of the US produced cheesy TV show “Soap” where the narrator would say; “Confused? You will be” one cannot help but think that for however long the issue of gender confusion and questioning/fluid sexuality continues, we must in these days of Light and Joy of Christmas remember the insight of GK Chesterton: “The issue is now clear. It is between light and darkness and everyone must choose his side.”
Created Male and Female: An Open Letter from Religious Leaders
December 15, 2017
As leaders of various communities of faith throughout the United States, many of us came together in the past to affirm our commitment to marriage as the union of one man and one woman and as the foundation of society. We reiterate that natural marriage continues to be invaluable to American society.
We come together to join our voices on a more fundamental precept of our shared existence, namely, that human beings are male or female and that the socio-cultural reality of gender cannot be separated from one’s sex as male or female.
We acknowledge and affirm that all human beings are created by God and thereby have an inherent dignity. We also believe that God created each person male or female; therefore, sexual difference is not an accident or a flaw—it is a gift from God that helps draw us closer to each other and to God. What God has created is good. “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27).
A person’s discomfort with his or her sex, or the desire to be identified as the other sex, is a complicated reality that needs to be addressed with sensitivity and truth. Each person deserves to be heard and treated with respect; it is our responsibility to respond to their concerns with compassion, mercy and honesty. As religious leaders, we express our commitment to urge the members of our communities to also respond to those wrestling with this challenge with patience and love.
Children especially are harmed when they are told that they can “change” their sex or, further, given hormones that will affect their development and possibly render them infertile as adults. Parents deserve better guidance on these important decisions, and we urge our medical institutions to honor the basic medical principle of “first, do no harm.” Gender ideology harms individuals and societies by sowing confusion and self-doubt. The state itself has a compelling interest, therefore, in maintaining policies that uphold the scientific fact of human biology and supporting the social institutions and norms that surround it.
The movement today to enforce the false idea—that a man can be or become a woman or vice versa—is deeply troubling. It compels people to either go against reason—that is, to agree with something that is not true—or face ridicule, marginalization, and other forms of retaliation.
We desire the health and happiness of all men, women, and children. Therefore, we call for policies that uphold the truth of a person’s sexual identity as male or female, and the privacy and safety of all. We hope for renewed appreciation of the beauty of sexual difference in our culture and for authentic support of those who experience conflict with their God-given sexual identity.
I came across this profound and moving text some time ago and had forgotten about it until today’s beautiful feast of the Immaculate Conception dawned. Enjoy and a blessed Advent to you all!
Meditation in Advent by the Bishop of Aberdeen December 8th 1956
The process of human generation is a never-ending occasion of interest and wonder. The intercourse of bodies that accompanies the intercourse of minds and wills expresses a love of which the angels might be jealous.
A mutual giving is worlds apart from a mutual taking. What people do not know when they go to the altar is that the best wedding party is a bevy of virtues: humility, detachment, self-control, the habit of giving; not to speak of a bevy of arts and habits, including the habit of laughter.
Chastity cannot exist alone. She must have her entourage. From such pleasant company she can retire to her bridal couch and understand the words of the Sarum rite: “with my body I thee worship”. If a person is worth dying for, she is worth everything short of it. We are on our way to Bethlehem…. We must now examine our consciences on the matter of chastity. The vowed to celibacy may bethink themselves that their consecration must carry much more than a bachelor freedom from the cares and chores of domestic society: it involves a fathering and mothering in the mystical body of Christ. The married might ask themselves if a visit from the Christ-child to their home would find there faith and love and trust, and no child missing that God wanted to put into their arms. Having put their house in order, they can go forward bravely to Bethlehem and invite the child to come and live under their roof.