Clinging onto Christ on top of a 20ft pole.

an-image-from-the-film-simon-of-the-desert

St Simeon Stylites was a fifth century monk who set off a trend for hermits to live on top of pillars. Totally bonkers, right?! I remember being told this story as a 7 year old and just collapsing with irreverent laughter wondering how he managed to go to the bathroom😀

Little did I know he was to become on of the most important saints in my life. In fact I had completely forgotten about him until I had a conversation with my Byzantine friend today. 

St Simeon climbed his pillar in AD412 to get away from the hordes of disciples and onlookers who came to visit him, having heard reports of his already extreme self-denying lifestyle. He once survived Lent without eating or drinking anything, and followed this achievement up by standing stock still until he collapsed.

He spent the rest of his life on a succession of ever higher pillars, to get away from the crowds who continued to visit him, with supplies delivered by village boys climbing up to the top.

After he died, his fame spread and he spawned scores of imitators, known as Stylites from the Greek word for pillar, “style”.

8478177895_fe6cc954fd_b

The remains of St Simeon’s pillar before the airstrike.

 

The monastery which houses the remains of his pillar north-west of Aleppo, has been a tourist attraction for centuries, and has come under the control of different groups in the civil war. Tragically in May this year an airstrike hit the monastery and damaged the remains of his pillar.

97850805_syria_monastery-large_transercyfncluikpeqt28e10m-fk7odq1lw9wwgyi9k5mio

It is such a shame as I really would have like to visit it one day. I’m not sure that I ever will now.

The reason he has become one of the most important saints in my life is because of the pillar. It is such a vulnerable position to be in – stuck on top of a pillar. But spiritually speaking this is exactly the place in which Christ is calling us to be.

Christ stands with us on the pillar and all we can do is to cling to Him as tight as we can and rely on him for absolutely everything. If we let go we are in immediate danger. If we cling on He wraps us in His embrace. It’s a no-brainer!😀

14563480_1123614547745404_2866111547627764172_n

St Simeon Stylites in Minecraft made by my 7 year old!

So up until this point I have been listening in the desert. But I guess that wasn’t enough. Now it seems I am stuck on top of a 20ft pole!😀

My need to cling, and to be held in God’s embrace has been something I have wanted desperately for a long time, but I didn’t know how to do it. Now I know. It was that place of complete trust, and total vulnerability and reliance on Him that I needed to get to.

And now i’m here I don’t think i’ll be coming down any time soon🙂

My Summer in Nice: 84 people dead, and everyone is concerned about “Burkini rights”.

24-promenade-de-anglais.w710.h473.2x
By Alison Figueiredo.
We arrived in Nice at the beginning of the summer around June in order to take care of my father who lives here and who suffered a stroke. My four year old son and I alongside my now frail mother faced this enormous challenge head on and with as much courage as we could muster. But without the Catholicism of Nice I perhaps would not have made it through this Summer with so much resting on my shoulders.
I’ve been blessed with this soothing balm. The church bells calling out every day on most streets, the beautiful baroque churches in the old town, the stunning Franciscan monastery in Cimiez where I take refuge after every painful visit with my beloved father, the sung Old Rite masses and daily rosary. Christian Estrosi the Mayor of the Region wished us all a Happy Feast of the Assumption on his FB page. Can we ever imagine a London Mayor doing that?
I feel very at home with Catholicism here. The slow steady rise of French Catholicism has not gone unnoticed in the mainstream either. I love attending Tridentene mass here, full of young families and led by the beautiful Penitents Rouges. Today was particularly special, celebrated by a recently ordained priest. One of 12 ordained in July by Cardinal Burke, 8 of whom were French.
On the 14th July we waited for the traditional fireworks across the road and my son fidgeted with excitement at attending. Then, mercifully as it turns out, he fell asleep. Around 11 I went onto the balcony to clear away plant pots buffeted by the mistral and heard screams I will never forget. The buzzer went repeatedly, I answered but no one responded. My blood ran cold. Something wasn’t right.
After a series of panicked phone calls from family telling us they could see our hallway on Fox News we switched on the TV to see the dark blue entrance of our building filled with screaming people, families and children panicking and clamouring to escape another Islamic terrorist attack. Right on our doorstep. The white lorry used to mow down and kill over 80 people – some of whom were babies still in their pushchairs, came to a stop right outside our building. For a day afterwards we were in lockdown as the army scoped out the underground parking area beneath our building believing a group of terrorists had used it to hide. It was terrifying and for two nights I slept in front of the inside of the front door to block it and protect my mother and child.
unnamed

Outside our building: My son watches people lay flowers on the bloodstains.

A month on and Already it’s forgotten by the world. The orphaned children, the many with life changing disabilities, the grief of parents,  the bloodstains which remain across the road and pavement which were never removed, thousands of teddy bears, thousands of Catholic Church candles scattered along the Promenade. The world has already moved on anaesthetised to the violence, Facebook profiles switched back to normal.
The focus at the end of the Summer has turned to the hurt sensibilities of the Muslim community. The anger now directed at Islamophibes. Frankly, realising how close my son and I came to death, having spoken to neighbours traumatised at escaping with their lives and protecting their handicapped daughter, reading the endless lists of global victims after these attacks, I freely admit I’m phobic. Because like Christian Estrosi, I too fear Salafism (an Islamic movement based on a literal reading of the Quran) and have long been familiar with its malign influences on Islam in Europe, it’s insidious grip on Muslim youth and culture. And like many in France, a country battered by a series of attacks, I feel there is next to nothing to convince me that mainstream Islam is anything other than at fault for its very own failure to challenge it. Islam has become more so than ever before a political force waging a cultural war as well as violent jihad. These so called groups challenging Islamophobia are merely Salafism by stealth.
As far back as the 90s the undercurrent of Salafism has reshaped Islam in France. When I undertook a research project on it for my University degree I recall the interviews with Imams conducted in living rooms bereft of furniture, sat cross legged on the floor, dreaming of the Caliphate. I could sense the unease of my Algerian university friend who had abandoned Islam and become an apostate and atheist, expressing endless concern for the religion his parents practised versus that of their increasingly agitated children.
French feminism supported by Muslim women has since mostly swung behind the various veil debates in opposition to the veil, supporting veil bans, in stark contrast to the rest of western feminists. They’ve been rightly vocal about the atrocities committed on women in the suburbs who fail to dress appropriately. They’ve even had the courage to recognise that some women will dress to make a statement of Salafist intent rather than express any element of faith. French Research backs this up.
Burkini-631893
Eventually we re-emerged onto the Nice beaches and tried to carry on. The weight of the hospital visits and terrorism meant the beaches and pools were an important break with my son. And that’s when I first noticed the Burqini. A direct flight from Dubai to Nice has increased wealthy Muslim visitors and they bring with them this bizarre woman eviscerating swimsuit. The husbands bear all. Their prepubescent daughters are forced into a similar child’s version which stops at the knees instead of the ankles, while their brothers wear trunks. It is therefore no surprise to me at all to see France challenge this latest cultural drive.
France is hurting after so many grotesque attacks. It is concerned at how to crush the grip of Salafism. It’s politicians broadly represent the views of its citizens rather than working to silence them.
NunBurkiniThumbnail
The imam (of course) who circulated the picture of nuns on the beach has helped create enough confusion that even the vice mayor of Nice wound up ludicrously cornered over the issue of nuns habits and clumsily attempted to bat the issue away. And presumably the Habits of the Penitents Rouges of Nice. But Estrosi, the French Prime Minister and Sarkozy are all crystal clear.

“There is, firstly, political Islam, which exploits a religion that is the fact of a few. The burkini is not a religious sign, it is the affirmation in the public space for political Islamism”  – F. Valls – French Prime Minister.

And the president of the Islamic organisations if France makes clear it is not Islamic dress for modesty.
“I say that the Burkini is not part of the Muslim Faith.” – National President of the Union of Islamic Organisations of France
The burqini is not required religious dress. It is a political uniform. It is an act of communautarism as Estrosi went to lengths to indicate.  It is an obvious middle finger to society around them, anti woman in the message it sends just like the chador and niqab – that it is a woman’s responsibility to manage at all times the apparently unrelenting desires of infidel men.
Unlike nuns who submit their lives to God this is about submitting to the will of your husband who lays claim to your body, or pronouncing your admiration for that concept to the world even while women across the world suffer under Salafist groups who mandate it. When this matter is put to debate in Parliament this issue of habits versus burqini will become clearer. I also expect them to address the rise in the chador here for the same reasons. Put simply. These are the simple but worthy values of France and of the West. Accept them.
As I witnessed, but didn’t photograph and share on Twitter, one wife who dipped her feet in the kids pool without the proscribed attire was pulled rudely from the pool by her husband, beaten and made to go change. Another simply got into the kids pool wearing her trainers, which was incredibly unsanitary.
I also strongly suspect the initial incident and outrage was fabricated. A woman in a burqini sits on the beach stones, alone with no husband, not mat, no towel, no bag and is curiously photographed by long zoom lense? Oh please.
hqdefault

A Burkini set-up?

Yes the police here are heavily armed at the moment so approaching her in the manner that they did was quite wrong.  Frankly though it’s equally outrageous to me to be forced to explain to my son why heavily armed soldiers in full combats need to patrol the Promenade all day long. People getting ants in their pants about the police being armed can hop it. They’re keeping us safe if that’s alright with you.
Catholics addressing the issue of modesty in the face of raunch culture beware, certainly there’s a discussion to be had about how we tackle raunch culture. But the burquni is not the answer. In fact this region is not the bare all anything goes region it once was. I’m curious that no one ever picked up on the story of the young London woman asked to put her bikini top back on with quite the same fury as they did the burqini.
Finally, No-one is suggesting women cannot dress to feel comfortable for the beach. I’ve never had any issues in dressing so that I feel modest, cool, comfortable and able to swim. I don’t need to make a statement to do it. Especially when that statement is frankly as sexualising as nudity. It screams I’m a sexual being – look at me. Highly immodest.
In France various mayors have defied the lower court order entirely and continue to maintain the bans. Particularly here in Nice where Estrosi could not care less about the latest reaction to his temporarily banning photographing the police. Apparently many of the burqa clad families have moved next door to Italy for some peace and quiet because the Italian mayors are more accommodating, where the same families are also now requesting separate beach shower facilities for Muslim women (Nice matin).
Oh Italy! The salafists are winning this war. They’re successfully hoodwinking many Europeans and have them dancing around on their behalves. Don’t be such utter obsequious fools.

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church!

13782263_10209023774544039_3224008155997500561_n

I have found myself really mourning Fr. Hamel. A sweet, kind old priest whom I have never met – yet I still call “Father”.

I have cried real tears today because they killed my gentle old Father.

Father Jacques Hamel was killed in the same manner as his patron, Saint James, on his Feast day. Saint James, one of the twelve Apostles, was martyred by beheading in the year 44.

It is hard to see through the pain of such an event, but today, as I went to the church to pray it started to make sense.

There were a lot of people in the church today. Lots more than usual. And I didn’t recognize them. But they were there to pray. So we all knelt alongside each other, grieving our poor French Father.

I began to wonder how many people all around the world have been moved by his death? How many have visited a church today to pray or light a candle? How many have raised their hearts and minds to God – even just to ask “Why?”. It is still a prayer.

Perhaps the answer to that question lies in the fact that they have begun to talk to God. Perhaps a gentle old priest, beheaded during an ordinary morning Mass is enough to shake people out of their comfort zones and realise that evil is real, God is real, and death comes when we least expect it.

Through his brutal matyrdom, Fr. Hamel continues in death his essential work as a priest – to draw souls to Christ. And this gives his death meaning and purpose, and great glory to God!

Tertullian really was right when he said “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church!”

Rest in peace dear Father. Santo Subito!

Pokemon Go! Don’t miss this golden opportunity for Evangelisation.

pokemon-church

Pokemon Go! is already proving to be one of the biggest downloadable games ever produced. Servers all over the world are completely jammed by millions of people trying to get this game to download onto their mobile phones. People are going crazy for it! My kids absolutely love it.

For those who don’t know already, the game is to chase and collect Pokemon characters that are digitally present all over your neighborhood. The game uses real life landmarks as part of the game that allows players to meet up, have Pokemon battles and trade characters.

Many of these real life landmarks are Churches. So as you can imagine, many people – often kids or teenagers – are suddenly appearing on Church property in large numbers.

CnLIeVHWAAAATRM

As far as I can tell, this is probably the biggest opportunity for evangelisation that has landed in the lap of Churches all across the land. People who would *never* usually have any reason to set foot on church property are flocking there in drones! If I was a priest I would be downloading the game onto my phone right now – just so I would have an excuse to go outside and interact with the swarms of young people that were literally on my door step.

Unfortunately, it seems some people have missed this gift from God and instead have retreated into grumpiness – actually telling young visitors to *GO AWAY* and that they are not welcome on church property!

13690634_10154321812669844_5943845581512797777_n

Unbelievable!!! This notice was put up on the grounds of a Catholic church.

And another one…

 

PokemonGoChurch-1

Please!!! Don’t you get it?! These kids aren’t there to cause any trouble. And tell me this – when will you ever get an opportunity to speak to these kids again?

How about something like this instead?:

Church featured in Pokemon Go expecting deluge of gamers

And if you are still huffing and puffing in your fuddy-duddy grumpy old person way, let you forget that in 2000, St. Pope John Paul II gave his blessing to the PokĂ©mon franchise, saying the games did not have “any harmful moral side effects” and were based on “ties of intense friendship”.

C’mon guys what’s wrong with you?! Don’t miss this golden opportunity. Love them for goodness sake. Instead of seeing these kids as intruders, perhaps start seeing them as irreplaceable souls made in the image and likeness of God who will spend eternity somewhere one day. Perhaps this is your one chance to make sure that place is heaven.

04c93054-4a26-11e6-bde2-88ea9f1c6889_1280x720

The problem of Zombie-Robot parishioners and ‘active participation’.

3UZw1v

Have you ever sat in Mass and felt like this?! I know I have. There have been many times where I have just zoned out. I realise the priest has got to the end of his sermon and I haven’t really heard a word because I was daydreaming.

I suppose it doesn’t help when most other people around you are doing the same thing. To my horror, I realise that I have become one of those legendary Zombie-like parishioners that I used to marvel at as a child.

I remember the droning monotone chorus of the congregation during the creed, the robotic expressionless handshake of peace, the lifeless melody of the organ with literally 2 people singing out of the entire congregation. The ones who used to hit the ESCAPE button and walk out straight after communion – I guess they’d fulfilled their weekly obligation right? And yet we, and the same other people used to turn up week after week and filter up the isle into the same old pews that we almost seemed to be pre-programmed to return to.

A congregation of mindless robots.

robot-human-hand-shake.jpg.560x0_q80_crop-smart

And it wasn’t as if our church wasn’t trying – they got the parishioners involved in the offertory procession, the choir, the readings and bidding prayers, they even got the children to go up onto the sanctuary during the consecration to see up close what the priest was doing. But still, before long it began to dawn on me that I really wasn’t getting anything out of Mass.

By age 13 I had stopped going. I just didn’t see the point. It was so boring. The people there were so boring. The final nail in the liturgical coffin for me was the ‘Teen’ mass. The cringeworthy band with their ‘Rock’ hymns, the priest trying to be cool, the fact that they were trying so hard to include and please us… It was just embarrassing.

I felt quite sorry for them in a way. I could see how hard the few motivated ones were trying to make it work, but it wasn’t cutting it. It didn’t have any interest whatsoever in going to a dead church full of robots. There was nothing in it for me.

po15ch0c

It wasn’t until 5 years later, age 18, when I had my first ridiculously powerful, life changing personal encounter with Jesus after a failed suicide attempt that I began returning to Mass.

Because of that encounter, I suddenly realised that Jesus Christ was real, alive, and truly present in the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist during Mass. In those first few weeks of returning to Church as a young adult, on my own, I remember how the words of the readings and the Holy Gospel would just fly accross the church out of the mouths of the readers and just penetrate my heart like a flaming spear. I remember getting butterflies in my tummy, and my heart racing as I approached Jesus in the Holy Eucharist for the first time in a long time. And I remember the gentle peace of Him, as He surrounded me with reassurance and calm during my first tentative steps of my conversion of heart, that I was wanted and loved by Him.

And yet, I was still surrounded by those loyal, yet long suffering mindless robots that surrounded me as a child. The droning creed, the robotic handshakes, the 2 lonely hymn singers… They were all still there! In some ways I found it quite funny 🙂 but I also found that it broke my heart. I was home, but my family were zombies.

I would just watch them week after week, just going through the motions. It was like they were asleep inside, while my heart was completely on fire for Jesus. I learned pretty quickly that I was not going to fit in.

39986

After another 10 years or so I began my Catholic studies at Maryvale university, and for the first time ever came accross the term “active participation” in the Vatican 2 document Sacrosanctum conciliumthe Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. I learned here that one of the main aims of the day in and around the 1960’s was to get the laity to participate more in the Mass. I was amazed because I thought the robotic zombie parishioner was a modern phenomenon. It seems not.

The other bombshell I learned was that up until the late 1960’s, the priest always used to say Mass with his back to the congregation!! I couldn’t believe it! Why on earth would he do that? The Mass before the late 1960’s was very different. It was said in Latin, the priest had his back to the congregation, people used to kneel to receive Holy Eucharist and would only receive on the tongue. Women were required to cover their hair in church, members of the congregation would often say rosary during Mass if they didn’t understand the Latin. Things were really different.

I can really understand why people were calling for reform in the church and pushing the idea of the “active participation” of the laity in the Mass. How easy would it be to zone out during Mass if you were just sitting there not even able to understand the language? So the Council Fathers developed this idea of active participation:

“14. Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people” (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.

In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit; and therefore pastors of souls must zealously strive to achieve it, by means of the necessary instruction, in all their pastoral work.” – Sacrosanctum concilium

Although it was never actually an official part of the reforming documents of Vatican 2, the radically new idea of the priest facing the people began to creep in a few years later. The idea behind this was to make the people in the congregation feel more welcome, more involved and for the first time ever they could see what the priest was doing on the altar. It was all aimed at moving towards this idea of active participation.

offering2

I can totally understand what they were trying to do in the late 1960’s, but 50 years later with obviously dwindling parishes, lack of religious vocations and widespread theological ignorance within the church, the million dollar question is:

Has this radical idea of active participation actually worked?

It was initially implemented to reduce parishioner zombification during Mass. But as i’m sure you will agree, the zombie robots are alive and well and STILL filling our churches today.

churchladies

 

Now, as you have probably heard, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, urged priests and bishops at the Sacra Liturgia conference in London on July 5 to start celebrating Masses ad orientem (with their back to the congregation) beginning on the first Sunday of Advent this year 2016.

This had caused uproar in the more progressive circles of the church as they believe it would take us back 5o years and undermine all the efforts made at active participation since then.

However I think they have got the wrong end of the stick here…

I think that it is pretty safe to say now that the active participation thing has not worked as intended. In all honestly, I think it has backfired massively and has actually drawn the people even further away from participating actively.

You see, the active participation that occurs currently is focused on outward signs and physical gestures. But this is not what active participation is meant to be. The true meaning is for the persons spirit to be actively involved in the mass, not though superficial things like carrying the offertory gifts, but to carry out our Baptismal ‘priestly’ role by offering our entire lives to God as Christ did on the Cross.

Of course it was never explained to me as a kid – or even as an adult that we are actually present at Calvary in real time during Mass. I never knew that. I also never realised that the Mass is something that is directed at God – not at the people. I never knew. The first time I realised that was during my first ever Tridentine (Traditional Latin) Mass where the priest had His back to me. When he lifted up the consecrated host with his back to me, I suddenly realised that Mass was not all about me. It was all about God.

We all face God. The priests offers the sacrifice on our behalf. Man is not the centre of the liturgy – Christ is.

Traditional-Latin-Mass

During Mass, by right and duty of my Baptism, my job is to offer my whole life – joined to the eternal sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, to God.

Why oh why did no-one ever tell me this? How can anyone possibly be luke warm during Mass armed with this knowledge? THIS is the active participation that we are meant to be carrying out during Mass – not joining the priest on the sanctuary or clapping during the Gloria.

I can see now that all those external participations actually served as distractions that drew my attention away from what I should really have been concentrating on internally. Even the priest himself can become a distraction during Mass – especially if he is young and handsome (yes, this has happened to me before during Mass *cringe*).

So to cut a very long argument short – I can totally see where Cardinal Sarah is coming from. He is trying to move the focus of the Mass back to where it should be – onto Christ, and eliminate the many distractions that have crept into the liturgy over the years. He is also trying to educate us as to the real meaning of “active participation”.

Ad-Orientem-Cartoon-Meme-640x578

There is one last thing…

Offering Mass this way would also be a wonderfully unitive thing to do with the Eastern Churches. They all offer Mass with the priest having his back to the congregation – they never changed. And as with everything in Catholic culture, this posture is highly symbolic. I spoke to my Byzantine friend who put it perfectly:

“Every movement in the Liturgy is symbolic. For instance, we face west during the exorcism part of the Baptism ceremony and then turn to the east (the altar) to declare our allegiance to Christ. It seems strange that the priest would face west to lead us in prayer/speaking to God on our behalf.”

Yes, that does seem strange when she puts it like that doesn’t it? I’m going to have to think more about that last part very, very carefully.

 

 

Why didn’t they just shoot the boy? – Harambe and our contraceptive mentality.

harambe_gorilla-1200x800

One monkey gets shot and everyone goes ape. Seriously, the amount of hate and judgment I have seen directed towards the mother of the little boy who managed to sneak into the Gorilla’s enclosure is just flabbergasting. I’ve seen a petition with over 150,000 signatures who are all calling for “Justice for Harambe” although no-one really knows what that means.

Many are blaming the mother for not supergluing the 4 year old to her side. I’m sure if she thought there was any risk at all of her son being able to breach the fence of the gorilla enclosure then she would have. Perhaps the haters need to be looking at the fact that the security at the gorilla enclosure was so weak it was foiled by a 4 year old? If I were the parents i’d be suing the zoo quite frankly.

13315412_1018436751596518_1947959651103939451_n

And then there is the fact that Harambe is a wild animal kept in captivity so that some people can gawp at him, and others can make money from people gawping at him. I’m sure when God made the majestic and extremely powerful Harambe, He didn’t intend him to spend his life in a zoo. I’m sure God intended him to live in the wild. But we love to control things don’t we…?

4895872-3x4-340x453

The out-pouring of emotion and grief over Harambe reminds me of the death of Princess Diana (stick with me on this one…!) Harambe and Diana were both gawped at by people. Diana was held captive in her own media prison – never being able to leave the house without Paparazzi, never having a moments privacy. People paid good money to view every aspect of her life. She was a spectacle for our entertainment – just like Harambe.

When she died there was one of the biggest outpourings of grief i’ve ever seen. Why? I never understood why? Yesterday you were happy to gawp at this person and revel in her lack of privacy, and now you are mourning her death like she was your own mother. I think what we were witnessing was the widespread grief of death itself. We cannot control death. Perhaps there was also an element of guilt there for gawping for all those years?

Perhaps people are also feeling guilt for Harambe? I’m sure some are. But many more are just feeling plain old rage. The rage, I believe also stems from this lack of ability to control. We love to control everything. St JPII called this the ‘contraceptive mentality’.

ibo_et_non_redibo_pope_john_paul_ii

Our desire to control things leads us eventually to do absolutely anything to remain in control. We want all the benefits and pleasures we can lay our hands on – and none of the responsibility or consequences. As human beings we take this desire for control to the very limit through murdering our own children through abortion. We MUST remain in control.

So when our control of a 400lb wild animal we are holding hostage is compromised by a 4 year old boy and we have to shoot the animal to remain in control,  everyone blames the boy (and his mother).

“She should have been keeping better control of him!” That’s right – there is no room for accidents or anomalies or mistakes in our contraceptive culture. No room at all. In fact, I’m starting to believe that there would have been less of a hyper emotional outcry from the self-loathing haters if the zoo keeper had just shot the boy (and his mother of course…). Then we could all just keep looking at the funny monkey and gawp at how big and strong he is, and how clever we are for controlling him.

People are so stupid…

Did Voris just become our mascot for the Year of Mercy?

14_10_14_jacket

I was very moved to see Michael Voris confess to his gay past a few days ago. I’m sure this must have been a very difficult thing for him to do, but I have to say – I think it is probably the best thing that has ever come out of Church Militant TV.

It explains a lot. The ruthless style journalism, the depth of revulsion – verging on hatred, of all things flimsy and unorthodox within the church, the hair… 😉

I think that when someone has lived in the depths of sin for so many years, the freedom that comes with confession and conversion is so life transforming that it is a pretty natural reaction to want to reject all sin with such dramatic force.

Mr Voris has often come across as rather cold and judgmental. But in the light of his recent revelations it is possible to see now that his motivations were not “holier than thou” but much more likely an impassioned revulsion at his own sinful past.

mike voris ottawa 003

The reason Mr Voris has brought his past to light was because he claims that New York diocese was “…collecting and preparing to quietly filter out details of my past life with the aim of publicly discrediting me, this apostolate and the work here.” 

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York told the Catholic Herald: “It is absolutely, 100 per cent untrue that the archdiocese was collecting and preparing to release anything concerning him personally or his website.”

Hmmm… difficult to say what really happened. I don’t think Mr. Voris would have revealed his past unless he really did think New York diocese was going to try to use it to discredit him. But if he was really smart, he would have allowed them to go ahead and do it – and basically give themselves enough rope to hang themselves with. As it stands now it is very difficult to prove that was the diocese intention.

In recent years New York diocese and Cardinal Dolan have been sued by Catholic parishioners accusing them of covering up for a homosexual priest Fr. Peter Miqueli, who stole millions from parishes to finance a sadomasochistic sex life with his gay-for-pay prostitute.

There was also the decision of Cardinal Dolan to head the 2015 St Patrick’s day parade despite the inclusion of a gay activist group, and the exclusion of a pro-life group. Mr Voris actually questioned Cardinal Dolan on this issue, at the parade itself. It feels very different now to watch this in the light of Mr. Voris’ past. I really think he is extremely brave as this is obviously an issue that is very close to his heart.

Cardinal Dolan recently wrote: “And…the Pontiff who has proclaimed a Year of Mercy, urging us, like a prophet of the Old Testament, like Jesus, like the apostles, like the saints, to ask Jesus for His mercy in our prayer, in the sacrament, and then to show this mercy to others.”

How ironic that those who claim to offer Christ’s mercy, seem to be perfectly alright with a gay activist group being part of their parade, but allegedly try to use the homosexual sins of a man’s past to try to discredit his reputation. While on the other hand we have a man who is renowned for being ruthless and apparently judgmental, now standing as a perfect example of what Christ’s mercy really looks like.

What better Christian witness is there than being a forgiven sinner? 🙂

What the diocese of New York has perhaps overlooked is that fact that there is nothing shameful about turning away from a sinful past.

Personally I think that this is the best thing that Mr. Voris has ever published. And I am excited to see how he will now continue with his ministry, because now he has revealed his need for confession, compassion and understanding, we will never see Church Militant in the same light again.

God’s love and mercy is made perfect in our vulnerability and weakness.

We travel by night…

image

On Easter Sunday my husband and I had a conversation in which aspects of my past dawned on us both.
I was so ready to give myself away entirely into marriage age 20. I didn’t want responsibility for myself on any level, or should I say – I didn’t feel confident in myself in anyway. So my survival plan was to give it all to someone else to take care of for me. (Why he would want to take that on is another story we haven’t even discussed yet.)

So that is how things worked for the next 15 years. He looked after me like a dad. So when he got sick 2 years ago you can imagine how terrifying that was.
I had never had to stand on my own two feet in my life, emotionally, financially or in any other way. But it was something that needed to happen.

Even though he is doing really well now, long term illness in a marriage does change the relationship irrevocably. But this needed to happen. I no longer make my husband an idol by putting him before God in my life. No spouse can ever live up to those standards, and it is not fair to ever expect them to. I no longer cling onto him like an utterly dependent child.

The one I should be clinging onto like an utterly dependent child is of course Christ. But then that relationship had had to change too. Unlike my old relationship with my husband, Christ does not indulge me like a spoiled child. And even though He meets me where I am, He expects me to grow up and act like an adult.

Of course this is not the sort of relationship I want. I want a daddy to look after me and keep all the bad things away from me and fill me with endless consolations. I’m spoiled, and that’s what I’m used to. But Christ knows my heart better than I do, and He knows that deep down I don’t believe I can stand on my own two feet. I’m just a scared little girl in a big bad world.

On some levels I am meeting the challenge. I have started my own business that is doing really well. I am paying our bills. My marriage is much more balanced. But still, Christ is calling me to mature spiritually.

These last few days I’ve been doing everything possible to distract myself from the fact that He is calling me back into the desert, to be with Him alone. I know He wants more of me, and I’m reluctant to say the least!
But there is no escaping it 🙂 As a Carmelite the interior life is my vocation. It’s who I am! He made me that way – I can’t escape it!

So finally today I stopped struggling. I stopped the useless distractions that don’t even work anymore and I joined my God, my Love, my Father in the desert.

Through the dark night of my senses I can see His face clearly. He stares at me and smiles. I try to avoid eye contact. But soon, I hope I can find the courage to meet His gaze, and at least participate in this challenging game of interdimentional ‘stares’ 🙂

We travel by night…

Christianity is the answer.

10649813_2000895016802488_1018697240804512835_n

I was watching my 2 year old playing along side a little muslim boy in the soft play center today and for some reason I started thinking “Those two will never be able to marry”. A strange thought considering they are both babies – but I’m right aren’t I? For them to be able to marry, one of them would have to convert to the others religion – or they would both have to renounce their religions. Whichever way it would cause enormous upset to both families. However at this toddler age, they can play together just fine. I smile at his headscarf wearing mother, and she smiles back. But we both know the score.

My 6 year old came home from school recently and told me confused that a muslim child had told her that “Jesus is a slave.” I had to compose myself before answering her. I quietly asked her “Who do we say that Jesus is?” she answered “The Son of God!”  I told her “That’s right!” .  And at 6 years old, that is enough – enough for today at least. There have been other questions about why so-and-so is not baptised and I tell her “Because their parents don’t understand why it is important. But hopefully they will realise for themselves when they are older.” And in the back of my mind I have to take control of the unpleasant thought: ‘I wish so-and-so was not in my daughter’s class.’

That, of course, is not a very inclusive or politically correct thought to have. What we have all be told by the powers that be is that multiculturalism is a good thing. Diversity is a good thing. And if you say otherwise it means that you are a racist and a bigot and you are basically Hitler – or at least that is what the militant lefties tell you. They probably learned that from this book when they were kids 😉 :

12049710_1247291828619015_2708148239035000598_n

But i’m afraid that is just not true. I’m not a racist or a bigot. What I am is a realist. It is obvious to me that two cultures of completely opposing beliefs are never going to fully integrate. We can live alongside each other with tolerance and respect, but we are never going to fully integrate. What multiculturalism has done is to set up a community of tension. It also serves to destroy national identity, because to be proud of your country and of your country’s faith heritage would be (according to the secularists) terribly offensive to those of other races or faiths.

Baloney.

This secular apologetic, pathetic attitude, along with the encouraged steady loss of morality and the wanton destruction of everything Christian has been the fertile ground in which the seeds of radical Islam has been firmly planted. And they have surely and steadily grown – and continue to do so. No government has effectively tackled the root cause of the problem. No government has had the balls to do so, because to do so would be to admit that all their efforts at multiculturalism and integration over the last 20 or so years has been at best a catastrophic failure, and at worst a co-ordinated and planned attack on Christian Europe and the UK. The problem is Islam. And still, still no-one in power is brave enough to stand up and say so. Mr. Cameron, Ms. Merkel, Mr Hollande, Mr Obama? Anyone? No.

Ask any vaguely educated Muslim and they will be able to tell you that the big issue within Islam is that there is no central teaching. In very much the same way that Protestantism works, each Imam is able to interpret the Qu’ran as he sees fit. And any man can set himself up as an Imam. This leaves the door wide open for misinterpretation of scripture. In Protestantism the end result of this is groups like Westbro Baptist Church. In Islam you get ISIS.

Al-Azhar__1757629c

Al-Azhar University

And though President Obama and other Western leaders have persistently attempted to divorce the ISIS from the religion of Islam, some influential members of the Muslim community apparently disagree. A report from 2014 notes that Egypt’s oldest Islamic university, Al-Azhar University, refuses to declare ISIS heretical to Islam.

The Al-Monitor’s Ahmed Fouad details the “honorable” Al-Azhar university’s official declarations concerning ISIS, which it refuses to condemn as apostate, or heretical to the teachings of Islam.

Back in Dec of 2014, the university issued a statement refusing to declare ISIS apostates. “No believer can be declared an apostate, regardless of his sins,” read the university’s statement, which was issued shortly after some interpreted an influential Nigerian Muslim authority as having pronounced the group heretical, which the university strongly denied.

quran-online1

Now let me just make myself perfectly clear on something. I do not have issue with muslim people as such – but with their creed. It is what is written in the Qu’ran that I have the major problem with. People are made by God, for God, and people can change. Ideology cannot change, and what is written in the book can’t change. The fact that several verses in the Quran tell muslims to go kill their enemies does not sit well with me. In Christianity we are told to find ways to love our enemies – not kill them.

islam-hates-christianity

Islam is the problem. Each muslim sect of course claims to be the correct one with the correct interpretation. And in some ways I actually find sympathy with those who are taking the radical path. After all – I am called to be a radical Christian. I understand this desire to give ones all to their faith. I also understand the desire to adhere to what is orthodox. It seems to me that the islamic radicals are simply adhering more closely to what it actually says in the Qu’ran, than the moderate muslims who are more ‘flexible’ in implementing their religious zeal. But is this radicalisation doing more harm to Islam than good?

Angry Muslim Protestors

Islam will reportedly become the world’s largest religion 55 years from now based on recent projections, but could the barbarous practices of the ISIS actually undermine the growth of the world’s Muslim population?

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, Christianity and Islam will be near parity by 2050, with Christians expected to comprise 31.4 percent of the planet’s population against 29.7 percent who follow Islam. The study said Islam will grow more than twice as fast as any other major religion over the next half century because muslims generally have a higher fertility rate than the contraceptive loving Europeans.

However, Muslims frightened by the inhumane acts by the ISIS are now questioning their faith, and presumably considering to leave it. This is backed by testimonies from missionaries working in the Islamic world who noted the large scale of Muslims who have converted to Christianity in the last 14 years since the devastating Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. The number of converts in the recent period, they said, is greater than during the entire 14 centuries of Islamic history.

Brother-Rachid

Brother Rachid

“Many Muslims are saying, ‘If ISIS is Islam, I’m leaving.’ Some are becoming atheists,” said Brother Rachid, who hosts a Christian program reaching Muslims called “Daring Questions” in Arabic language. “There is a huge wave of atheism in the Arab world right now and many are turning to Jesus Christ. Islam was never faced with this crisis before…Islam is going to collapse,” added Brother Rachid, whose father is a Moroccan imam who lived as a secret Christian convert for 15 years.

convertfromislam

Pastor Fouad Rasho

This is also the case in Angered Alliance Church in Sweden. Pastor Fouad Rasho, who has  in the last few years baptized more than a hundred former Muslims, maintained that ISIS causes many Muslims to come to Jesus. But most converts keep their shift in religion a secret, fearing for their lives and for being an outcast. Imram (not his real name), a British college student from a Pakistani immigrant family, said leaving Islam is tough:

“If someone leaves Islam and becomes an apostate, he is thrown out of his family; his family will be the first ones to abandon him,” he said. “(But) Every week I meet one or more persons who come to me and want to know more about Christianity and the Bible because they are very angry about being a Muslim. They don’t want to continue to be Muslim….His friends will reject him and he will be killed or he will be persecuted. A lot of my friends said, ‘This is the last time I’m talking to you because you disrespected the prophet Mohammed, you disrespected Islam.'”

 

cb39e0073b52bedd933d7b9b074a0b3b

The liberation of women?

When Nassim Ben Iman came with his parents to Germany as immigrants from a Muslim nation, he remembers thinking that if Germany is a Christian nation, then Christianity is a dead, sinful religion. “So nakedness on the television is because of the Christian religion. Living together not married is because of the Christian religion.” Nassim recalled thinking. Of course what Nassim was witnessing was not the fault of Christianity, but the wanton destruction of Christian values and morality in general that europe has experienced over the last century. Thankfully Nassim discovered the truth and  has since converted to Christianity. “When the people understand who Jesus is, they will love Him and follow Him more and more. And when the Muslims understand more and more what Mohammed is, what the Koran is, what the history is, then they will go farther and farther away from Islam,”

Surely Europe, with is 80 million muslim migrant influx should be promoting Christianity to those arriving on its shores? But sadly the European militant secularists have seen to it that almost every last shred of Christian heritage has being destroyed, or at least suppressed from the national identity of Europeans. Because of this spiritual and moral void, politically correct Europe has become the perfect fertile ground in which the shoots of radical Islam can flourish. I really truly can understand why young European Muslims feel trapped between secularist atheism and radical Islam. But some are finding hope in Christianity.

Let us not be afraid to confront the twin demons of radical Islam and radical secularism, and offer the solution of Christianity to the poor lost souls who are victims of both.

 

Sources:

http://www.dailywire.com/news/2161/islams-oldest-university-says-isis-are-not-james-barrett

http://www.breakingchristiannews.com/articles/display_art.html?ID=16080

The Jewish roots of the Eucharist.

Very excited to introduce my mum – Julie Brook who has been reading the amazing book ‘Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist’ by Brandt Pitre, and has written this great article for Faith in our Families…

7919-communion_wine_bread_unleavened.630w.tn

By Julie Brook

Did you know that the Jews had Sacred Bread which the priests elevated in the Temple before the people every Sabbath saying, ‘Behold God’s love for you’? Or that at every Passover the sacrificial lambs were fixed on a kind of crucifix? Or that the Jews were expecting a new Exodus? Or that a cup of wine was missing at the Last Supper?

Did you think that the Jews were expecting a political figure? What they were really waiting for was the restoration of Israel in a new Exodus. The first Exodus ensured the freedom of the Jews to worship God. By sacrificing on Mount Sinai Moses and the people sealed their Covenant relationship with God concluding the ritual with a great feast. Soon afterwards the Jews broke the Covenant by worshipping the Golden Calf but a thousand years later the prophet Jeremiah foretold a new, everlasting Covenant.

images1_html_72fe1bf9

After the Exodus the Jews built a Tabernacle as the central point of God’s presence in their midst. It was a small, moveable building, the dwelling place of God on earth. The later Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem was permanent and far more splendid but it was destroyed by the Babylonians in 537BC. King Cyrus of Persia permitted it to be rebuilt but it never regained its splendor.

The prophets now forecast a new Covenant, a new Temple that God would build in the age of salvation at the time of a new Exodus. It would bring both Jews and Gentiles into a new Promised Land which they would possess forever. The new Moses would be a Messiah, a king, prophet and miracle-worker who would rain down bread from heaven. Redemption would take place on a Passover night and a new Covenant would end in a heavenly banquet.

This new Exodus would need a new Passover. The procedure for the first Passover was as follows: first, sacrificing an unblemished male lamb (a priestly action), spreading the blood of the lamb on the doorposts (averting the angel of death), and to complete the sacrifice, eating the lamb and finally keeping the Passover as a Remembrance.

Fifteen centuries later, at the time of Jesus, the lamb had to be sacrificed in the Temple and eaten in Jerusalem. The Jews would drive a thin smooth stave of wood through the shoulders of the lamb in order to hang it and skin it. Another spit would transfix it right through from the lower parts right up to the head. Jesus would have gone up to Jerusalem every year and seen lambs bled and crucified – thus prefiguring his own death.

supper1

The last supper

There are similarities between the Last Supper and the traditional Passover which took place in Jerusalem after sunset on Passover night; wine was drunk, the meaning of the bread was explained and a final hymn was sung. The father of the family led the ceremony and explained the meaning of the lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs (which fulfilled God’s original command to keep the Passover as a day of ‘Remembrance’).

Jesus, however, acted as host and leader of the Apostles, not as their father. He focused on the New Covenant rather than on the events of the first Exodus. Without mentioning the body and blood of the Passover lamb he spoke of his own body and blood while handling the traditional food – bread and wine – stating ‘This is my Body’ and ‘ This is my Blood’, and commanding the Apostles to  ‘Do this in memory of me.’ Thus, Jesus deliberately changed the format.

Moses in the Wilderness

Manna in the desert

The manna in the desert was a miraculous bread from heaven. It appeared in the same quantity, about one litre, never lasted for more than one day, was provided for forty years and stopped the day after the Israelites reached the Promised Land. Some of the manna was preserved in the Temple as being holy, from God. The Jews came to believe that this bread existed in heaven before the world began, and it would return to earth again one day at the new Exodus with the Messiah.

TableofShewbread

Bread of the Presence

The holy bread in the Temple – the Bread of the Presence – was in the form of twelve cakes for the twelve tribes of Israel; with the wine offering it was the sign of God’s Presence, his Holy Face, an everlasting Covenant, offered by the High Priest and eaten by priests in Jerusalem. At the Last Supper there were twelve apostles, there was the Bread and Wine of Jesus’ presence, offered by Jesus himself in a new Covenant and eaten by the Apostles (now priests).

The Last Supper was not just a new Passover, or new Manna; it was also the institution of the new Bread and Wine of the Presence i.e. Jesus. Like the priests in the Temple before him, Jesus was saying, ‘Behold God’s love for you’. A mandatory part of the Jewish Passover was the four cups of wine. The first cup was blessed before the food was brought in. The second was drunk after the father’s telling of the Exodus story. After the meal started the third cup was blessed and drunk, and the concluding rites were the singing of the Psalms and the drinking of the fourth cup. It was forbidden to drink any wine between the third and fourth cup.

Luke 22: 14 – 20 mentions only two cups. The first of these was drunk by the Apostles and Jesus said, ‘…I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ The second cup mentioned came after supper, so it was the traditional third cup. This was the moment when Jesus said, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new Covenant in my blood.’ The psalm was sung and they all went out to Gethsemane. There is no mention here of the fourth cup, and yet the Passover was not complete without it.

thirst

A soldier offers Jesus wine with myrrh.

Imagine the bewilderment of the apostles. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed three times about the cup he must drink. This must be the fourth cup. On the cross Jesus was offered wine and myrrh, a traditional act of mercy to dull the pain of crucifixion, but Jesus refused it. Later he cried out, ‘I thirst’, thus asking for a drink, and was offered vinegar (sour wine) which he accepted. He then said, ‘It is finished’. This was the fourth cup, taken at the very moment of death.

By vowing not to drink the last cup at the Last Supper, Jesus extended his last Passover meal to include his own death, so uniting the Last Supper to his death on the cross. No Passover meal was complete without the eating of the lamb; now Jesus’ disciples might understand his insistence (John 6:35 – 58) that in order to have life we must eat his flesh and drink his blood. This is the Body and Blood of the resurrected Jesus, holy indeed and the source of everlasting life.

O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine.

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Brandt Pitre. Doubleday.  ISBN 978-0-385-53184-9