Giving more in the bedroom – Catholic style :)

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Luke 21:1-4

21 He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.”

This wonderful piece of scripture illustrated perfectly how I teach people how to fast. Often people approach fasting as a rule bound endurance test in which discipline reigns supreme and we all feel awful and end up just hating fasting – or simply give up.

The way I approach fasting is to encourage people to give up just 1 cup of coffee in the morning, but to do it out of pure love for God, in conjunction with a short prayer. You see, fasting is all about love. It is about how much we are willing to give. How much we are willing to joyfully suffer is the measure of our love (God never enjoys a grumpy faster! 😀 ).

Love and suffering go hand in hand and can never be separated. This is such a fundamental truth of Christianity, illustrated perfectly by Christ on the cross, that it can very quickly become overwhelming. My approach is very much based on the spirituality of St Therese of Lisieux: little things done with great love. If we can understand the concept of the indissolubility of love and suffering in the smallest thing, then we can begin to apply it to bigger things in our lives.

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The absolute key element is that we must be very honest with ourselves about how much we are able to give at this point in our lives. If we are holding back, then we are holding back our love and we will never grow closer to God. If we are giving too much, then we are going to burnout and become resentful about giving any more. Both of these polarised stances are as harmful as each other. Balance is the key. Honesty, patience and compassion towards ourselves, and support from a faithful and experienced spiritual director who knows us and how much we can cope with.

The poor widow got this exactly right. She un-begrudgingly gave all she could give, and it was the right amount. Of course we don’t know this woman’s circumstances outside of this story. She may have had family or friends supporting her. She may have been relying entirely on God to provide for her needs. I very much doubt Jesus would have approved so strongly of her generosity if it meant she was going to make herself ill, or cause her not to be able to cope. She realistically gave all she could at that time in her life.

Some of my friends and family know that I fast. They don’t get why! I try explaining but their hearts are just not in the right place to understand about how I want to reciprocate the enormous love shown to me by Jesus on the Cross, with little acts of self sacrifice – and I respect that. Everyone is at a different stage. I’m sure they are stronger in other areas where I am very weak.

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It struck me this morning that this story, and the way it relates to fasting can also be applied perfectly to the Catholic Churches teaching on married couples being open to life.

Of course the norm in our secular society is to use artificial contraception. We used artificial contraception for the first 5 years of our marriage. But the Church teaches that this way of having sex causes us to hold back our love. Love, in a Catholic marriage is about the entire self giving of ones self to the other – and to God. This is probably one of the hardest teachings we will ever face because it cuts down to the very core of who we are as people and our need to love and to be loved. Also, artificial contraception gives the impression that sex is something that we have the right to control and use as we please. This view is so normalised now within our secular society that being open to life and having a large family is sadly regarded as odd.

What I find so sad is that people using artificial contraception just don’t know what they are missing out on. Having lived both lifestyles, I can absolutely attest to the fact that being open to life is so, so much better. It is healthier, more natural, teaches you and your husband respect for your body and your fertility, empowers you to be able to discuss marriage, sex and babies in a much more open and giving way with God as the boss. But that is not to say that it is easy. It took me about 6 years to get to the stage where I could peacefully and happily be open to life.

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Just like with fasting, I was struggling with how much I was willing to give – how much I could give at that point in my life. This is why I say it really is a lifestyle, rather than just a part of ones life. As I prayed about being open to life, I found myself beginning to prioritise different things in my life, giving things up, re-ordering things. I found myself deciding that at this point in my life, remaining open to life was more important to me than having a career. That is not to say that I gave up my job – but only that it now ranked less important on my list of priorities. Of course at this time in our lives my husband had a good job and there was not real need for me to work – so I was in a position to be able to give that up. I was also lucky enough to have a husband who was also keen to be open to life. Many people don’t have this. We were both in good health and had support from my parents. Many people don’t have this either. But most crucially, I wanted to give more – just like I wanted to fast. I was at that stage in my spiritual life where I could feel God calling me to do this.

The rewards that came to the marriage from us both giving more came as a complete surprise to both of us. Rather than “What am I getting out of this marriage?” it changed to “What more can I give to this marriage?”. All 3 of our children were planned. In fact our second and third child were conceived quickly using NFP to determine when I was at peak ovulation. Our first child took over a year because we hadn’t learned about my cycle at that point and obviously didn’t know what the heck we were doing! 😀

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But it wasn’t always easy to get into the giving mindset. I don’t have easy pregnancies. I get very sick and very big and very tired. I really do not like being pregnant very much at all. My first experience of birth was very traumatising and I swore blind after that that I could never have another child because I could just never go through that again. The day after our first child was born my Father in law died, and my husband started a new job. We grieved all through our first days of becoming parents. It was awful. My husband was not able to get into the Father role emotionally for over a year. I had to do it on my own.

After my first two children I had crushing post natal depression. After my second I got 9 months of 24/7 tinnitus. We went through the most horrendous time as a couple. I really felt overwhelmed a lot of the time and that I wasn’t really coping or doing a good job as a Mum. I got mastitis after all 3 and couldn’t breastfeed – and I know that if I have another baby I will get it again because that is just how my body is made. And through all these times I struggled agonisingly with being open to life.

We often failed to stick to the teaching, not out of pure selfishness or greed or lust, but out of not being able to cope with the stress and the pressure of normal life, and the need to be loved and comforted by each other. I often felt like a terrible failure at these times – which was the totally wrong outlook. We are only human. Just as in fasting – you can only give your all. Any more than that and you start to make yourself ill, or resentful about giving more. And lets not underestimate for a second the damage that is caused by unchecked resentment in the bedroom, or the rest of the marriage. For some people, even giving up one cup of coffee is a struggle, and you simply cannot ask anymore of them at that stage in their life if they are truly giving their all. We are all at different stages.

IT IS OK TO STRUGGLE! Struggling means that the desire to live the teaching is there, even if you are not quite able to do it yet. My advice to this would be exactly what I would say about fasting: be patient and compassionate with yourself, take it to confession and let it go, and keep going 🙂 What would make it easier for you to be open to life? What would make it possible for you to be able to give more? Have you ever tried the Little Way Of Fasting?

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There is one last thing…

The Catholic church teaches that “For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness” CCC 2368

It is possible to use NFP with an artificial contraception mindset. That is to say that there is no good reason why you should be avoiding having another child right now. Reasons for this would be based upon a couple preferring a smaller family and a more comfortable lifestyle. This totally goes against the philosophy of being open to life and certainly is not giving your all. In terms of fasting this would be like giving up your cup of coffee in the morning, but having a cup of tea instead – you really arn’t giving anything.

Of course that is not to say that people do have very real reasons to avoid pregnancy. The mothers life might be at risk from another pregnancy for example. In my case, my husband is sick and unable to work which has put me in the position of breadwinner. I can honestly say that I am at the limit of what I can give right now. And that’s ok 🙂

It is all about love. How much are we willing to love? How much are we willing to give? Be it fasting or being open to life, the same rule applies: We must never give begrudgingly, and just like the poor widow, God does not expect me to give anymore than my absolute all. We are all a work in progress 🙂

Keep giving! 🙂

Today I put my wedding rings back on.

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Today I put my wedding rings back on.
I took them off about 15 years ago when the grudge started.

The grudge was because I expected my husband to fulfil my every need. I had idolised him. I put him in the place of God.

My husband was my knight in shining armour when we got married, and I placed this insurmountable burden on him without even realising.

The fact is that I was expecting him to fulfill the parts of me that only God can fulfil. I had placed my husband above God. And because he couldn’t fulfill the God shaped hole in my heart, I unconsciously started to hold a very low level, almost unnoticeable grudge. Subconsciously I must have always been thinking “What am I getting out of this?” rather than “”What can I give to this marriage?”

Over the next 15 years this grudge effected my relationship with God because, without realising, I was not putting Him in the first place in my life. I was not recognising God as provider. I always felt this terrible separation from God, but I didn’t know why.

When my husband became ill 3 years ago, my earthly provider stopped being able to provide. And because I had put him in the place of God, I had no where to turn.

The fear I felt in those years is something only an atheist would understand. I couldn’t feel God near me, and I had no idea it was my own doing.

A few weeks ago it reached crunch point. I had already reconciled that I couldn’t leave, but I felt I couldn’t stay either. Who would provide for me?

It was after reading the ‘Healing of Families’ book that I realised I had been harboring this grudge, and that my relationship with my husband and with God was out of sync. I took all that to confession, along with a few other things.

I felt the fear lift. I felt the grudge go. I felt my relationship with God fall back into place. And I felt free to love my husband – agape Love, unconditional love, for the first time ever in our marriage.

He asked me “Why have you decided to do this now? I can’t provide anything for you right now.”
I told him “This is the perfect time, the FIRST time I have ever been able to love you unconditionally.” 😊

I now recognise God as provider, and the love in my relationship with God, and with my husband has grown immensely. I am now free to love. And my husband is free from the burden of being put in the place of God.

The problem with the Church of ‘nice’.

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Perfect family…    …perfect teeth.

I am not a perfect wife. I am not a perfect mother. And I don’t pretend to be – anymore.

I fight with my husband and my kids all the time. Most of the time it is over silly little things. They drive me mad. I drive them mad. We all have to live together.

I often used to think that I was doing something wrong. Everyone else seemed to have these perfect ‘nice’ marriages and perfect ‘nice’ families, and my marriage and family were just not like that. It became a point of shame for me that we were not as perfect as other people and really started to get me down.

Satan would whisper things in my ear like “Your marriage is not working… You are not cut out for motherhood… You are failing.” Of course the Father of lies is the master of keeping himself hidden, so I believed that what he was saying was true.

I think the biggest lie I believed was “You are not good enough.” My response to this was to try harder. Mistake.

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*Puke*

The scales began to fall from my eyes when one day a close friend who had the perfect marriage and family confided in me that her husband was obsessed with work and never spent any time at home, and she was in love with another man. She was terrified I would judge her. I didn’t of course because she was my friend and I loved her – but I couldn’t understand how her perfect marriage had got into that state?

I kept her confidence, and marveled at how they managed to keep it together at family events – still projecting the facade that everything was still ‘nice’.

The second eye opener for me was when a family member got divorced. It came as a complete shock for everyone because they seemed to be the perfect couple. It seems there was major troubles within the relationship that no-one knew about.

The third and most painful eye-opener was when I decided to hide my post natal depression. I was so ill, but I was so ashamed of not being as good as all the other mothers – or so I thought at the time. Then I found out that another friend was on antidepressants and that she also felt utterly trapped in the unending cycle of nappies, feeding and crying.

When I recovered from the depression I began to see things in a new light.  I looked at all my friends and their marriages and families and realised that all of us were struggling. It still makes me smile now when I see newly weds, or first time parents desperately trying to convey the ‘nice’ picture of perfect domestic bliss, because I know that Satan will be whispering the exact same thing into their ears as he was into mine. They are gonna have to work it out for themselves just like I did. I wouldn’t have believed it if anyone had tried to tell me anyway…

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*Real life*

This culture of perfection that we all seem to be striving for is based on pride. The fact is that none of us are good enough to carry out God’s plan for our lives. That’s right – I just said we are not good enough. Well, the truth is that we aren’t – and that was the final piece of the puzzle for me.

“I can’t do this Father, but You can. Please, I need You Father, I need You.”

It is amazing how the weight of my whole life just lifted off me at that moment. Realising that I was incapable was the most freeing moment of my life because it finally allowed me to rely entirely on God. And for the first time at that moment, it made sense that I should be entirely truthful with other people about how I find marriage and motherhood incredibly difficult at times. If I was ever going to be able to give an authentic witness to the sacrament of Marriage or to motherhood, then I was going to have to let people see that I was not perfect, and that that was ok.

What better witness to the truth is there than letting people see God’s mercy made perfect in my weakness? I am in need of a saviour. I need my Father.

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I bet these nice people don’t sin.

This exact same principle applies to the Church at large. People do not need a perfectly veneered version of the church. In fact I would say that this is probably the most off putting, disingenuous way of presenting things. If you try to give people the Church of ‘nice’ you are leading them to believe that everyone in that church is already perfect. Then they try to be perfect, and fail, and then try to cover up their shame and get totally put off because they can’t live up to your churches unattainably high moral standards. You know – they are probably terrible sinners, just like you are.

People need to see the truth, and the truth is that we as the church are just a big bunch of helpless sinners in need of a saviour. That includes the laity and the clergy. My role in evangelising amounts to nothing more than me being one beggar, telling another beggar where the bread is.

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People aren’t looking for ‘nice’. They are looking for truth. And the truth is that none of us are perfect, yet God still loves us unconditionally and wants us to totally rely on Him, and return to Him again and again through the sacrament of Confession.

The Time of the Lukewarm Church is Over.

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St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher.

Many are feeling discouraged or even despair that many cardinals – including Vincent Nichols, are supportive of the notion that individuals should be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not they should receive our Lord in the Eucharist despite being in a state of mortal sin. But I am beginning to see something else I never dreamed I would see so soon in my lifetime.

Every time I check my Facebook or Twitter feed, every faithful catholic blog I read, every faithful priest, or lay person I come across is suddenly, all at once proclaiming the truth of the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage, the healing freedom of the sacrament of Confession and our Lord’s real presence in the sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

Whether it be a gentle line or two in their own twitter feeds, or a reply correcting a heretic spreading false messages of fake mercy, the faithful are fighting tooth and nail to shout the truth of the Catholic church from the rooftops.

Most are delivering it in a gentle but firm way, and those who are finding themselves consumed by frustration and passion are learning quickly the correct, informed, prayerful composed approach with which to deliver the truth.

Before the Synod I had NEVER heard a priest speak on contraception, adultery, homosexuality or even marriage in general. Now that is all I seem to be hearing! It seems to me that the Holy Spirit has found a voice in the faithful who are no longer afraid to speak the truth in these matters. Yes, you will lose some friends, you might lose family, you will definitely lose members of your congregation, but the time of the lukewarm church is over. It is time to decide to live for radically for Christ – or just get out.

Now is the time for a strong, faithful church full of people in love with Jesus Christ, living radically counter-cultural prayerful lives in which the Gospel can be clearly witnessed by those around them in the normal day to day aspects of their daily living. Now is the time for those who wish to step courageously out onto the road to holiness – to sainthood – even to martyrdom: dying to themselves so they can live more fully for Christ.

Saints Louis and Zelie Martin

Saints Louis and Zelie Martin

This synod really is the last roll of the dice for the likes of Kasper and his cronies. In 5 or 10 years the majority of the Spirit of Vatican 2 generation will be dead, and that shameful period in the life of the church will become history. But I am 35, and I am strong. My relationship/prayer life with Jesus and His Mother is strong. My kids are being brought up secure in the truth. We are the future of the church.

God gave me a big mouth and I’m not afraid to use it! Ha!Ha! I am not afraid of proclaiming the truth – whatever the cost 🙂  Truth is absolute. You can’t have versions of the truth. That is called Relativism and had been condemned as one of the biggest evils of the 20th century. ++Vincent Nichols it seems is afraid of this absolute truth. Remember how he reacted when the 500 priests asked him to re-affirm the churches teaching on marriage? He panicked. He faltered. Why? Because he knows that there is very little he can do to stop the power of the Holy Spirit moving among his priests 🙂

Priests, Bishops, Deacons, Nuns, Mothers, Fathers, Husbands, Wives, Children… Do Not Be Afraid! Ha!Ha! Pray. Become the saints of tomorrow. Do not be afraid to choose the road to holiness. Once you step onto it you will find you will never walk it alone.

Pray, proclaim the truth, live the Gospel. Do Not Be Afraid! Begin to usher in the new springtime of the Catholic Church.

Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, pray for us.

Saint Therese of Lisieux, pray for us.

Saint John Paul II, pray for us.

Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, pray for us.

When you are Fat and Old.

Well, it’s been almost 4 days since I got back from Rome now and I have to admit I am still not back to normal. I’m having a seriously hard time coming down from the whole experience mentally and emotionally, and physically I am still completely destroyed.

I averaged about 5 hours sleep a night when I was there due to late night restaurants with the most raucous bunch of contemplatives you could ever wish to dine with, and I was getting up at 6.30am. I was also walking at least 5 miles per day.

To be honest with you I’m seriously unfit. I’ve never really recovered from having kids. My tummy muscles are totally shot. I still have a 3 inch gap between where the muscles are supposed to meet on the front of my stomach. That’s never gonna heal – not even with 1000 sit up’s a day. But on the up side I do have a rather nice squishy platform to rest my laptop on while I write this blog post.

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“…it’s like being on a bouncy castle.”

Due to stress and tiredness and laziness and exhaustion I just can’t seem to loose any weight. Seeing myself on TV was a bit of a shock tbh. It not only exposed the fact that I am highly superficial in terms of appearance and attached to the thought of a body that is long gone, but also that I do actually look rather different in reality than I do in my own imagination. I didn’t realise I was that fat! Ha! The truth hurts hey?! Not that it bothers my husband. Nothing puts him off. As far as he’s concerned the more wobbly bits the better. Just this afternoon he enthusiastically described our nocturnal nuptial activities as “…like being on a bouncy castle!” LOL! I told him it was more like Sumo wrestling. Who says romance is dead hey?!

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Sumo wrestlers.

But seriously, I’m 36 next month. Most days I feel like I’m 86. Being a wife and mum is tiring. Being a good wife and mum is exhausting. And I’m not getting any younger. Infact as I am getting older I am finding that I relish time on my own more, and also those precious moments of silence I sometimes get during the day.

Beauty means different things to me now. Beauty is my children, my creative work on my vestments, the fact that me and Nick are still willing to give more, even after 16 years together. Even though my body is long past any point of aesthetic recovery, it is true to say that I have never felt so beautiful internally. It’s because I’m happy, and I know that I am loved. I have never been so secure in my identity in the eyes of God as I am now. Happy people shine, and at the moment even though I am tired and fat and old, I just feel like I am radiating love like a Supernova.

A big, fat, Supernova! Ha!

Gosh I’m tired – time to stop writing now before I say anything more stupider than I usually do.

“So Un-Baptise me then…!”

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Poor kid hasn’t even entered the water yet!

I remember that blurry period in my life of hormonal angst and naivety, combined with the self-assurance of the fact that I knew all things. I like to refer to it as my time of self discovery. My parents simply describe it as “The Teenage Years”.

I remember one time announcing to my parents that I wanted to get un-baptised, but I didn’t know how to go about it. After a few seconds of expressionless silence in which they realised I had taken them to new levels of astonishment, they calmly suggested that I “Don’t worry about it too much” knowing that in about an hours time I would have forgotten about it and would be pouring my heart and soul into some new life altering activity.

They were right. And besides – you can’t get un-baptised! Sacraments cannot be undone. You can’t un-make your first holy communion or your first confession. You can’t get unconfirmed or un-make your vows as a priest. You can’t un-receive the sacrament of the sick.

In exactly the same way you can’t un-receive the sacrament of matrimony. The relationship may break down, and you may even decide to divorce (which still leaves you able to receive communion as long as you stay single), but you will still be sacramentally married to that person until one of you dies.

Language is important, and I think it is necessary now for Catholics to start to start referring to it as the Sacrament of Marriage/Matrimony rather than just Marriage – which in secular terms means something very different.

Perhaps if we start referring to it within it’s proper context as a sacrament, we might begin to view it differently, and realise that some things are beyond our authority to change.

Fidelity.

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As you begin reading this blog post you may think it is going to be about faithfulness in marriage. Well its not. It is faithfulness in another relationship: our relationship with Christ.

You see, our God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14). He made us to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven (Baltimore catechism). In fact He considers our relationship with Him to be so atomically crucial that he made it the subject of His first commandment:

1. I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me.

God wants to be in First Place in our lives. But He wont force us. It is up to us to put Him in first place. And if He is not in the First Place in our lives, then what or who is? Because what ever or who ever it is, has become an idol. Man commits idolatry whenever he honours and reveres a creature in place of God (CCC 2113).

I think perhaps the most difficult area to recognise idolatry is in the relationships we have with other human beings. I know that in my life I have certainly been involved in friendships and relationships that were not right in the eyes of God. And I knew it. But I didn’t want to let the other person go. That person was fulfilling a seriously deep seated need in me. I guess this is why I feel pity for Monsignor Krysztof Charamsa.

Monsignor-Krysztof-Charamsa

Many comments I have read concerning this man have been derogatory at best. People refuse to see beyond the brazen arrogance and disrespect that he flaunts, as he cheerfully chassis along like an 18 year old débutante at her coming out party. And of course that is exactly how he planned and wanted to be seen on the eve of the family synod. But if you look deeper within, you simply see a priest struggling with celibacy, and giving into same sex attraction. It’s nothing more than that.

When asked how he went from denial to being happy about being gay he replied: “Through study, prayer and reflection. A dialogue with God and the study of theology, philosophy and science were crucial. Moreover, I now have a partner who has helped me transform my fears into the power of love… There comes a day when something inside you snaps, and you can’t go on.”

This says to me that Krysztof Charamsa definitely does still have a relationship with God, it’s just that it is all on his terms. His understanding of the word love doesn’t really seem to be reflecting Christ crucified. And his last sentence clearly shows that the day did come when he finally decided to put down his cross and champion his own wants and desires.

Without a doubt he has been given a very heavy cross to bear in the form of SSA, but quite frankly that doesn’t really matter anyway because when he entered the priesthood he freely chose a life of celibacy! I feel so sad that rather than abandoning himself entirely to God, he has instead spent years convincing himself that he is in the right and the church is in the wrong. Ultimately it comes down to the fact that there is something wrong somewhere in his relationship with Christ. The fidelity is gone.

We live in a culture in which we constantly search to satisfy our every need. And we expect others to do that for us: physically, financially, mentally, sexually, emotionally and spiritually. Oh what a life of utilitarian ecstasy! But the truth is that not one person on this entire planet will ever, ever be able to fill that God shaped hole in your heart. Not your spouse, or your kids, or your friends or your parents or anyone. No-one can take the place of God in our lives. But we quite often expect them to. We elevate people way beyond their ‘pay grades’ in terms of satisfying us. In actual fact all we are doing is making them into false idols. Is it any wonder so many marriages fail now? We are actually expecting our spouses to satisfy us in the way that only God can!

Let me tell you something: Your spouse is not God! Your gay partner is not God! Your kids are not God! Your friends are not God! If God does not come first in your relationships with others then something is wrong. If we make each other into false idols then what does that do to our relationship with Christ? The fidelity is gone.

You see, our God is a jealous God. He wants to be in First Place in our lives because ultimately our eternal destiny lies with Him. But He wont force us, because you can’t force love. Love is a choice. Love is the cross.

Of course the ultimate example of fidelity to God the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit is Mary. She describes herself as the handmaid of the Lord – His loyal and obedient servant. And as she took up her own crosses in her life, followed her Son to calvary and stood at the foot of His cross, she showed us how to put God first. Which is why I ask her now to take me, and Krysztof Charamsa under her sweet mantle and gently lead us back into a correct relationship of fidelity with her Son.

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How Cardinal Vincent Nichols pulled the wool over our eyes just before the 2015 Synod.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor and Cardinal Vincent Nichols

Cardinal Cormack Murphy O’Connor and Cardinal Vincent Nichols

As we enter the first day of the 2015 Family synod, I cannot help but feel just a little bit uneasy about something. Lets step back in time briefly…

In November 2013 the Vatican released a questionnaire to be answered by the laity as part of the the Preparatory Document for the upcoming Family Synod meeting to be held in October 2014. The purpose of this questionnaire was to help the Church develop concrete proposals for the second Synod in 2015 which in turn will produce specific guidance on the pastoral care of the family for our times.

In October 2014 after the Extraordinary Assembly had finished it’s two week long synod meeting, the Vatican sent out the final report and a second questionnaire. The new questionnaire was intended to fill in the gaps that might exist in the synod’s vision. It asked bishops to conduct an “in-depth examination” and seek out “practical solutions” to the “innumerable challenges” identified at the synod sessions. It circulated this second questionnaire as part of the Lineamenta, or preparatory documents, about family ministry and how the church could best tackle issues such as homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, contraception, and cohabitation.

On the Feast of the Holy Family December 2014, the bishops of England and Wales (under the guidance of Cardinal Vincent Nichols) invited parishes to reflect, with true spiritual discernment as requested by Pope Francis, on the themes emerging from the Extraordinary Synod on the Family by issuing its own questionnaire. The Call, the Journey and the Mission aimed “to help people celebrate marriage and family life, whilst recognising the difficulties that families often encounter”. The document offered material for reflecting on scripture and on the teaching of the Church on marriage and family life, as well as six questions to facilitate parish and family conversations.

So to summarize, in the UK there have been 3 questionnaires:

  • Preparatory Document – November 2013. Official Vatican document and questionnaire for the Family Synod.
  • Lineamenta – October 2014. Official Vatican document and questionnaire for the Family Synod.
  • The Call, the Mission and the Journey – December 2014. A set of reflections and and a questionnaire set up by the bishops of England and Wales.
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Cardinal Vincent Nichols

The first two questionnaires were official Vatican documents, the results of which were meant to be used to draft the instrumentum laboris, the practical working documents for the 2014 and 2015 synod meetings. The third questionnaire – The Call, the Journey and the Mission  was a completely separate from the first two questionnaires, and was not a Vatican document and was nothing to do with the Synod, but instead an initiative of the bishops of England and Wales.

Why would the bishops of England and Wales feel the need to conduct their own separate questionnaire?

The reason is this: The questionnaire results from the Official Vatican 2013 Preparatory Document and the 2014 Lineamenta were to be treated as confidential and belonged to the Vatican. This meant that they could not be published unless the Vatican decided to publish them. And as they were specifically designed to help draft the instrumentum laboris, the practical working documents for the 2014 and 2015 synod meetings, there would be really no need to publicly publish them.

In contrast, the results from The Call, the Journey and the Mission belonged to the Bishops of England and Wales. And although the questions were along the same lines as the Official Vatican 2013 Preparatory Document and the 2014 Lineamentathis particular questionnaire was not issued or owned by the Vatican. So if the Bishops of England and Wales wanted to publish the results of their own questionnaire then they could do so at any point. And this is exactly what they did.

call mission journey

On September 16th 2015 a summery of responses from The Call, the Journey and the Mission for Westminster diocese were made public in a well prepared and presented document that gave a fair and balanced account of all the responses received from the questionnaire. It also crucially identified the vast range of knowledge and catechises (or lack there of) of the responders. This identification of varying levels of catechises goes a long, long way to explain the varying answers found in the questionnaire and also brings to light the uncomfortable fact that the church must accept its responsibility for the lack of catechises of these responders. You can view and download the pdf here: the call the journey and the mission. answers summary of responses

Bizarrely, a week later on 22nd Sept 2015, a second version of the summary of responses of the The Call, the Journey and the Mission was also published on the Westminster Diocesan website. It describes this version of the results gathered as:

“…a flavour of the feedback to those six questions, based primarily on diocesan summaries received from 16 dioceses.”

It must be noted here that this second version of the summary of responses only includes the results of 16 out of the 22  diocese in England and Wales. No explanation is given for the fact that 6 diocese have been excluded from the results.

I am reliably informed that the response in many of the diocese to this questionnaire was so low or non existent that those Bishops refrained from submitting anything at all. After all – this was not an official synod questionnaire. I am also reliably informed that at least one Bishop said he wasn’t consulted on content of the finished report before it was released at a press conference by Vincent Nichols.

Did Cardinal Vincent Nichols consult any of the Bishops of England and Wales on the content of this report before its release?

It is also worth noting that while the “flavour of the feedback” (note the ambiguous fluffy language) is “based primarily on diocesan summaries received from 16 dioceses, it also explains that “a number of local and national organisations” also took part. According to Westminster’s website these organisations were:

A Call to Action (ACTA) – 342 responses (A highly criticised and controversial group that seeks radical progressive reform in the Catholic Church)

The Association of Interchurch Families – no statistics provided (A multi denominational group offering support to mixed marriages)

The Catholic Women’s League – 132 responses.

The Union of Catholic Mothers – no statistics provided.

Two in One Flesh – 7 responses (A marriage support group)

The National Board of Catholic Women – 48 responses.

The Dorcas group – 6 responses (A Catholic Feminists group)

These were the only groups mentioned by the questionnaire. In my opinion they have been hand picked because of their liberal stances. 4 out of the 7 groups are women’s groups. No men’s groups seem to have been consulted. No clergy groups seem to have been consulted. No orthodox or more traditionally minded groups seem to have been consulted. Why?

In total, this second version of the results of the The Call, the Journey and the Mission claim to have the responses of approximately just 2200 people.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols

Cardinal Vincent Nichols

After reading this second version of the summery of responses published on 22nd Sept, I was surprised how brazenly one-sided it was compared to the very balanced first version published on 16th Sept.

Among the responses of the second version, one diocese suggests allowing Catholics to live together to decide if they want to commit to marriage – and having a liturgical ceremony to endorse it. Another accused the Church of “being out of touch, unbending or unrealistic” on sexual ethics, with a lack of support for same-sex partnerships, and contraception.

Others said they were “ashamed” of their faith calling it “misogynistic, controlling, self-opinionated.” Another said: “Thank God for the secular world which has blown in to the murky corridors of the Vatican.” But the comment that sticks in my mind the most was the one that had the most political venom and was quite frankly the most out of place in a questionnaire about marriage and family:

“…To the younger generation the Catholic Church is a medieval irrelevance. While I, myself, believe in Jesus – I am appalled at what the institution He founded has become. A tyrannical power structure, stuck in a medieval culture and unable to bring itself into the modern world. One good example of this is the so called New Translation of the Mass. A backward step from language that ordinary people understood to a ridiculous artificial so-called sacral language which is no more than a mixture of garbled English, medieval theological vocabulary and transliteration from Latin…”

What has bashing the new translation of the Mass got to do with a questionnaire on Marriage and Family?!

According to this second version, most Catholics want the Church to allow divorcees and those who re-marry to take Communion. But of course this survey was only completed by 2200 people – many of whom were members of Feminist groups or the dissident group ACTA, and the results were certainly not compiled and edited by an independent body. You can view and download the full version here: marr-fam-CJM-report (1)

So to summarise:

  • Two versions of the summary of responses of the The Call, the Journey and the Mission were published within a week of each other on the Westminster Diocese website in September 2015.
  • The second version released on the 22nd Sept was only completed by approximately 2200 people throughout the whole of the UK, and is being falsely presented as if it represents the vast majority of UK Catholics.
  • The second version has been edited with a highly disproportionate emphasis on dissent from Catholic doctrine.
  • The second version was edited and published by the CBCEW without consulting or obtaining the consent of the other Bishops of England and Wales.
  • Neither of these summaries of responses issued by the Bishops of England and Wales have anything to do with the official questionnaires issued by the Vatican.

The Call, the Journey and the Mission was a questionnaire that was set up to collect peoples views on the issues surrounding the Family Synod. It had nothing to do with the synod itself  and was organised by the Bishops of England and Wales. Because the results of the survey belonged to them, they could be selectively manipulated, edited and published whenever desired. Because the questions were very similar to those of the two official Vatican questionnaires, it is easy for people to confuse the two, and believe that the answers from The Call, the Journey and the Mission were those of the official questionnaires, when of course they are not.

Slippery.

It looks very much to me that the first version of the responses to The Call, the Journey and the Mission published on 16th September was just not doing the job Cardinal Nichols wanted it to do. After all, what is the point of commissioning your own survey if it is not going to produce the results you want it to produce? So instead, a week later, a second more liberal leaning version of the questionnaire was produced and published – the week before the start of the 2015 synod. Timing is everything.

What is it exactly that Cardinal Vincent Nichols is trying to achieve?

Cardinal Vincent Nichols meets UK LBGT group QUEST in March 2015.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols meets UK LBGT group QUEST in March 2015.

Cardinal Nichols will now be able to give the false impression to the media and the rest of the world during the 2015 synod that the views expressed in his questionnaire are the mainstream views held by the majority of UK Catholics, and he is at the cutting edge of the ‘modern’ Catholic world, ready to pave the way for new inclusive and diverse pastoral initiatives.

What a load of baloney. This whole thing is the biggest, slipperiest most shameless PR exercise of ‘group-think’ I’ve ever seen. “Oh c’mon! EVERYONE thinks like we do. Get with the programme! Don’t be so old fashioned!” Who does he think he’s kidding?! Not me – that’s for sure. What sort of man thinks he can hold the entire world in contempt by trying to pull the wool over their eyes in such important matters?

One thing is for sure – I do not trust Cardinal Vincent Nichols. And from reading the biased results of his cherry-picked pseudo-survey, they way he slapped down the 500 priests asking for a “clear and firm proclamation” of the Church’s teaching on marriage, and his involvement and support of the Soho/Farm Street LGBT Masses, I certainly know this man has no interest whatsoever in upholding the Catholic view of marriage and family. But he is obviously very interested in forwarding his own career.

According to reports from the C9 group (the key cardinal advisers to Pope Francis on curial reform)  there’s going to be a new Congregation for Laity, Family and Life.  I wonder who might be put in charge of it as new prefect? Someone who might suit the White House/Whitehall pro LGBT axis?

I’m sure the Vatican Mafia would like to think so. Let’s hope and pray not.

There is no such thing as “Catholic divorce” – by Fr Dylan James.

Fr Dylan James

Fr Dylan James

By Fr Dylan James.

For the next three weeks, bishops from across the world are gathered in Rome for a special synod devoted to the family. Marriage and the family, as we all know, are rather broken realities in our modern society. Divorce is a much more common phenomenon today than it was when our Lord spoke against it.
I’ve not spoken about this in the 8 years I’ve been in my current parish, so its about time, and I want to reaffirm a few things today:
First, that the Lord Jesus meant what he said about remarriage after divorce being adultery;
Second, that such a second marriage bars someone from receiving Holy Communion;
Third, that this is necessary in order for children to have a stable environment;
Finally, that marriage is still a good worthy of being pursued, even with the challenge that such commitment involves.

I want to start with the words in our first reading from Genesis that, “it is not good that man should be alone”(Gen 2:18). These words indicate a desire for union that is written in our nature, a yearning to not be alone that is satisfied in many things: in prayer with the Lord, in human friendship, but it finds a particular physical completion in the exclusive loving union of marriage. Thus we heard the Lord Jesus quote that phrase from Genesis about a husband and wife becoming “one body”(Mk 10:8; Gen 2:24).

All love involves giving of ourselves. We give our time, our energy, and more. Marriage is that unique self-gift where someone gives their EVERYTHING to someone, in a mutual self-gift that brings many rewards.
But, once you have given yourself to another, in totality, for life, you cannot then take back that gift. If your wife become sick, you are still married, still given to her. If she becomes poor, she is still your wife. If she is unfaithful to you, she is still your wife. If she goes off, she is still your wife.
Now it is true that sometimes there are reasons a couple have to separate, either temporarily or permanently. Often there is an innocent party left behind, with much suffering.

But even if you separate and civilly divorce, nonetheless she is still your wife in the eyes of God. As Pope Francis said last week, there is no such thing as “Catholic divorce” (plane interview, 28/9/2015).
If we look at Scripture, as quoted on the insert sheet in the newsletter, it says very clearly what a separated or civilly divorced spouse is called on to do: “remain single or else be reconciled to” your spouse (1 Cor 7:10-11).
You are not then free to give yourself to another, because you have already given yourself to your spouse –even if she no longer appreciates that gift, even if you no longer live together.
You are not then free to commit yourself to another, because you are already committed.
If you have said “till death do us part” to one woman, you cannot say that to another while she still lives.
Thus Jesus says, “The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery” (Mk 10:11).
Thus the Church says that a person who remarries (while their spouse is alive) commits a public act that bars them from receiving Holy Communion (Catechism 1650; 2384). Bars them until they amend this aspect of their life.

How shall I conclude? By acknowledging that this is a very hard teaching. Every walk of life has its cross to carry, but this call to “remain single (1 Cor 7:11) rather than remarry can be a heavy cross.
This said, a romantic union in marriage is not the only way to fulfil the desire spoken of in our first reading, the desire to not “be alone”.
And, faithfulness to God, faithfulness to the vows made, will bring with it strength and grace, and ultimately all faithfulness to God is rewarded, not just in heaven but in this life too.

The joys of marriage are only possible because of this hard teaching about commitment. A union that didn’t claim to be for life would be a very much lesser thing than marriage, it wouldn’t really be the “one body” union the Lord Jesus speaks of. If this lifelong commitment is abandoned then what is being abandoned is the beauty of marriage itself. And with it, a stable environment in which to raise children. And thus the Church tells us that the Lord meant what He said.

German Bishops break with Rome and inaugurate Dalek as their new supreme Pontiff.

Kasper Dalek

Cardinal Kasper gets a breath of fresh air with the new Pope Daal XVI.

In an unprecedented move this week, several German high ranking clergy have openly declared that they no longer consider themselves to be under the authority of Pope Francis but instead have pledged their allegiance to a Dalek. This follows several months of progressively dissenting behaviour in which the aforementioned clergy were trying their level best to change Christ’s teachings on marriage and family, sexuality and reception of the sacraments.

In a statement released by the group, Cardinal Walter Kasper states that “Our new Pontiff is an incredibly sweet and thoughtful mutant who wants everybody to be happy.”

The inauguration happened last Thursday in a low key ceremony in which it was reported there were “guitars”.

Dalek 2

The new pontiff, who has taken the name Daal XVI, has wasted no time in issuing his first papal document entitled “Exterminatus” in which he discusses wiping out all of humanity by utilising their own sinful tendencies. The 38 word document also quotes never before heard scripture – the Gospel of Davros.

When asked about the rather concise nature of the document Cardinal Reinhard Marx explained: “We felt it was important to choose a Pontiff who had a very limited vocabulary. In this way it would be almost impossible for us to dissent from his teachings because we can pretty much interpret his one-word theological answers however we want.”

However it is also being reported by several different sources that the new Pontiff has an extremely short temper and is liable to sudden outbursts.

An eyewitness at the inauguration ceremony told us that “Everything was going smoothly with the opening procession until Pope Daal got to the sanctuary steps. No-one had remembered to put a ramp there for him to roll up and he just totally lost it. Everyone knows Daleks can’t climb stairs. He was livid. His ‘head’ just kept spinning round and round and his mechanical eyestalk was jerking up and down furiously while he exclaimed ‘EXCOMMUNICATE! EXCOMMUNICATE!’ in his harsh grating staccato manner. It was awful. People were so frightened they were hiding behind the back of the pews clasping the kneeler cushions to their chests. Some of the really brave ones would peek over the top or round the sides of the pews. I was watching through a crack in the door.”

Dalek 1

Another eye witness told us that “At one point it seemed that the new Pontiff had completely lost control of the plasma beam that was shooting randomly out of his ‘arm’. Not the sink plunger ‘arm’ – the other one. One of the altar girls got hit on the elbow, and someone from the congregation shouted ‘Get the Doctor! Get the Doctor!’ I saw Cardinal Kasper lean over to Bishop Franz-Josef Bode and ask ‘Doctor who?’ Bishop Bode smirked and whispered back ‘You just said it!’ At this point Cardinal Kasper stood up and asked if there ‘was a Doctor in the house?’ Someone suggested Therese of Lisieux, and that’s when it began to dawn on us that breaking away from Rome was perhaps not such a good idea.”

Pope Daal begins a busy public schedule next week in which he will be having tea and cake with several world leaders including David Cameron, President Obama and the Grand Master of the Masons.