Rosary on the coast: regaining our Catholic national identity.

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This has been a highly eventful and emotional week. The world has watched as the British courts and the NHS have been exposed as King Herod, by a weak and helpless infant. Alfie Evans never uttered a word, but he showed as clear as day the unimaginable evil that is currently ruling our once great nation.

In contrast to this unimaginable evil, we had the unimaginable strength and courage of his 21 year old Father, Tom. Never have I seen such a clear and honest example of what it means to be a man – a father. This 21 year old has more masculinity in his little finger than almost the entire Bishops conference of England and Wales – who failed to come to the aid of this persecuted Catholic family in their hour of need.

Shame must fall most heavily on Liverpool diocese who in their official statement on the matter, unbelievably decided to side with the Hospital and the courts who so desperately, it seems, wanted little Alfie dead.

It leaves one with the temptation to despair, but as I sit here on a coach full Catholic pilgrims ranging from ages 8 – 80, I find myself with a new sense of hope.

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We are part of the 30k Catholics who are traveling to over 400 locations all over the UK today to take part in the Rosary on the Coast event. This has been a lay initiative and has had more interest than anyone could have possibly predicted. It is not just happening in Britain, but in Poland, Ireland Australia and I hear rumours that it will also be happening in America soon.

To pray at the border is powerfully nationalistic. Not nationalistic in a nasty xenophobic kind of way, but in a calm and peaceful way that makes one ask the question ‘What does it mean to be a British Catholic today?’

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Our once strong Catholic national identity has for some time now been experiencing a bit of a personality crisis. On the one hand we have ‘fringe’ Catholics like Tom Evans displaying honour, humility and the upmost courage as he defends the right to life for his son. And on the other hand we have the lily livered Catholic Bishops who are terrified to say anything that might be construed as being politically incorrect. So who was most true to their Catholic identity? Surely it was the one who put life, love and hope above towing the establishment line? To quote Pope Francis, 21 year old Tom “made a mess”, and rightly so.

When we look back at our British Catholic heritage we find plenty of examples of Catholics making a mess. Saints Thomas Becket, John Fisher, Edmund Campion, Margaret Clithero, Nicholas Owen, Anne Line, and Margaret Ward, to name a few. These wonderful courageous British men and women quietly rebelled against the establishment and put their faith first. St. Thomas More, whilst on the scaffold at Tower Hill moments before his beheading declared himself to be: “the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”  I cannot help thinking that Liverpool diocese fell short of this kind of British courage when they issued their statement on Alfie Evans. Their neutral language and unquestioning faith in the law seemed much more concerned with not upsetting the apple cart than it did with protecting the life of an innocent child sentenced to death by the state.

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Of course we should all try our best to remain within the law, but as Catholics we have no choice but to heed the words of Thomas More and put God first. Just like the Martyrs of the middle ages and post reformation, British Catholics are once again living in a time of persecution. We have to stand up to the law. This week marks 50 years since the Abortion Act came into effect, legalising abortions on the NHS. Catholics recognise abortion as murder – we have to put God first. Also this week we witnessed the horrific power of British law as Alder hey hospital and the courts stripped Alfie’s parents of all their parental rights so they could, against his parents wishes, legally end Alfie’s life. And don’t even get me started on mass immigration, freedom of speech, Gay marriage (which forced me to close down my 9 year old wedding cake business) or Transgender workshops in primary schools. Catholics simply cannot stand by and do nothing as the state proclaims itself as God, with the authority to say that it knows better than parents, and to say when we live or die. We simply cannot remain silent, because as British Catholics, that is not who we are.

St. Henry Morse SJ, on the scaffold at the infamous Tyburn gallows in London – as they placed the noose around his neck, declared to the crowd: “I am come hither to die for my religion… I have a secret which highly concerns His Majesty and Parliament to know. The Kingdom of England will never be truly blessed until it returns to the Catholic faith and its subjects are all united in one belief under the Bishop of Rome… I pray that my death may be some kind of atonement for the sins of this Kingdom.”

Let us not allow our British Catholic martyrs deaths to have been in vain, but instead let us reclaim Britain through our individual commitment to personal holiness which naturally leads us to carry out the new evangelisation in our normal everyday lives.

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Praying on the beach today, united with 30k other Catholics across the British Isles, I felt that we were beginning to regain a sense of spiritual national identity. We have approx. 18 months before England is rededicated as the Dowry of Mary at Walsingham. What does being the Dowry of Mary mean for us as British Catholics? Let us use that time to rediscover who we are and what specific role British Catholics have to play in God’s plan for the world at this time in history.