Saturday, September 01, 2012

Good News

Almost two years ago (on the feast of the Holy Rosary no less in 2010) I had the idea of a Catholic Social group in the city in which I live.

I had lived there for over a year and met some great people at my church but the sheer volume of numbers of people teeming into Mass on a Sunday meant that it was not always easy to get to know people personally to socialise and pray with them.

Inspired partly by Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati I had a vision of groups of people engaging in activities such as hiking, cycling, grabbing dinner together etc where we could enjoy each other's company, meet others of the same beliefs and pray for each other.

Many, many people told me that this wouldn't work. One lady invited herself on a hike I organised and told me I shouldn't suggest prayers in case it offended people - I invited her not to come along! Other people said that I shouldn't organise regular meals as it would be too much for people and others said they'd come along but wouldn't co-operate.  They too had to be invited not to come along.

Fortunately, encouraged by a few people including my amazing wife-to-be, this took off and over the last couple of years I have seen God cement friendships, increase people's faith and see Catholics - and other Christians - get together regularly to share a meal, read and reflect on the scriptures together and intercede for one another.

It is easy to be negative - but I have seen what a difference God can make in our lives when we refuse to listen to those who undermine us but press on and do our best to co-operate with him.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I have a dream

Today is the anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King's inspiring speech - "I have a dream" - where he inspired thousands of people to join his fight against racial segregation and discrimination.

Thanks to Dr King, the battle against racial segregation is over but the battle for human rights should always continue.  It is interesting to note that his niece, Alveda Celeste King, an American Christian minister is also a  a civil rights activist - campaigning for women's rights and protection for unborn children.

Let us never forget to fight injustice, wherever it might be. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

How to protect the flock?

Following on from my last post about sheep stealing I wished to share what I believe are vital ways to protect the flock from being poached by others.

At Mass today, the priest spoke gently and kindly, explaining the faith with a sincerity that leads to understanding.  At Mass today no one could doubt the reverence, joy, orthodoxy and integrity of the priest and others present.  The Mass was in the Ordinary Form, in English, but there was reverence and joy.  The parish is clearly one that takes social justice seriously, with prayers for the poor and needy but not forgetting the widespread crimes against the unborn condemned so strongly in Vatican II - i.e. abortion, as well as euthanasia.

My wife and I are new to this parish but every time we attend Mass here we have been treated with respect and kindness.  When I went to see the priest the other day, he greeted me wearing clerical dress and was not ashamed of this witness to our faith.  He was kind, listened and prayed with me.

Throughout my life I have noticed that in many cases two things seem to go together - orthodoxy and kindness.  The priests and other members of the church who are faithful to Christ in what they teach are also so very often the kindest and most genuine in the way they behave.

As a child I remember being laughed at scornfully by a catechist who in the "spirit of Vatican II" (itself nothing to do with Vatican II) mocked me for suggesting that the 'special bread' we were to have at our community meal (by which she meant the sacrifice of the Mass) might actually be the Body of Christ.  It was only because of the kindness and orthodoxy of my parents and a minority of others that I was to be taught the true faith. How can we be surprised when droves of people leave our Church if we are afraid to teach the Truth?

A remedy for sheep being stolen or simply limping off into the wilderness?  Orthodoxy and kindness.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The irony of the sheep stealers

One of my passions is ecumenism - built on a belief that all followers of Christ have so much in common that we should celebrate this and pray, evangelise and work together for unity in love.  The sad truth that often strikes me though is that some Christians use inter-denominational events to entice and convert people from one denomination to another.

I know a number of friends and acquaintances brought up in the Catholic faith but due to poor teaching never knew the truth and beauty of the Faith.  Sheep stealers are those who will undermine the Catholic Faith of those they meet and seek to convert them to a denomination instead.  

 The sheep stealers seem to be consistent in the following steps:

1.  They will ingratiate themselves with Catholics and be friendly to them but start subtly undermining their faith - ridiculing aspects of faith that they disagree with.  The sheep stealers will almost always claim that the Catholic Church hates scripture and is just interested in money.  Quite rightly - most people of goodwill will realise that this is not the way a true Christian Church would behave.

2.  The next ploy is to invite Catholics to their places of worship where they are told that Catholicism is about guilt and they instead preach freedom. They will be introduced to people who say they were "raised Catholic, but found Christ." - quite often they will be people who were simply nominal Catholics, went to a Catholic School or happen to have had Irish or Italian parents and the odd religious image in their home.

3.  Thirdly they will be invited to "be baptised" regardless of whether they are already baptised or not or perhaps to sign a form professing their membership of a particular church.  They will of course also be invited to take part in various courses and made to feel more and more part of their new spiritual home.

4.  It is only when the Catholic is firmly an ex-Catholic that they are then introduced to the importance of parting with as much of their money as possible to their newly found church and how God will bless them so much for this.  

The irony of those people who have left the Catholic Church for another "bible believing church" is that they have left an organisation that compiled and wrote the Bible and uses scripture as the greater part of the Mass for assemblies that on the whole have nothing more than one or two verses of the Bible and a lot of one person's interpretation of it.

The greater irony is that having been told that the Catholic Church is rich and obsessed with money they may end up in a community that spends  more time asking for money than it does on proclaiming scripture.  

Let us pray for genuine Christian unity and protection against those that would undermine Christ's Church.