Sunday, December 29, 2013

Feast of the Holy Family

The Holy Family - One of the most beautiful feast days of the year and as well as a feast for every Christian family to celebrate, it is also one of the three patron all feast days of my son, Joseph.

I pray that I am given the grace to imitate Saint Joseph in his leadership, protection, care for and love for his wife and adopted Son. It never fails to amaze me that he was put in authority over the only two sinless human beings whoever lived, his wife and divine Son. 

May the Holy Family inspire us to love Christ and one another more and may all families be protected from all harm.

In the words of today's Lauds:

God our Father,

in the Holy Family of Nazareth

you have given us the true model of a Christian home.

Grant that by following Jesus, Mary and Joseph

in their love for each other and in the example of their family life,

we may come to your home of peace and joy.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all. It's amazing being able to celebrate Christmas with not only my wife but my newborn son giving the nativity story extra poignance. 

As we celebrate the incarnation it's worth meditating with Pope Francis' words at Midnight Mass:

"On this night let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us, he so loves us that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness. To us the Lord repeats: “Do not be afraid!” (Lk 2:10). And I too repeat: Do not be afraid! Our Father is patient, he loves us, he gives us Jesus to guide us on the way which leads to the promised land. Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is our peace. Amen."

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

10 Reasons I'm proud to be Catholic

There is a good friend of mine, an evangelical Christian who asked me to share with him why I am Catholic and so I am sharing ten reasons I'm proud to be Catholic:

1. Jesus Christ. 

Our Lord, Jesus loved the Catholic Church so much that He gave His life for her. She is His creation, His bride, the one for whom He paid the ultimate price. If our savour loves her and sacrificed Himself for her, how can I not?

2.  The Bible

The Catholic Church isn't just a Bible believing church but THE Bible compiling Church. It was the Catholic Church that wrote the New Testament, protected those books of the Old Testament that those who didn't accept Christ wished to do away with and decided which books did or did not belong to the New Testament  

The scriptures were lovingly copied (by hand) century after century and the Church loved the Bible sufficiently to stop bastardised translations being produced that would contaminate the Word. The sacraments, which all preceded the Bible, are rich in scripture and the Mass itself (in each of it's 23+ rites) is rich in biblical readings, quotations and allusions. 

3.  The Crusades

It is fashionable to criticise the crusader movement today and historians rightly point out that there could be greed and excesses as well as scandals such as the horrific sacking of Constantinople BUT in their purest form they represent Christ's people sacrificing themselves for the weak and innocent - the pilgrims who wished to worship in peace in Jerusalem. In a world where men often fail to be manly and sit by when the weak are oppressed it is wonderful to think of a time when men would, like Christ, sacrifice themselves for others. 

4.  The sinners and the saints. 

Oscar Wilde once said that: "The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners, for respectable people, the Anglican church will do."  Apart from Christ Himself and His Mother, every Catholic  was and is a sinner.  We recognise our faults and rather than wallowing in guilt we turn to Christ and His Church and seek forgiveness - in baptism and after this, in the sacrament of Reconciliation. So called "Catholic guilt" should be renamed, "cafeteria catholic guilt" - a true Catholic will experience joy (not always happiness) in being forgiven and reconciled. 

5. Confession

Having already alluded to this - the sacrament of Reconciliation, Penance, Confession is a powerful experience of grace that Christ is longing to bring to us. He is waiting for us patiently - why would we leave it a whole month when we are able to enter into deeper relationship with Christ and His Church?  I accept that we can be forgiven by God directly when we confess to Him directly with perfect contrition but our sins harm His body too and so we need reconciliation to the Church.  

6.  The Eucharist

The Mass may seem boring or irrelevant to many people but this is because they may well not have realised that they are present at the Sacrifice of Calvary and, if in a state of grace, able to be consumed by the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord and saviour. 

Sometimes in Hong Kong I haven't been able to attend my usual church and some people were amazed I would go to Mass in Cantonese. I didn't understand the words but surely these are secondary to the miracle taking place here. Unless the Mass is in the older form of the Roman rite, I rarely "get anything out of it" in terms of spiritual uplift but this isn't what is most important. 

7.  Tradition and continuity

It is amazing to think that the Catholic Church existed at the time of the Roman Empire which killed it's sacred Founder and tried to stamp it out and exists to this day. So many empires, kingdoms and secular republics have fought it from Nero to Bismark, from the Saracens to the Obama regime and yet it has survived and will survive all. 

8.  In recent years

There are many reasons we could have doom and gloom about life in general and the Church but I see many signs of grace and hope - we have just a click away on our iPhones and computers wonderful prophetic documents such as Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI expounding his wonderful teaching on human life. There are documents such as Veritatis Splendor by Blessed John-Paul II and the wonderful encyclicals by Emeritus Pope Benedict on love and hope and with Pope Francis on faith. We just always remember that our faith is in Christ and He is our saviour and our hope. 

9.  Science. 

The Catholic Church is a protector and supporter of science and always has been. Its monasteries were staffed with monks who preserved and encouraged learning. Some of the greatest scientists of all time have been Catholic priests and the Church has never insisted on a readong of scripture that would undermine true scientific discovery. In fact the current Pope Francis is himself a scientist and there is no contradiction - as Faith reveals eternal Truth, science seeks material truth. 

10.  Beer

Although not strictly compulsory for Catholics the Church has had a long history of brewing and blessing beer and sanctioning it's consumption in moderation. Many of the ancient inns of England were built by churches and named after biblical or sacred events. The "salutation" inn for example would nowadays show a dour faced soldier saluting another it originally referred to the annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Beer is even today produced at Ampleforth Abbey, following in great monastic tradition and the older form of blessings, before Vatican II, specifically contains a blessing of beer. 

Reflections on my son's baptism

My son has become a born again Christian in a Bible believing Church - that's right he was baptised in the older form of the Roman Rite as a Catholic at 22 days old. 

The anniversary of the date my son was baptised will always be a sacred day in my family. It was a wonderful coincidence that the Gospel reading at our traditional, Latin Mass on that day, the fourth Sunday in Advent, spoke of the baptism of John the Baptist and that the "O Antiphon" for the day was "O Rex Gentium" on the day he was adopted into Christ's Royal Family. 

I was reflecting on what message to share with him today and to remind him of every time this anniversary comes around:

"My son, my prayer for you is that as you grow you will seek Our Lord with your whole mind, heart and soul and commit your life to Him and love His Church. May you gradually understand what Christ did for you on the cross and respond by being gracious, forgiving others and accepting forgiveness when you fall.  Your mother and I love you very much and we always will but His love is so much greater. Trust in Christ and allow Him to transform you daily. Amen"

I pray that he will always treasure Christ as St Joseph treasured Him and will love the Blessed Virgin Mary too as his patron did and still does.  My prayer that he will always love the Catholic Church, His bride for whom He gave up His life. Please say a quick prayer for my son and for my family at this most joyful time. 

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Why don't so many men go to Mass?

Fr Z has written an article about why so few men go to Mass nowadays and to be honest I agree.

I would go to Mass regardless but am soblessed  to be able to worship in the older rite in Hong Kong which is manly and solemn - not emasculating as what often passes for liturgy nowadays. 

As a child I'd be embarrassed being asked to do elephant impressions and various other actions during children's Masses - this isn't a criticism of Vatican II but some of what can often happen nowadays. 

In the older form of Mass I feel I can pray, worship, be silent and adore God. 

Deo gratias for Pope Benedict's decision to free the older form and Pope Francis' decision to support it. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013


It occurred to me recently just how many American friends we have - the vast majority of whom we met in another former British colony - Hong Kong. 

do love my American friends but feel it's my duty as an Englishman abroad to resist the temptation to call a "film" a "movie" and a "nappy" a "diaper".  I confess to having failed in both of these at times and have even addressed friends as "dude" rather than "sir".  

One American custom I do very much approve of is that of Thanksgiving. This particular celebration is a reminder though to give thanks at all times and in all circumstances even when we might not naturally feel like doing so. 
Once at a Mass in English I was getting more and more irritated. There was a projector showing the congregation the words to sing on a screen by the altar. The words were scribbled badly and the grammar was appalling. At one point it even suggested that we should engage in polytheistic worship as it stated: "gods' glory is all around."

I found myself looking away and remembered the inportance of gratitude: I thanked God that I was able to attend Mass, that I have a wonderful wife and that someone had at least gone to the effort to try and help people sing along. I found myself becoming aware that a domestic helper - and thousands like her - worked solidly for six days a week to support family in another country and the one day they have free they spend serving God. My whole perspective changed in a matter of moments and after Mass I found myself wishing to thank her for all she does. 

Gratitude works - let's remember to thank God for so much that we probably take for granted each day. I thank God that I'm a Catholic Christian, that my wife shares my faith and inspires me, for my life, my amazing friends and yes - for any enemies I have too - these can bring us grace when we forgive and seek forgiveness. 

Every joy and suffering, every event and need can become the matter for thanksgiving which, sharing in that of Christ, should fill one’s whole life: “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess 5:18). Catechism #2648

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pope's Effigy Burned in Argentina as he defends the unborn

Pope Francis speaks plainly on the dignity of the unborn in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.

Satan does not like this - already anti-life activists are burning the Pope's effigy in Argentina as reported in Rorate Caeli.

"Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless among us ... this defense of unborn life is closely linked to the defense of each and every other human right. It involves the conviction that a human being is sacred and inviolable, in any situation and st every stage of development. 

"... The Church cannot be expected to change her position on this question. I want to be completely honest in this regard. This is not something subject to 'modernisations'. It is not progressive to try to resolve problems by eliminating a human life."

Let's thank God that we have a Pope willing to defend the most vulnerable in society - and pray for his protection. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Council and continuity

There seems to be two types of heresy most rampant in the Catholic Church over the last 45 years - those who believe the Holy Spirit left the Church during the Second Vatican Council and those who think that it was the first time He showed up. 

When I was a child - back in the early 80s whenever I did something such as genuflect, talk of the "Body of Christ" rather than "special bread" or say how much I loved Gregorian chant and the Latin Mass I would be told by various elderly ladies that we don't say and do these things any more.

There was a nativity play at a "Catholic" school in my home town and one parent asked why there wasn't an angel appearing to Mary and was told by a "Catholic" teacher that "we don't talk about angels anymore."  I spent almost half of my life being told, "That was the old church" or "in the new church we ... don't do that."  

In my experience the biggest obstacles to unity, to evangelisation and works of charity are those liberal "Catholics" who seek to spend time, money and resources seeking rebellion and sowing confusion and error.  

It was a breath of fresh air therefore to have the Catholic Faith reaffirmed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church under Blessed John-Paul II and for Pope Benedict XVI to focus on the hermeneutic of continuity. 

It is blatantly absurd for a Catholic to discount everything that happened either before or after the council and to claim that a new church appeared in the 1960s doesn't make someone a traditionalist or a liberal - it means they don't believe in the Catholic Faith as revealed by Jesus Christ to the Church He founded and promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail. 

Some people may be surprised by this but I just think we can reply in the affirmative to the question: "Is the Pope a Catholic?"

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dads' Advice on Fatherhood: Part 7 - Authenticity

The many different fathers I spoke to about fatherhood shared so many different  pieces of advice with me but some also made it clear that they themselves have often failed to live up to their own advice.

"I realise the importance of prayer but to be honest, I've sometimes been too lazy or not been organised with my time." 

"It's so important to set a good example but my sons have seen me miserable, short tempered, use foul language and speak disrespectfully to their mother."

Authenticity doesn't mean that we make mistakes and think that this is acceptable but it does mean recognising these and of course asking forgiveness.  Catholics and Orthodox Christians have the Sacrament of Reconciliation but in addition to seeking God's forgiveness and that of our wives, a number of fathers said that there may be times when we need to apologise to our children.

"I mentioned example to you earlier but sometimes you will fail - when you do, do not hesitate to admit this and apologise.  They will learn to be authentic when you are."

"Try your best, with God's grace ... It is much easier than done, and I fail many times as well.  But the rewards I get from loving my wife and kids without condition is what drives everything in me."

I have mentioned Father Larry Richards before and do so again as his encouragement to men is so powerful - he states that we should recognise that we will never be the fathers our children need but only God is their true Father - we should recognise our shortcomings, strive to the best men we can be and apologise every time we fall.

Dads' Advice on Fatherhood: Part 6 - Discipline

A number of the fathers whom I spoke to about fatherhood spoke of the importance of setting boundaries and of discipline.

One father said that he doesn't have too many rules but he makes sure that both he and his wife enforce the ones they do have.  He was saying that children may play one parent off against the other but be firm and consistent.

One father wrote, "The trick is "not to spare the rod" not that I'm implying to hit them but be very careful not to pamper them as this will have severe consequences down the line."

A consensus seemed to be that if a father doesn't act like a man and firmly but gently discipline his children then it will make things very difficult for their wives who will then end up making up for this and perhaps overacting.

One father said that one of the biggest problems in society today is that men don't know how to be men - we live in a society where fathers are emasculated and instead of being the leaders that they are divinely called to be, they end up being passive and silent.

A friend said to me that when he saw his son hitting his mother he made it very clear that this is wrong - he didn't mind his child hitting him but he wanted his son to know from a very early age that women should be treated differently and with great respect.

Although it is perhaps common sense, some fathers said that part of the discipline of disciplining children is to be realistic - not to threaten over the top punishments then back down and not to give in every time.  He said, "Your son will push the boundaries, but if he's anything like my sons, he'll deep down want to know where the line is and to have the comfort of know what is and what isn't acceptable.

Two of the fathers emphasised that in disciplining children we have to avoid using abusive language and hurtful words - to get the right balance between criticising bad behaviour whilst affirming the child.  A friend also said, "For every criticism, give five words of affirmation."

Incidentally there is a good article on discipline at the excellent, Fathers for Good website

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A 15 decade journey

Yesterday morning I spent my journey to work reading the news on my iPhone - it wasn't good news, I then read about the England - Kiwi game and was depressed further. No wonder I arrived at the office feeling despondent.

This morning I decided to do something different. What if I started praying the rosary from when I leave my home until I arrive at work?

Amazingly my journey to work - including a brief stop at a coffee shop en route took me exactly 15 decades of the rosary!  Instead of arriving at work filled with an awareness of the bad news - I was reminded of the good news. 

My praying of rosary concluded as always with the Prayer to Michael the Archangel and I whispered the Amen exactly as I entered my office. 

The contrast couldn't be greater. Monday starting work thinking of England battling - and losing to New Zealand - and Tuesday starting work being reminded of Christ and His victory - and that of His mother and the angels. 


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Divine Obstinance

I only discovered Jason Bach recently but love his cartoons. 

Here's one of my favourites about how obstinate the Catholic Church is in actually keeping to the teaching of Christ. 
You can see more of Jason's cartoons at 

Even better, commission him to produce one for you and support this talented artist. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dads' Advice on Fatherhood: Part 5 - Example

"Example is everything.  Children will naturally love their mothers but copy their fathers." 

A number of fathers whom I spoke to gave similar advice when I asked for advice on being a father. 

A story was shared by Fr Larry Richards about the future Pope John-Paul II when he was a child. He woke up in the middle of the night and found his father on his knees praying. What would your children find you doing?  This is certainly a challenge. I think I'd be more likely to be surfing BBC news for the latest Arsenal results - or possibly thinking up an amusing response to a comment on my favourite blog.

At university a fellow student was in the minority of those who would go to Mass each week and took her faith seriously. I once asked her why this was and she said that when they went to Mass as a family, her father would be completely transfixed by what was happening around him - focused on the altar and not chatting or letting his mind wander - this is something that she could tell even as a child. 

One father said to me: "the best “parenting advice” that I can give a father is that your son will “catch” more behaviour than you “teach” – because as we all know, actions speak louder than words, and this is never more true than in the home.  Your son will constantly be watching you – constantly be copying you (especially when they are smaller – boys want to be just like their dads when they grow up) – so make sure what he is copying is worth copying.  You can “say” whatever you want to a child, but unless your words and teachings are back up with actions (living out the words) the lessons will be lost – scripture talks about this when God calls us (as fathers) to teach His commandments to our children – talk to them, repeat them, when you are sitting at home, when you are walking along the road, when you lie down and when you get up – in other words – teach your son about God (and God’s commandments and God’s wisdom) by living out God’s commandments."

These words were echoed more succinctly: "Know that your son is always - and always will be - watching your every behaviour and listening to your every word. They are great imitators. Model the life you want him to live. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."

One of the most amazing fathers I know gave as the core advice to me: "It's simple, always give a good example.  What you ask of your children you must do yourself."

Monday, November 11, 2013

We will remember them

11th of the 11th - a date I haven't forgotten since hearing at school about the horrors of the Great War. 

It can be easy to forget the past especially when the survivors of the First World War are few and far between but it's important to remember the heroic sacrifices of those who died - giving their lives - as well as those who survived and had to live with horrific memories for the rest of their lives. 

As a Catholic I shall pause to remember those who have died, pray for and end to all war and pray for the dead on all sides of conflicts:

Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine et lux perpetua luceat eis. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dads' Advice on Fatherhood - Part 4: Pray with them

In addition to praying for our children, fathers I spoke to emphasised the importance of taking time to pray with them both as a family and as a wider community (at church).

"Always say your prayers together as a family.  After that it is all in God's hands." 

"Keep going to Mass with him.   If he's anything like my kids, he might get bored and rebel a bit. We always made our kids go, and now they like going.....which is good!"

"Pray WITH your son before and after he is old enough to understand."  "You two should pray together and also with your wife."  "A boy should know from an early age that real men pray and to experience this."

"When you pray with your son be real.  Don't use baby language - this is serious and vital for him to learn at an early age." 

"Pray with him daily and together seek God's will for him in his life." 

"As father and head of the family, lead the family in the daily family Rosary-the family that prays together stays together."

"Pray with him morning and night and read to him everyday from the Word."

"Pray with your son every day even before he's born. It’s not too early! This is not just for him, but also for you and your wife. Get into the habit. It needn’t be long, but it should be regular. And consistent. When they get older, make it a habit. Pray before every meal. Pray the rosary with the family, and supplement it with spontaneous prayer as well."

Dads' Advice on Daddyhood - Part 3: Pray for them

The fathers that I asked advice with regard to being a father were all Christians and so it is not surprising that prayer for the child was one of the top pieces of advice.

"Pray by yourself, and pray with your wife, too. Together, you are the Body of Christ. But a body operates best when each part is in unison with each other.  We cannot be true Christians – truly Christ-like – if we are not in community with other believers."

"Pray for your child every day – prayers of protection, prayers of blessing, and prayers of wisdom (for you – as to how to best parent your son).  Prayer is the greatest gift that you can give your son.  Pray for him every day, and as he grows older and understands, pray with him, and when he first starts going to school – hold him / put hands on him – and pray for him as he leaves for school.  And while I don’t do it every day (due to travel and sometimes just being behind schedule as we get ready in the morning) – I try to pray with and for each of my four children every morning before they head off to school – it is mostly a quick 30 sec to 1 min prayer – a time of individual prayer – just me and one of them – they love it (and miss it and even ask for it if we miss a day or two) and they need it – so start it off young and make it a tradition."

Father Larry Richards makes the point strongly as always.  He asks men if they would die to protect their wives and children from an attacker.  He then says, "The world, the flesh and the devil are attacking your children.  You must pray - and say - if you want to attack them you better come through me."  He made the point that a father is the priest of a family interceding for them before God.

One father made the point, "Your son was His son before he was yours.  The Father will listen to a Dad who prays protection over his son as it is most clearly following His will.  Pray for him daily to be protected from all that might harm him, to get to know Jesus Christ and grow to be a man of compassion"

Dads' Advice on Fatherhood - Part 2: Unconditional Love

The second most common piece of advice I got when I asked fathers I admire for advice was the importance of unconditional love.

We might have various dreams and ideas as to how we would like our children to grow up and they might rebel and reject what we hold dear but again and again I was advised to reassure my son of my unconditional love on a regular basis.

One friend of mine said, "Show your son you love him by hugging him and reassuring him daily." 

Another shared a list of practical ways to show our love for our children:
  • Tell him you love him, every day. 
  • Don't publicly humiliate or criticize him. 
  • Be understanding when he makes a mistake.
  • Control your anger. 
  • Don't hit him or be verbally abusive.  
  • I have found that it is possible to discuss with children right and wrong behaviour. He will often choose to do what is right once he understands. 
  • Be patient with him when he makes the same mistake again.  
  • Don't compare him to others. 
  • Leave work early to attend and support his participation in an event. 
One father shared that even as his children grew older he felt that it was just as important to reassure his children - and that he would do so personally to each one and not just to them all as a group.  He said that he felt it important to do so privately but also on public occasions such as 21st birthday parties and weddings.  He said that he will make it clear that whatever choices they make in life they will always be welcome at his home.  "It is so important that the children fully know and realise how much they are individually loved - not just as a group - and that they know ,and realise how much you both love each other and the tremendous implications of that love in every " thought, word and deed"- that they know that love gives and doesn't just receive  - that love is not about me but about the other."

Another father also said, "Love him unconditionally, guide him to his God given talents and rejoice when he rejoices, Love him unconditionally even if his choices are not your choices ... Tell him he is measures up, boys just want to be reassured they have done well in their dad's eyes."

One of my brothers made a similar point, "Be proud of your son and make sure he knows that.  Don't assume that he knows how you feel just because its obvious to you.  Boys ... aren't always perceptive and need reassurances!"

Ironically, one person who underlies this point more than anyone else is actually a celibate priest.  Father Larry Richards, an American pastor and founder of the Reason for Our Hope Foundation makes this point very strongly in a speech he gave to men.  In the last ten minutes of this video (see from 50 minutes onwards he hammers this point home in the strongest possible language.  He says that fathers who can't tell their children that they love them (without judging them) are a bunch of wimps, not real men and should be ashamed of themselves.

Finally what struck me more than anything else is what one friend shared: "If a boy doesn't hear from his father that he is loved and that he measures up - he will look for acceptance in all the wrong places.  Be man enough to give your son this reassurance - or face the consequences."

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Dads' Advice on Fatherhood - Part 1: Protect your marriage

I mentioned previously that I had asked a dozen fathers what their advice was for me as a new Dad.  The number one comment I received was that when you have children you should protect your marriage.

One friend said, "Make sure you have a strong marriage.  Don't neglect your wife because of the new addition ... ". One of my brothers reminded me to look after and cherish my wife as much as the baby and that the best gift I can give him is a happy, secure and loving family. 

Some people saw a strong correlation between protecting the marriage with setting a good example: "Love his Mum with all your heart. Know that He will learn how to treat a woman and how to be a husband by your behavior. Parents will sometimes disagree. Most stuff isn't really important. Know the difference and don't argue with your wife in front of your son."

One of my brothers advised me: "Look after and cherish your wife as much as your baby. One of the greatest gifts you can give your son is a happy, secure and loving family.  Always remember what (your wife) has given you and be there for her always."
It surprised me how some people said that I should actually make my wife a priority over and above my child. This is perhaps more about redressing the balance and being mindful of the importance of protecting marriage. 

One father said: "I cant emphasise enough that your marriage comes first, it comes before the kids – your marriage existed before your son and will live on long after your son has moved away from home – so make your wife your priority – not your son – a mistake many people make – but God calls you to love your wife as Christ loved the church (a scripture that is a hard one to live out on a daily basis – but critical for a strong marriage).  And from a physiological standpoint, the happiest children are the ones that know their parents' marriage is secure.  So be sure to keep things like going on dates as part of your marriage tradition - this is the first – and probably most important – piece of advice for a new father – as it is the opposite of what most people tend to do."

Although it seems counter intuitive to me, yet another friend said, "I have three pieces of advice about being a dad, love your son more than you love your self, love your wife more than you love your son and love God more than you love your wife." 

In my view it may not be helpful ranking ones child or wife in terms of which is more important but the message I received loud and clear is - when we're new to being a father, let's not forget to honour, protect and love our wives.

On the subject of protecting marriage, I would recommend that any man reads this excellent article on Michael Hyatt's blog on leadership entitled: What are you doing to protect your marriage?

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

New blog title and address

I decided after a couple of years and at a possible inconvenience to both of my readers that I should change the name of my blog to: "Non angelus, sed Anglus."

The reason for the name change are:

1.  Latin blog names are cool. 
2.  It's true. 
3.  It amuses me.
4.  Because I can. 


Sunday, November 03, 2013

Dads' Advice on Fatherhood - Seven things to know

When my son was born almost two weeks ago he didn't come with an instruction manual - foreseeing this, I took the precaution of asking a dozen Christian fathers whom I respect, their advice on daddyhood and the following were overwhelmingly the strongest responses I received.

Seven things to know about being a Dad to a son (according to amazing Dads I know) -

1.  Protect your marriage: Love your wife and make her, not just your child your priority after Christ.

2.  Unconditional love: Reassure your child of your unconditional love regularly and let him know you're proud of him.

3.  Pray for them: Spend time alone and with your wife and other friends praying for your child.

4.  Pray with them: Make time where possible to pray with each child individually or as a family.

5.  Set a good example: Be the man you wish your child to be. Children will naturally love their mothers but copy their fathers.

6.  Discipline: Set boundaries, ensure he knows what is and isn't acceptable.

7.  Authenticity: Be real - don't pretend - apologise when you screw up.

I treasure the advice that these people shared with me - some of it surprised me and some didn't - but  these are real men whom I have seen guiding and actively taking a part in their children's lives - and had the generosity and courage to share their views with me.

All of the above will soon turn into links where I share in greater depth what was shared with me but in the meantime I shall leave you with "I've been watching you" by Rodney Atkins which illustrates all seven of the above but especially setting an example and prayer: YouTube: I've been Watching You 

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Requiem in pace

I intended to go to the Mass of All souls today but it didn't quite happen but did go to a Vigil Mass for Sunday and decided to receive Holy Communion and go to Confession to gain a plenary indulgence. 

Whilst I was wondering whom to gain it for it occurred to me - I had four grandparents, all of whom have passed away. I have decided to receive communion on behalf of and also gain a plenary indulgence for each of them this week - I didn't even know one of them and am not sure if they were all Christian but in any case thought it seemed like the right thing to do. 

I then thought that as God is outside time I could pray that all of my grandparents accepted Christ before they died - these things are very much beyond my understanding but then again I'm not God and they're in His hands. 

Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord and may perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen 

Friday, November 01, 2013

A moment of silence

As a father of a very young son, I imagine that quiet times shall be few and far between.

I have been enjoying a short time to think, pray and meditate at home but this led me to think - what about at Mass?

In a world full of every distraction - phones, Internet, TV, etc. all competing for our attention it is nevertheless important to have time aside to listen to God and what He might be saying to us. 

One of the reasons I love the traditional Mass is that there is that silence that permeates it. Even in the church we attend where we have a Missa Cantata every Sunday the Canon of the Mass is prayed silently and this is something beautiful and lifts my heart and mind outside of my daily worries, concerns and thoughts as to where Arsenal is in the Premier League.

In fairness to the Ordinary Form of the Mass, there are a number of places where silence is expected but sadly so rarely observed:

1.  "Let us call to mind our sins ..." - I'm not sure about you but it takes me more than half a second to call mine to mind.

2.  After the words, "Oremus" or "Let us pray": How often are we actually given a chance to do so?

3.  After each of the readings - silence is encouraged to allow the Word to penetrate our hearts and minds.

4.  The final Prayer of the Faithful: "Let us pause to bring before The Lord our personal intentions Lord in Your mercy, hear our prayer."  Do the readers actually realise what they are saying?"

5.  After communion: The modern liturgy when celebrated with dignity will always include time of silence for our thanksgiving after receiving the Body of Christ. 

If you're a priest, deacon or reader in the modern liturgy, would you please give us a moment of silence?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Puer natus est

A child is born! I am delighted that our son, Joseph was born on Sunday. 

Since my wife and I found out we have a child almost nine months ago we were filled with joy - but also worries, concerns and had lots of practical issues to think and pray about. 

We chose the name Joseph for our son as we thought that no one could be a greater example of a virtuous, virile man than Saint Joseph, husband of Mary and incidentally, patron saint of China. 

Virtuous and virile - two words that come from the word "vir" meaning man. I pray that he will be blessed and strengthened in every way and that he will become the child and man that God wants him to be. 

Please pray for my wife's health and for Joseph to grow strong and for me to get my priorities right - Christ, then my wife, then my son - with self last. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Humble and inclusive liturgy - in the spirit of St Francis

I am so fortunate to live in Hong Kong to be able to worship at a church where they have an unusually humble and inclusive form of liturgy at Mass.  There has been a lot of talk recently about humility and how important this for the Church - how priests in particular should be more humble.

The form of worship at the Mass I attend is not only in the spirit of Saint Francis of Assisi but is actually a form of worship that he would recognise when he served as a deacon so many hundreds of years ago.

When I attend Mass, the priest will genuflect upon approaching the altar indicating that its about Christ not himself.  Our priest will bow down low as he personally confesses his sins to God - specifically asking for prayers of the angels, saints and the people around him.

In this truly humble liturgy the priest shows his oneness with the People of God by facing the same direction as them - in doing so he doesn't draw attention to himself but towards Christ, the crucifix and Eucharist.  He will bow his head at the name of Jesus and the Trinity and will genuflect in adoration every time he passes the tabernacle too.

In the creed he will use a term for 'human beings' rather than 'man' - which is a wonderful example of encompassing all.  The Mass I prefer to attend uses extremely inclusive language - in fact the congregation of Chinese, French, English, Spanish and Tagalog speakers all feel able to worship together with one voice and unlike the vast majority of other Masses I have been to - the diverse congregation joins in!

This focus on God rather than the person of the priest throughout the Mass continues in a number of gestures. A wonderful example is that during the Eucharistic Prayer he will fall to his knees in adoration the moment the words of consecration have been uttered - both before and after he has shown the Body of Christ and the chalice to the people.

This humble and inclusive way of worshipping isn't just available in Hong Kong - just google "Tridentine Mass" and you too might find one in your town or city too.

The Latin Mass: A humble and inclusive form of worship

Monday, October 07, 2013

Become a saint or go to Hell

Do not watch this video.

Do not watch this video unless you're prepared to be challenged and changed:

Fr Larry Richards is like a spiritual coach who drives men to the next level. He  reminds me of Mickey in the Rocky films - screaming at him to get up when he's knocked over, battered, bruised and bloodied. 

You may not be brave enough to watch this but I hope that if you do, you will find it uncomfortable - and in the same way that Rocky was exhausted but somehow got up and fought another round - you seize the moment and allow these strong words to impact your life. 

Fr Larry is hard hitting, the words are strong and he doesn't hold back - if you don't have an hour right now just watch the last ten minutes. 

His message to men? Become a saint - or go to Hell. 

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Protecting the gift within

I was reflecting and thanking God recently for my amazing wife and the love she shows not only to me but to our unborn son. 

Since we knew we were expecting a child, my wife has avoided any food or drink that might harm our baby and actively taken steps each day to protect and strengthen him. She avoids situations that might stress him and speaks to him regularly throughout the day. She will take extra care to have food and supplements that help our baby even if they cause her discomfort. 

My thoughts are that all of us in a state of grace have an amazing gift within us. Do I take as much care of that grace within me as my wife does for our son?

My wife's example challenged me to do everything possible to remain in a state of grace: weekly confession and Mass, daily examination of conscience, regular conversational prayer with Christ and to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to me any areas of unforgiveness within that is preventing me from living a grace filled life. 

Scripture itself speaks powerfully of the link between confession and efficacious prayer: "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16) When we remain in a state of grace we can powerfully impact our families by our prayer - being the leaders our wives and children need. 

As I pray for and give thanks for my wife and son, I should also do the same for the great gift of grace and ask God to protect the gift within. 

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Remember gentlemen ...

... Real Men Pray the Rosary

I have to confess that I didn't really pray the rosary much at all until my fiancée, who had just become Catholic received one from me and a couple of others as a gift.  She had been trained in prayer (extremely well) by her former non-denominational (but basically Pentecostal) Christian community in intercessory prayer and once she started using the rosary was amazed at how powerful this is.

On my wedding day a good friend of mine who had been through a number of ups and downs in his life said that the blessings he had received all coincided with when he had been praying the rosary.  Since that time I have prayed this daily - often whilst walking or travelling on the train (or when the priest preaches in Cantonese at our local traditional Mass) - and strongly recommend it.

In this month of the Holy Rosary, how about we start with at least one decade and take the time to meditate on the mysteries and apply these to our daily lives.  Our Lady of Victories - pray for us!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"Think about such things"

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." - Philippians 4:4-8

If you had spoken to me six years ago about the power of positive thinking I might have thought you were a new ager with a naive and unrealistic view of life.  St Paul's words to the Philippians however show that focusing our mind on what is pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy is not only a good thing but thoroughly Christian.

There are a number of Catholic writers whose orthodox, traditionally minded views I share but I am repulsed by some of the venom they hurl upon other people.  Rather than stating the truth with kindness they hurl ad hominem insults, attack swathes of people and fire denunciations before understanding what another person is trying to say.

I was recently looking at some Catholic blogs and they were criticising the Pope, not for what he has said but because of what other people said he had said based on second hand reporting.  They were attacking the Pope for courting popularity and presuming to understand his motivations for his recent interview - and thinking the worst.  

The writers didn't ask others to pray for him or suggest any practical course of action but left me feeling irritated and downcast. Perhaps if Pope Francis' detractors spent as much time in prayer as he does (including an hour's adoration of the Blessed Sacrament daily) they would experience - and exude more joy.

In this blog I am determined to focus on what is true, noble and admirable and seek to encourage rather than condemn.  This is not due to naivety but heeding the words of St Paul.   Where I disagree with others, I seek to bear in mind the words of Saint Augustine:

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

Monday, August 19, 2013

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Numerous studies have concluded that each and every son wishes to hear these words from their fathers.  Jesus Himself heard these words from His Father at the beginning of His ministry and before His passion and death. 

It has been over a decade since I knew with conviction that I was called to be a father and so it was with great joy that my wife and I found out that we have been blessed with a child and now know that we have a son. 

Numerous research shows that if a boy never hears these words of affirmation from his father in particular he is at risk of seeking affirmation in the wrong places or from the wrong people. It seems as though there is a longing in the heart of each and every child to have a father's love and believe he is proud of him or her. 

Our love and pride in our children shouldn't be dependent on their successes. My transition into fatherhood is an immense privilege but will also be life changing in every way. Of course it will be hard work but I feel privileged to be able to have a glimpse of just how much the Father loves us. 

Please pray that I may be a kind, loving father who will put Christ at the centre of the family which I am called to lead. May the prayers of St Joseph in particular sustain and transform me, my wife and our little son by God's grace. 

"This is my beloved son. In whom I am we'll pleased."

One in ten

This afternoon at Mass in the older form of the Roman rite I was moved by the Gospel reading about the people with leprosy cured by Our Lord. 

My baptismal patron saint is St Damien the Belgian priest who gave his life to minister to those with leprosy and famously began his preaching one day, "We lepers..."

The deacon at Mass today spoke of the analogy comparing leprosy with sin - how both can be cured by Christ and about gratitude. 

I try to go to confession weekly and do mutter a word of thanks to Christ afterwards for dying on the cross for my sins but am I really like the one in ten? 

Am I like the cured leper who praised God and ran back to thank Jesus or am
I usually like the nine. Cured but not transformed within. The leprosy removed but without a burning desire to praise and thank God?

Leaving Mass today, having received the Eucharist "thanksgiving" I recalled the words that we should "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and with a greater determination that I should be like the one in ten: transformed and grateful. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Marriage and leadership

I'm sitting on a plane about to take off for a business trip to Shanghai, missing my wife and unborn baby boy and reflecting in what it means to be married. 

As a husband, I am called to be a leader, in the same way in which Christ loves His Church. 
I feel especially blessed - but also challenged - that my wife realises that as her husband I am the spiritual head of our family - what does this really mean?

Christ lived as a servant to all and gave His life in sacrificial love for His Church. He prayed for His people and washed their feet. He guides us in truth and in love. 

As married men, we need to examine our consciences more thoroughly - have we been servant leaders in our families? Have we taken a lead in praying together as a family and not just go to Mass on Sundays? Have we remembered to clean up, take the rubbish out, pray for our wives and children?

Please pray that I may deepen my relationship with Christ and so love as serve my family more. 

Friday, August 09, 2013

Pope Michael announces World Youth Day venue!

Pope Michael, who as we all know was elected Pope by his mother, aunt and I think a 
next door neighbour as the only real Catholics in this world has exclusively revealed that he might hold his own World Youth Day. 

Pope Michael appears to be even more social media friendly than the other claimant to the Papacy, Pope Francis, as he actually has his own Facebook page. 

Although I was, naturally, disappointed that His Holiness didn't use the Papal "we" when replying, it's pretty impressive that he took the time to reply. 

I imagine the whole Catholic World, which might now amount to three or four people in his eyes, will be delighted to know about this. 

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Anniversary of Shame

The sixth of August is the anniversary of one of the most evil war crimes of the 20th Century. 

The United States - backed by the UK and other "civilised" nations committed mass murder and torture upon thousands and thousands of innocent men, women and children. 

Growing up in the UK we were told (rightly so) of the horrific crimes of the Nazis and the Japanese occupiers - and rightly so - evil on that scale should never be forgotten. When we forget evil, it is likely to be repeated. 

When we were taught about the atomic bombs, as we were living in a country complicit with this crime, we were told it was necessary to end the war. It could be argued that yes, it did being the war to an end.  

I remember arguing that surely they could have dropped the bomb on an uninhibited island somewhere to show re might of this new weapon - or at least that the second one wasn't necessary - and yet as was often the case I was dismissed as a pacifist or a trouble maker. 

The fact is that as Christians - the ends never justify the means - there can never be an excuse for destroying life if that person isn't threatening yours. 

In the words of the catechism:

"Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation. A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons – especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons – to commit such crimes."  [CCC 2314].

Let's pray for an end to all war and for peace - beginning with peace in our hearts. 

Monday, August 05, 2013

Le Curé d'Ars - remembering priests

Today, Monday 5th August sits in between the feasts of St John Vianney, the Curé d'Ars in the ordinary and extraordinary calendars of the Roman Rite. (4th and 8th August respectively).

His story, that of someone who struggled so much academically but ordained priest on account of his holiness strikes me immensely. How many souls are now in heaven for the Masses he offered so devoutly, the confessions he heard and the intercession he prayed before and after his death?

I contacted a number of priests yesterday to thank them for their loving service to bring us closer to Christ. How often do we so this throughout the year? I know that I do so very little. 

As Catholics, we hear so many negative stories, spun by the press but we should remember and be grateful for the vast majority of priests who have sacrificed so much to bring us the sacraments. 

Let us also pray for those priests, bishops, Popes who have died and could do with our prayers. Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord and may perpetual light be upon them. May they rest in peace. 

St John Vianney, pray for them. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

The futility of labelling people

Occasionally the dull and ignorant like give people labels depending on their views. 

It amuses me that when I stand up for the right to life of a child in the womb I get called "conservative".  

When I stand up for the right to life of a murderer on death row I get called a "liberal".

When I stand up fit the right to life of civilians in Pakistan being terrorised by drones I get labelled a "pacifist". 

Three labels. None of them accurate. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Real Marriage

There has been a lot of discussion recently as to what marriage really means, how to define it and whether it is relevant anymore. 

This video summarises all that needs to be said in less than four minutes:

Sometimes I would see videos like this and be jealous if those who've been married for so long - I didn't get married until I was forty - but now I know it was worth the wait. 

A husband is the head of his household in the same way Christ is head of the Church. No husband has ever loved his wife as Christ has loved us but He strengthens us by His grace. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Et incarnatus est

I don't go to Mass in English very often in Hong Kong - my wife and I preferring the extraordinary form (Latin Mass) but yesterday I did so in our local parish.

miss music that everyone sings along to (Gregorian chant), the priest facing the altar with us, the silence and powerful words of the older Mass but at least I don't get irritated any more during the creed. 

The hippy translation of the Creed that we had to use in Hong Kong until last November managed to somehow miss out the incarnation. The Word of God becoming human in His Blessed Mother's womb obviously wasn't seen as important enough to be mentioned. 

Thank God - and the Emeritus Pope Benedict - that the translation now reads, "Incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man."  This, along with various other improvements it makes the modern form of the Mass a little more palatable. 

I have to remind myself that to be present at Mass in whatever form and especially to be able to receive the Holy Eucharist is  an amazing privilege. 

We should be in a state of profound gratitude every time for Christ leaving us His body, blood, soul and divinity - and thank Him for dying on the cross and for rising again every time we approach the altar. 

Deo gratias. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Blessed Margaret?

Over the last few days I have seen numerous people opining about the recently departed Baroness Thatcher.

Comments following her death ranged from adulation and hero worship to a vulgar celebration of her death.

I recognise that she did a great deal to restore freedom and liberty to a nation wrecked by obscene levels of taxation and powerful unions barons. Those cracking open the champagne don't seem to recall the winters of discontent under the previous, Labour government.

Margaret Thatcher was a Christian with Methodist roots who worshipped with the CofE but sadly her policies and voting records did not support the most basic human right - that of an unborn child to live.

The British nation prospered as a whole under Thatcher but sadly some communities were also impoverished. She fought and defended British rule in the Falklands although some would say that she glorified in war. She loathed communism but was far sighted enough to do business with them and played a key part in the end of the cold war.

Am I alone in neither loving nor hating her? Thank God that He is her judge and not me. As a Catholic my duty is to pray for her and for all who have died.

Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

Χριστός ἀνέστη! Christus resurrexit! Christ is risen!

In the words of Pope Francis:

"Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness, and that is where death is ... let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life!"

Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pope Francis to meet Benedict XVI

Some analysts were wondering why Pope Francis chose today to meet his predecessor.

I think it's obvious - the bus didn't run until today.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Is the Pope a Catholic?

Something that never fails to amaze me is that after almost 2,000 years of the papacy, so many people expect a new Pope to change Catholic dogma.

One acquaintance of mine, a relatively well educated Anglican, said she was relieved that the new Pope believed in the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception.

The fact is, the Pope doesn't have the authority to change doctrines and to overrule God's commandment, "Thou shall not murder" isn't possible.

"But I know Catholics who don't agree with this." I hear you say. Well, sorry to be blunt, but if someone, knowing the church teaching on the sanctity of human life or any other teaching regarding dogma publicly denies this, as opposed to genuinely misunderstanding it, then they're not Catholic.

I am excited by the Pontificate of Pope Francis and whilst he is a man of surprises in so many ways, we know beyond any doubt that he isn't about to change Catholic dogma revealed by God.

Does Pope Francis believe in the right to life?

Yes - or as others might put it, "Is the Pope a Catholic?"

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Francis, rebuild my Church!"

Pope Francis' election by the College of Cardinals last week has sent shockwaves around the world.

The media seem to love him - although the bigoted Guardian, of course, tried to spread, discredited lies about him, but the consensus seems to be that he is loved for his simplicity, humility and sense of humour.

Now that it has been confirmed that he took his name after Saint Francis of Assisi, it brings to mind not only St Francis' poverty and love for peace and the environment but also the words he felt Christ speaking to him, "Francis, rebuild My Church!"

Let's pray that with the Saint's intercession he might help reform the Church and evangelise the world.