Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Fr Anthony Mary F.SS.R - 25th anniversary of his priestly ordination

The video and photograph below come by courtesy of  'The Transalpine Redemptorists at home' website.

 Father Anthony Mary's mother,  Mrs. Monica Seeber, receiving the First Blessing from her son on his day of Ordination, 
27 June, 1991, at Econe.  'Feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Succour.'

Here on Stronsay in Orkney we are extremely fortunate and blessed to have our own church, Our Lady's Chapel, owned and served by the Transalpine Redemptorists, known also as the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (F.SS.R), at Golgotha Monastery, Papa Stronsay.
In 1999 when the monks first moved to Papa Stronsay,  there was no Catholic chapel as such on Stronsay, and Holy Mass was celebrated in a private house. In 2002,  a stone-built storehouse at the end of the quay was converted into a chapel, now known as  Our Lady's Chapel, where the traditional Latin Mass is now said daily by a priest from Papa Stronsay.

             Exterior of Our Lady's Chapel, Stronsay.

             Interior of Our Lady's Chapel, Stronsay.

Including the Rector Major, Fr Michael Mary F.SS.R.  and the Vicar General, Fr Anthony Mary F.SS.R.,  there are now six priests in the monastic community, and something like twelve brothers. The community have a permanent  Mission apostolate in Christchurch, New Zealand, which means that at any one time they will have two or possibly three priests working there, and perhaps three or four brothers. Additionally three brothers are currently on their way to the Seminary in Nebraska to study for the priesthood.
Recently Fr Anthony Mary, whilst serving in Christchurch,  celebrated the 25th anniversary of his priestly ordination.  A video was produced  to celebrate and commemorate this special day, which was subsequently posted on Facebook and the website 'Transalpine Redemptorists at home'. I found watching this video and listening to Fr Anthony both moving and inspirational,  radiating  real joy, peace, and hope for the future. I sincerely believe that the video  deserves to be seen and savoured by everyone, and  have taken the liberty of reproducing it in this post. I must make special mention of the beautiful and haunting musical accompaniment, composed, arranged and performed by talented professional musicians who, I understand, are themselves parishioners of this Mission parish. Please allow yourselves 20 minutes to watch this inspiring film, I promise that you will not be disappointed.
Please find the link to the video below:- just high-light the link, right click, and click 'open link'. Alternatively if link already high-lighted, just left click.


Friday, 22 July 2016

'My Soul Is In These Pages' - Pope John XXIII

                                                 Pope St John XXIII (b.1881 d.1963)
 ‘Journal of a Soul’, published eight months after the death of Pope John XXIII, comprises the diaries, notes, and spiritual thoughts and prayers, recorded by the Pope himself from the age of fourteen until a few months before he died. These notes were recorded in diaries and on loose  notepaper, some hand-written some typed, and kept near at hand by the Pope wherever he happened to be. Over a period of nearly seventy years this accumulated collection represented a vast and unique history of his life and thoughts, reflecting his deep love for his family and friends, and above all for Jesus Christ and His Church. His humility, humanity, deep spirituality and holy simplicity, are reflected in his writings and in this ‘Journal’ which he allowed to be published only after his death. The responsibility for this was given to his private secretary, Don Loris Capovilla, who as Cardinal Capovilla, died in May this year aged 100.

We hear much  of the so-called ‘rigidity’ of the traditional laws and practices of the Catholic Church,  ‘seeing God not as love and fatherhood, from whom all fatherhood derives, but only as the Judge who pronounces eternal judgments on the frailty of the creature, a breath of wind that passes and comes no more. Yet this kind of spirituality produced Pope John XXIII, and the tree is to be judged by its fruit.’  This rigorously constructed spirituality, recognising and loyal to the letter of the law, is not just this, for within it lives and from it soars a great conception. ‘Every ‘technique’ degenerates if it remains purely mechanical, that is, isolated from all noble inspiration. On the other hand no great conception can be realized without a rule, without a discipline. Now there is evident in Pope John’s ‘Journal’, a powerful and exalted evangelical impulse which dominates his whole existence, and preserves this constant examination of his own life from any puritanical or pharisaical contamination. His confessions are too precise, too detailed, too intent on calling everything by its right name, ever to become a stale habit or, worse still, a mask or a pose. Today, too many rebels publish their confessions, shameless exhibitions before a public greedy for scandal, and destined merely to disguise their shame. Here, instead, all is real: the simplicity, the awareness of being a creature, scrupulous moderation and reserve, extreme human sensibility, above all, the will to aspire to the fullness of Christ.

            The ‘Journal’ records constant, one might almost say, obstinate growth, in step with the very slow rhythm of nature and grace.  It is a growth in understanding and knowledge of God’s purpose, and an increasing embodiment of this purpose in his personal life and ecclesiastical office. God’s design for us, being eternal, keeps pace with us; it grows with us and we grow with it.’

Ack.  Meditation and Introduction to ‘Journal of a Soul’ – written by Giulio Bevilacqua, Cong. Orat. Brescia, January, 1964.’ (Bevilacqua was a life-long friend of Pope John)


                                                                        Bishop Roncalli

The following extracts were taken from a Retreat attended by Mgr Roncalli, titular Archbishop of Mesembria and Apostolic Delegate to Turkey and Greece, between 25 November and 1 December 1940, at Terapia on the Bosporos, the Villa of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion. The Retreat master was Father Paolo Segneri, and the  Penitential Psalm, the Miserere, was the source of this particular spiritual exercise.

   V2.    ‘And according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my iniquity.’  The Lord is said to be ‘merciful and gracious’.  His mercy is not simply a feeling of the heart; it is an abundance of gifts.

            When we consider how many graces are poured into the sinner’s soul along with God’s forgiveness, we feel ashamed. These are: the loving remission of our offence; the new infusion of sanctifying grace, given as to a friend, as to a son; the reintegration of the gifts, habits and virtues associated with the grace; the restitution of our right to heaven; the restoration of the merits we had earned before our sin; the increase of grace which this forgiveness adds to former graces; the increase of gifts which grow in proportion to the growth of grace just as the rays of the sun increases as it rises, and the rivulets are wider as the fountain overflows.

 V 3. ‘Wash me yet more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin’ holy confession.

            Three verbs: to blot out, to wash, and to cleanse, in this order.  First the iniquity must be blotted out, then well washed, that is, every slightest attachment to it is removed; finally the cleansing, which means conceiving an implacable hatred for sin and doing things which are contrary to it, that is making acts of humility, meekness, mortification, etc., according to the diversity of the sins. These three operations follow one another but to God alone belongs the first. To God, in cooperation with the soul, the second and the third: the washing and the cleansing. Let us, poor sinners, do our duty; repent and with the Lord’s help, wash and cleanse ourselves. We are sure that the Lord will do the first, the blotting out; this is prompt and immediate. And so we must believe it to be, without doubts or hesitations. ‘I believe in the forgiveness of sins’. The two processes which depend on our co-operation need time, progress, effort. Therefore we say: ‘Wash me yet more ….. and cleanse me…..’

            This mysterious process of our purification is perfectly accomplished in holy confession, through the intervention of the blood of Christ which washes and cleanses us.  The power of the divine blood, applied to the soul, acts progressively, from one confession to another. ‘Yet more’ and ever more. Hence the importance of confession in itself, with the words of absolution, and of the custom of frequent confession for persons of a spiritual profession, such as priests and Bishops. How easy it is for mere routine to take the place of true devotion in our weekly confessions! Here is a good way of drawing the best out of the precious and divine exercise: to think of Christ who, according to St Paul, was created by God to be ‘our wisdom , our righteousness, sanctification and redemption’ (1 Cor. 1:30)

            So, when I confess, I must beg Jesus first of all to be my wisdom, helping me to make a calm, precise, detailed examination of my sins and of their gravity, so that I may feel sincere sorrow for them. Then, that He may be my justice, so that I may present myself to my confessor as to my judge, and accuse myself sincerely and sorrowfully.  May he be also my perfect sanctification when I bow my head to receive absolution from the hand of the priest, by whose gesture is restored or increased sanctifying grace. Finally, that he may be my redemption as I perform that meagre penance which is set me instead of the great penalty I deserve; a meagre penance indeed, but a rich atonement because it is united with the Sacrament to the blood of Christ, which intercedes and atones and washes and cleanses, for me and with me.

            This wash me yet more must remain the sacred motto of my ordinary confessions. These confessions are the surest criterion by which to judge my spiritual progress.

                                                           Return of the prodigal son.

 V 5. ‘Against thee only have I sinned, and have done evil in thy sight, that thou mayst be justified in thy sentence and blameless in thy judgment’

            Sin is an offence against God, and for this alone a grave evil. The other considerations are all secondary in comparison with this: a wife raped and a husband killed are things of small account compared with an outraged God. This is what David understood and what we must understand too. How differently this world thinks! People are sorry, not for having offended the Lord, but because they have suffered disgrace, loss or misfortune.

            The saints did not feel that way. ‘I said, “O Lord, be merciful to me, heal my soul for I have sinned against thee.” (Psalm 40 (41):4)

            Another thought; ‘I have done evil in thy sight’. Sin, even if directed against one’s neighbour and against oneself, directly violates God’s holy law. But it is graver because it is committed in God’s sight. ‘God sees me’: our humble grandmothers used to work this motto into their samplers of rustic embroidery: it still hangs on the old walls of our houses and it contains a stern reminder which serves to give a character of decency to all our behaviour. What a profound truth this is of the omnipresence of God, of his searching glance which penetrates even the secret recesses of our privacy.  A whole treatise of ascetic doctrine could be written about this truth from which is derived the purest beauty of sanctified souls, as clear as crystal, as pure as well-water, using no deceit with others or with themselves (for it happens sometimes that we are insincere even with ourselves, surely the height of folly!) even at the risk of seeming of little worth. ‘The simplicity of the just man is derided.’ What a fine passage this is from St Gregory the Great!

V 7. ‘For behold thou hast loved truth: the uncertain hidden things of thy wisdom thou hast revealed to me.’

            First of all, the Psalmist wished to justify the Lord’s words spoken to him by the prophet: ‘that thou mayst be justified in thy sentence’, and to exalt the triumph of his judgment: ‘that thou mayst be blameless in thy judgment’.

            Now he proclaims that his God is a lover of truth. In fact truth is in God as in its source and God is all truth; as Jesus, the divine Word, said himself: ‘I am the truth’. A declaration of this sort would seem that of a madman had it not come from the lips of God made man. The Roman governor was much puzzled by this declaration of Christ’s and asked him; ‘What is truth?’

            The truth, says Father Segneri, is a transcendent virtue which enters into all well-ordered human affairs and, according to the diversity of these, assumes different names. In the schools it is called science, in speech veracity, in conduct frankness, in conversation sincerity, in actions righteousness, in business dealings honesty, in the keeping of promises loyalty, and in the courts of law it has the noble title of justice. This is the Lord’s truth which ‘abides for ever’.


                                                    'What is truth?' by James Seward

 The love of truth. On the day of my Episcopal consecration the Church gave me a particular mandate concerning it: ‘Let him choose humility and truth and never forsake them for any flattery or threats. Let him not consider light to be darkness, or darkness light; let him not call evil good, or good evil. Let him learn from wise men and fools, so that he may profit from all.’ I thank the Lord for having given me a natural inclination to tell the truth, always and in all circumstances and before everyone, in a pleasant manner and with courtesy, to be sure, but calmly and fearlessly. Certain small fibs of my childhood have left in my heart a horror of deceit and falsehood. Now, especially as I am growing old, I want to be particularly careful about this: to love the truth, God helping me!  I have repeated this many times, swearing it on the Gospel.

            The revelation of the uncertain and hidden things of divine wisdom, comes by itself. The love of truth means perpetual childhood, fresh and joyful.  And the Lord reveals his most sublime mysteries to children and conceals them from the learned and the so-called wise men of this world.

V 9. ‘To my hearing thou shalt give joy and gladness; and the bones that have been humbled shall rejoice.’

            When we hear that we are forgiven: ‘The Lord has put away your sin’, we are full of joy and gladness. We have felt this so often when after the absolution we rise from kneeling before our confessor, especially when we are in retreat or on some other more solemn occasions in our life. The joy is in our understanding, the gladness in our heart. This two-fold sensation is expressed also in the renewed physical vigour and energy of our bodies: ‘The bones that have been humbled will rejoice.’ There are some most moving references to this in the Bible: Isaiah tells us ‘your heart shall thrill and rejoice’ (Isaiah 60:5), and we read in Proverbs: ‘a glad heart makes a cheerful countenance’ Prov.15:13)

            The mystery of spiritual joy, which is a characteristic of saintly souls, is seen here in all its beauty and charm. The Lord leaves us uncertain about our eternal salvation but gives us signs which suffice to calm our souls and make us joyful.

            ‘It is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God’ (Romans 8:16). I ask you: is this a small thing, to feel we are God’s children? This confidence, which is often in our hearts without our being able to account for it, is the inexhaustible source of our joy, the most solid foundation of true piety, which consists in desiring everything that is full and loving service to the Lord. The essential is that this desire of ours should be prompt and effective. That it should be a source of enjoyment also, that is, of tender affection, sweetness, delight and joy – this is also important, but accidental and secondary. The realization of Our Lord’s goodness to us, and of our worthlessness, makes us happy and sad at the same time. But the sadness is lessened as it becomes an encouragement for our apostolate in the service of all that is sublime and noble, to make Jesus known, loved and served, and to take away the sins of the world.

            The thought of holiness, smiling amidst trials and crosses, is always with me. Interior calm, founded on the words and promises of Christ, produces the imperturbable serenity which may be seen in face, words and behaviour, the expression of all-conquering charity. We feel a renewal of energies, physical as well as spiritual: sweetness to the soul and health to the body.(Prov.16:24). To live in peace with the Lord, to hear that we are forgiven, and in our turn to forgive others, gives the soul that feast of ‘marrow and fat’ of which the psalmist sang, and brings the Magnificat constantly to our lips.’

 The Visitation, from alterpiece of the Virgin.  By Jacques Daret   1434.       'My soul doth magnify the Lord ......'

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Death, Hope, and Eternal Salvation.

The one certainty in life is the inevitability of death, yet it is a subject which in the normal course of events is rarely mentioned. Obituaries are published in local and national newspapers, and the death of well-known personages or victims of disasters or violence receives wide coverage in the media. Death does make news, but perhaps the reality is that it is not death itself that people are interested in, rather is it the personal details of the deceased. The spiritual implication of death is rarely acknowledged in today’s secular world, the day of judgement and eternal life, if thought of at all, is regarded rather as a ‘religious’ belief that most people prefer not to think about. By the grace of God, Christians know otherwise, but even we can be strangely muted when it comes to discussing death.  The following two articles, written some four hundred years ago by the famous Elizabethan courtier, explorer, soldier, writer and poet, Sir Walter Raleigh c.1552-1618, reveal a commendably ruthless honesty which would not be out of place today in a sermon on the ‘Four Last Things’, although  a critic might suggest a certain absence of that spirit of Hope  found in the writings of the Saints.  Hope, one of the three Cardinal virtues, keeps us on track when we are tempted to despair, helping us to persevere throughout life in  knowing, loving, and serving God, so that we may be welcomed by Him when we die. Hope keeps death in perspective, for while the body will die, the soul of the just will find eternal joy and happiness with God.

The Workmanship of Death

'Our attendants are sicknesses and variable infirmities, and by how much the more we are accompanied with plenty, by so much the more greedily is our end desired, whom when Time has made undesirable to others, we become a burthen to ourselves: being of no other use than to hold the riches we have from our successors. In this time it is (as aforesaid) we, for the most part, and never before, prepare for our eternal habitation, which we pass on unto, with many sighs, groans, and sad thoughts, and in the end, by the workmanship of death, finish the sorrowful business of a wretched life, towards which we always travel both sleeping and waking; neither have those beloved companions of honour and riches any power at all to hold us any one day, by the glorious promise of entertainments; but by what crooked path soever we walk, the same leadeth on directly to the house of death:  whose doors lie open at all hours, and to all persons.  For this tide of man’s life, after it once turneth and declineth, ever runneth with a perpetual ebb and falling stream, but never floweth again: our leaf once fallen, springeth no more, neither doth the sun or the summer adorn us again, with the garments of new leaves and flowers.'
                                                      Sir Walter Raleigh (c.1552-1618)

O Eloquent, Just, and Mighty Death

'Death, which hateth and destroyeth man, is believed; God, which hath made him and loves him, is always deferred.  I have considered (saith Solomon) all the works that are under the sun, and behold, all is vanity, and vexation of spirit: but who believes it, till Death tells it us: it was Death, which opening the conscience of Charles the First, made him enjoin his son Philip to restore Navarre; and King Francis the First of France, to command that justice should be done upon the murderers of the Protestants in Merindol and Cabrieres, which till then he neglected.  It is therefore Death alone that can suddenly make man to know himself. He tells the proud and insolent, that they are but abjects, and humbles them at the instant; makes them cry, complain, and repent, yea, even to hate their forepassed happiness.  He takes the account of the rich, and proves him a beggar; a naked beggar, which hath interest in nothing, but in the gravel that fills his mouth.  He holds a glass before the eyes of the most beautiful, and makes them see therein, their deformity and rottenness; and they acknowledge it.
    O eloquent, just, and mighty Death! Whom none could advise thou hast persuaded; what none hath dared, thou hast done; and whom all the world hath flattered, thou only hast cast out of the world and despised: thou hast drawn together all the far stretched greatness, all the pride, cruelty, and ambition of man, and covered it all over with these two narrow words, Hic iacet – here lies …'
                                                      Sir Walter Raleigh (c.1552-1618)


                      'Sir Walter Raleigh (1598)' by William Segar

Sir Walter Raleigh, was born in 1554 in East Budleigh, Devon, and brought up in the Protestant faith.  In 1569, he left for France to serve with the Huguenots in the French religious civil wars. In 1572, he was registered as an undergraduate at Oriel College, Oxford, leaving a year later but subsequently completing  his education in the Inns of Court.  He moved to Ireland taking part in the suppression of local rebellions, and eventually becoming the owner of property in Munster confiscated from the native Irish. He returned to England in 1581, becoming a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, and was knighted in 1585. Raleigh was instrumental in the English colonisation of North America and was granted a royal patent to explore Virginia, which paved the way for future English settlements. In 1591, he secretly married Elizabeth Throckmorton one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, without the Queen's permission, for which he and his wife were subsequently punished and sent to the Tower of London. After a few months they were released, and returned to his estate at Sherborne in Dorset. In 1594 Raleigh sailed on a voyage of exploration to South America searching for the mythical El Dorado. Once back in England he published  ‘The Discovery of Guiana’ (1596), an account of his voyage which made exaggerated claims as to what had been discovered.  In 1603 Queen Elizabeth died and the throne passed to James I. The following year Raleigh was implicated on uncorroborated and flimsy evidence in the Main Plot, and was again imprisoned, but this time for many years. The Main Plot was an alleged conspiracy  by English courtiers, to remove King James I from the English throne, replacing him with his cousin Arabella (or Arbella) Stuart. The plot was supposedly led by Henry Brooke, Lord Cobham, and funded by the Spanish government. Much of Raleigh’s poetry and historical writing was completed during this period of imprisonment.  In 1616 he was released to lead a second expedition in search of El Dorado. This was unsuccessful, but men under his command ransacked a Spanish outpost, contrary to his orders and in breach of existing treaties with Spain. On his return to England the Spanish government demanded that he be held responsible and punished, and in 1618 he was arrested and executed.  Raleigh’s wife bore him three sons, one of whom died in infancy. They were a devoted couple and after Raleigh was beheaded, it has been said that Lady Raleigh kept her husband's head in a velvet bag until her death 29 years later, when it was returned to his tomb and interred at St. Margaret's Church, Westminster.


The following is taken from 'Martys to the Catholic Faith,  1577-1684' by Bishop Richard Challoner, and is part of a letter written to his mother by the Rev. William Hart, who was imprisoned at York Castle awaiting execution. 

…… ‘Alas! sweet mother, why do you weep? Why do you lament? Why do you take so heavily my honourable death? Know you not that we are born once to die, and that always in this life we may not live? Know you not how vain, how wicked, how inconstant, how miserable this life of ours is? Do you not consider my calling, my estate, my profession? Do you not remember that I am going to a place of all pleasure and felicity? Why then do you weep? Why do you mourn? Why do you cry out? But perhaps you will say, I weep not so much for your death as I do for that you are hanged, drawn, and quartered. My sweet mother, it is the favourablest, honourablest, and happiest death that ever could have chanced unto me. I die not for knavery, but for verity; I die not for treason, but for religion; I die not for any ill-demeanour or offence committed; but only for my faith, for my conscience, for my priesthood, for my blessed Saviour Jesus Christ; and, to tell you truth, if I had ten thousand lives, I am bound to lose them all rather than to break my faith, to lose my soul, to offend my God. We are not made to eat, drink, sleep, to go bravely, to feed daintily, to live in this wretched vale continually; but to serve God, to please God, to fear God, and to keep His commandments; which, when we cannot be suffered to do, then rather must we choose to lose our lives than to desire our lives.’…….(Extract from a letter written by Fr.William Hart to his mother, from York Castle, 10th March, 1583.)

Five days later Fr Hart was executed, being hanged, drawn, and quartered for ‘being a Roman priest’ (Athenae Oxoniensis)

N.B. Fr Hart was one of forty-two English Roman Catholic Martyrs beatified on December 29, 1886, by Pope Leo XIII

'Salvator Mundi' by Andrea Previtali (1519)
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