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Archive for April, 2010

So as I was saying – maybe if we listen to and act on the small, seemingly ordinary, suggestions the Pope makes in his Letter to the Catholics of Ireland we might get some unexpected results. One of those suggestions was to look to the example and intercession of the Cure of Ars, the patron saint of parish priests. And here’s a great opportunity to get started: his relics will be in Ireland from 25th to 29th of April, click HERE for all the details.

Now, most of us won’t get to the venues listed – so as a little flavour of what kind of man he was, have a look at this very short video clip by Fr Tom Norris, Professor of Systematic Theology at Maynooth College.

(BTW – just read a very good, very readable book by Fr Norris: A Fractured Relationship. Faith and the Crisis of Culture, Dublin: Veritas 2007)  It’s worth buying – only €14 in Veritas and if you order is now, you’ll have it in a day or two!  )

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Yesterday  Fr Hans Kung, the  controversial theologian, had something to say. Something he felt was important.

Guess what he did? He issued a statement to the media and followed it up with many live interviews on radio and television stations across Europe, and I’m sure, around the world.  What a good idea! Thousands and thousands of people heard what he had to say…

Mmm… I wonder could the Church here learn anything from Fr Kung…

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Philip Pullman is a master storyteller. His children’s trilogy “His Dark Materials” portrays a fascinating world where all humans have a daemon – a creature in the form of an animal who stays your side and is a kind of soulmate. I read the books myself some years ago and quite enjoyed them.

I didn’t read them to my young son, aged around 10 at the time. I had a sense that an author who so overtly uses his story to pull down the Christian Church and undermine the belief of those who trust in a loving God might not be an immediate choice of reading for a child I’m hoping will continue to trust in that same loving God.

Pullman was interviewed on Radio 1 this morning about his new book The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ (Myles Dungan on the Pat Kenny Show).  The interview was interesting and while I know that Pullman is a humanist who feels that organised religion is cruel, I thought ‘Well – he’s presenting his case in a reasonable and interesting way – I’m all into open debate.’ According to Pullman, one of his motivations for writing the story is that he hopes readers will go and read the Gospels from cover to cover (Great!)… so that they can see all the inherent contradictions and vagueness… (Oh…)  Curious, I googled the new book to find out more…

Philip Pullman has realised the potential of story (as did Christ). It is an amazingly powerful way to convey a message – because it is so creative – you’re not restricted to facts or reality.  It is like putty in the hands of a master sculptor – it can be anything the author desires. Here’s an extract of Pullman’s current book – see if you can work out what message the author is hoping his readers will come away with:

At that time, Mary was about sixteen years old, and Joseph had never touched her.

One night in her bedroom she heard a whisper through her window.

“Mary, do you know how beautiful you are? You are the most lovely of all women. The Lord must have favoured you especially, to be so sweet and so gracious, to have such eyes and such lips . . .”

She was confused, and said “Who are you?”

“I am an angel,” said the voice. “Let me in and I shall tell you a secret that only you must know.”

She opened the window and let him in. In order not to frighten her, he had assumed the appearance of a young man, just like one of the young men who spoke to her by the well.

“What is the secret?” she said.

“You are going to conceive a child,” said the angel.

Mary was bewildered.

“But my husband is away,” she said.

“Ah, the Lord wants this to happen at once. I have come from him especially to bring it about. Mary, you are blessed among women, that this should come to you! You must give thanks to the Lord.”

And that very night she conceived a child, just as the angel foretold.

In case you haven’t guessed the author’s intent yet, here’s another clue:

Once, in a town Jesus had not visited before and where his followers were little known, Christ got into conversation with a woman. She was one of the prostitutes Jesus made welcome, but she had not gone in to dinner with the rest of them. When she saw Christ on his own, she said “Would you like to come to my house?”

Knowing what sort of woman she was, and realising that no one would see them, he agreed.

He followed her to her house, and went in after her, and waited while she looked in the inner room to see that her children were asleep.

When she lit the lamp and looked at him she was startled, and said “Master, forgive me! The street was dark, and I couldn’t see your face.”

“I’m not Jesus,” said Christ. “I’m his brother.”

“You look so like him. Have you come to me for business?”

He could say nothing, but she understood, and invited him to lie on the bed with her. The business was concluded rapidly, and afterwards Christ felt moved to explain why he had accepted her invitation.

Somehow I’m glad now I didn’t read Pullman’s children’s books to my son…

But my real question is…where are the Christian master storytellers of today whose message is the truth that we Christians believe – writers in the mode of Tolkien and, more overtly, C.S. Lewis? We can’t keep pointing to only those two – we need writers who today craft powerful stories that convey something of the hope that is within us, in the same way that Pullman is crafting stories with a very different message.  Know any?


Mark Patrick Hederman, Abbot of Glenstal, may be one. He’s not a novelist (as far as I know) and I haven’t read any of his books yet – but after his interview yesterday morning (Pat Kenny Show again) I’ll be looking for his new book “Underground Cathedrals”.  He has an amazing eloquence and spoke about the origins of the whole abuse scandal with a great insight and wisdom. It isn’t a perspective I’ve heard before, and though I haven’t always agreed with Hederman’s views, I really recommend you have a listen: Mark Patrick on Radio 1

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Ok – I’ve finally finished putting the Pope’s letter into a mindmap format.  I’ve included it as an image below, or you can access it directly HERE in a much more flexible format – you can close down and open up visible levels by clicking the + or – symbol at the edge of a text box you can decide to just show chapter headings  or open more boxes to show key headings in each chapter etc. Try it and you’ll see what I mean.

Why did I bother? The letter has dropped off the media headlines at the moment. It could easily be pushed into a shelf and forgotten about. But this isn’t just a quickly scribbled letter from a German cleric.  This is a pastoral message to Catholics here in Ireland from the man who represents Christ for us.  We should study it very closely both individually and as a community and make real concrete steps to put it into practice, not because he is Joseph Ratzinger but because we believe that through his words, the Holy Spirit is really offering us an opportunity and a path to renewal.

That means each one of us reading it over and over and making personal resolutions about what we will do for example:  offer Friday penance for the Church,  get involved in Eucharistic Adoration,  decide to start getting to Confession more often.

It means meeting together  in parishes to tease out the issues and see what we can do together to act on it. That will means having committees or little groups who’ll take on the implementation of whatever initiatives are decided. Maybe group opportunities to do Friday Penances together? Perhaps more Penance Services and opportunities to avail of Confession including opportunities for school children?  Maybe organising Eucharistic Adoration at times that allow everyone a chance to take part?  Or whatever each Parish community decides.

This is a very serious issue.  It’s important that we continue work to ensure proper guidelines for Child Protection are in place in the Church in Ireland. And it’s equally important that we take seriously the spiritual pathway outlined for us here by the leader of our Church.

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A German criminologist speaks out – and puts the issue of child abuse and the Catholic Church into some context.  Not that it should matter who or what he is if what he says is true and reasonable – but he’s not Catholic.

In case you don’t get around to following the link, here are a few quotes:

the current risk of sexual abuse in institutions of the Catholic Church is even lower than I would have suspected…

…the bishops in the Vatican who deal with this matter have been the smartest and had the most awareness of any group that I have spoken to about sexual crimes…

…Incidentally, from a purely statistical point of view, you are more likely to get pregnant from kissing than become a paedophile because you are celibate…

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