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St Ethelbert – the first Christian monarch in England:- 25th February 2014

One of the many roles of a monarch has always been to defend the faith of the country in question. In some cases, that simply means upholding the traditions of the past, while in other countries the monarch is literally the head of the church. The Queen of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth II, still holds this position over the Church of England, though most of her powers are delegated to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.
Still, there have been moments in history that are so important to the future of that country that the monarch not only defies the faith he or she is supposed to uphold, but downright changes the faith. These linchpin monarchs are often remembered fondly after their deaths, though at the time they are often criticized and earn many enemies. One of them, is King Ethelbert of Kent.

St. Ethelbert, King of Kent 

Here are King Ethelbert of Kent and Queen Bertha, with Augustine:

Here are King Ethelbert of Kent (far right) and Queen Bertha, with Augustine in the middle. Stained glass window in Canterbury Cathedral.

King Ethelbert

King Ethelbert


The most powerful Anglo-Saxon king was Ethelbert who ruled Kent and a large area north to the Humber. St. Augustine (who had arrived on the English shores) sent interpreters saying that they came from Rome bearing good news which assured all who received it of eternal joy in heaven.

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St. Augustine preaching to Aethelberht I, 19th-century coloured wood engraving.
Credit: Photos.com/Thinkstock

The king told them to stay on the island and gave orders that they should be provided with all necessities. Apparently this included beer brewed from the royal barley as beer was considered one of the necessities of life. The king had already heard of the Christian faith; his wife and queen was Bertha, daughter of the Christian king of Paris and she continued to practice her faith after marrying Ethelbert.
Six days later after their arrival, King Ethelbert came to the island and summoned Augustine and his companions.

They approached the king carrying a silver cross and the likeness of the Lord painted on a board, like an icon. First they sang a litany of salvation and then they preached the Gospel to the king and his court. Ethelbert seemed to be impressed although he was not converted then and there and he offered hospitality to the missionaries and gave them permission to preach among his people. He also gave them a dwelling in his chief city, Canterbury. There they lived a life of prayer and preaching, living simply and caring for the poor. A number of people were converted and baptised. The Church of St. Martin in Canterbury had been built-in Roman times and was still used by Queen Berta for prayer. The monks gathered there for prayer, Mass, preaching and baptisms.
Eventually, King Ethelbert himself came to believe and was baptised. From then on, large numbers were converted to Christ. The king insisted that no one should be forced to accept Christianity; he knew that true service of Christ must be accepted freely.

Do you ‘get the memo’ delivered by the actions and example of our Papa?

image@catholicheraldfacebookpage

image@catholicheraldfacebookpage

Who, why… so what?

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  • A niece falls pregnant out-of-wedlock. ‘So what? It was a planned pregnancy, it’s such happy news.’
  • A friend, colleague, son or daughter lives with their partner. ‘So what, what they do in their bedroom has nothing to do with anyone else. It’s their choice. He/she is not my or your responsibility. It’s none of your business!’
  • The stranger on the bus uses profanities and racist slurs against someone on the bus. ‘So? It’s not your problem.’ 
  • Your niece is being emotionally abused by her boyfriend. ‘It’s between her and her partner, and up to her parents to get involved.Why should you get involved.’
  • A colleague has shared that she is considering an abortion. ‘Why?So what…it’s her body, her baby, the time’s not right , she’s too young, she wasn’t in a serious relationship….’
  • A close friend’s child is moving from one ‘serious’ relationship to another in quick succession. These relationships seem to follow the set pattern of:-  moving in together and setting up house, and then very soon, upping sticks and moving on to the next relationship and setting up house in a new neighbourhood. ‘So? What’s your problem? Youth is for living to the full. For experimentation, We only live once! Live every day to the fullest.’
  • A teenager known to you, smokes regularly. His parents don’t know. ‘Let them continue to believe what they believe right now. Don’t rock the boat’. 
  • A young couple comes to visit and decides to stay over until morning. ‘They’re in love, let them be.’
  • Someone mentions that Cameron’s decision to move forward on the legalisation of gay marriage, is the best decision he’s made for some time. ‘Everyone to their own. Everyone has a right to an opinion. It’s the way things are. Who cares? Live and let live.’
  • A ‘catholic’ acquaintance proudly announces that he and his now  wife, moved in together before they married and he has encouraged his children to do the same. ‘Who cares, move with the times’.

As a Catholic Christian I have been challenged by similar scenarios and have done my best to make a moral case in favour of the right choice in each case. As a Christian. 

The more the years go by,and my life experience broadens I feel Exasperated. Deflated. Desperate. Side-lined and Ignored. Dismissed. My Christian witness seems to be in vain. It falls on deaf ears.  My views as a Christian, especially as a Catholic Christian, are just not taken seriously.images (2)

My question to you is: why bother?After sharing a fundamental Truth, it’s seemingly tolerated, heard, and promptly forgotten.

I believe in Jesus. I believe in His plan for the salvation of mankind. I believe in His Life, Death and Resurrection for my sake and yours. It’s fine to profess these beliefs and to discuss these beliefs in the company of my fellow Christians, but is it worth the flack and derision I get when I support the teachings of the Church with my neighbour, when these values are looked upon as outdated, and irrelevant in secular society. Nobody cares.

Really, they don’t.

 

If you don’t fit in, you’re probably doing the right thing.

IMAGE@IGNATIUSPRESS

IMAGE@IGNATIUSPRESS

Over at Along the Watch Tower,  Chalcedon’s post speaks loudly of the sad reality that engulfs youth of today: not having confidence or language to talk about religion or faith. He writes, ‘Religion is to this generation what sex was to some previous ones ; something which embarrasses students because they do not know much about it, what they know makes it seem difficult, and they do not have a language in which to discuss it. He compares it to generations past who felt the same way about discussing sex.’ 

How the pendulum swings…

I believe this dilemma not only afflicts the youth but society in general:- what the youth do well is to reflect the society in which they live. Many Europeans are “unchurched,” meaning they have never step foot in a church for any reason besides weddings, funerals, or Baptisms. They have never gone to a church service once their entire life. So, how could they talk about religion?

I place this dilemma squarely at the feet of the assiduous and determined acceptance of secular values by Western governments. All this in the name of progress:- through modernization and relativism, systematically removing religious authority/ influence in all aspects of life and governance.

As a direct result of secularisation Christianity is marginalised. As a result of individualistic religion , a century of war and disregard for religion and faith matters the appreciation and understanding of religion or faith has declined. Many Europeans still identify themselves a Christian, but do not actively attend Christian services. We need also to keep in mind, that as a former continent known as “Christendom”, Europe is experiencing a rapid change in religious diversity. The two fastest growing religions in Europe are secularism (no religious affiliation, agnosticism, atheism, etc.) and Islam. I believe that secularism has completely won over European culture replacing Christianity as Europe’s world-view.

I use excerpts of an article from The Catholic News Society to substantiate my feelings about our Christian responsibility to live as Christ’s disciples as a way of life and as examples to those around us. :- (Emphasis my own)

Sharing an obligation to spread the good news of salvation in Christ, all Christian communities are challenged by the fact that many people today do not think they need God, Pope Benedict XVI said.
“The spiritual poverty of many of our contemporaries, who no longer perceive the absence of God in their lives as a privation, represents a challenge for all Christians,” the pope said Nov. 15 in a meeting with members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Pope Benedict said authentic ecumenical prayer, dialogue and cooperation cannot ignore “the crisis of faith that vast regions of the planet are experiencing,” nor can Christians ignore signs that many modern people still feel a need for some kind of spirituality.
Efforts to reunite all Christians are an essential part of the new evangelization, the pope said. Responding to the obligation to share the Gospel and to heal a divided Christianity, he said, every Christian must “return to the essential, to the heart of our faith, giving the world a witness of the living God, that is, a God who knows us and loves us and in whose gaze we live; a God who awaits the response of our love in our everyday lives.”….

...What is at stake, he said, is the credibility of Christianity as a whole and its ability to speak to modern men and women and to influence the way they live and act.

The archbishop said while secularization places challenges before the church, the real danger is “the secularization of the church” itself, which begins very concretely with church members living and acting as if they aren’t church members.

This means that Christians living in a secularised society will face many a challenge when having to share Truths about ethical questions, particularly regarding the safeguarding of human life from conception to death, family and marriage.

CCC 31 Created in God’s image and called to know and love him, the person who seeks God discovers certain ways of coming to know him. These are also called proofs for the existence of God, not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the sense of “converging and convincing arguments”, which allow us to attain certainty about the truth. These “ways” of approaching God from creation have a twofold point of departure: the physical world, and the human person.

Wise Men still seek Him

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A candid and fair assessment? Indeed!

Nelson Mandela: A Candid Assessment

by Timothy J. Williams:  (1catholicsalmon’s reposted this article which can be found here. This is a balanced and fair comment on Mandela’s life and life lived in South Africa today.)

Mandela-(Steven Siewert)Calling him one of the “most influential, courageous and profoundly good people to ever have lived,” President Obama ordered all U.S. flags lowered to half-staff in honor of Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday, December 5. As the worldwide tributes pour in for the former leader of the African National Congress (ANC) and first black president of South Africa, it is good to remember just who Mandela was, and who he wasn’t.

As president of South Africa, Mandela—though a typically bumbling socialist—was not a vengeful character. After having spent much of his adult life in prison, he is widely praised for not seeking to retaliate against the former white rulers, and for having largely urged reconciliation and compromise in undoing the injustices of Apartheid. Though Mandela was a committed Marxist, he was also a pragmatist, disappointing his more impatient comrades by not immediately carrying out the massive nationalizations of industry he had promised, so as not to drive away foreign investment. And he recognized his own limitations, both physical and political, in deciding not to attempt to remain in power after his term in office.

Most white South Africans rejoin that Nelson Mandela had no reason to seek revenge on anyone, nor any basis for extending forgiveness to his previous jailors. After all, as the most famous prisoner of the previous Apartheid government, he had been fairly tried and convicted of complicity in many murders, and he confessed to participation in 156 acts of terror, crimes that would certainly have earned him the death penalty in a great many countries. Moreover, his confinement was more than comfortable by any standards. During his legendary twenty-seven years in prison, Mandela communicated freely with his followers, and somehow managed to accumulate a considerable fortune. He was continually offered release by the white Apartheid government, but on one condition: that he renounce violence in pursuit of political reform. That is something he consistently refused to do.

As was made clear by testimony before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Mandela was personally involved in the targeting and timing of terrorist bombings that took place during his imprisonment, such as the infamous “Church Street Massacre,” designed to maximize casualties among Afrikaner women and children. Even a group as left-leaning as Amnesty International refused to grant Mandela political prisoner status because of the obviously violent character of his ideology and his actions. His African National Congress party ran a horrific camp for political prisoners in Angola, with daily torture and murder, often by the “necklacing” technique, whereby a gasoline-filled tire is placed around the neck of a victim and set ablaze. Virtually all the victims of this particular horror were blacks.

Within South Africa, on direct orders from Winnie and Nelson Mandela, the ANC targeted not only whites, but also all black civil servants, teachers, lawyers, and businessmen—essentially anyone who imagined a post-Apartheid South Africa that differed from the one mandated by the Marxist ANC. Even simple black peasants who refused to carry out terror attacks were treated as enemies, and they were killed in large numbers. Thus, just as the terroristic FLN killed far more Algerians than did the French during the Algerian war for independence, the ANC was the leading cause of death, by far, for black South Africans throughout the period of Apartheid.

The only reality that makes it even remotely possible to view Mandela as a “statesman” is that he lived on a continent where the definition of “statecraft” is not exactly rigorous or exemplary. Since the wave of decolonization following World War II, the number of African states ruled by ruthless dictators has always been in the majority, and sometimes approached unanimity. The precise number of tyrants involved is actually difficult to ascertain. One simply loses count, and the shadows of the worst of them conceal the merely “semi-heinous” crimes of the lesser despots, so that their names are eclipsed and you find yourself asking: “Does so-and-so really fit the African definition of a tyrant?”

Numbered among the rogue gallery of miscreants who have wielded power on that tragic continent, we find some of the world’s biggest drug traffickers, diamond smugglers, and slave traders. It seems that the poorer an African nation is, the greater the wealth accumulated by its “President for Life.” Almost every country in black-ruled Africa has a system of gulags. All elections are rigged, free press is non-existent, and all dissent comes from exiles. In the past fifty years, there have been more wars in Africa than in all the other continents combined. And everything is considered a weapon of war: ethnic cleansing, child soldiering and child rape, even cannibalism. Just refraining from committing genocide in Africa practically sets one up for comparison with Mother Theresa.

So in this regard, Mandela (post-Apartheid, at least) does indeed look pretty good. Though personally implicated in a great many murders, there is at least no record of him ever eating a political foe or advocating child rape or promoting genocide. And he left office voluntarily in 1999, even if this was due more to advancing years, frail health, and the realization that he had no talent for governing, rather than to a real commitment to democracy. Still, by African standards, this is the stuff of a Nobel Peace Prize.

Mandela did, however, leave behind another socialist nightmare in the making. With their motto of “liberation before education,” the ANC has proved itself completely incapable of governing, and South Africa is sliding into chaos at an alarming rate. Since 2004, South Africa has experienced almost constant political protests, many of them violent. Activists like to refer to the nation as the most “protest-rich in the world,” which, along with prison camps, is the only type of “riches” a socialist nation can produce. The nation is staggered by unemployment, corruption throughout all levels of the police, military, and civil service, and ubiquitous, inescapable crime. Life in South Africa is far more dangerous, especially for blacks and women, than it was under Apartheid. With about fifty murders a day, the nation is now among the undisputed murder capitals of the world, most of these crimes going uninvestigated. The astounding estimates of other violent crimes, including rape, are almost impossible to believe. But only the truth of such figures could account for the fact that the private security business in South Africa is the largest in the world, with over a quarter-million private security guards in a nation of under 53 million.

Taking their lead from the disaster in neighboring Zimbabwe, the government of South Africa is now looking the other way as white farmers are driven off their land by arson and murder. It is said that job advertisements, even those posted by the government, routinely include the phrase “Whites need not apply.” Would it be an exaggeration to say that a “reverse Apartheid” is taking place in South Africa? The nearly one million white South Africans who have fled the growing chaos don’t think so.

Of course, life in South Africa is now most dangerous for the most defenseless, for those waiting to be born. As president, Mandela—ever the pragmatist—signed the most liberal abortion law in all of Africa, with no reason at all needed for a woman to procure abortion in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, and abortion easy to obtain through all nine months. Since this law took effect in 1997, even the most conservative estimates put the number of abortions that have taken place at one million. Once again, socialists and pragmatists of all stripes reveal that they cannot conceive of any form of good governance that does not involve killing on a massive scale.

Yes, some South Africans view Mandela as a nearly messianic figure. Desmond Tutu has publically thanked God for the “gift” of Mandela. But this is the same “bishop” Tutu who recently stated that he would decline his own invitation to heaven if God turned out to be a “homophobe.” Any pious invocation by Tutu has to be regarded as more than a little suspect. Nor can we have any confidence in Barack Obama when he declares that Mandela “achieved more than could be expected of any man” and that “he belongs to the ages.” Obama no doubt believes he himself “belongs to the ages,” since his signature “accomplishments”—the government seizure of medical care, the enthronement of abortion, and the promotion of homosexual “marriage”—are all policies promoted by the ANC in the new South Africa. So we should not expect to hear much from the Obama administration about Mandela’s violent past. Statists never find anything to reproach in one of their own.

(Photo credit: Steven Siewert)

 

A model for men and women searching for the Mystery of God.

cardinalnewmanWhen we say the Creed, we need to realise that we are doing something extraordinary and counter cultural. In a world where so many people live atomised existences, we are doing something as a community. In an age that shies away from commitment, as we say the Creed we are committing ourselves to a set of convictions and to each other. The Creed is our symbol, the way we recognise each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s a sign of our common membership. It is our Catholic identity. (JerichoTree). It is to this identity that Newman endeavoured to cleave himself through his search for Truth in the Mystery of God.

“I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it.” ~ John Henry Newman

I went on a pilgrimage to Newman’s Littlemore College in Oxford, where I learned more about this inspirational man,and his fascinating journey into the arms of the Catholic Church.The influence of Blessed John Henry Newman, one of the outstanding voices of 19th century Roman Catholicism, has spread throughout the Christian world and is stronger than ever today. He lived and prayed for four years at The College in Littlemore where he was received into the Roman Catholic Church on 9th October 1845.Blessed John Henry Newman lived at “The College” at Littlemore from 1842-1846, making it a place of quiet prayer and study for himself and some friends.

Littlemore college

Littlemore college

“There it has been, that I have both been
taught my way and received an answer to my prayers.”

Newman, Letters and Diaries, XI 132/3

Newman’s oratory has again become a place of prayer and worship, with the Office, daily hours of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and regular masses. A substantial and specialized collection of Newman-related literature has been built up on the site of Newman’s own library, together with an exhibition of Newman memorabilia (prints, etchings, photographs, sculptures and original letters). Newman wrote in total, 20.000 letters!

In 1963 Pope Paul VI beatified Fr. Dominic Barberi, The Passionist ,who received John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church. On that occasion the Pope spoke about Blessed Dominic; but he also spoke about Newman. He said ‘, Newman’s journey of Faith was ,’the greatest, the most meaningful, the most conclusive, that human thought ever travelled during…the modern era.’

This quote from Blessed Barberi on Newman's request to become Catholic.

This quote from Blessed Barberi on Newman’s request to become Catholic.

A relic of Blessed Dominic Barberi at eh church I visited at Littlemore.

A relic of Blessed Dominic Barberi at the church I visited at Littlemore.

I had an opportunity to pray in front of the Crucifix Blessed Newman prayed in front of daily.

I had an opportunity to pray in front of the Crucifix Blessed Newman prayed in front of daily.

Newman's bedroom kept today as it was when he lived there.

Newman’s bedroom kept today as it was when he lived there.

Pilgrims can visit Newman’s room, in which many historic features have been preserved. The chapel, which is regularly used for prayer and Mass, is similar to how it would have been when Newman and his companions prayed there. I prayed in the same place where Newman spent so much of his time in search of the truth, and where he had the grace and happiness of being received into what he believed to be “the one true Fold of Christ” (Letters and Diaries XI, 5).

Newman's writing desk on which Blessed Barberi performed the mass after Newman's conversion. Newman never write on it again and kept it inverted after this .

Newman’s writing desk on which Blessed Barberi performed the mass after Newman’s conversion. Newman never wrote on it again and kept it inverted after this mass .

obedience

Newman’s writing desk in his bedroom.

The intellectual genius of Newman coupled with is humility struck me to the core. His dogged determination in search of the truth cost him dearly as far as his friends and family were concerned.  On his desk is a diary of his writings and included is a letter to his sister Jemima telling her of his decision to convert to Catholicism. He begins, ”My dear Jemima, I must tell you what will pain you greatly, but I will make it as short as you would wish me to do…”.  This letter he sent to her only after his conversion. The non-pre-existent relationship with his sister caused his much sadness.

In 1845 Newman wrote his ‘Development of Christian Doctrine’ and towards the end of this work it became clear to him that he must seek admission into the Roman Catholic Church. When Fr Dominic Barberi visited Littlemore, Newman and two of his companions were received into the Church on 9th October 1845.

In his Development of Christian Doctrine’, Newman spoke of how ‘to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.’ These memorable words are well known and often quoted, and it seems obvious that change was a particular characteristic of his life. The Roman Catholic Church in England was itself going though great change at the time of Newman’s conversion.

It is right to celebrate!

all-saints-day-poland

Happy All Saints day!

Pope Benedict XVI said,  ” The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.”  

We are all called to be the best we can be in Christ. Let our brightest light shine. We are called to holiness, closeness to God.  The Saints who precede us reached ‘greatness’ in their own unique way.

Recently, I visited the execution site of St’s Thomas More and John Fisher just outside the London Tower on Tower Hill where they were martyred for their Catholic faith. They died not knowing of their greatness in living their Faith with such tenacity.  It is right to celebrate their lives and to remember their sacrifice.

Image@1catholicsalmon

Image@1catholicsalmon
This is the plaque which includes their names, fixed to the spot where they were beheaded,

John Fisher by Hans Holbein. The Stapleton Collection

Thomas More by Hans Holbein

Hans Holbein the Younger. Sir Thomas More.
© Frick Collection, New York

Read here for details about these two prominent English Saints.

As a Catholic I worship God.

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Two years ago I attended a Baptist service celebrating the Dedication of a friend’s baby to God. A  substantial service which consisted of a significant praise and worship segment, prayer, preaching and finally the dedication of little Noah. I was moved by the intense prayer for the baby during this part of the service. Four members of the church community (who seemed to have standing in the community) prayed over the baby. This was followed by tea and then a luncheon.

It was at the luncheon that  my daughter and I got chatting with a couple who were seated at our table. We discussed the service amongst other things and the conversation inevitably led to us discussing which church we belonged to. As soon as we said that we attend St. Joseph’s, an uncomfortable (albeit short) silence ensued and the conversation petered out after that.

On coming across the above poster recently, my mind was taken back to this encounter and yes, I understand now what my Catholicity may have represented to that couple. Their reaction was a plainly visible physical recoiling as they realised that we are Catholic.

This brings me to the sermon at Mass last Sunday. The picture on the bottom right of the poster brought me here, because what I do at Mass is exactly this, listen to the Word of God, and  praise Him in thanksgiving through song and prayer and receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus. We were reminded that the Eucharist means ‘thanksgiving’. That we should  give thanks for everything we have, freely and willingly. We should go to church every week to ‘freely and willingly’ give heartfelt thanks to God, not because we feel that it’s our duty to go, but because we want to thank God  for all He has done for us through Jesus. We were gently reminded too, that often-times Catholics take for granted the Great Gift that  we have in the Eucharist because that is what we’re used to having at Mass. There shouldn’t be an ‘ought’ attached to this weekly Worship. We should respond in true thanks-giving each week. If there is an ‘ought’ attached to our attending Mass, we should stop and think about our motives.

‘What is our calling as Christians? To thanks God. When all our worldly goods are removed from us and we are faced with the essential nature of our lives, the most important ‘thing’ that we are left with is God. We need to thank God for Him, because He is everything. We are totally dependant of God’s divine mercy. He gave Himself to us, and as an act of worship, we give thanks to Him for this.’ 

This is why I go to church.

I Love This Guy: Pope Francis…

I borrowed the title of this post from this article  written by Father James Martin SJ  because it describes the way I feel about our Papa and the amazing example he’s setting for us all.

I feel uplifted by Pope Francis’s joy and love for humanity, not to mention his sense of confidence and self-assuredness. He conducts himself as someone who has no worry in the world but to spread the love of Jesus. He is doing this in such a loving way. His sincerity shines through.

He is inspirational to all. WYD in Rio is testament to his individual approach and independent thought, he reacts naturally sharing his demeanour since his appointment as the Vicar of Christ, as one who knows what he has to do and he’s going full steam ahead to share the Good News.

My favourite line from this article by Father James,‘Because of this I love the guy. Because of this I love God even more.’ Surely this is what it’s all about?

These photos are testament to this verve, energy and stamina. (All photos are from various sites)

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WYD 1

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APTOPIX Brazil Pope World Youth Day.JPEG-03e33

f2RPz.St.4

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On his arrival in Rio, he chose to ride in this little Fiat, which took the wrong turn and ended up in Rio traffic.

On his arrival in Rio, he chose to ride in this little Fiat, which took the wrong turn and ended up in Rio traffic.

slide_304920_2749741_free

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