Posts Tagged ‘Religion’

God & Man at Central High

1 Bealtaine, 2008
Author: Thomas McGrath
Issue: 25 – May 2008

God & Man at Central High
As a lifelong Catholic and a twelve year veteran of the public schools, I am often asked about the situation regarding religion in the American system of public education.

It goes without saying that most people who are interested in this issue have religious sentiments, and that they are concerned about the removal of God from the public square entirely. They are usually well-informed on such matters, and they are concerned spectators of what commentators now refer to as the culture wars. Sharing their concern, there are times when my impulse is to tell them that there is considerable prejudice against Christianity, and that we ought to be very concerned about it. After all, most local high schools now have a school-sponsored club/support group for homosexuals, and though the law requires schools to provide equal access to Christian groups (like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes) to advertise their meetings during the morning announcements, the Christian groups are required to meet off campus, whereas the homosexual support group is permitted to meet at the school. Furthermore, Christian groups must preface their advertisement by stating: the following is not a school-sponsored activity, while the school usually has no problem sponsoring the homosexual group.
And yet, the less belligerent part of me acknowledges that the issue of religion in the public school is more complicated than the aforementioned example of overt (and absurd) discrimination. After all, the earliest battles against the teaching of religion in the public schools were mounted by Catholics who objected to the Protestant perspective through which Christianity was being taught. Despite the Public Schools Societys promise that all parents of all religious sects [should be able] to send their children to public schools without doing violence to their religious teachings, the early history of the public school system is rife with anti-Catholic sentiment and bigotry from the Protestant majority which, in many cases, extended all the way to the President himself.

Fearing the impact of an aggressively Protestant perspective on the faith of their children, Catholics petitioned the courts to remove the King James Bible (with its warnings against popery), and their goal was to create an environment in which religious minorities would be safe from bigotry and the active evangelism of the more dominant Protestant belief system. Ultimately, this battle, combined with the considerable anti-Catholicism of the mid-nineteenth century, are what led to the creation of the Catholic school system in America, and to a variety of conflicts between the Irish Catholic immigrants and the Protestant social infrastructure which sought to break them of their beliefs.

In view of that history, Catholics in particular should be sympathetic to religious minorities and their concerns about a government-imposed (and tax-payer funded) religious ethos taking hold in the public school system. In a nation that was founded by religious minorities seeking to escape religious oppression in England, it is virtually un-American to suggest that minorities should be required to adhere to practice the dominant religion, and the authors of the First Amendment were very astute to the possibility of such concerns.

And yet, it seems equally un-American to neglect the importance of religion by excluding it from the education system entirely. After all, as commentators often point out, the American people are promised freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. As such, the idea that Christian groups would not be allowed to meet on campus seems in violation of this principle, as does the fact that many teachers almost entirely avoid the subject of religion in their classes out of fear that something they might say could be interpreted as evangelical speech.

Although the courts do not seem as committed to this idea of excluding religion from the public school dialogue as the militant secular progressives who foment these controversies, the controversies themselves have had their intended chilling effect. It is the fear of conflicting with these intellectual bullies that inspires many teachers to avoid the topic of religion entirely, and it is this sad fact which leaves countless students bereft of a clear understanding of the faith that has shaped their own history and culture. Despite the fact that the courts have made it clear that while teachers may not proselytise, they may talk about religion, the current zeitgeist is such that most teachers feel its safer to avoid the subject entirely lest one of their students interpret one of their statements as an attempt to evangelise them. In this regard, the culture wars have had their intended effect of silencing the majority through fear.

For this reason, it is unfortunate to contemplate the number of students leaving high school without knowing that the abolitionists were not the secular liberals of their era, but devout Christians, and that without their uncompromising defense of African slaves as Gods children, the efforts to free the slaves would not have succeeded. Nor do most students have much of an understanding as to the importance of the Judeo-Christian value system on the shaping of the culture in which they live. Although one hopes that the young soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will make it clear to their generation that western values are, simply put, better than those that have shaped the Middle East, most contemporary students graduate high school with the false concept that all cultures and religions are created equal, and that globalisation will eventually lead the rest of the world to the morality that has long protected the nations of the west from the injustices and inequalities of the rest of the world.

In the final analysis, it is difficult to comment as to the long-term impact of these problems on the future of America, and western civilisation at large. Clearly, not all students attend public schools, and one can hope that that those who know better will offset this problem. Furthermore, it should be recalled that the public school system is not the only place where people learn about their history and heritage. In addition to their families and churches, many people become interested and aware of such matters through later exposure to it, often finding that what they learned in secondary school and university were inadequate (and sometimes ideological) versions of events and social movements.

Nonetheless, most historians will acknowledge that those cultures that do not respect their heritage will not remain intact for very long. For this reason, the neglect of religion in the public school is creating a generation of people who neither have an understanding of nor a reverence for the religious traditions that have created, guided, and protected their society for generations, and this is no small tragedy. In an age in which there are countless assaults on the very architecture of western society and the forces that have defined it, this is no small concern.


Mary our model

1 Bealtaine, 2008
Author: Cathal Broin
Issue: 25 – May 2008

Mary our model
The modern world needs to look less to pop stars and fashion models and more to true role models model people people who truly set the standard of how a person ought to be. Our Catholic Faith teaches us that we were created to know, love and serve God. To be reasonably happy in this life and perfectly happy in the next.

Our models are the saints, and to whom could we better look to as a model person (after Christ of course), than to Mary, the Mother of God. All of humanity can find in her the measure of what it is to be a perfect person. Whether they be man or woman, rich or poor, married, religious or single, all peoples of all ages can find in Mary more wisdom than a thousand books. She is a constant source of inspiration to those who pray to her and meditate on her life. In her we find hope. For she is our heavenly hero, a mother of mercy for all who turn to her. As she waits, with her maternal heart, watching over the world, she is forever ready to impart extraordinary graces to all those who seek her intercession.
Sometimes it is easy to forget that saints are people too. If they are different to others it is only that in life they loved God as He ought to be loved. Mary was created in Gods plan to be the Mother of Christ, and so was given the special privilege of an Immaculate Heart. But she still had to live. It wasnt all simply predestination. She had to choose. She had to struggle – even though we know that she never sinned. Do you think that she did not have to suffer any temptations? Of course she did, but it was how she responded that mattered. The Angel Gabriel saluted her as being full of grace. Her heart was full of love of God, and so, had no room in it for worldly attachments. It is love of ourselves and love of the world that can easily pull us down in the time of temptation. If we are truly full of the love of God, then no temptation, no matter how violent or persistent, can have power over us.

Everybody suffers temptations. They should not be a cause of shame or worry to us. They are simply the promptings of hell, trying to lure us from our heavenly destiny, to ensnare us in sin. It is only how we respond that matters.

We would most likely be shocked if we knew the assaults that Mary suffered. We can be very sure, as is the nature of good and evil that just as she was picked out by God to bring Goodness Himself into the world, so she was targeted, more than anyone else ever was, by the devil and his legions, to suffer, like no other mere human ever had to or ever will.

May is known as the Month of Mary. It is traditionally a time of special devotion to She who is the greatest of saints. There are of course many excellent things we can do. The Rosary, the Scapular, the Miraculous medal, etc., are all gifts from the Mother of God to help us to grow as Her spiritual children. We can be sure that we will gain extraordinary graces from all these things, to help us in our lives but it doesnt stop there. We must play our part we must try to imitate Her great virtues. We must be living children of Mary, living examples of Faith, hope and charity of chastity, humility and obedience.

The first act of disobedience came when the devils fell from Heaven, after Lucifer said non serviam to God I will not serve. Then came the fall of Adam and Eve, when they disobeyed a simple commandment given to them to test their loyalty to God. Through these prideful acts of disobedience, all evil was unleashed unto creation. How could anything be saved, one might wonder, after such defiance of the Creator?

Mary was the pivot, the gate of mercy. She brought to the world a second chance, one that it did not deserve. She became the second Eve, and Her words were the opposite of what had set the world and all of creation wrong. She said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord! Be it done unto me according to Thy word. She said that She was the handmaid, the servant, and with this spirit, She said yes! She gave herself entirely to God, so that He could do with her whatever He wished. We need to try to imitate this heroic self-giving. We need to try to surrender our will, our freedom completely to Our Creator. Rather than be slaves to the world, we should freely became servants of God, and who knows what He will accomplish in us. Where thy heart is, there also is thy treasure. If our treasure is in Heaven we shall have riches beyond measure!

So, Mary obeyed God She said yes in a life of total surrender. Obedience is born of, and lives with, humility. These two virtues must both go together. Obedience is essentially to act as a servant with the humility to know that God is first, that God is King. The devil said that he would not serve because he thought he knew better than God Himself. Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit because they wanted to be like unto Gods. They did not trust in God, but they trusted a serpent. How could they be so blind? Temptation brings distortion, and sin casts darkness on the mind and heart.

What use would it be to make a beautiful May altar if our hearts are ugly, consumed in worldliness? and , what good would it do to decorate such an altar with the choicest of roses, if our hearts are choked with weeds and thistles? All our devotion is shallow if we are not willing to amend our lives. Let our gift to Mary in this month of May be our hearts. Let us ask Her in humility to help us to become better people.

What would it cost us to meditate on the life of Mary during the month of May, even for five minutes a day, and to pray for her virtues? And what about a few acts of faith, of humility, of kindness in honour of the Blessed Virgin? We followers of Christ are supposed to be living witnesses to the goodness of God, but unfortunately, all too often, the only thing that the world sees from a so-called Christian is an impatient Pharisee sitting in judgement. This is not supposed to be so. We need our prayers as a means of sanctification, and we also need our neighbours. Every insult borne with patience, every fault ignored, every inconvenience swallowed when we accept the penance that comes from simply interacting with other people, we can show charity, acquire virtue and accumulate treasure in Heaven.

Little things do make a big difference. Take everyday situations. One could easily think why should I let that person go in front of me in the queue? or why should I give the nicer cream bun to my brother? I quite fancy the one on the right, it has more jam topping! What do we gain when we always seek to get our own way, when we always put ourselves first? We soon become like spoilt children, and every slight thing that goes against our wills becomes an excruciating torture. Then, the faade we have draped over our ego always seems to be slipping down, and we are always on the defensive, terrified that we might be seen as less than we suppose ourselves to be.

Modern pop-psychology teaches us to be confident in ourselves. True confidence can only be in found in Christ. What cause have I of confidence in my own goodness? It is like being confident in a horse without legs, to think that it can somehow win a race. We cannot be saints by our own. Without God with can do nothing.

Mary shows us the true way to success. It was not that She was clever, it was that She had Faith, for God alone occupied Her mind and heart it was not that She was self-confident, it was that She had Hope, for in Her humility She could see the Greatness of God and it wasnt that She was calculating, it was that She had Charity, for She listened for the voice of God and obeyed Him in everything.

Mary our model teach us how to be good.

The times they aren’t a-changin’

1 Aibreán, 2008
Author: Alan Robinson
Issue: 24 – April 2008

The times they aren�t a-changin�
There is a satirical and amusing magazine called Private Eye, on the cover there is always a funny and genuine picture, with a spoof headline or speech bubble.

If it�s not worth buying it is usually worth having a look at the cover; in fact you can buy a book called Private Eye Covers and I strike a blow against puritanism and Jansenism by having a quick look at them and enjoy a merry laugh in Easons. I think that you can do the same thing with The Irish Catholic, a useful and informative paper, but a recent cover was too close to Private Eye for comfort �Rehabilitation of Luther far fetched – Pope�s former student says Luther was a genius�. Now I am not too old, not really Dickensian, but I did grow up in the pre-Good Friday agreement county of Armagh. If that cover had been put inside our history books, we would all have had a long and hearty laugh. Private Eye often puts in an exclamation after a particularly outrageous piece: �Shurely shome mishtake, ed.?� Is there a mistake in this month�s The Hibernian or in the Irish Catholic, is this a delicious April Fool? No, there was a piece in the Irish Times on the 8th March which claimed that the Pope was going to have a study week in the summer, together with forty churchmen, all about……. Luther, and then possibly in September there would be a rehabilitation and who knows, a statue outside St Peter�s to fill up the few empty niches. However, Fr Vincent Twomey, Ireland�s conservative theologian and former Ratzinger pupil has said that although they are going to have a theological Lutherfest in August, a full rehabilitation is unlikely. I am sighing with relief, I thought I might be going off to join a little chapel of extremist you-know-whats come September; batten down the hatches, get the wind up radio ready, dried food and bottled water, guns, gold and groceries…it�s going to be a hard winter. It is strange that when you think of all the wonderful saints, theologians and holy bods there are, that the Pope should choose Luther as his summer holiday reading. I have to admit that I am puzzled. Maybe the Vatican will issue a simple sixty-page elucidation for us all in October, which will explain it all away. If one of my children said he was going off for a two week holiday by the sea to study Luther, I�d have something to say and you�d hear the screams in Mullingar. However, I think that we need to pray seriously for a great miracle between now and August, that the Pope will once again declare that Luther�s teachings and opinions are directly and in every way contrary to the Catholic faith.

The times aren�t a-changin� and there is now some kind of official acknowledgement that we are short of priests.The bishops are launching a campaign to get more folk to sign up for seven years� hard in Maynooth. I am more interested in why there are few vocations here and then I am interested (in my positive and optimistic way) in why there are places with large numbers of vocations. It is worth thinking about. In Ireland people blame the �priest scandal� as the cause of the drop off in vocations and I am sure that it is part of the picture. People also blame the increased wealth and materialism in Ireland, but post-War America was wealthy, growing and materialistic and yet there were many vocations to the priesthood. I still say that it�s all theological. In the early days of the Church there was the risk of persecution, mockery and martyrdom and still they were producing vocations and converts. I blame the theology. There seems to be a reluctance to talk theologically. People will not argue about the traditional Mass theologically. People will not argue about the House Of Prayer and Christina Gallagher theologically.They will talk about her cars and houses and riches, but no-one seems to say that we ought to study the so-called messages in the light of Catholic doctrine. If they did all those books of many �messages� would be soon washed up on the sands of Achill�s shores and the adjacent seas. I believe that there are few priests because people are not taught why we need priests and what a priest is, what the Mass is and ultimately what the church is and why it�s necessary. People think of a priest in terms of what he does and not of what he is. Until our bishops produce a very simple, modern and completely orthodox small catechism, which will contain a clear statement of what we are committed to as truths of faith and morals and enforce it in all Catholic schools, we are lost. This little catechism should contain the popular errors taught in the Irish Times and their answers. This can be done. One Corkman has done it. His name is Patrick O�Donoghue and he happens to be Bishop of Lancaster. He has woken up from a post-Vatican II dream and discovered that the Catholic Faith isn�t being taught and so he has produced Fit For Mission, which gives a pretty good outline of what should be taught in schools. It won�t be the cure-all, but he has made a big effort. Good English Catholics have been writing to him and congratulating him, because even if it�s not perfect it is a good beginning and it is on sale at the Knock bookshop.

An absence of theological and Catholic thinking can be seen in the furore about Archdeacon Dermot Dunne�s appointment to the deanery of Christchurch in Dublin. As far as I can see, the only priest who has written publicly stating that it is a calamity when any Catholic gives up his faith and even more when a priest abandons his priesthood, is a Fr John McCallion from the Primatial See of Armagh (genuflect at the mention of its name). Instead of all the �nice� talk about faith communities and faith journeys and personal fulfilment, Fr McCallion has broken ranks and dared to write like a Catholic. Despite what people say about change and ecumenism, the fact is that members of the Church of Ireland are not taught any definite or binding doctrine about anything, they do have dignified and beautiful worship and sometimes nice buildings. They are unlike Catholics who are taught very little about anything but don�t usually have either dignified worship or nice buildings. There is, of course, a clear body of Catholic doctrine and moral teaching, it�s just that nobody pays much attention to it.

I do hate �The Latin Mass�. By that I mean, the use of the name or adjective �Latin�. Let us be clear. There is the Novus Ordo Missae, the new Mass of Paul VI which can be said entirely in the vernacular or entirely or partly in Latin. Many people don�t realise this; it is possible, if you like dignity, Latin and dressing up to find churches, cathedrals and abbeys where they have the new Mass in Latin, said eastward facing, with Gregorian chant. The New [English] Mass is not a translation or version of the Old Latin Mass. It is, just that, a New Mass. Can we stop using the expression Latin Mass? It does sound snobbish,elitist and culturally divisive. We can say The Old Mass, the Traditional Mass. There is an Irish bishop who is convinced that Traditionalists fancy the old Mass because they are academics pretending to be better educated than others. This is true, I�m afraid. He thinks that they want to be better than other Catholics. We are not a language preservation society. Traditionalists are happier with the traditional and Tridentine Mass in Japanese rather than a done up Pauline Mass in Latin. Our arguments are theological and are based on Catholic theology and emphases that have been eliminated from the new rite. Most people never used a Missal nor did they actively dialogue the Mass and so they never really knew the doctrinal riches of the traditional Mass. Archbishop John Charles McQuaid wrote �Thankfully we have been spared the Dialogue Mass here� ; maybe if we had not and people knew their Mass, there would have been, as there was in France, a robust Catholic reaction in favour of the traditional Mass here in Ireland. As it is, hardly anybody knows that there are major differences between the two rites and what�s more, they�re not bothered.

How can I continue the uplifting and optimistic tone of this month�s article? We have the feast of St Benedict Joseph Labre, a lovely �little man� saint. He wanted to be a monk and everyone thought over and over again he was not at all the thing and asked him to go. He became a pilgrim, what the Russians call a �Fool for Christ� [maybe that�s why his feast is in April] and he dressed in smelly and grotty clothes. He went from shrine to shrine, eventually living in Rome. He was, I suppose, a little bit like Matt Talbot. He was so smelly his confessor heard his confession in the sacristy so as not mess up the box. He is the apostle of counter cultural dressing; the apostolate of not being well dressed. We do need to show people in this age of image and celebs. that it is not too important to be well dressed. It is not the important thing and yet we don�t need to emulate St Benedict Joseph Labre and be all flea infested; neat clean and decent are probably OK. It is good to see the variety of saints that the Lord provides. We do also, as I have written, have the sanctity and sanity of our homes. We can say or sing the Regina Caeli instead of the Angelus in the glorious season of Easter. There�s a treat on RTE Lyric every Sunday, with Tim Thurston�s Gloria programme, it really is a feast for the ears. Every Sunday in Easter tide is glorious and I often think of my fav [as the young say] story, the Road to Emmaus and it�s a good thing to think about when you are out for a walk. If you can get hold of that great Corkman Alfred O�Rahilly�s book Gospel Meditations, with good old +John Charles�s 1957 Imprimatur, it helps a great deal to grasp so many details of the Easter stories. Despite all the awful things that churchmen have done and are doing, we still have the Holy Presence of God, both really in our souls and brought home to us by the prayer of aspirations and holy actions. We can pray before a Cross or an Easter garden in our own homes and forget, for a time, the mad, mad world out there. A happy Easter-tide to all our readers.