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The Catholic connection: Part 2.

Upon hearing of our impending trip to Rome, our parish priest suggested we purchase the CTS booklet on Rome. So we did.  It s available at any parish book store or alternatively, it can be ordered online here.  What a gem!  It recommends starting a trip to Rome by visiting the ancient burial sites of the early Christians. We visited on the third day of our stay, starting out after breakfast and walking down passed the Colosseum, and onwards to the Circus Maximus.

Scale model of the Circus Maximus in Ancient Rome

This arena was the largest stadium in ancient Rome. At one point the Circus could seat 250.000 people, one quarter of Rome’s population. Contrary to the popular misconception that places the  scene of early persecutions of Christians in the nearby Colosseum, it was in the Circus Maximus that most convicted early Christians perished. As the Circus Maximus had more seating than the Colosseum, this popular spectacle was staged there.

Cicus Maximus as it is today.

Records indicate that only once did Christians face wild beasts in the Colosseum. Looking at what remains today of the stadium, I found difficult to picture the scenes of persecution that occurred there so many centuries ago. What I did sense though was a strange connection with my fellow Christians that I know for sure, had died there. My mind wandered to and fro as I contemplated and later prayed for these brave martyrs and saints! The grandeur of this site is an awesome phenomenon, much like the rest of Rome, exposing them as formidable opponents- doing everything in grand style, to perfection, with  flair and no mercy.

It was from this site that we set off to the find the Via Appia Antica (the Appian Way), one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient republic. It was on this long road that we were allowed to wonder about those that travelled the road daily to visit with fellow Christians at the catacombs of St. Callistus (Pope).

Porta San Sebastiano is the gate of the Appia in the Aurelian Walls.

About halfway to the Catacombs, we walked through the Gate of St. Sebastian and onwards for a further half an hour before coming upon

a seemingly insignificant little church on the left of the road.

The church is called Domine, Quo Vadis—an odd name for a church, until you hear the parable behind it.

Finding his way blocked by the specter of his Savior, a nervous and surprised Peter who had escaped his persecutors asked, “Domine, Quo Vadis?,” which is Latin for ‘Lord, where are you going?’

Christ replied, “To Rome, to be crucified a second time,” whereupon Jesus disappeared, leaving his footprints in the road’s flagstone as a sign (there’s a cast of them inside the church). A chastened Peter realized that Christ meant he was going to take the place of the weak-willed first pope and die, once again, for his faith. Peter turned around and returned to Rome to take his martyrdom like a man. (In fact, when it came to the moment, Peter gritted his teeth and told his executioners he was unworthy of being crucified in the same manner as his Lord and, in effect, asked them to “Do me upside down.” )

Image from 1catholicsalmon

In the stillness of this little chapel I contemplated the personality of a simple rough-shod, sunburned fisherman from Galilee facing a barbaric form of persecution for his love of Christ. For his belief in the importance of  perpetuating Christ’s message of Love;  The Church founded by Christ Himself.  What an immense sacrifice. Would I ever be able to do something this radical? I don’t know… I pray for the strength to carry the crosses put in my path with conviction and sincerity. St. Peter left his little town and all he loved and cherished for the one purpose given to him by our Lord Jesus: to build His Church. That took absolute of Faith. Absolute Trust. Enduring Love. St. Peter did this so that I may be blessed with Baptism and learn to love my God. Just too incredible for words. I am Blessed.

The preservation of the True Faith was uppermost in the early Christian Fathers‘ priorities. My link with them as a fellow Christian is tangible in Rome. It’s in the air, and this tangibility can be experienced through the Liturgy and in the Holy Eucharist  around the world on a daily basis without doubt.

My resolve as a Catholic was injected with a solid boost of understanding and conviction on the road to the resting place of hundreds of thousands of  Christians who died before me. The Catholic Connection welded firmly into time and space.

A fish out of water.

Today I experienced an alienation from the society in which I live. It was made clear to me in no uncertain terms. Crystal clear!

My staunch commitment to the Truth, cultured by Catholic Social Teaching and the adherence to Tradition which in turn supports and bears the weight of the Catholic dogma underpinning the of Dignity of the human (from conception to natural death) was challenged in its totality.

In this instance, I was surrounded by twenty or so professionals from different agencies who work towards an integrated approach in order to protect children and young adults who may be considered ‘at risk’ . Social workers, health visitors, managers in the education field, pastoral workers and teachers, to name but a few. This group yielded an interesting mix of  rich and varied opinions,  providing a wide learning platform that united us in our ultimate aim: to work towards early intervention in the lives of children and young people in an assured way with the understanding of the importance of sharing relevant information between our agencies consistently. So far so good.

Much of the day was impregnated with the legalities surrounding sharing information in relation to the Data Protection Act, The Children’s Act, the Human Rights Act, and not forgetting, the EU Bill of Human Rights. As professional people dealing with issues that arise from our work, we need to be up to speed with all this , in order to protect ourselves as well as the institutions in which we work, but most importantly, the children’s and families rights with whom  we interact.

The challenge for me arose towards the end of the day, when we were presented with a case study. I will highlight only a few of the issues that were contentious for me as a practising Catholic Christian.

  • Two teenagers aged 12 and 14 years of age engage in ‘consensual’, unprotected sex.
  • The distraught 12-year-old girl approaches the Pastoral Carer at her Secondary school asking for advice on what to next,  as she doesn’t want a baby.
  • She does not want to disclose this information to her parents. (No mention was made of the other human participant in this sexual act, other than his involvement in the act!!)

As the outline of the case study unfolded, my whole being sensed the reverberation of the negative consequences of the secular, English society in which I have chosen to live.

Here are some of the observations I made not only from this case-study, but also from the immediate and impassioned responses from my colleagues: a lack of conscience regarding the role of  the parental right to know about what’ s happening in their daughter or son’s lives,  although to be fair, within the constraints of the Data Protection Act, they were responding ‘appropriately’; the total lack of respect for a possible human life that may have been created by this union, concentrating suggestions wholly on getting the girl to a health visitor where she would be prescribed the morning after pill, (without parental consent!!); focussing directly on information targeted at ‘educating’ the girl on existing birth control options rather than highlighting the best option of remaining sexually inactive as the safest birth control measure. Not only does this option rule out the possibility of contracting STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases which soon proved to be the next biggest concern for the group) but it’s a sure way of allowing yourself to develop in the  understanding of your body and emotional self, as a still growing and developing person. This was really an eye-opener for me. I realised just how much I have been sheltered from the reality of secular decision-making, having worked mainly in a Catholic environment for majority of my adult working life.

These issues were raised as a matter of course and I could see  they are here to stay. No longer is Faith in God resonant in the fabric of this society. Perhaps, maybe in name only, but not in other tangible everyday situations where informed decisions matter the most.

I left contemplating my options if I were ever to be in the shoes of the pastoral advisor  in this case study. I would have to tread very carefully indeed. I would most definitely not accompany the girl to the health facility  that would offer the morning after pill, and I suppose I would opt for the ‘easy’ way out and refer her on to another member of staff that would spout the secular blurb with little more than a bat of an eyelid.

In a more positive light, I would be interested in reviewing the social and emotional programme/s offered at the school with the view to suggesting additional options be made available to the young people. I would work doggedly on the improvement of self-appreciation and self-worth of those attending the school. Of course, this is wishful thinking, and I hope never to be put into a situation such as this.

In God only do I trust. Who knows what lies ahead of me on my journey of Faith?