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Christian, remember your dignity

Christ our Saviour is born.

Christ The Saviour is born.

Herewith and excerpt from a wonderful Christmas homily of Pope St. Leo the Great: (Catholic Online)

Christian, remember your dignity 
Dearly beloved, today our Saviour is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all. Let the saint rejoice as he sees the palm of victory at hand. Let the sinner be glad as he receives the offer of forgiveness. Let the pagan take courage as he is summoned to life. In the fullness of time, chosen in the unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom, the Son of God took for himself our common humanity in order to reconcile it with its creator. He came to overthrow the devil, the origin of death, in that very nature by which he had overthrown mankind. 
And so at the birth of our Lord the angels sing in joy: 

Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to men of good will as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world. When the angels on high are so exultant at this marvellous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men? 

Beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit, because in his great love for us he took pity on us, and when we were dead in our sins he brought us to life with Christ, so that in him we might be a new creation. Let us throw off our old nature and all its ways and, as we have come to birth in Christ, let us renounce the works of the flesh. 

Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom. 

Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ. 

Cathy Pease Designs

The Mystery of Suffering: How Should I Respond?

In the past two weeks Great Britain has been privy to the devastating mental and physical suffering endured by  Tony Nicklinson, 58, who had unsuccessfully sought permission from the High Court in England to end his life with the help of a Doctor. He wanted to end his ‘dull, miserable, demeaning, undignified and intolerable’ life after he was left paralysed below the neck following a stroke seven years ago.  Mr. Nicklinson wept uncontrollably after the judgment and said it meant his anguish would continue.  It has haunted me and remains at the forefront of my thoughts.

His experience has left me thinking about what life has in store for me and how I would cope if I were faced with a disability such as his. This kind of life story is one which will make us all think.

Never in human history has suffering been more readily relieved than today. And yet, paradoxically, we have never been more afraid of suffering.

Our forebears would find this very odd. For them, horrendous suffering was ubiquitous, the bane of rich and poor alike. For example, before anesthesia, the agony of surgery may have killed more patients than surgical procedures helped. As Thomas Dormandy put it in his splendid medical history, The Worst of EvilsThe Fight Against Pain, “the searing pain of knife and saw” almost always caused patients to fall “into a state of shock on the operating table . . . Speed was essential. Prolonged pain not only hurt. It also killed.” No wonder John Adams, after witnessing the searing agony of his daughter’s one-and-a-half hour mastectomy, said he felt “as if he were living in the Book of Job.”

Pain was an integral part of life: If a man suffered appendicitis, he died in agony. If a man contracted bone cancer, he died in agony. If a man became infected with tuberculosis, he died in agony. Then there were the non-terminal illnesses and injuries like gout, carbuncles, migraines, arthritis, and broken limbs. Suffering was the hard price one paid for being alive.

Happily, those bad old days are mostly long gone, at least in the developed world. Thanks to tremendous breakthroughs in modern medicine, suffering has been pushed largely into the shadows. Surgeries no longer kill from the pain. Hospice and palliative care offer tremendous relief for even the most painful chronic and terminal diseases. The problem today isn’t primarily one of preventing agony, but rather, our sometimes inadequate delivery of efficacious and timely palliation. (Quoted from First Things)

Suffering surrounds us. Mental and physical illness, poverty and starvation, wars and violence of all kinds overwhelm individuals, communities, entire nations. We ourselves experience suffering. It might be broken relationships and alienated families, accidents and disease, failed dreams or boring jobs, in dying and death. How many people suffer from addictions, abuse and other forms of violence! Suffering is a Mystery. It cannot be explained outright because each individual case of suffering is unique to the sufferer. These responses are as equally unique to person going through the suffering. Although we humans often try to escape suffering, the truth is that suffering is an important part of life.

In times of crisis, we have to intentionally exercise our faith, purposely and courageously reminding ourselves that God’s ultimate purpose is to bring each person into a deeper and deeper communion with Himself. This communion begins and grows here on earth, but it reaches its fulfillment only in Heaven. The battles, struggles, sorrows, and often horrible sufferings we face on our earthly pilgrimage are inescapable in a fallen world; but God, far from being absent in the midst of them, has transformed them into channels of grace, gymnasiums of virtue, and bridges to greater wisdom, mercy, and spiritual maturity.


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?