After the Eclipse

Torch of The Faith News on Friday 20 July 2018 - 10:15:35 | by admin

We all took our evening meal in picnic form with us to Crosby Beach last night and opened the sliding side doors of our vehicle, in order to get a decent sea breeze running through on such a hot and sunny evening.

After eating together, I went for a ''time out'' walk alone, along the grassed area, looking out to sea, again. In the 19th-Century, a First Lord of the Admiralty suggested that, on a good day, the views from this place were second only to the Bay of Naples, and it was such a balmy evening that it would have been easy to agree with his assessment last night.

I sat down on a bench to start praying the Rosary in the baking sunshine, when I suddenly spotted a majestic cruise ship making her regal way out to the mouth of the River Mersey. At that range, she perfectly dwarfed both the radar station at Waterloo and the massive Dome of Home church of the ICKSP on the opposite headland at Birkenhead.

At that point, I did not know the name of the vast ship and reminded myself, as I've done before, that I should check the lists of sailing times, and always bring my camera, before setting off for the beach.

Even as I was thinking these things, it became clear that the vast liner was so enormous, that it was going to actually obscure the view across the river to the Dome of Home; and this, even though that church is itself so tall and so close to the horizon on the Wirral streetscape.

Like so many things these days, this caused me to reflect on the events in the Church.

In the first instance, it called to mind the various prophecies, which speak of the True Church being eclipsed by a false ''church'', to such an extent that it will appear to have disappeared altogether.

So swiftly was the ship cutting through the water, that it was not long before her bow and forward decks began to block out the Dome of Home, as expected; now looking tiny nestled atop her hill of close-knit streets.

How modern and sophisticated the cruiser looked at this angle, with her resplendent white paint scheme, streamlined nose and bows jutting purposefully like a chiselled jawline. There was even a fancy heli-pad out front there, beneath the sun-glinted windows of her rakish forward decks. 

I knew I should have brought my camera, I thought to myself.

Remembering the prophecies of the Eclipse, as the Dome disappeared from view, I thought of how the ''nu-church'' had obscured the Barque of Peter in recent decades; a vast, dazzling and trendy superstructure, cutting away from the past and attracting the nodding acceptance of the post-modern world.

As the ship's angle changed, she began to seem a little less elegant; perhaps even a little ungainly. Don't get me wrong, for such a gigantic vessel, she still provoked amazement regarding her ability to manoeuvre with such finesse. If Jonathan Swift could have thought of a speedboat for Gulliver to wash up in Lilliput, this could have been it. It's just that, from that angle and proximity, the countless grey looking windows, running back along the ship's starboard beam, began to take on the appearance of an enormous, wide and long high-rise apartment building. It was no longer the ship's shape, but the sheerness of her proportions which impressed.

Measuring 122,000 gross tonnage and with double-occupancy room for up to 2,852 passengers, plus crew, perhaps this should be no surprise to us.

Still, that angled side-view began to remind me of that theme of the eclipse again.

How the post-modern world had rapidly tired of the ''nu-church'' and its ever more crazy gesticulating to gain attention; a bit like an embarrasing older relative weaving on the dance floor at a family wedding. Remember those? Family weddings, I mean! The more the ''nu-church'' had seemed to be just like the world itself, the more the world had become bored and discontented with it. ''Nu-church'' had promised much, but ended up being just a bit too impersonal, even a little clinical. Her initial dazzle had given way to homogeneity. When the church is so like the world, then why would people choose to give up the world? ''Nu-church'' just did not seem to satisfy that inner longing for goodness, beauty and truth, which lies at the heart of every person in all ages. Only God's Truth can fill that need, can soothe that ache, can slake that thirst.

And with that the huge ship was past.

And all of a sudden the Dome of Home was still there in the evening sunshine. Standing there so redolent of Catholic Tradition, the church looked the very picture of that Beacon of Hope, which Bishop Mark Davies had described her as when he launched the church as a shrine of the ICKSP. A sort of spiritual lighthouse, if you will.

The post-modern had come and gone, the Church had been eclipsed but had then returned; revealing that, in all truth, she had never gone away anywhere in the first place. Firmly anchored to the Rock of Peter, it only seems for a moment that she has left us. Obscured, yes, hard to see, certainly, but still as surely and soundly there as is a mountain hidden by thick fog.

Blow me down if I didn't chuckle when the ship came closer along the coast and, through the haze of heat, I spotted her name emblazoned in big blue letters down her starboard bow.

Celebrity Eclipse...

''Eclipse'' - yes, that was really her name!

And ''Celebrity'' to boot.

I thanked God for this amusing little turn out and began to walk along the coast parallel to the vessel as it slid gracefully through the glassy sea; which stretched between sand and ship like a ruffled and steel coloured sheet, all glittering and merry with sun-sparkled diamonds.

Beyond the ship, a heat haze was obscuring the Welsh hills in the far distance; causing their lower halves to be obscured in a pale-blue, at times almost white, curtain, and allowing their upper reaches to be seen only as traces of feint bluish-grey against the light blue July sky of evening.

So rapid was the Celebrity Eclipse's movement that, before long she was turning out into sun-painted golden waters of the Irish Sea. The ship looked impressive again from this angle, with the rear and stepped forward decks at her stern giving her a lean and purposeful, ''go faster!'' look. That is quite remarkable when you think of the sheer scale of this hulking great ocean-going liner. Impressive indeed.

Bon Voyage, big ship!

As she became somehow ghostly-looking in the evening haze, I reflected that, just for a minute, the Celebrity Eclipse had seemed to resurrect the spirit of those glory days of Liverpool's maritime past. As she sailed away into the evening horizon, one remembered the stories of the White Star Line, the old movies of the busy docks, reports of the clatter of hammers on metal and books about views from the overhead railway, (the ''ovie'' in Scouse parlance). Of course, the frequent arrival and departure of such cruisers these days, and the immense cargo traffic going through the deep docks of Liverpool 2, now mean that the city is in many ways as buzy as she ever was. Still, it was a special moment seeing that beautiful big ship gliding across the Liverpudlian bay.

As I walked along, I passed an elderly fella in a baseball cap. He was looking wistfully out to sea and one could only imagine what memories he was drawing on. 

So easily distracted as I still am, I picked up with the Rosary again. At this, I turned to look back across to the Dome of Home and remembered the Real Presence of Our Blessed Lord on the High Altar in that noble old church.

That church which has come through so much: homecoming landmark to returning sailors during the Battle of the Atlantic; huge marker during the hottest fiery nights of the Luftwaffe's Blitz on Merseyside; years of Masses, confessions, weddings, funerals, processions, silent prayers; controversy and closure; lying dormant in the lean times; and its simply amazing resurrection as a popular, and life-giving, centre for the Traditional Liturgy and Eucharistic Adoration, in our own times. Yes, Ss Peter, Paul and Philomena, the Dome of Home church on the Wirral peninsula, has seen it all; and is still standing tall to tell the tale to yet another generation.

That proud church looked somehow homely now; nestled on the skyline, like a glazed honey pot on a cluttered shelf. Rotund and chummy, there was almost something maternal about her. A bit like your mother when a boisterous carnival has passed, ''Alright now, let's get the kettle on, luv!'' And normality returns. 

I like to think that this is how it will be when the eclipse of the Church finally passes. Eclipses, let us remember, do always pass. And certainly, those prophecies say it will be so with this one. And if they were so right about the coming of the eclipse, something which no one could have thought possible at the time they were given, then how can we doubt that they will also be right about its going away again? 

Of course, our job is to remain faithful in prayer and fidelity to the Truth in the meantime. The war is really already won by Our Blessed Lord, it is a case of both convincing the enemy that it is over, and of remaining on the winning side. 

Or of getting on it, if we are not already there! 

When the dust finally settles on the present, unprecedented, crisis, Holy Mother the Church will still be there, doing business as usual, as she always has, always is and always will be. 

A Beacon of Hope to a passing world. 

Bon Voyage, Big Ship! 

Ss Peter, Paul and Philomena - Pray for us!

In Defence of Christ's Brides

Torch of The Faith News on Thursday 19 July 2018 - 12:47:33 | by admin

Taking forward the conclusion in yesterday's article on the monasteries, I really think that there needs to be a robust defence made in the Church of contemplative religious life in general, the convents in the Diocese of Freising-Munich in particular and also all of the consecrated virgins throughout the world, who have given themselves faithfully as Brides of Christ in the Church.

Although obscured by so much propaganda and effete behaviour these days, it remains, in the natural order, a key role of men to protect women; so I'm raising my voice here in the defence of those hundreds of Brides of Christ throughout the world. Having met a few of them, between Ireland and America, I feel a particular responsibility to speak for these graceful ladies.

Did ever an age have more need of the chaste witness, and also the hidden interior life in Christ, of these good women, than does ours?

Today, our post-modern society is absolutely saturated with images and ideologies gravely at odds with the holy virtues of chastity, purity and virginity; especially that virginity which is consecrated to Christ for the Kingdom.

How terribly truly have those words of Our Lady of Fatima, to little St. Jacinta, been fulfilled in our age: ''Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend Our Lord very much.'' How terrifying, especially in these times of wanton lust, are those other words of Our Lady, issued again at Fatima: ''Most souls go to Hell, because of the sins of the flesh.''

Even the Church has become engulfed with this filthy slurry.

How dreadfully the sacred priesthood has become liberally peppered with active homosexuals, ephebophiles and pederasts. Consider for a moment those many characters who have abused their power, Theodore McCarrick-style, to persecute, isolate and soil the innocent, whilst adding ever more intricate layers of control to their sordid empires right in the heart of Christ's sanctuary; thus draining the life of the Church Militant like so many blood-sucking leeches.

This week, we now even hear of this soft lad prancing around sacrilegiously, with the full approval of the new parish priest, wearing nowt but a flesh-coloured, skin tight garment, as he prances across the very sanctuary of the Moritzkirche, during Mass in Augsburg.

And this in the land that gave the world Blessed Clemens August Graf von Galen?

I think it was St. John Vianney who said that, to the impure person, everything comes to be viewed through the jaundiced eyes of impurity. Even the things of religion. And those who most resemble Christ become detestable in the sight of those who fix their hearts on impurity and dominance of other people. How else to explain all these stomach-turning invasions of God's sacred sanctuary?

When even the secular Telegraph begins to announce, ''Consecrated virgins need not be virgins, says Vatican'', then you know you have to speak out; if only to support those countless Catholics who have to endure the probing questions and infantile sniggering at the workplace water-cooler.

It was the same in July 2014, when Francis suggested something that led the UK's Metro paper - a daily which is distributed freely to hundreds of thousands of Brits, via trains, buses, transport hubs, hospitals and even on the streets - to proclaim on its front page: ''1 in 50 Priests is a Pervert Says Pope!'' Someone had to speak out on behalf of the faithful clergy and of all those who would read this inaccurate and nightmarish accusation.

However sensationalised such headlines appear, they nevertheless do convey the heart of what Francis has said. And such headlines will remain lingering in the cultural and individual subconscious for a very long time after all those free papers have been recycled...

You've likely read by now, how the US Association of Consecrated Virgins reacted to Francis' latest unprecedented feat, by describing their shock and deep disappointment with his newly minted document Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago.

From a Catholic perspective, their words are important.

For example, the US consecrated virgins state: ''The entire tradition of the Church has firmly upheld that a woman must have received the gift of virginity - that is, both material and formal (physical and spiritual) - in order to receive the consecration of virgins.''

There was an important article about all of this at LifeSiteNews, from which, and other places, I gleaned three major concerns regarding Francis' latest breach with Catholic tradition. (By this stage, if not long before, and I know it is not good practice, but I have to confess that I no longer actually have the will to read Francis' own words in the original...).

Anyway, it seems from the general critique by various authors that three key concerns, raised by consecrated virgins, canon lawyers and other informed observers, include the following:-

1. Francis suggests that consecrated virgins no longer need to be virgins.

2. Francis suggests that the reception of the vows of a consecrated virgin, need no longer be received by a bishop, but may now be delegated ''in cases of grave necessity.''

3. Francis suggests that women can somehow be freed from their vows of consecrated virginity at a later stage, under certain circumstances.

Given the radical nature of every one of those three bullet-pointed themes, one wonders if it would not be more appropriate to conclude each of them with an exclamation mark.

Indeed, even a well catechised kid would be able to tell you that, both individually and especially when taken together, these three bombshells cut the very heart out from the vocation of the consecrated virgin; who is called to be a virgin, who gives her whole life, by making permanent vows through her bishop, to become a Bride of Christ, in the heart of the Church, for eternity.

No wonder some consecrated virgins, the great international majority of whom were not even consulted before Francis released this document, have begun to say that their order of consecrated virgins no longer exists.

Surely anyone can see that even natural marriage between an ordinary man and a woman would be invalidated by such a ''get-out clause'' as suggested by concern number 3, listed above?

What does all that say and do to faith in Christ? Or to committment? Or, in fact, to natural marriage itself? Is this another Amoris Laetitia moment; only this time doing for consecrated virginity what that did for holy matrimony?

I don't see how any truly Catholic man could ever hear of this stuff and not feel urged to stand up strongly for the underlying concept of consecrated virginity itself; nor for the plight of the many consecrated virgins themselves.

And no true man would tolerate anyone trying to mess with his own bride.

Therefore, and hopefully in all charity, I do hope and pray that Francis refrains from pursuing this course.

After all, Our Lord Jesus Christ is True Man...

... And True God.
So, to paraphrase ''Mr. T'', I'd pity the fool who tried to mess with His Brides!

Our Lady, Virgin and Mother - Pray for us!

There are Still Catholic Priests! Fr. Mark Morris Booted from Glasgow Caledonian University

Torch of The Faith News on Thursday 19 July 2018 - 11:27:32 | by admin

The Few, the Brave: Fr. Mark Morris with His Eminence, Cardinal Raymond Burke.

Fr. Mark Morris, a parish priest who promotes the Traditional Latin Mass and supports the homeless from his parish of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Glasgow, is being booted from his role as Catholic chaplain at Glasgow Caledonian University.

This is because, in response to the thousands who gathered with Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Glasgow on Saturday, to take part in the annual ''Gay Pride'' event, Fr. Morris held a prayer service, which, in the words of the BBC report, sought ''reparation for the gross offence to God which is Pride Glasgow.''

The university has issued a statement suggesting that it is now working with the Archdiocese of Glasgow to find another chaplain for September.

The statement concludes: ''The university is strongly inclusive and committed to supporting equality and diversity on campus.''

Erm, unless, of course, you happen to be Fr. Mark Morris!

Ah, the wonders of natural logic...

It was Mark Twain who remarked that it was a curious fact that physical courage was so common, whilst moral courage was so rare.

Please say a prayer for Fr. Mark Morris. He has proved to the world that, even in these times, there are still Catholic priests. And courageous ones at that. May Our Lady keep him safe in Her Immaculate Heart. 

Immaculate Heart of Mary - pray for us!      

Merry Olde Wales - Cymer Abbey

Torch of The Faith News on Wednesday 18 July 2018 - 19:30:05 | by admin

The remains of Cymer Abbey today: in typical Cistercian fashion, it stands in an isolated location in a secluded valley. In contrast to today's society, it is the kind of place you'd like to call home!

During our recent vacation in Wales, we managed to spend some time at Cymer Abbey, near the ancient village of Llanelltyd, and just northwest of Dolgellau. The name of the place can be spelt variously as Cymer or Cymmer, but in the interests of consistency, we will write of it here as Cymer.

The Cistercian abbey of St. Mary at Cymer was never a large or wealthy house, but it did have a long history.

In fact, the General Chapter at Citeaux received requests to build an abbey for the order, in both 1198 and 1199 AD, from a local prince of North Wales; a leader described as 'Grifin'.

Two extant versions of the ancient Brut y Tywysogion, (the Chronicle of the Welsh Princes), report the foundation of Cymer Abbey: the first speaks of a community coming there from Cwmhir Abbey; the second version suggests that it was the community from Cwmhir. Historians speculate that this may suggest that political instability led to the temporary removal of the entire Cwmhir community to Cymer.

In any case, although no foundation charter survives for Cymer, there is an extant confirmation charter of Llywelyn ab lorwerth; a cousin of the founder. In 1209, this affirmed the original endowment made by Gruffud ap Cynan, Lord of Meirionydd.

I love how that sounds like someone straight out of Tolkien's, Lord of the Rings!

Cymer was established on the eastern bank of the River Mawddach, near to its confluence with the River Wnion. Appropriately enough then, 'Cymer' means 'meeting of the waters'. I know I've already used this next picture recently, but it is so evocative of the peace of the place, that I thought it worthwhile including again. You could stand there and drink it in all day, really!
As I've said before, the present bridge is thought to date to the second quarter of the 18th-Century. However, records prove that there was a much earlier bridge near the site as early as the 1400's.

There are many places in the the UK and beyond in Europe, where local monasteries constructed and maintained bridges to facilitate local travel and commerce.

Cymer's proximity to these rivers gave the original monks fishing rights and access to the Irish Sea; thus facilitating communications with other monasteries and with the international trade in wool. As the Cistercians were expert sheep farmers, Cymer's location had much to recommend it.

In his expert study, Architecture of Solitude - Cistercian Abbeys in 12th-Century England, Peter Fergusson describes how local patrons gained both spiritual and temporal benefits from the endowment of a Cistercian monastery. Although his book deals with the situation in England, there are sufficient commonalities with that in Wales at the same time. And so, the primary benefit to a local patron, English or Welsh, would have been the Masses and prayers offered in perpetuity for the salvation of their souls, for those of their descendants and for their temporal welfare. In that second instance, the endowment of a Cistercian monastery - something which was often cheaper to accomplish than those of other orders due to their insistence on poverty, simplicity and preferred choice of settlements in isolated valleys - would also bring local feudal lords access to new farming techniques and, importantly, an opening to the great sources of power in both Rome and Citeaux. In a place like Wales, with troubles from Kings of England, that could be a particularly helpful benefit at certain times.

If you are at all interested in Cistercian history, an author worth consulting is Janet Burton, Professor of Medieval History at Trinity, St. David at Lampeter, in Wales. Her book, The Cistercians in the Middle Ages - which was co-written with Julie Kerr and forms part of a series of books by various authors on the major religious orders in those times - provides an interesting, scholarly and largely sympathetic treatment of Cistercian history. I have also found Prof. Janet Burton's other text, a scholarly guide and comprehensive gazetteer called Abbeys and Priories of Medieval Wales, (this time co-written with Karen Stober of the University of Lleida, Catalunya), to be an absolutely invaluable resource during sojourns into Wales.

Professors Burton and Stober speculate that Cymer's proximity to the coast, combined with the aforementioned and typical closeness to the local feudal lord, may actually have brought not only commerical benefits to Cymer, but also political troubles. 

As we've already established, Cymer was never a large or wealthy house, and it certainly looks to have suffered during times of social upheaval and war.
The plan of Cymer (depicted here with the alternative spelling of Cymmer) as it would have been when built. The community's poverty and paucity of numbers seem to have precluded the construction of the originally intended, and much more typically Cistercian, cruciform church. It is even possible that the West range of the claustral complex was never constructed either. Note the unusual tower at the west end of the church; and then see its remains in the second photograph below.

One of the more unhappy themes which crops up frequently in the histories of a number of the Welsh monasteries, most especially those closer to the disputed border with England, is the fact of damage and destruction being visited on them by opposing solidiers, or even just mobs of opposing feudal lords during periods of instability.

In 1241, still fairly early in Cymer's initial decades of growth, King Henry III's troops inflicted damage on the monastic buildings at Cymer. It seems amazing to modern ears to hear of Christian kings, often having founded monastic settlements of their own, permitting such evil acts. Such is the state of fallen human nature! More positively, the chronicles and records show kings at times making financial donations and gifts of reparation to monasteries in the years following such terrible attacks.

The records of the General Chapter at Citeaux report that, during the very year of the damage done by King Henry III's men to Cymer, the Cistercian leaders were so concerned at the reduced state of the place, that they considered dispersing Cymer's monks.

In the event, this does not appear to have been resorted to. However, in 1274, Abbot Llywelyn was finding himself too financially hard pressed to attend that year's General Chapter, until he was loaned some funds by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the latest in the line of Lords of Meirionydd.

There's that splendid Lord of the Rings sound again!

Lord Llywelyn actually made Cymer his base of operations in 1275, and again in 1279. However, it was the English King who made his regal headquarters there, during his Welsh campaigns, in 1283!

For all its troubles, the abbey was compensated with the sum of £80. However, when Pope Nicholas IV's Taxatio ecclesiastica, made its official enquiry into the taxable assets of all religious houses in 1291, Cymer's income was valued at just over £23.       
The claustral ranges are no longer extant at Cymer, however their plan remains helpfully marked out in stone. This view looks towards the church from the south-western corner of the cloister complex. In the black and white plan image further above, that would be situated in the bottom left hand corner of the cloister square.

By 1379, just four monks were still trying to live the Cistercian life at Cymer. I say ''trying to'' as it would have been difficult for such a low number to maintain the daily monastic horarium and to run the buildings and land. Cistercian statues from the era called for a community of twelve men with a prior and additional lay brothers. Later, in the mid-15th-Century, the income at Cymer fell so low that the monastery needed to be taken into royal custody a couple of times.

As the caption to the plan image of the monastery's buildings mentions above, this paucity of members and poverty of income caused Cymer's original building plans to be somewhat curtailed.

Colin Platt, a thorough historian of the Middle Ages, and former chair of Medieval History at Southampton University, notes that the wars in Wales caused Cymer to lack both the originally intended, and far more typically Cistercian, presbytery and crossing of what, would then have been, a cruciform church. Indeed, unable to complete their building on the model of many larger Cistercian houses of the period, Cymer's community had to worship in the lay brethrens' choir; this was more normally a separate area.

It also seems probable that the construction of the west claustral range, the usual preserve of the lay brethren, was omitted altogether. In larger houses, it was the lay brethren who not only occupied the west claustral ranges and western end of the nave of the cruciform churches, but who also carried out the bulk of the manual and agricultural labour. This was one aspect which had made the Cistercians such a driving force in monastic growth and reform in these lands.

As our pictures show, in spite of the cruel Henrician depradations of the 16th-Century, and the centuries of decay which have passed since then, there are sufficient remains of Cymer to allow inspection, reflection and even silent prayer.

Aside from a helpful illustrated sign giving a brief overview, there is not much interpretive data at the site today. However, with sufficient wider reading, and the help of Professors Burton and Stober's handy gazetteer, one can piece together the basic set up which would have been established and handed on for centuries at Cymer Abbey.

The gazetteer confirms Colin Platt's theory, itself reliant on a key text called simply (by the alternative spelling) Cymmer Abbey, written in 1946, by C.A. Ralegh Radford, that the church was never completed with its initially projected transepts to make a cruciform plan.

Their gazetteer points out that this also meant that a planned central tower was never implemented. However, it also speaks of an unusual western tower being added in its place.  
On the day that we visited, I took this photograph looking skywards through, what I took to be, the remains of that western tower. Certainly, this was present in the western end of the remains of the central church.

Towers were originally heavily restricted in the earliest statutes of the Cistercians, due to the order's theological and mystical desire for simplicity. As the centuries progressed, Cistercian towers did creep in; eventually culminating in the kind of architectural wonder presented, around 1500 AD, by Abbot Huby's magnificent tower at the once-wealthy Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire.
A quick aside to show you Abbot Huby's great tower at Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire. We visited the enormous remains of Fountains in April, 2012; in order to renew our wedding vows at the site of the old High Altar, on our 10th wedding anniversary.

Although Cymer was a poor and small monastic community, the monks still managed to construct a reasonably sized church, with an aisled nave. This next image was taken standing in the northern aisle looking towards the eastern end of the aisle and church.
A neat thing to notice here, is how, in the present day, an arch has been formed in the trees on the valley side above the church, due to a clearing which has been kept to allow electricity lines to come down that side of the valley. As you probably know, this kind of setting in an isolated valley, often close to healthy woodland and river systems, is a classical hallmark of the typical Cistercian monastic settlement.

Colin Platt suggests that, being constructed on a small scale, the choir monks at Cymer would, unusually, have worshipped in the lay brethren's choir.

Moving through the extant medieval arches, we enter the church proper and stand here looking to the east end of the church. Notice the three fine and tall, but simply executed, Lancet windows. Being a poor house, it seems that Cymer did not develop the structure with the kind of splendid tracery which eventually crept into and replaced the simple architecture of the wealthier houses.   
Other things worth noticing, include, what looks to me to have been the original sanctuary piscina niche, in the south-eastern corner, (to the right of the eastern window wall, but to the left of the arched doorway in the picture), and also some blind arcading to the right of the far doorway.

I always like to try and imagine where the original High Altar would have stood in these ancient monastic sites. Here we have moved in slightly closer towards the sanctuary end of the remains of the ancient church.  
After taking this photograph, I moved right on in to where the Altar seemed most likely to have stood. I prayed there in silence for a while. Although there is a working farm next to the site, and a small holiday camp to the other side, there is a pleasant peace at Cymer Abbey anyway. Nevertheless, the peace that came when praying in that east end was intense. It is amazing to think of the Holy Mass and Divine Office being offered, right there by dedicated monks, on so many days, through all those centuries from the foundation in 1198, right through to the Henrician suppression in 1538. That means that a lot of grace came down in that place, and for a very long time. No wonder it remains peaceful to this day to those who stop to pray, listen and sense interiorly in the silence.
Here is a close-up of that blind arcading close to the sanctuary area. It has stood up reasonably well to centuries of the sometimes testing weather in the Snowdonia region. The site is owned and looked after today by Cadw, the Welsh governing body of protected sites.
The remains of this fine archway would originally have linked the church through to the cloister and claustral complex, to the south of the church. On the grass just beyond, the stones marking out the lines of the cloister can be seen. That claustral complex of buildings would have been centred on this cloister and would have included the chapter house, refectory and dormitory. Larger houses eventually built their refectories on a north-south axis, but it seems that Cymer's was in the east-west axis; something that had been typical in many places early in the Cistercian expansion, but had been superseded as the houses of the order gained more members and resources. 
The standing arches at Cymer are fantastic and it is incredible to think of their historical provenance. In the present day, it is refreshing to stand there and look up to the trees on the surrounding hills. 
Here is an interesting set of archways; through which one can stand and wonder what might have once been, and indeed what could be again some day.

If you know anything about Cistercian history, you will know that they were experts at land clearance and water management techniques. At Fountains in Yorkshire, one can still see how the monks canalised the River Skell and constructed their kitchens, refectory, dormitory and infirmary in such a way as to make use of the rapidly moving waters for cleaning and drainage. Some Cistercians were also talented makers of ornate taps which fed channelled water into troughs for washing etc.

As with so many things, Cymer's use of water was rather more modest. However, if you look back to the plan near the top of this article, and compare it to the following photograph, it is still possible to see how the original drainage fed straight through under the refectory and reredorter (dormitory).   
Here we are to the south of the claustral complex plan looking westwards along the brook. Notice the stones of the old plan of the monastic site crossing the brook. That's our silver wheelchair adapted vehicle in the distance!

You'll also notice the farm house to the right. I've mentioned that Cymer is on the edge of a working farm today. Professors Burton and Stober point out that the extensively restored farm house to the west of the site preserves timber from what was probably an impressive hall. This has been dated to 1441 or soon after by the process of dendro-chronology. As such, the original hall could have been an abbot's lodging, or maybe a guesthouse.

In the early days of the Cistercian reform in the UK, the abbot slept in a niche, or separate room, close to the dormitory. However, as abbeys grew wealthy through land management and agriculture, their abbots became more and more powerful as landowners, and thus increased in temporal status in a way parallel to local feudal lords. To match their heightened status, they constructed ever more ornate lodges at the edge of the monastic sites.

These lodges, which in one or two places had actaully reached the grandeur and scale of mansions by the 16th-Century, were used to entertain important guests and benefactors.

Of course, as we have reflected here many times, the monastic world came to an abrupt and cruel end in the 1530's, when King Henry VIII suppressed all of the 800 or so monasteries which were still functioning at that time. Thus bringing to an end a whole empire of prayer, adoration, thanksgiving, intercession; as well as a world of social ordering expressed through the giving of the sacraments, kind acts of charity to pilgrims and travellers, care of the sick and dying, provision of food and supplies to the poor, offering of education, provision of security for deeds, documents and money, and management of land, water and commerical interests.

It is interesting to notice how the attack on the monasteries, and the essential monastic prayer that issued from them, came from without in the 16th-Century.

In our day, after almost five further centuries of associated religio-cultural deformation, the attack on the always-vital monastic life is now coming from within.

One only needs to test the truth of this by witnessing Francis' persecution of the once flourishing FFI's; his recent moves against the nature and living out of female religious life; the latest demotion of Consecrated Virginity, by suggesting that even non-virgins can now be such, allowing for non-bishops to be delegated the reception of their vows, as well as claiming that consecrated virgins can now somehow be released from their vows at a later date; and by looking at Cardinal Reinhard Marx's despicable destruction of conventual life, even against the wills of the female religious, in the areas of his claimed jurisdiction.

I've said before that, although it is possible to overstate the case, there really was once a merry olde medieval world, which developed as the fruit of a genuinely Catholic Christendom.

Having already and rhetorically asked here before, whether the UK was ever so merry again after our nation lost the Catholic Faith, let us conclude with some moving words from the end of Colin Platt's engaging book, The Abbeys and Priories of Medieval England. Whilst including quotes with the spelling from old English, it also gives food for thought in terms of the present-day depredations which have been described above; depredations which need to be resisted.

''In the meantime, though, a sense of desolation had developed. Shakespeare writes of those 'bare, ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang'; Donne of the winds which 'in our ruin'd Abbayes rore'. In humbler but no less poignant vein, Francis Trigge would report in 1589: 'Many do lament the pulling downe of abbayes. They say it was never merie world since.'''
Well, I say we need to make the Church and the world merry once again: Stand up for the true nature of religious life and defend the holy nuns, monks and consecrated virgins who live the religious life, as the very heartbeats at the centre of the Church's life. May we not fail them, as did our forefathers in the 16th Century.

St. Mary, Patroness of Cymer - Pray for us!      

Indifference... Compromise... e.t.c

Torch of The Faith News on Tuesday 17 July 2018 - 11:31:16 | by admin

Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Manuel Clemente.

In a remarkably ho-hum kind of way, and with a cheery accompanying photograph of Pope Francis greeting Patriarch of Lisbon Manuel Clemente, the Catholic Herald breezily announced at the weekend the headline, Pope personally thanks Portuguese cardinal for Amoris guidelines.

The article includes a sub-heading which proclaims, ''The guidelines say it may be possible to admit couples in irregular unions to Holy Communion.''

Think for a moment of the grave spiritual damage which that kind of headlining does to souls and to the Church, while it festers away for all to see on a page of the Herald.

Aside from a short paragraph noting that ''conservatives'' had accused the Patriarch of betraying the Faith, whilst also reporting that the ''secular press'' had condemned him for telling divorced and remarried couples to live in continence, the Herald article stood aloft from any direct critique of either Francis, Clemente, Amoris Laetitia or the latest ''guidelines''.

By the way, that bit about continence in the Herald article relates to the cardinal patriarch's tepid request for couples in ''irregular unions'' - i.e. adulterous situations - to ''first try to live in continence if they wanted to receive the sacraments. However, if that proves impossible, they should move on to a discernment process that could lead them to rejoining the sacramental life of the Church.''

As damaging as that is to the Church and to souls, in light of the furore over the ''smoking'' Footnote 351, it seems that even this was just not enough for the secular media in question.

Of course, the wording of those guidelines employs the same kind of vague hall of mirrors technique which has characterised this whole push for the acceptance of sacrilegious communion for adulterers throughout the whole of the ''synodal process'', the launch of Amoris Laetitia, the initial phase of plausible deniability regarding officially non-official acceptance of the ''Amoris guidelines'' from Buenos Aires and from Malta, the hardening into a cool acknowledgement of the guidelines once resistance had clearly collapsed, and everything else that has followed in the wake of this whole dreadful business.

And all of that is to say nothing of the associated and simply apocalyptic attempt at a total Gotterdammerung in Germany...

The very fact of this acceptance by Francis, the manner in which it is reported and the general indifference with which the whole thing has been received, all demonstrate just how far things have crumbled by now.

It is difficult to imagine such a sleepy acceptance of adultery and sacrilege happening even just two short years ago.

Talk about the Boiled Frog Approach...

And yet, despite the somnolent response of most Catholics, this is actually another event of truly apocalyptic proportions.

In that sense, it also calls to mind two other much overlooked, but very important themes.

The first relates to that mysterious phrase in the officially revealed part of the Third Secret of Fatima, ''In Portugal, the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved, etc.''

We again must wonder what is behind that seemingly all important etc

The other important aspect, which is similarly ignored by most people today, relates to those words of Our Lady to Sr. Agnes Sasagawa at Akita: ''The Church will be full of those who accept compromises.''

That phrase ''full of'' is as troubling as it looks accurate. Who would doubt that such is already the case by now?

Isn't that exactly what we see all around us?

Indifference, compromise, etc...

''But, yet, the Son of man, when He cometh, shall He find, think you, faith on earth?'' (Luke 18:8).

If all of this troubles you, and it should, then rejoice in the knowledge that you are still a Catholic; if it crucifies your heart, then know that you have been very blessed by God.

Yours is the correct response in the face of such reckless evil; somnolence, indifference and compromise are not.

Dear readers, let us pray for each other to receive the graces necessary to persevere in the Faith, and to pray for God's enemies to be converted.

Without indifference or compromise.

et cetera!

Our Lady of the Holy Eucharist - Pray for us!

Fr. Matthew O'Callaghan - Requiescat in Pace

Torch of The Faith News on Monday 16 July 2018 - 18:42:31 | by admin

The second priest that we heard had sadly died last week in the Archdiocese of Liverpool, was Fr. Mortimer Matthew O'Callaghan. He was 89 years old and had been a priest in the Archdiocese for 48 years.

Fr. O'Callaghan - who many people knew more affectionately and simply as ''Little Father Mattie'' - was an absolutely outstanding priest. He was also one of the holiest people that I ever met.

I never saw a Novus Ordo priest offering the entire Mass in that rite with such other-worldly reverence and devotion. Flowing from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the heart of his life and priesthood, Fr. Mattie was holy, kind, charitable and a true shepherd to souls.

We first met him just after we got married in 2002, when he supplied at Sunday Mass in Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in Seaforth. I said to Angie that he reminded me of a latter-day St. John Vianney. Following from that, we gradually developed a friendship with him between 2002 and 2012. Landmarks along the way included a period of regular monthly attendance at his First Saturdays for Our Lady of Fatima, at Ss. Peter and Paul church in Haresfinch; going on a pilgrimage to Lourdes led by him in December 2008; attending a Marian Day Mass when he was acting as a chaplain to the Missionary Sisters of Charity in Liverpool; meeting him at various social events hosted by friends; sharing in the joys of his 40th anniversary of ordination in 2010; visting him for evenings at his little apartment in Ainsdale; and having him over for meals with us when we used to have an apartment near Crosby Beach.

Those First Saturdays at Ss. Peter and Paul's were amazing days with a long queue waiting for Confession and spiritual counsel from Fr. Mattie, then his very reverent offering of Holy Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the holy Rosary, a beautiful Marian procession, the recitation of the traditional version of the Holy Michael prayer and a cheerful social afterwards in the parish hall. During those social periods, we noticed that Father made a point of spending some time sitting with the people at every single one of the tables in the hall. He once told us that he did this so as to be approachable to everyone and to help them to feel the tangible pastoral care of their priest.

Father loved the social side of life and he delighted in telling us a story about a home he had once visited, which had just been blessed by the birth of a newborn child. He explained that the father, a big strong Irish man, had come in, raised a glass and proposed a toast with the immortal words, ''Long legs to the baby!'' This became a kind of catchphrase whenever we met Fr. Mattie; and he would mirthfully grin from ear to ear whenever it was mentioned.

Devout worship of God, authentic Marian devotion, genuine care of souls and development of a strongly Christian community life; these were all the hallmarks of Fr. Mattie and of his priestly ministry.
Angeline, Fr. Mattie and Margaret celebrating Father's 40th anniversary of priesthood in the summer of 2010. Margaret had put a great deal of love, planning and hard work into making the day a very special one for him.

Father once told us that, when he still had a parish, he used to go on foot, like the priests of old, to every single house in his parish, twice each year. What made this extra special, was the fact that Father went to every house, whether Catholic or not.

He simply knocked on doors, introduced himself, explained who he was and where he lived, and concluded that they knew where he was if they ever needed any help.

Father recalled that some folks would ask him in and others would not. He smiled at the remembrance of one household that turned him away in the rain one dark night, but then invited him in for a cup of tea, six months later. It was all about gradually building relationships.

In the car on the way to my best friend Fr. Mike Williams' funeral, after he had sadly died in September 2011, Fr. Mattie explained that he also had served as a hospital chaplain for a time.

Fr. Mattie excitedly told us how he had won the confidence of a dying man, given him basic instruction, heard his Confession and helped him to die a holy death in God's peace. ''Now, isn't that wonderful?'' he would say. 

He also told us that he had once read somewhere that the soul does not necessarily leave the body immediately. In light of that, he would go alone into the hospital's morgue and pray for the lately dead to receive the grace of salvation. Whatever the merits of that particular theological theory, it nevertheless demonstrates again something of Fr. Mattie's deep care for souls; and of his resolve to go the extra mile to take the love of Christ out to all those in his field of care.

That duty of care for souls was particularly apparent in Father's incredible sermons. These were most often delivered in a low and gentle, but also at times grave tone. He consistently called the faithful to conversion of life, to repent of sin and to live lives of holiness, by allowing God to be at the centre. I vividly remember being on the edge of my pew one time when he described the horrific last moments of the tormented Josef Stalin: ''Pray for poor sinners, my dear children. Pray for them...'' he concluded in a sombre voice.

Like Fr. Peter Kelly (RIP), who was mentioned in our last piece, Fr. Mattie was also in the Marian Movement of Priests (MMP). After his love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, there is no doubt that Fr. Mattie's next great love was Our Lady. In his apartment was a lovely little piece of furniture with a nice cloth, bearing a beautiful statue of Our Lady. Father's Marian devotion was touchingly childlike; without ever being childish. Indeed, none of what is written here must be taken to mean that Father was in any way childish. On the contrary, he was prudent, shrewd and could frequently move people and situations to get what he wanted. Mostly that was nothing other than the glory of God, the good of the Church and the love of Our Lady. He knew and understood people and observed many things. He could lead, but with humility. Perhaps when I say here that he was childlike, it is more of a metaphor for the cultivation in him of Christ-like qualities. There was an underlying toughness to Fr. Mattie, which one sensed he had trained over a lifetime into gentleness for the sake of souls.

As a Marian priest, Father was also another great advocate of the regular praying of the holy Rosary.

He once told us that he suffered a heart attack in his presbytery one night and had to literally crawl for help. Apparently, as he crawled, he kept asking Our Lady to, ''do a Cana for me Blessed Mother!''

One of our happiest memories of Fr. Mattie is the winter pilgrimage we spent in his group at Lourdes in time for the feast of the Immaculate Conception in December 2008.   
Fr. Mattie with Angie at the airport during the winter pilgrimage to Lourdes in 2008.

This was an incredible opportunity to witness Father's deep devotion to Our Lady and St. Bernadette first hand. We approached him to say that we would like to kneel for Holy Communion during the pilgrimage. Before we started just going always to the Traditional Latin Mass, it became important to do this beforehand because of modernistic clerics who might make a scene. For instance, several of our friends suffered cruel humiliations; including one to whom a priest growled, ''Get up!'' and dragged him to his feet by his clothing. In sharp and happy contrast to any of that, however, Fr. Mattie was simply delighted that we wanted to kneel for Holy Communion. Indeed, he told us that he wished that everyone would return to the practice of kneeling, ''like they used to.'' This certainly took the pressure off us during the rest of that blessed pilgrimage. Father knew we had been through the mill for the Faith and he was very kind to us.

Father sat with us on the flight home and, as soon as the ''Seatbelts Off'' sign came on, he jumped up and went to every seat on the aeroplane to chat to the people and offer them a Miraculous Medal from a huge bundle he suddenly produced from his jacket.

I guess that being the parish priest in his own place had somehow protected Father from some of the deplorable irreverences of our age.

He once told us that he had been donated some money and that he had used this to have a fine set of marble altar rails installed in his church to make it more traditional after the ''wreckovations'' following the Second Vatican Council. Apparently the ''powers that be'' had eventually got wind of this and an auxiliary bishop was sent out to ''investigate''. Happily, this turned out to be the down-to-earth and genuine Bishop Kevin O'Connor, who died in 1993. Apparently, Bishop O'Connor had said to Father Mattie that the, then, Archbishop was worried about him. Then he had given him the wink and said, ''You've done a good job on these Mattie. You'll be alright!''

When Father eventually ''retired'' from his parish due to his health, he began to work as hard as ever by supplying on a regular basis at parishes all over the Archdiocese, and sometimes beyond, to give priests a chance to get a vacation. It seems that this became a shocking awakening to him as to just how bad things were getting in so many places.

And so, as he motored around in his little black car, he became shocked by the loud chattering and boisterous behaviour in many churches before Holy Mass, the widespread acceptance of unchaste dress at church and the deep sense of a general loss of any kind of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, or even for the church as a sacred place.

Fr. Mattie did what he could to counter these horrors by his own reverence, by the content of his sermons and by direct corrective actions.

With great gentleness and humility, he would speak one to one with unchastely dressed women and explain to them why this was wrong and point out to them the great good that they could do by dressing chastely.

One time, he was chatting with parishioners in the porch after Mass, when he spotted a man chatting and laughing away merrily nearby. Father went over and asked him whether he was the Extraordinary Minister to whom he had just given Holy Communion to take straight out to the sick. When the man replied that he was, Father asked where the sacred Pyx was now. The man indicated his breast pocket. In front of the gathered throng, Father Mattie got right down on his knees in reparation. He once reflected movingly to us how only priests were allowed to touch the Sacred Species in the Old Rite.

Not everyone would listen to Father and complaints would be made. He was also greatly distressed when he heard a nun disparaging a holy picture in a sacristy. With an almost heartbreaking naivete, Father used to ask me, ''What have the parish priests been doing to let things get this bad?'' He would never criticise the bishops to us. Indeed, as we were lay people, he made a point of this. However, he did say that he was very concerned at the decisions they were making and told us to pray for the bishops.

If Father ever encountered couples who were living together in sin, he would grow very sad and say to them, always with humility, ''No, my children. This is not right. You can't live together like that without the grace of the sacrament. Oh no. That's a sin. Come and see me at my parish and I'll help you to get things sorted out.''

God bless him, how few have that kind of courage today! When we told him that we had experienced bullying on the compulsory marriage preparation day we had, had to attend to get married, just because we had actually defended the Magisterial teachings on holy matrimony, Father Mattie grew very sad. ''Is that what they said?'' he asked gravely. On a happier note, he once explained how he had studied those teachings deeply in his seminary and it had then hit him just how wonderful the sacrament and vocation of holy matrimony really is. With humourous delight in his eyes, he chuckled that he had realised too late, seeing as he was then nearing ordination.
''Long legs to the baby!'' Father Mattie as so many people across the Archdiocese will remember him.

In 2004, just before we went overseas to America for 2 years in Steubenville, our dear friend Fiona hosted a ''going away'' party at her house, with Fr. Mattie as guest of honour. This photograph was taken that night and I think that it really captures something of the Fr. Mattie that we all knew and loved.

The circumstances of that photograph were as follows.

Father explained to us how much Dr. Scott Hahn's writings had helped him in his life and also in his priesthood, as they had helped him to go much deeper into the Sacred Scriptures. I asked him if I could take a picture of him with me and, when I encountered Dr. Hahn, I could tell him about Fr. Mattie and what he had said.

This was another humbling time that I glimpsed something of Father's Christ-like humility, because he said a few times, and with great simplicity, ''Would you really do that for me, Alan? Would you?''

When I eventually did meet Scott Hahn, showed him the picture and explained what Fr. Mattie had said, he replied that he was always blessed when he heard that his writings had helped anyone, but that it was always extra special when that person was a priest. When I eventually got that news back to Fr. Mattie in England, he was delighted.

In 2010, we moved back to Liverpool and rented an apartment close to one of my favourite places for prayer, reflection and basic relaxation with family and friends - Crosby Beach. During the next couple of years, we sometimes visited Father at his apartment up the coast in Ainsdale, and he sometimes joined us for meals at our place.

One night, we took a walk right along the waterfront and back. Father was joyfully greeting everyone we passed. He explained that he thought this an important witness for Christ and the Church, being as he was in his Roman collar. Most people responded warmly, as the diminutive Father Mattie had that kind of personality and olde world Irish charm. However, one bloke was curt with him and carried on past. Father became very sad and said that ''we must pray for that poor man'' as he felt this was a particular slight against Our Lord and the Church. Once again, we glimpsed something of that wonderful aspect of Father's life and priesthood.

It was during the social visits of those years, that Father explained something of his own journey through life.

He explained that he had served Holy Mass as a small boy at Our Lady, Star of the Sea in Seaforth, and had felt the call to priesthood early on; he spoke of the importance of prayer and of having good Christian friends to keep one going in the Faith; he reflected how his vocation had been started but then delayed by health issues; how he had done his, then compulsory, National Service for a couple of years in the armed forces overseas; how this had helped him to mature and gain good insights into human nature before becoming a priest; how for the sake of his vocation he had sacrificed the chance of a relationship with a lovely young lady who was ''sweet on him'' in the military days; how the other young men began to come to him for advice when they saw this integrity and deep faith; how this helped him to have a deeper understanding of the great value of priestly celibacy, which helps people to come with problems, when they see commitment and realise that you are not a threat to them; how all of this had affirmed his own vocation; and how he had become such a good football player that he could have played professionally, if he had chosen to go down that road.

Over the years, we heard from other sources that Father Mattie had indeed been an incredibly light, fast and skillful footballer, with professional levels of play, in the days of his youth.

In terms of pastoral care of souls there are so many things we could add. Here are a few more.

Whenever we visited him at his apartment, Father would always smile merrily by one door and say, ''Would you like to see Someone before you go? Would you like to see Our Lord for a minute? I've got my own little chapel with a Tabernacle, you know!'' And he would open the door, and we would all kneel there at the edge of the little chapel together for a few moments. ''Now, isn't that lovely!'' he would say with delight, as he then led us down the hall to say goodbye.

One time we were chatting outside a church after Mass and two young teenaged girls came along. ''Now then, my children,'' he said. ''Be careful in these teen years. These are the years of great temptations! Stay close to Our Lord and Our Lady, and ask them to help you through these years!'' When the girls smiled and said, ''We know, Father. We've come to get Baptised!'' Father was overjoyed.

Around 2010, I remember Father going around places and telling anyone who would listen that, ''the demon of impurity has become very strong in these times... It is essential that people resist and do not allow the enemy of souls a foothold.''

Father also told people that the depressing remembrance of past sins, as long as they have been repented, confessed and forgiven, never, ever comes from Jesus. With gentle clarity, Father would say, ''Our Lord, Who is Love Itself, would never throw old sins back in your face like that.'' He made it clear that such disquieting experiences are attacks of the infernal enemy of souls. He encouraged people to always stay close to Our Lord.

In my own spiritual life, Father was a great support to me through two bereavements I suffered in the space of a couple of years, including the death of my great friends Fr. Mike Williams and Phil Rushton. ''Are you alright son.'' he would say. ''C'mon Angie, let's get him a cup of tea!''

In the winter of 2011, Father seemed to suddenly become overwhelmed with his belongings and whenever we visited him he would ask me to start sorting and taking his things off to charity shops. I did not ever do this as I was concerned that people might wonder what I was doing and who the heck I thought I was! I knew that his family and priest friends were visiting him, so thought that, as a layman, it would be best to let them help in the matter.

One time we met him and he did not seem to know who we were any more. Then my dad was diagnosed with cancer and suffered and died in 2012. Aside from receiving the sacraments, I was out of the public Church scene with grief for a long time. I think the cumulation of deaths, (we'd also lost a friend called Laura, who died young and suddenly in her 30's), and my close friendship with Dad, just overwhelmed me; plus the post Ushaw soul-shrapnel... Actually, although I write this blog, I'm still not really back in the public Church scene.

By the time I re-emerged to some extent, I was told by another holy old priest friend that Fr. Mattie had gone into a home somewhere and would no longer recognise who I was. It is impossible to think of this without regret. Here we see another reason why, in our human frailty, we all need Our Lord Jesus so much.

Nevertheless, there is another happy story with which it seems more appropriate to conclude.

As one of our pictures above shows, Father Mattie celebrated 40 years of priesthood in 2010. That was the year that Pope Benedict XVI, of happy memory, was visiting the UK and all priests celebrating milestone jubilees that year received a splendid invite to the Papal Mass at Westminster.

I'll always remember how little Fr. Mattie, with childlike glee and humility, kept saying, ''To think Angeline, to think Alan... I'm going to be at Holy Mass with His Holiness. Me!'' He was quite simply over the moon.

It is heartening and moving to hope and pray for him now to be feeling something similar about entering into the eternal presence of the Most Holy Trinity and enjoying the Beatific Vision of God for evermore. Please join us in praying for the repose of his immortal soul.
Fr. Matthew O'Callaghan, priest of Jesus Christ. In these times, what a light he was! May God have mercy on him and rest his immortal soul. May his family and friends be comforted. May God bless those who nursed him.

With thanksgiving and Christian hope, we pray: Eternal rest grant unto Fr. Matthew O'Callaghan, dear Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him, and may he rest in peace. Amen.

Father's Reception and Vigil Mass will take place at St. John Stone Church in Ainsdale, this Wednesday 18th July at 7pm. His funeral will commence at 12 noon, on Thursday 19th July, followed by Burial at Sacred Heart Cemetery, Southport.

Our Lady of Fatima - pray for us!

St. Joseph - pray for us!

St. Matthew - pray for us!

Ss Peter and Paul - pray for us!   

Fr. Peter Kelly - Requiescat in Pace

Torch of The Faith News on Monday 16 July 2018 - 10:59:22 | by admin

Two good priests of the Archdiocese of Liverpool have died in recent days. The first that we heard about was Fr. Peter Kelly, who died at Ince Blundell last week at the age of 84. Fr. Kelly had been a priest of the Archdiocese for over 55 years.

As a young man, Fr. Kelly had worked for the Liverpool office of HM Customs and Excise. After training at Upholland College, he was ordained to the sacred priesthood by (then) Archbishop John Carmel Heenan in June 1963; just weeks before the late Archbishop, and later Cardinal, was appointed to the See of Westminster.

In the decades that followed, Fr. Kelly became a well known figure in the Archdiocese, through serving as assistant priest in many parishes and as parish priest at a few of them. He suffered the cross of ill health for many years and this sometimes cut short his parish placements. In 1993, he took on lighter duties as chaplain to Nazareth House in Widnes, ''retiring'' in 2002.

I met Fr. Kelly in 1997, at one of his pro-life days of prayer in the beautiful Holy Family church at Ince Blundell. I had just left my job at the Bank and was about to head off to Ushaw seminary. When he heard where I was headed, Fr. Kelly generously set aside some time to hear my confession, chat to me about the priesthood and give me some good fatherly advice. I remember that he highlighted the importance of devotion to Our Lady and the praying of the Holy Rosary. As he was a member of the Marian Movement of Priests (MMP) one would expect nothing less. In fact, I seem to remember Fr. Kelly telling me to stay close to the lay people involved in that movement as ''they're sincere, they will pray for you and they will keep you grounded.''

Among all the regular Archdiocesan clergy, I never met another priest who was so well informed about, nor so articulate and consistent in speaking out against, the global tentacles and reach of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

Fr. Kelly cared profoundly about the unborn and he regularly used his sermons, pro-life days of prayer and writings to inform people and to stand up for the fundamental right to life, which is so often threatened in our age.

To be honest, I don't think Fr. Kelly was too chuffed with me when I next turned up at one of those pro-life days with my wife in tow in 2003; having left the seminary and eventually got married. Nevertheless, we attended the monthly pro-life days which he ran at Ince Blundell, with the devout and hardworking Mary, as often as we could until going off to America for two years in 2004. We also attended a First Saturday devotion, which he hosted at the little church of Our Lady of Fatima in Bala, over in North Wales. I remember those days as good times of prayer, intercession, fellowship and an opportunity to receive important information from Fr. Kelly's researches.

After going off to Steubenville for those two years between 2004-2006, we lost touch with Fr. Kelly. However, we did hear updates on the grapevine over the years about his ongoing health problems, participation in events to intercede for priests and his ongoing involvement with the Marian Movement of Priests.

In 2015, Fr. Kelly was one of the 461 UK priests who signed the public letter urging the Rome Synod to stand firm on the true teachings of the Magisterium regarding divorce/re-''marriage'' and the reception of Holy Communion. In the present climate, that was itself a courageous act.

There will be a Mass of Reception for Fr. Kelly at St. John Stone Church in Ainsdale, on Monday 23rd July at 7:00pm. His funeral will take place there at 12 noon on Tuesday 24th July, with Burial at Ford Cemetery to follow.

Fr. Kelly loved Our Lord and Our Lady, promoted the Rosary faithfully and worked with a special devotion for the rights of the unborn. He also had a high awareness of the spiritual warfare of these times. We thank God for his priesthood and ministry to so many souls over the years. Please keep the repose of his immortal soul in your prayers.

Eternal rest grant unto Fr. Peter Kelly, dear Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him, and may he rest in peace. Amen.

Our Lady, Queen of the Holy Rosary - Pray for us!       

Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel - Let us Wear the Brown Scapular with True Devotion

Torch of The Faith News on Monday 16 July 2018 - 09:51:36 | by admin

Today's feast is always an important date for England and for the Catholic Church throughout the whole world. For it was on this very day, in the year 1251 AD, that Our Lady of Mt. Carmel appeared to St. Simon Stock in Cambridge. In these days, the importance of the Brown Scapular cannot really be overstated.

It is well worth remembering how Our Lady promised that anyone who died, whilst wearing the Brown Scapular, would be spared from the eternal fires of Hell. Of course, this pledge of salvation necessarily implies that such persons be living in the state of grace.

We cannot recommend highly enough to everyone who reads this, just how important and beneficial it is to become enrolled in the Brown Scapular by a good priest, as soon as possible. This is an important sacramental which, if lived according to the nature of true devotion, helps the faithful to receive graces and thus remain close to Our Blessed Lady and Her Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Each day the scapular is also a tangible reminder that we are in relationship with Our Lord and Our Lady. During peaceful times of prayer, times of suffering, trial or temptation, or even just waking unexpectedly in the night, it can be a great source of strength and consolation to hold onto the Brown Scapular around one's neck. Sometimes when becoming aware of it during the day, it invites spontaneous prayers or a sense of God's presence and protection. If occasionally noticed by others, it can even become a source of evangelization.

In such days of apostasy, confusion, rebellion, secularization and growing persecution, the importance of the Brown Scapular is very great indeed.

Let's do our utmost to respond to the graces given by God, at Our Lady's request, through the powerful devotion of the Brown Scapular. 

Our Lady of Mount Carmel - Pray for us!      

Heaven Knows!

Torch of The Faith News on Saturday 14 July 2018 - 13:34:54 | by admin

Dear Readers,

It has been hard to post anything up here for a few days, due to my own commitments around here and to the sheer scale of events happening in the Church.

I was in the process of writing a piece to respond to the widespread apostasy of so many bishops and priests, but began to think it was just too negative, and would merely add to all the ''white noise'' of similar information which is emerging all across the globe.

Truly these days appear to be apocalyptic.

Then, we were suddenly broadsided when we read in our weekly free newspaper that another local priest is to go to court; this time over allegations of historical sex offences against children.

Regular readers will recall that Holy Week became a real crucifixion for us here, when the same local paper described the gory details of a court case involving another local priest - a man from the next parish to my parents, who regularly offered the Traditional Latin Mass and who had even blessed our home when we first got married - had been found guilty of visiting internet chat-rooms to view children being sexually abused and of adding comments on them about what he would like to do to children himself. Although we have made an act of the will to forgive this man, it is taking a while for the feelings of forgiveness to catch up. We are so sickened by the sheer gravity of his crimes and of his duplicity. What a grim betrayal it all is of the families in his own pastoral care.

And now we and our neighbours read that a man who served for years as parish priest in this very neighbourhood is now to appear in court relating to accusations of seven cases of indecent assault against two young boys, which are claimed to have happened between 1980 and 1982.

Same deanery, another priest.

My poor parents went regularly to this guy's Mass for several years!

Although that case has yet to be heard, I am just sick and tired of hearing of cardinals, bishops and priests betraying Christ, undermining the faithful and gravely harming the innocent children who they are supposed to be leading to Heaven.

Yesterday morning, I read Steve Skojec's piece at 1 Peter 5, and I could relate very much to what he was saying there. The comments section also revealed once again how so many Catholics all around the world are feeling the same; whilst dissenting post-Catholic Modernists have seized the levers of power and are vigorously attempting to deconstruct the Church while they still have the time.

Every day, the upcoming Amazonian Synod, the Youth Synod and the World Day of Families look more and more like blown-open bridgeheads for the anti-Church to wreak its ''synodal'' havoc. It's like the KGB-handled Medellin Conference has come back on steroids!

Look, when even Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, the former head of the Vatican Bank, is saying, as LifeSiteNews reported this week, that the ''authors of the New World Order demographic collapse'' are influencing the Vatican, then it is beyond time for us all to pay attention and get praying and working to defend the Faith.

Yesterday, I especially felt sad for a guy called Bob from Ohio, who said at 1 Peter 5 that events were causing him mental anguish, due to the evils in the Church, the impossibility for him to reach a Traditional Latin Mass and the errors he has to put up with in his own local parish.

For everyone who is suffering with Christ in His Passion through all of this - and what a grace that is, when you stop to think about it - then what follows is written by way of an encouragement to you. Yes, to all friends in Christ who read this, all those who Our Blessed Lord has chosen to go through this night with Him, in ways and for reasons which we may not understand, in order to be part of the glorious Triumph of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

In the depths of spiritual struggle yesterday morning, quite out of the blue, I received a sudden realization that Heaven Knows!

With a renewed sense of understanding, I grasped once more that Heaven not only knows everything that is going on, but is ultimately going to draw a greater good from it, than you or I can even imagine.

In short, God intimately knows each and all of us and what we are enduring right now, for love of Him and His holy Church.

Emmanuel, God is with us: in our fears for the salvation of children and family members; anxieties about whether or not we ourselves will persevere in the Faith; concern that one's sacramental and prayer life seem to be under massive and sustained attack; at times herculean efforts to get to a regular Traditional Latin Mass; or distress that one cannot do so; frustration and even anger about what is happening to the Church and to society; the grim realization that so many people have not only now moved beyond faith in God, but even beyond any kind of rational discourse on matters of nature and morality; horrible feelings of futility; and financial and social pressures encountered in trying to remain faithful.

Yes, Our Lord Jesus Christ is with us in all of these things. We are safe with the Most Holy Trinity, with Our Blessed Lady, with Holy Michael and all the angels and saints; even if it does not feel like it.

God has got this.

So many people are speaking of such concerns in the comments of traditional websites, that it becomes clear that Our Lord is permitting this huge trial to test, purify and even increase His faithful remnant.

To suffer these things is truly a great grace; because it proves we are on the side of Christ and reveals who we really are in our depths.

May we never forget that it is because of God's grace that we believe in the first place. That shows a great deal of goodness from Him toward each of us to begin with. We have to learn to trust that He will bring to fruition and completion the good work that He has begun in us.

I think it also reveals that the enemy are working a general strategy to wear down the faithful.

This is where, after the Sacraments received worthily and with love, daily thanksgiving, regular reading of good spiritual content and times of silent prayer with Sacred Scripture are all important means to survive.

A verse which can also be particularly helpful is actually 1 Peter 5:9: ''Whom resist ye, strong in faith: knowing that the same affliction befalls your brethren who are in the world.''

And so yesterday, that sense of Heaven Knows, having broken in on me like a sunburst on a dismal day, remained with me throughout the afternoon. Even though strange spiritual attacks seemed to continue... I'm sure many of you are going through this.

Later that day, again quite unexpectedly, we found ourselves spending an hour in the company of two holy old priests who I have known for around two decades.

Aside from the various Traditional priests now working in this region, these men could be said to represent the very last of a line of priests who one still used to meet with about twenty years ago: men who grew up before the world went totally crazy; whose homes were secure and filled with faith; whose school education happened before the ''changes''; and whose seminary formation, though becoming shaky, took place largely before those changes wreaked their total devastation there.

As I say, twenty years ago, one still met priests of this sort offering Mass reverently, spreading devotion to Our Lady, praying the Rosary faithfully, caring for souls, spreading the faith and wearing their Roman collars and deepest black clerical attire as a matter of course.

There are a handful of younger clergy with many of these good qualities and the same overall intentions but, like you and me, they have grown up in the midst of the present culture and have gone through school and seminary education in the present era. That has taken its toll on all of us in our development.

Anyway, the two priests we were with yesterday represent, pretty much, the last of their generation. Certainly, of those that I know personally.

And, unexpectedly, there we were as a family spending an hour with them yesterday.

One of them, who has been further tested in the furnace of suffering of late, has spoken to me a few times over the years of one of his former mentors - the late, great convert priest, Fr. Hugh Thwaites. Father has described, in the past, how it was obvious that Fr. Thwaites was holy, because his eyes often sparkled with a love that could only be God's Love.
The late, holy and inspirational Fr. Hugh Thwaites SJ. We met him twice over the years; it was our priest friend's good blessing to have had him as a mentor.

Now, although this priest I was with yesterday has looked increasingly holy for several years now, something happened yesterday that I have never seen before in him.

Or, indeed, in anyone else for that matter.

Whilst I was speaking to him yesterday, I suddenly saw something more than Father in his eyes.

It was as though he was reading my soul; so deeply did he look into it. But it was also as though he were not really focused on me at all. His eyes were sparkling like an innocent baby bird, but seemed also to perceive the very depths of reality. It was as though Christ were loving my soul through him. And, at once, it was as though Father was gazing at God to such an extent that the mess that is my soul was being seen only in the light of that mysterious sight. It was not judgement, not searing in that manner, and yet it was as though Christ Himself were there... Well, I cannot find the words here.

All that can be said is that Father seemed to be, just for a minute, more in the next world than in this. And it gave me great peace to encounter it.

And then it clicked into place again: Heaven Knows!

Yes, God is with us.

Aside from that experience yesterday, just being with those two old-boy priests felt like it did years ago, before 2013, to be a Catholic.

I guess we are all fed up to the back teeth of hearing of clerical apostasy, heresy, sacrilege, blasphemy, sexual immorality, abuse of minors and general worldy indifference. Even more are we troubled by the attempted deconstruction of our holy religion from those who have seized the heights of power.

We're also sick of seeing the smiling indifference of the bright-coated majority, who will traipse off to things like the World Day of Families to hear radical homosexualists like ''Fr.'' James Martin S.J., as though these men were paragons of Catholic virtue.

Yesterday, I was reminded of why I am a Catholic.

Firstly, because of Jesus - Our Blessed Lord Who remains night and day, often at the sullied hands of traitorous clergy, in the Tabernacles of our churches, simply because He is LOVE Itself.

Pure Love.

Totally LOVE.

Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

He Who IS.

In the presence of those old priests and my family yesterday, it felt again like those days before Francis, when one had that feeling of rose-garden security that, no matter how messed up you were, no matter how bad your own diocese or parish was, no matter how evil the world was getting, that at least the Church was your rock.

How often one used to feel that years ago. How comforting it was.

All of us have felt like that.

And yet, now we have only brambles and thorns in its stead.

Friends, this shows we are with Christ. Did we really think such encouraging candy was forever? Sweeties are for children or beginners; hard bread is what we need to nourish us and get us to Heaven. This isn't Santa's Grotto!

One could not have drawn near to Christ, without His thorn-crowned Head piercing into our own. That is the price of loving the Crucified.

The Catholic Church was, is and ever shall be the Rock, the One, True, Church which Christ founded for the salvation and sanctification of souls until the end of time.

And against that Church, the Gates of Hell shall NOT prevail.

So, don't let's hear any of this tosh about how individuals have come to discern that the whole Gregorian reform was a mistake, or how defining papal infallibility was an error, or how Greek or Russian Orthodoxy is the answer.

We are Catholics! The enemy has invaded our position and is taking no prisoners.

Stay with Christ, man up and hold the line. This is a war, not an outing to pick daisy chains.

We have an enemy that is Hate itself, that hates us. On the other hand, we have a Lord Who is LOVE, Who loves us. That is why love of our temporal enemies is so essential. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, Christ's is a love costing no less than everything. And in that price, is our peace.

Make no mistake, at some point, Our Lord is going to call time and pull the rug from beneath these feverish money changers who have sullied His Temple.

In the meantime, He is extending a Crucified Hand and asking us to take hold. We cannot be surprised that His nails will pierce us, or that the shadow of His Cross will fall upon us, if we do so.

Dear friends, 

Heaven Knows!

Yesterday, I was reminded of this.

Today, you have been too.

Keep the Faith, friends in Christ!          
And let's stay close to Our Heavenly Mother, who cares more than you know. 

Our Lady of Victories - Pray for us!

Young UK Catholics Make Statement of Support for Humanae Vitae

Torch of The Faith News on Wednesday 11 July 2018 - 13:02:13 | by admin

It was encouraging to learn of the 200 young Catholics, among whom were several married couples, who had signed up to a letter to the Catholic Herald, in support of Humanae Vitae.

An initiative of Michael and Elizabeth Wee, themselves a young married couple, the letter marks another important landmark in this 50th anniversary year of the promulgation of Humanae Vitae. Many readers might recognise the name of Michael Wee, as he is the education officer at the Anscombe Bioethics Centre at Oxford University. Although there was an upper age limit of 35 for those able to sign up to this particular letter, the signatures gathered for it represent young Catholic adults from all over the UK.

And so, in response to a modernistic letter in the Herald, which, in ignorance of the observably prophetic nature of the encyclical, had suggested that Humanae Vitae had somehow failed to engage with social change, the Catholic letter read:

It has been suggested that Catholic teaching on contraception has ''failed to engage with social change'' (Letter, June 22). Yet one must not confuse being unfashionable with being untrue.

Living out chastity is countercultural and difficult, but rewarding for relationships.

It reminds us how the person to whom we are attracted is not a thing to be used, but an equal to be loved, honoured and treated with reverence. The philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe rightly observed that ''in this contraceptive day'', however, sex becomes seen as ''no more than a sort of extreme kiss, which it might be rather rude to refuse.''

At the heart of chastity is the simple yet revolutionary idea that we are made for love, and our sexuality has been given to us in order to fulfil this call. Hence, as Pope Francis puts it, ''The image of God is the married couple.'' Sex can never be truly casual, because it is so inherently filled with meaning - namely, the mutual love of the couple and openness to new life. That is why respecting the integrity of the sexual act matters. It is in allowing sex to convey its full meaning that we can give oneself to one's spouse completely in love.

As young lay Catholics living in Britain who find this teaching on sexuality beautiful and prophetic, we therefore wish to affirm the relevance of Humanae Vitae for our generation - and indeed for generations to come.

It is heartening to witness another generation of young Catholics responding to God's grace in the gift and challenge of chastity; and stepping up to the plate to articulate a defence of chaste love for the people of these times.

May God bless them for it. 

I mean, when you consider all the theological dissent, unchaste rebellion, false teaching and modernistic educational systems, that have so conspired to damage the Church during these last five decades, these guys are nothing short of a theological miracle! It just goes to show the everlasting appeal of the truth.

As Pope Benedict XVI said when presenting a prayer for the youth of Italy, in St. Peter's Basilica, in February 2007: ''The Church is alive and full of youth!''  

May the Holy Family - Pray for us!

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