Tag Archive: Faith


AMDG        

Homily given at Holy Name Church,  Manchester   15th Sunday  - July 16th 2014

images (4)

Today’s Gospel presents a fascinating question for Jesus ‘ Why do you speak to them in Parables’ – This seems to be a question born of the disciples frustration  - you can almost imagine the disciples saying to him – Jesus stop speaking in riddles and just give it to us straight.  The irony is that when Jesus does speak straight particularly when he is predicting his suffering and his death they don’t understand……  Jesus speaks in parables because he is revealing the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.  Understanding a mystery is not like understanding a mathematical equation of a scientific formula  – to understand the truths of the Kingdom of God is not just about logic or reason –  it is nothing to do with how well educated we are, how many degrees we’ve got, in fact intellectual pride can become an obstacle to understanding the mystery that Jesus is preaching –  Certainly Jesus talks about the importance of understanding, but this is the understanding of the heart.  Understanding the Kingdom of God is a process, a journey if you like, a journey of the heart. What the heart understands goes deeper than our intellect, they are truths that we grow into, that we live

Why do you speak in parables?  This to an extent is the same question that we may ask of God, particularly when we are in a dark place, experiencing pain and grief,  we may ask  ‘God where are you, why are you hiding, why don’t you reveal yourself?’  This is why faith is not an easy thing – faith is not a comfortable lifestyle choice – a true living faith stretches us, challenges us, faith calls us to trust and then trust again ……  Be very suspicious of anyone who claims too easily or too glibly to tell you who God is.  Perhaps that is why religious extremism and fundamentalism is so problematic – that desire for certainty, that desire to reduce the mystery of God to something smaller, that we can manipulate – the desire for clarity, can easily come at the expense of others – it is easy to be clear, to be certain when you know who the enemy are.  Ultimately it is a false faith that is built ultimately on hatred and anger – and it is dangerous – we just need to look at the international news to see that.

This easy faith – this certain faith – ultimately is far from the mystery of God, which is the mystery of Love. Today’s parable touches upon this – if we think of the seed as the heart of our faith, the infinitely creative love of God -    like all seeds  this needs nourishing.  Seeds often grow in darkness and silence as they reach for the light – we have to trust in this silence, in those moments of darkness, we have to trust that God’s grace is working – silently  in the rich soil of our hearts.  When we allow ourselves to become superficial, when we are too concerned about the spirit of the age, when we want to ‘fit in’ or we worry too much we are not giving a chance for this seed to grow.

If we look around us – in our day to day lives – the people we know. We work with, our friends, there is a great dissatisfaction with what consumerism offers us…. Sometimes even an exhaustion and a deadly cynicism as a result of this.  But along side this is a great thirst and a hunger for something authentic …. And there is nothing more fundamental then the universal creative love of God – it is the reason that we are all here in the first place.  So if we have the courage to allow that seed to grow in us, if we provide the right conditions for it – an openness of heart, an enquiring faith, times of silence, times of prayer then we will have the integrity to pass on that seed – to those who are searching for it.  Often they will come to us and ask – there is no need to force it, and then – God Willing – we will yield a harvest, maybe a hundredfold, maybe less…..

Let us make that our priority …..  invest in your faith ……  let the seed grow

Incarnation

AMDG

My homily for midnight mass – inspired by  Rob Marsh on Thinking Faith 

doctor_1416155cWe can probably identify life –changing moments…..  moments that make us think about life in a profoundly different way.  I would like to share with you a life-changing moment, that most of us have shared.  A few years ago, in Manila the capital of the Philippines, I had my first major operation – on my left knee.  I had worn out the cartilage and after the operation – the surgeon told me my football and running days were over.   My first reaction was – can I still go hill walking?    That hospital in Manila –was a turning point because suddenly my body became an obstacle to my dreams.  My left knee was screwed – and it forced me to reluctantly admit – there was no way I was going to ever going to become a midfield general, and score the winning goal in the Champions League Final……..  Ok maybe I knew that already…. It reminded me of when I was a little boy and coming out of the cinema after seeing Superman and being mildly irritated when I couldn’t fly – I even had the cape on….. but now it was definitive, the doctor told me I had worn my left knee out with training and running for marathons. This was a turning point for me and for so many of us because when  we are young it is as though our bodies are filled with unlimited potential. We admire youth because we see they can dream – and now my body had become an obstacle to my dreams……

downloadeThe opposite is at the heart of Christmas  – that God seems to love human bodies and choose them as the way of fulfilling God’s dreams. God the creator of the universal – and remember according to the Hubble Telescope the observable universe is hundreds of billions of Galaxies – and our Galaxy probably has 2 billion stars in it.  This all powerful – creator God – 2014 years ago (give or take a few years) – took on a finite human body – became a human being – a little baby – vunerable – flesh and blood – crying and going to the toilet – the God who created the universe.

Wow……

How does infinity dwindle to infancy?   Why did God choose to do this – in Bethlehem – in a country that was occupied by a ruthless foreign power? How does God fit into a body without making it explode?  This is the mystery of the Incarnation, remember incarnation – carne – flesh, meat – God became our flesh and blood – no other religion claims that – in fact if you were to claim to be God you are silenced…. Killed, incarcerated, and that is exactly what happened to Jesus.  It is such an amazing thing – to be the infinite God – who has become finitely incarnate.

download (1)Since I have been working at university – listening to so many students – sharing their joys, listening to their fears and worries.  I have seen the pressure so many of themselves are put under – academic pressure, financial pressure. But there is another kind of pressure which is deeper – a terrible kind of desolation – and it is all to do with self image, how they see their bodies.  I listen to beautiful young women telling me how they feel ugly, how they feel fat, their hair is the wrong colour , their breasts aren’t big enough.  And this deep unhappiness with their bodies is growing with men too – IT is being fuelled by the false images they are watching – airbrushed models,  unrealistic portrayals of sex, the culture of celebrity.   The financial and academic pressure will pass – but this type of pressure, self inflicted is much deeper and spiritually much more corrosive.

So remember the Incarnation – remember the real heart of Christmas – God, it seems, doesn’t hate bodies. In fact  God uses the human body – with all its limitedness – and all its mortality – to save the world.   How could we have allowed ourselves to be so far from that? There are websites know that encourage people to harm their bodies …… there is so much poison out there about how we think about ourselves… Christmas is the antidote to that poison.

download (2) And remember tonight is the start of Jesus’s human journey – the infinite all powerful God vulnerable in the hands of his mother – who will soon become refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers as they escape King Herod into Egypt.    Remember how the story ends – the Jesus the sun of God is tortured – his body nailed to the cross – and his heart stops beating, water and blood flowing out of his broken body.  This is no myth – this is history.  And when he rises from the dead – his glorious risen body – which is still carrying his wounds – becomes our hope, becomes our destination.

images Every day in this church – that body is made present to us in a unique way during the mystery of the mass – 365 days a year – twice a day when university term is on – three times a day on a Sunday – the incarnation of Christ during mass.  There is that famous saying – a dog is not just for Christmas – so let us remember the incarnation is not just for Christmas.  So all of you here tonight – who are occasional catholics – or visitors – you are very welcome, and it is great to see you.  Come more often next year – it would be wonderful to see you every Sunday  - this great mystery of God’s love – that he chose to take on the form of this life, on this planet, in this Galaxy – it is a mystery that we can never get used to.  But If we contemplate it, if we live it, if we renew it weekly – it is a mystery that brings us joy, a mystery that makes us appreciate life and our bodies, no matter how old they become.  When we forget it – and get caught up in the cares and worries of life – I can assure you one thing – we become miserable.

In a moment we will express our faith – this great story of God becoming Man – and tonight we will kneel after the words – God became man – to contemplate the immensity of the incarnation – to remember the Joy of Christmas.

AMDG

           This is a modification of Today’s Homily on the Gospel of Zacchaeus

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs Jesuits when we pray, we often like to use our imaginations.  We call it imaginative contemplation.  You put yourself in the middle of the Gospel Scene – and watch, and listen and even try and smell & touch what is happening.  Today’s Gospel of Zacchaeus is a wonderful scene to do this with.  Zacchaeus the small tax collector, hated by many people for helping the Romans and becoming rich from his collaboration and probably his corruption.  Jesus is coming and as always attracting great crowds – so Zacchaeus  climbs the tree to see him pass, and Jesus invites him down – and we have this wonderful conversion of Zacchaeus – I’ll give half of what I own to the poor.  Notice the key dynamic with this story – it is through this encounter with Jesus, that his heart changes.   As he scurries down the tree he his joyful, even though everyone is complaining around him.   It is when we encounter Jesus – that our hearts change…..  In the mass we have the perfect setting to encounter Jesus.  We believe that the risen Lord is here amongst us now – that he is uniquely present in his word and in the Eucharist.  But just because we are present here – just because we are sitting in the pews – it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are encountering him.  Zacchaeus hears his invitation and comes scurrying down to meet him, joyfully.  We are here today at mass, and we maybe just going through the motions, here out of duty – it might even have become such a habit that we aren’t really noticing what is going on.  How can we encounter Jesus today if our hearts are not open to him, if we stay sitting up in the tree?  Even more dangerous – we may not feel the need for Jesus.  Zacchaeus knew he needed to be saved from his greedy ways. Look how he promises to give to the poor.  We may be a bit too complacent, a bit too comfortable to encounter Jesus.

NightFever2Pope Francis has a lovely image – of the shepherd who goes out to the save the lost sheep.  He says sometimes in the state of our church today, have lost the 99 sheep and only have one left.  And instead of going out to look for the 99 – we stay in and look after the one we have, like hairdressers fussing over the one sheep. How do we go out prudently and gently evangelise? On Friday night we had a group of 30 students praying in the church – they lit candles all over the place, had beautiful music, and then in groups of two – holding lanterns they waited outside the church and invited people in to light a candle.  Different people came in.  One man said that it was lovely to be invited in – he hadn’t been in a church for 20 years, and then he asked if he could stay a while and just sit.  Others came in and asked to speak to a priest after they had lit their candles.  It was a gentle way of reaching out to the lost 99 sheep as Pope Francis said.  We called the event – Nightfever ( a movement that started in Germany)  – and we will hold it every first Friday of the month.  So be careful that we don’t become too comfortable and too complacent in our faith.  Learn from Zacchaeus – what more can I do?  How can I help the poor – remember being in mass is not enough – we know we have encountered Jesus when our hearts our changed – so let’s sit in silence for a moment – and ask Jesus to help us to climb down from our trees.  How can we encounter him?   In what way can get more involved in our faith???  Don’t be frightened to ask him – here and now.

AMDG     Taken from today’s chaplaincy newsletter (click)

franshals_stlukeLast Thursday we celebrated the Feast of St Luke, apostle and evangelist. Each of the Gospels gives us a slightly different portrait of Jesus and what following him (discipleship) entails.  One of the themes that Luke is keen on in his Gospel is that of perseverance.  It is something that Luke would have valued himself as he accompanied St Paul on his many journeys and chronicled the events of the Early Church as he wrote the Acts of the Apostles.   Today’s Gospel is often referred to as the parable of the Persistent Widow, and develops this Lucan theme of perseverance.   As the nights get longer and colder and the summer fades away, it may be important to pray for this gift of perseverance. For some of us – even just making it to mass this Sunday or during the week is a victory of perseverance, especially when it is tempting to curl up at home.

Resilience

 

The path to joy and fulfillment can be made up of these small heroic victories. However God wishes us to thrive not just to preserve.   Persevering in the faith is a lot easier when we feed our faith regularly with the sacraments, in fact the more frequently we engage with God at this sacred level, whether at mass or confession, we can make that shift from a faith where we are just hanging on in there, to a faith that is alive, growing and flourishing.  I have heard people say – it is not about keeping the faith, but giving the faith away.  Jesus knows how hard it can be at times, when we are surrounded by cynicism and negativity – he knows how hard it is for the widow in the Gospel to get justice from the dishonest judge.  Let’s prepare for winter by strengthening our faith – even if all that means is putting 10 minutes aside each day to come and sit in the sacred silence of the Church.

Heroic Faith (1)

AMDG

$T2eC16RHJIIE9qTYKDQ4BRo1n+7-z!~~60_35Whilst I was on my retreat last week, I was able to do some spiritual reading.  I was inspired by a book called ‘The Flying Bishop’  Fifty Years in the Canadian Far North, by Gabriel Breynat OMI.  It documents how the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Sisters of Charity (Grey Sisters) did heroic work in Canada and Alaska at the turn of the century.  The author, pictured right, was called the Little praying man by the First Nations when he arrived in 1892 at the St Bernard Mission in Athabasca – 10 years later he was named Bishop at the age of 35 – and served as a bishop for 42 years.  He saw the mission grow north of the Arctic Circle,  establishing churches, Schools, Hospitals, Farms, Harbours even Coal Mines.

With such a huge mission territory and such harsh conditions the work that they undertook was incredible.  Originally visiting various communities entailed sleeping out on the ice, occasionally building igloos, surviving hurricanes, Ice Drifts, boats being crushed by Ice flows, having to eat their own dogs to survive, frostbite (losing toes), Bear attacks, Plane crashes, 3 month long winter and twilight, fishing under ice flows, hunting caribou (with migrations of 3  million of them at a time).  It is gripping reading. $T2eC16h,!ysE9sy0kzGKBQuDq7vLPw~~60_35The Travel was rigorous – but as the ice began to break up travel by canoe and boat became possible. mission boat evolved  went from 20hp to 120hp, finally they were able to buy a mission plane. This lead to him being known as the Flying Bishop – but the plane made possible a visit in 9 hours of various mission stations what would have taken him 9 weeks in his early days.  

Pope Pius XI took special interest in the mission – the first book he had read as a boy was an account for the quest of the north west passage.  The Pope was especially interested in the most remote and northerly mission, the mission of Christ the King in the Minto Inlet, on Victoria Island.  004272On occasional visits to him in Rome, the bishop would always have an audience with the Pope who was entranced and gripped with his updates. He presented a chalice to be used on this mission.  A Papal delegate visited many years later and reported ‘The Fathers dwelling was a big tent of tough canvas, about 15 feet by 20 feet and served as a chapel, presbytery, kitchen, bedroom – in one corner, behind an Indian curtain, was a little altar, surmounted by a poor tabernacle arranged like an ammunition box. IN the middle was a rich chalice presented by Pius XI and used by himself .  It was engraved Pius XI, Christus Vicarius, Christi praeconibus (Pius XI, Vicar of Christ to the Heralds of Christ)’

The missions had it own martyrs - The killing of Fr Le Roux and Fr Rouviere by Sinnisiak and Uluksak (two Inuit) near Bear Lake. Also the drowning of another priest who misjudged the thickness of the ice as he was trekking to another mission station.  It is inspiring and moving to hear about the dedication of these men and the sisters who were helping them – but the last word is for the one of the Inuit leaders who addressed the pope’s delegate in these words.

You the envoy of the Very Great Man of Prayer, have come from far away to see us.  Even though we live at such a distance, as though hidden in a wood, and even though we may seem, like Cain of old, to flee from the presence of the Holy Spirit, yet the men of prayer have sought us out: they are great hunters.  For a long time they pursued us, as though hunting, before they could catch us in the lasso of their prayer. It is nearly twice a thousand winters since the birth of Jesus.  At last the men of prayer have reached us: thanks to the Great Spirit we should say. You will tell the Very Great Man of Prayer that we venerate him most respectfully and love him with all our hearts; we thank him for having sent you here to see us.

.

 

Outward Looking

AMDG

 

English: Ivan Lewis MP February 2009 taken by ...

 Ivan Lewis MP 

 

We had a great evening at the chaplaincy on Friday Night – as the Faith and Politics series of evenings came to a climax.  With 4 guests, 2 current MP’s, a former MP and a prominent Catholic Journalist.  What was very striking was how positive the energy was, and it is important to remember how much we can achieve when we are looking outwards rather than inwards.  It is an unhealthy community that splits into factions and rows and gossips about ‘internal matters’ whether dogma or politics. A dynamic attractive community is one that puts its faith into action, helping and engaging with civil society.  First up on Friday was Ivan Lewis MP, who talked about his Jewish identity and upbringing, and his passionate defence of faith schools. Currently the Shadow Secretary for International Development, we had moved his talk forward as he left us to go straight to the airport to fly to Burma and meet Aung San Suu Kyi.

 

Talking about Faith and Politics from a liberal Jewish perspective it was interesting to hear him talk about the need for integration not assimilation – with an implicit critique to ‘assertive secularism’.  He argued that a good faith school gives you a strong identity which allows integration.  Compare this to Dawkin’s absurd claim that faith schools are a form of child abuse.  It resonated with me when Mr Lewis said that the lack of a sense of identity was a big problem with young people.  Interestingly this is something I have been pondering recently – especially a phenomenon I see more and more as the Digital Age allows people  to experiment with multiple identities.  Although there is a sort-of freedom in this, ultimately the lack of a deep-rooted identity, especially the experimenting with conflicting identities which on line anonymity allows, often leads to bullying and abuse – and also a vulnerability to being buffeted by the shrill winds of consumerism and ‘lifestyle agendas’.

 

The other MP – Paul Goggins, in contrast shared about how his identity had been shaped at Manchester University - particularly through experiences are working with disabled children through L’arche.  This ethos of service was rooted in his faith – and I am delighted he mentioned this as we were invited at yesterdays evenings mass to get involved with the Manchester L’arche community that is opening.  My next post will be about the other two guests on a memorable night!

 

AMDG

Jim Murphy at Manchester Universities Catholic Chaplaincy

In Britain it is the Political Parties conference season.  The Labour party is just finishing its conference here in Manchester.  I was very struck with the Scottish MP Jim Murphy who took an hour out of his busy schedule yesterday to talk to the students here at the Catholic Chaplaincy. Currently the shadow defence minister, and heavily involved in the Labour Party policy review, it was great to have him opening our ‘Faith and Politics’ season.  The stock of politicians at the moment in the UK is quite low, especially after the expenses scandal a few years ago, when widespread corruption and greed was exposed. Having sat in on a Fringe event earlier on in the week, it is very clear that net-working and self-promotion seems to be rife at these conferences.  Sometimes the self promotion seems stronger that the desire to serve for the common good, and this is probably why the public attitude to politicians has become, sadly, so jaded.

When Jim Murphy arrived it was clear he had lost his voice.  It was a real strain to hear him speak.  He had had two breakfasts that morning.  He refused any money for the taxi fare – and spoke gently but with passion about how faith and politics can be complementary.  I was quite struck by him – he didn’t need to come and talk to 35 students in the Catholic Chaplaincy, I’m sure it has done nothing for his political profile, there were probably more prestigious and more high-profile events he could have attended.  But he was faithful to his booking, even though his voice was giving out.  We were able to give him some throat lozenges as a thankyou gift, ‘I’ll have to declare these’ he said grinning.  I was fortunate to be able to tell him afterwards, that he had done a great thing,  as these students – some aspiring politicians , many Catholic, others not, had been really encouraged by him coming, and speaking openly about the tensions of faith and religion.  He is a role model for them.  He looked genuinely taken aback when I said that.  If only we had more politicians like him.

 

AMDG

Now that a fairly hectic Welcome Week ( which I believe is the preferred term to Freshers Week!)  is drawing to a close, I feel that I am beginning to get my feet under the desk here in Manchester.  I have been hugely impressed by the students involved in the chaplaincy – their commitment, their talents, the passion they show when they talk about the community here. I keep on pinching myself about the great potential there is here.  One story that has amused me already was about a talk that my predecessor, Fr Ian Kelly, had organised. American Cardinal Raymond Burke came  to talk about the New Evangelisation.  400 attended, so the chaplaincy had to book the Whitworth Hall at the university to accommodate a big crowd. The caretaker whilst setting out extra chairs for the arriving guests, surprised at the numbers,  said to one of the students ‘Is this guy the Pope?’. It turned out that Alex Ferguson (United Manager), had been awarded an honorary doctorate the week before and they didn’t need the extra chairs. Well its a good sign that Cardinal Burke can draw a bigger crowd than Fergie!

Already the ‘Faith and Politics’ group has an impressive line up of speakers organised, with Shadow Defence Minister Jim Murphy coming in two weeks (Oct 3)  to talk about his Catholic faith.  A week later we will have Andy Burnham and Jeremy Lefroy coming.  Burnham has been a real key player in the Hillsborough campaign, so even though he is an Evertonian he will be made very welcome!  A friend was at wedding with his family recently and said how impressive it was to see them leave early the next morning to drive back across the country so they could get to mass as their local parish.  Later in November we are hoping to have Paul Goggins, Ivan Lewis, Lord Alton, John Battle and Christopher Lamb, all on the same night!  And then Faith and Politics will finish November with none other than the controversial George Galloway on the role of Faith in politics.   And that’s just Semester One!  So well done to Matthew and Eamon for organising that –  now we are trying to get speakers organised for the faith and Science group – any ideas or contacts let me know!

Producing at the Fringe

 

Today we welcome a guest post from a producer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Cole Matson is a PhD student in Theology & Theatre at the University of St Andrews, and the Director of the Edinburgh Fringe Chaplaincy Project. He is also producing The World Over now through Sat 25 August, 22:25 at theSpace on North Bridge (V36): Tickets available here.
It’s been a hectic month here at the Edinburgh Fringe, with about 3,000 shows putting on about 40,000 performances over a 3.5-week period. My production, The World Over, about a man who believes himself to be the lost prince of a mythical kingdom called Gildoray, which everyone tells him doesn’t exist, is just one of many options from which Fringe audience members can choose. Thankfully, we’ve had well-above-average audiences (the average audience at the Fringe apparently being about 4 people), and have (almost always!) had more people in the audience than onstage. Audience feedback has been excellent, with an average of 4 stars from audience members, and at least one person saying it was the best show she’s seen at the Fringe. Of course, audiences can always be better, and it’s very tough to do a show with plenty of broad physical comedy when a relatively small audience in a mostly-empty theatre doesn’t feel free to laugh out loud. It’s easy to count laughs, or audience members, or ticket sales, and use those easily-quantifiable figures as a measure of one’s success. If one does so, performing at the Fringe can be very demoralising.
However, one deep connection can be more powerful, and more valuable, than many shallow connections. For example, I’m doing The World Over because when I saw its world premiere in New York 10 years ago, I sat in my seat and wept for 30 minutes after the final scene. I had to hug the lead actor and the playwright very tightly to express to them what their play had meant to me. The night I saw The World Over remains my most powerful experience in the theatre, and I wanted to share that experience with others. Thankfully, a director I met at St Andrews, who is a fellow student, also loved the play when he read it, and we performed it to acclaim last December at the university, before taking it to the Fringe. While no one has broken down weeping (yet), many audience members have told us that they were moved by the show, and ended up discussing it with their friends later that night, or the next day. It’s amazing to me how my one experience with this show has led to exponential growth in the number of other people who have now heard its story and been touched by it. And who knows how many other people this story of faith, innocence, heroism, and a lost prince whose kingdom is not of this world might touch by our audience members’ sharing of it.
To my mind, if we can touch one person with Goodness, Truth and Beauty through the sharing of the story of The World Over in the theatre, we have succeeded as storytellers. In addition, I have been pleased to hear from Fr Tim of another success story at this year’s Fringe. A few of us who are Christian performers at the Fringe have put together the Edinburgh Fringe Chaplaincy Project. Our mission is to support Fringe participants in the practice of their faith, by:

1) providing information on Edinburgh places of worship, including times of services, as well as Fringe outreach events
2) connecting participants for times of prayer and fellowship
3) serving as mentors and partners for Fringe participants of faith who need support
4) forming relationships with places of worship and other religious groups

While we were not able this year to do much more than create a website, begin to list worship times at local churches, and set up a Twitter account to receive prayer requests, Fr Tim did graciously offer his services as chaplain, and allowed us to list his contact information on our website so that Fringe participants who needed a listening ear could contact him. The padre let me know yesterday that Fringe performers have indeed been contacting him for a chat (as I’ve done more than once myself!). If I had been counting website hits or Twitter followers as the criterion of success, I could very easily have been discouraged, and considered the launch of the Chaplaincy Project this year a failure. However, knowing that it has served its purpose by connecting even one performer in need with a chaplain who could share with them God’s compassion and love, I thank God for its success. God uses even our feeble beginnings to accomplish powerful acts of love, and I am constantly staggered by His generosity.

 

 

The Power of Modern Saints

AMDG

Blessed Miguel Pro SJ, one of the first martyrs to be caught on celluloid

It is often said that John Paul II canonized more saints that many previous popes put together.  Some have been critical of this, muttering about the lowering of standards, or cynical about the funds needed to set up a quick process for ‘a cause’ to be investigated.  Saint-making is easier, they claim,  for rich and powerful groups and religious orders who wish their founder or member to be elevated to the altars.  I feel that this criticism is often misguided, churlish and a little mean-spirited.  The desire of John Paul II to make saints that we could relate to in the modern world, that would make holiness an accessible and realistic goal was far-sighted and big-hearted. We all need inspiring role models to spur us on, especially in an age of dubious celebrity and a media that promotes a self destructive narcissism. It is great to be able to show youngsters powerful pictures of Blessed Miguel Pro SJ, being executed by Mexican authorities.  The picture, taken in the age of celluloid says this is not a legend, it is real, it is relevant, we can have a faith like his.

Todays saint Maximilian Kolbe in Auschwitz

Today’s memorial of St Maximilian Kolbe belongs to the same category.  Kolbe, the Franciscan, who offered to substitute his life for a condemned man’s in Auschwitz, is a modern saint, a martyr of the Nazi’s.  After a prisoner had escaped, 10 men were chosen to be put to death as revenge, when one of them pleaded that he was a family man, Fr or ‘Pate’ Kolbe offered to take his place, much to the amazement of the German Officer.  ‘Are you crazy’ he said – the ten men were locked up without food and water, as hostages to be released if the  I have discovered not only photo’s of Maximilian Kolbe (right), but also an interview with an Auchwitz survivor who was an eyewitness to Kolbe’s death.  Now living in Sweden, 88 year old Tadeusz Raznikiewicz  was recorded and translated by a fellow parishioner in Upsalla.  It lasts about twenty minutes and is absolutely absorbing listening. You can listen to it  by clicking on this link – Kolbe eyewitness interview –  the interview starts about 18mins into podcast. through the website ‘The Saint Cast’.

‘Saint Cast’  is produced by a remarkable man in America, Dr Paul Camarata.  He is a brain surgeon and a marathon runner, and somehow he finds time in between these activities  to make these podcasts about Saints. Although the ‘American’ style of the podcast is quite different to European ears – I love listening to these podcasts, in fact through ITunes you can download all the previous episodes.

 

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