Tuesday, 20 October 2015

'Beacon of light' in the Synod gloom, and thoughts from Pope St John XXIII.

                                                                       Pope Francis I

Amidst so many negative and depressing reports emanating from the ‘Synod of the Family’, a report appeared yesterday which shed a dazzling beacon of light on the darkness and confusion. I am indebted to ‘Catholicism Pure and Simple’ for this, and to Father Ed Tomlinson of the Tunbridge Wells Ordinariate for the original article, which is reproduced below.

Acknowledgement to ‘Catholicism Pure and Simple'.  More wisdom from Fr. Ed Tomlinson of the Tunbridge Wells Ordinariate.

'The Synod on the family is bringing clarity to the Church. Three things seem obvious. First, there exists deep division between those who uphold the faith of the ages and those who have conformed to the spirit of the world. Second, the gravest danger posed by the modernists does not centre on any one particular issue, but in a scheme to devolve power away from Rome to national churches. Third, that things are not going smoothly for them, hence the need to rig things, and some brave souls are standing up to the assault on the faith, and calling the church to sanity.

One such person is Dr. Anca-Maria Cernea, a Roumanian. She made the following presentation to Pope Francis and the Synod bishops on Friday. It is the best analysis I have seen of what is really going on within Christianity in the 21st Century. And her words only gain gravitas when one considers the author’s own experience of living out the faith against the backdrop of a communist tyranny.

"Your Holiness, Synod Fathers, Brothers and Sisters, I represent the Association of Catholic Doctors from Bucharest.

I am from the Roumanian Greek Catholic Church. My father was a Christian political leader, who was imprisoned by the communists for 17 years. My parents were engaged to marry, but their wedding took place 17 years later. My mother waited all those years for my father, although she didn’t even know if he was still alive. They have been heroically faithful to God and to their engagement. Their example shows that God’s grace can overcome terrible social circumstances and material poverty.

We, as Catholic doctors, defending life and family, can see this is, first of all, a spiritual battle. Material poverty and consumerism are not the primary cause of the family crisis. The primary cause of the sexual and cultural revolution is ideological.

Our Lady of Fatima has said that Russia’s errors would spread all over the world. It was first done under a violent form, classical Marxism, by killing tens of millions. Now it’s being done mostly by cultural Marxism. There is continuity from Lenin’s sex revolution, through Gramsci and the Frankfurt school, to the current-day gay-rights and gender ideology.

Classical Marxism pretended to re-design society, through violent take-over of property. Now the revolution goes deeper; it pretends to re-define family, sex identity and human nature. This ideology calls itself progressive. But it is nothing else than the ancient serpent’s offer, for man to take control, to replace God, to arrange salvation here, in this world. It’s an error of religious nature, it’s Gnosticism.

It’s the task of the shepherds to recognize it, and warn the flock against this danger. “Seek ye therefore first the Kingdom of God, and His justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” The Church’s mission is to save souls.

Evil, in this world, comes from sin. Not from income disparity or “climate change”. The solution is: Evangelization. Conversion. Not an ever increasing government control. Not a world government. These are nowadays the main agents imposing cultural Marxism to our nations, under the form of population control, reproductive health, gay rights, gender education, and so on.

What the world needs nowadays is not limitation of freedom, but real freedom, liberation from sin. Salvation.

Our Church was suppressed by the soviet occupation. But none of our 12 bishops betrayed their communion with the Holy Father. Our Church survived thanks to our bishops’ determination and example in resisting prisons and terror. Our bishops asked the community not to follow the world. Not to cooperate with the communists.

Now we need Rome to tell the world: “Repent of your sins and turn to God for the Kingdom of Heaven is near”. Not only us, the Catholic laity, but also many Christian Orthodox are anxiously praying for this Synod. Because, as they say, if the Catholic Church gives in to the spirit of this world, it is going to be very difficult for all the other Christians to resist it."

Thank you, thank you Dr Cernia for your clear, outspoken and courageous declaration of faith. We pray that your words will be heard and acted upon.

                         'The Holy Family' by James Collinson (1878)

 If we turn the clock back 75 years or so, western Christian civilization was under severe threat and persecution from Nazism and Bolshevism.  In her address to the Synod, Dr Cernia made the comparison between the brutal ‘modus operandi’ of Marxist Communism of that time, and the more subtle but equally insidious and effective system operating today. They are connected, both having the same diabolical aim but using different methods.

In his auto-biography ‘Journal of a Soul’, Pope St John XXIII reveals a world torn apart by the Second World War, a war of man’s making not God’s, a ‘vindication of divine justice because the sacred laws governing human society have been transgressed and violated’. In our present age this is perhaps equally, if not more so the case, with the Catholic Church itself wracked with internal dissension, with many in high places seeming to contradict Christ’s teaching and authority.

It is salutary to consider a few extracts from ‘Journal of a Soul’

Retreat from 25 November – 1 December 1940, at Terapio on the Bosporus, at the Villa of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion

‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy’
The mourning of the nations. 

'This cry reaches my ears from every part of Europe and beyond.  The murderous war which is being waged on the ground, on the seas and in the air, is truly a vindication of divine justice because the sacred laws governing human society have been transgressed and violated. It has been asserted, and is still being asserted, that God is bound to preserve this or that country, or grant it invulnerability and final victory, because of the righteous people who live there or because of the good that they do. We forget that although in a certain sense God has made the nations, He has left the constitution of states to the free decisions of men. To all He has made clear the rules which govern human society: they are all to be found in the Gospel.  But He has not given any guarantee of special and privileged assistance, except to the race of believers, that is, to Holy Church as such. And even His assistance to His Church, although it preserves her from final defeat, does not guarantee her immunity from trials and persecutions.

The law of life, alike for the souls of men and for nations, lays down principles of justice and universal harmony and the limits to be set to the use of wealth, enjoyments and worldly power.  When this law is violated, terrible and merciless sanctions come automatically into action. No state can escape - to each its hour. War is one of the most tremendous sanctions. It is willed not by God but by men, nations and states, through their representatives. 

Earthquakes, floods, famines and pestilences are applications of the blind law of nature, blind because nature herself has neither intelligence nor freedom. War instead, is desired by men, deliberately, in defiance of the most sacred laws. That is what makes it so evil.  He who instigates war and foments it, is always the ‘Prince of this world, who has nothing to do with Christ, the ‘Prince of peace.’

And while the war rages, the peoples can only turn to the ‘Miserere’ and beg for the Lord’s mercy, that it may outweigh His justice and with a great outpouring of grace bring the powerful men of this world to their senses and persuade them to make peace.'

The mourning of my own soul.  
'What is happening in the world on a grand scale is reproduced on a small scale in every man’s soul, is reproduced in mine. Only the grace of God has prevented me being eaten up with malice.  …Far from seeking consolation by comparing myself with others, I should make the ‘Miserere’ for my own sins my most familiar prayer.'

The great mercy.  
 'It is not just ordinary mercy that is needed here. The burden of social and personal wickedness is so grave that an ordinary gesture of love does not suffice for forgiveness. So we invoke the great mercy. This is proportionate to the greatness of God. ‘For according to His greatness, so also is His mercy’(Ecc. 2:23) It is well said that our sins are the seat of divine mercy. It is even better said that God’s most beautiful name and title is this: Mercy.  This must inspire us with a great hope amidst our tears. ‘Yet mercy triumphs over judgement’(psalms). This seems too much to hope for. But it cannot be too much if the whole mystery of the Redemption hinges on this: the exercise of mercy is to be a portent of predestination and of salvation.' 

‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great Mercy.’ 

          'The Crucifixion of Christ' by Tintoretto (1568) (Wikiart)

 Retreat with his clergy from 25 – 31 October 1942, at the Apostolic Delegation, Istanbul.

'The two great evils which are poisoning the world today, are secularism and nationalism. The former is characteristic of the men in power and of lay folk in general, the latter is found even among ecclesiastics… I must be very watchful, both as Bishop and representative of the Holy See. … The holy Church which I represent, is the mother of nations, all nations. Everyone with whom I come into contact must admire in the Pope’s representative that respect for the nationality of others, expressed with graciousness and mild judgements, which inspires universal trust. Great caution then, respectful silence, and courtesy on all occasions …. We are living through great events, and chaos lies ahead. This makes it all the more necessary to return to those principles which are the foundation of the Christian social order, and to judge what is happening today in the light of what the Gospel teaches us, recognising in the terror and horror which engulf us the terrible sanctions that guard the divine law, even on earth.'

During this Retreat, good Fr Rene Folet, has proposed an image of the perfect Bishop, using the words of St Isidore of Seville about St Fulgentius. I copy these words out as a warning to myself and in remembrance of this happy Retreat. If only my own life could mirror this doctrine!

‘He who is set in authority for the education and instruction of the people for their good must be holy in all things and reprehensible in nothing …. His speech must be pure, simple, open, full of dignity and integrity, full of gentleness and grace when he is dealing with the mystery of the law, the teaching of the faith, the virtue of continence and the law of justice; admonishing everyone, with exhortations varying according to that person’s profession and the quality of his morals; that is he must know in advance of what, to whom, when and how he should speak.  It is his special and primary duty to read the Scriptures, to know the Canons, to imitate the example of the Saints, and devote himself to vigils, fasts, and prayers, to live at peace with his brethren and never alienate any member, to condemn no one without proof, to excommunicate no-one without due consideration.  Every Bishop should be distinguished as much by his humility as by his authority, so that he may neither cause the vices of his subordinates to flourish, through his own excessive humility, nor exercise his authority with immoderate severity.  The more strictly he fears he will be judged by Christ, the more warily should he act towards those committed to his care.

‘He will also preserve that charity which excels all other gifts, and without which all virtue is nothing. For charity is the safeguard of chastity too.  Among other things, it will be his duty to show care for the poor, with anxious stewardship, to clothe the naked, to succour pilgrims, to ransom captives, to watch over widows and orphans and to show vigilant care for all, making provision for all with due discretion. In hospitality also he will be noteworthy in supplying the needs of all, with kindliness and charity. For if all the faithful long to hear that saying of the Gospel: “I was a stranger and you took me in”, all the more must the Bishop, whose house must give shelter to all.”
Notes made at the annual retreat in November 1948, at the Benedictine monastery of the Sacred Heart at En Calcat (Dourgne), France.   Pope John was entering his 68th year.
‘The more mature I grow in years and experience, the more I recognise that the surest way to make myself holy and to succeed in the service of the Holy See lies in the constant effort to reduce everything, principles, aims, position, business, to the utmost simplicity and tranquillity; I must always take care to strip my vines of all useless foliage and spreading tendrils, and concentrate on what is truth, justice and charity, above all charity.  Any other way of behaving is nothing but affectation and self-assertion; it soon shows itself in its true colours and becomes a hindrance and a mockery.

Oh, the simplicity of the Gospel, of the Imitation of Christ, of the Little Flowers of St Francis and of the most exquisite passages in St Gregory, in his ‘Moralia’: ‘the simplicity of the just man is derided’, and the words that follow! I enjoy these pages more and more and return to them with joy. All the wiseacres of this world, and all the cunning minds, including those in Vatican diplomacy, cut such a poor figure in the light of the simplicity and grace shed by this fundamental doctrine of Jesus and His Saints! This is the surest wisdom that confounds the learning of this world ....."

                                                              Pope St John XXIII                 

 'Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name, 
  Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, 
  On Earth as it is in Heaven'


Sunday, 20 September 2015

More on Francis McCullagh - Catholic journalist of courage and integrity

                                        Mgr Konstantin Budkiewicz  (1867-1923)

I have been reading a very interesting book, ‘The Bolshevik Persecution of Christianity’ by Captain Francis McCullagh, published by John Murray, London, 1924. 
McCullagh (born 1874 in N.Ireland, died 1956 in New York), was a British Catholic journalist, who in the early days of the Revolution, had been imprisoned by the Bolsheviks, but subsequently escaped. He was an experienced war correspondent and a fluent Russian speaker, and early in 1923  he was commissioned by Frank Munsey, editor of the ‘New York Herald’ to travel to Russia  to obtain first -hand information on the relationship between the Bolshevik government and the Christian Churches; and this book  dedicated by McCullagh to Munsey, is the result.
                     Dedicated to Mr Frank Munsey
            Owner and Editor of the ‘New York Herald’
     who, by sending me as his correspondent to Russia,
               enabled me to obtain the facts set forth
                                 in this book.

‘I might add that no individual and no Government, and no religious, political, or other organization is behind this work, or has given any assistance towards it, or has even promised to buy a single copy.  It is published under nobody’s auspices or patronage; and both the author and the publisher could have devoted themselves to work which would be more profitable to them financially.    F.McCullagh.’   (London, September 14, 1923)

 McCullagh deals initially with the take-over and politicizing of the Russian Orthodox Church by the Bolshevik government. He then  follows this with a full account of  the State trial which opened on March 21, 1923, of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Achrida, John Cieplak; Monsignors Maletzky and Budkiewicz; Exarch Fedorov, head of the Uniat Church; eleven  priests and one Catholic layman, all charged with offences against the State; viz. refusal to hand-over church valuables- which included the Eucharistic vessels,  from churches and religious houses, to agents of the State;  also teaching  the Catholic faith to children and young people, both in church and in their homes.

The result of this travesty of a trial, held in the former ‘Club of the Nobility’ now the ‘House of the Red Labour Unions’ near Opera Square, Moscow, which lasted a mere five days from March 21 to March 25, 1923, was a finding of guilt for all the accused, with Archbishop Cieplak and Monsignor Budkiewicz sentenced to death, and varying terms of imprisonment for the remaining defendants, ranging from 10 years in solitary confinement, to 3 years; with the one lay defendant sentenced to 6 months imprisonment.

Monsignor Budkiewicz was executed (murdered - shot in the head) in a cellar, during the night of 30/31 March, the night of Good Friday/Holy Saturday.  As a result of international outrage and condemnation of the trial, the death sentence on Archbishop Cieplak was commuted to one of 10 years imprisonment in solitary confinement.

 The author completes his work with an analysis of all the Christian Churches in Russia at that time, concluding with the destruction and virtual dissolution of the Russian Orthodox Church, which included the murder of 28 Bishops and 1200 priests, leaving the Catholic Church alone possessing the spiritual strength  to withstand and survive prolonged State persecution. 

The book is 400 pages long and contains a wealth of information, with a particularly full and detailed account of the Cieplak 'trial', in which I was struck by the similarities in many of the Bolshevik policies regarding the relationship of State and family, to those of our secular governments in  the West today. It seems incredible, but nevertheless logical, that Marxism would eventually synchronise with atheistic secularism, confirming McCullagh’s view that  Bolshevism and 'Big Business' are ‘natural’ allies.  

                                          Trotsky, Lenin, Kamenev. 5th May 1919.

Extracts from ‘The Bolshevik Persecution of Christianity’ by Francis McCullagh (1923)
‘The trial opened on Wednesday, March 21,1923, under the Bolshevik Judge Galkin.  The look of extreme hatred conveyed by Galkin towards the accused – ‘glances so charged with intense malignity that, if looks could kill, they would cause instant death.’ ‘The world wherein for the moment I found myself was animated by that same passionate intolerance which had led the Roman mob, the Roman officials, and even the Roman intellectuals of Trajan’s time to loathe the Christians with a fury so immeasurable as to embarrass and alarm even Caesar himself.’

 ‘If the Soviet government orders me to act against my conscience, I do not obey. As for teaching the catechism, the Catholic Church lays it down that children must be taught their religion, no matter what the law says. Conscience is above the law. No law which is against the conscience can bind’  (Exarch  Federov, head of the Uniat Church in Russia, defendant in the trial of Archbishop Cieplak and others, replying to government prosecutor, the Procurator Krylenko, March 22, 1923)

 ‘The worst feature of the Bolshevik persecution of Christianity is not the imprisonment and murder of priest and laymen, but the attack on family life. The new laws on marriage and on the education of children, which a Commission in the Department of Justice is now preparing, are deeply tainted by that most atrocious doctrine of radical Communism – namely, the doctrine that children belong absolutely to the State, and must be handed over to State institutions. Children who have not reached maturity (eighteen years) are regarded as belonging to no religion whatsoever, and the assertion of the parents that the child belongs to any particular Church has absolutely no force.’

 ‘The teaching of religious beliefs in State or private educational establishments and schools to children of tender age and to minors is punishable by forced labour for a period not exceeding one year’ – clause 121 of the new Criminal Code. (p53)

 ‘Moreover, apart from its frontal attack on the Church, the Soviet Government had trespassed on parental authority and on the home to an extent which no Christian prelate should have permitted without a public protest, which would have resounded throughout Europe and America  ........ I refer, among other matters, to the questionnaires on sexual questions which   are sent out by the Commissariat of Public Health. One such questionnaire was sent in the Spring of 1923, to all women and adolescent girls in Moscow, and these were required by law to fill it up. Most of the questions related to self-abuse and to unnatural vices, with which the compilers of the questionnaire had apparently no quarrel’

 ‘Catholicism is detested by autocratic rulers, which included the Tsars and the Bolsheviks. 

Writing in 1819, of the hostility of Alexander I to Rome, Joseph de Maistre says, “There is in the teaching of the Catholic Church, an hauteur, an assurance, an inflexibility which displease temporal rulers, who cannot believe that they are master, or sufficiently master, where there exists a power with which they cannot do as they please.   It never occurs to them that this pride and this independence are the natural and necessary characteristics of truth, so much so that where independence does not exist, truth does not exist. Truth is invincible, independent, and inflexible.It is said in the Gospels that the peoples who heard the preaching of the Saviour were astonished because He did not speak to them like their doctors, but as one having authority.The religion which has not this tone is human."

  'Big Business and Bolshevism are natural allies, and they are likely to come together sooner or later, for the oppression of the poor, and of those priests whose place is with the poor, as their Divine Master’s was.’

  ‘In their rank materialism, in their genuine contempt for such tenets of Christianity as they cannot utilize for political or financial purposes, in their efforts to relieve parents of the care of their children and children of the care of their parents, to interfere in the home, to put asunder those whom God has joined, to exclude religion from the schools, to reduce the workers to a state of servitude, ....to erect the State into a sort of divinity, some European governments outside of Russia are entering on the same path as that along which the Government of the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic (R.S.F.S.R) has already advanced’

‘On November 18, 1922, the ‘Anti-Religious Seminary’ was opened in Moscow. This seminary, which has a special anti-religious library, is intended for the careful training of ‘propagandists and agitators in religious questions’. It consists of practised propagandists from Moscow and the provinces, as well as of comrades who have only recently turned their attention to the question of anti-religious lectures.  All are, as I said before, under the experienced direction of old, anti-Christian orators, and of professors learned in natural science; and all are taught how to make their points to the best advantage from the platform and how, at the same time, to convey real information to their hearers.'

      At the Seminary, the Prospectus will be as follows:
1.    Faith and Knowledge.  2. Religion and Morals.  3. Origin and Growth of Religions.  4. History of Christianity.  5. Church and State. 6. The Reformation in the West and in Russia. 7. Natural History: a) The Universe, the Solar System, the Earth.;  b)Origin and Growth of Life; c)Origin of Man; d) Prehistoric Man. 8. Religion and Marxism.”   (Comrade Kucherin - writing in Izvestia, November 18, 1922)

NB. Unbelievably, the prospectus reads almost like that of a traditional Catholic seminary. If the reality was not so evil, it would almost be laughable!

                                        'Salvator Mundi' - (Saviour of the World)

 The events reported by Francis McCullagh occurred nearly 100 years ago, yet although we may  no longer consider Russia as ruled by a tyrannical government, Communist totalitarianism certainly lurks beneath the surface. China and North Korea, particularly the latter, are under the iron rule of merciless Communist regimes, totally anti-Christian, where the rule of law is as bad, if not worse, than that of Bolshevik Russia. Communism is not the only threat to our Christian civilisation, consider  those countries suffering deadly persecution by Islamic extremists throughout the Middle-East, Africa, and Asia; also the growing threat from rampant materialism and ever more powerful capitalism. Increasingly, the powerful of this world turn their backs on God, ignoring His Commandments and denying His sovereignty, deliberately setting themselves up as masters of the universe, formulating their own 'morality' to suit their aims, with the power of money corrupting and leading men and nations to self-destruction and perdition. Our Lady has told us that many souls are lost through sins of the flesh, yet western governments and the United Nations are blatantly endorsing programmes  opposed to Christian moral principles:- world-wide provision of contraception and abortion facilities; promoting homosexuality and same-sex marriage; inappropriate 'sex-education' for school-children, world-wide, etc.   Poorer nations are under pressure to accept these programmes, even though they do not want them, for fear that they will be refused other vital economic aid.

Francis McCullagh died in 1956, spending the last years of his life in hospital in New York, having been found three years previously wandering the streets suffering from early dementia. Since his Russian exploits, his life had taken many turnings, including assignments as a war correspondent, in Mexico, Spain, and Tripoli, subsequently writing books on his experiences. His courage and integrity in his work, made him friends but also enemies in high places. He was strongly critical of the  Mexican government for its' brutal persecution of the Catholic population, and equally critical of the role played by the American government in supporting it. His reports were ignored by the American media whose interests they did not serve. He was equally critical of the Italian invasion of Tripoli, shocked by their treatment of the Africans, Jews, and Muslims of Libya, he accused the Italians of being, in effect, in league with international bankers, and despite his own profound religious convictions, extended this charge to the Italian Catholic Church which had enthusiastically supported the invasion. In 1911, his experience of warfare provoked a reaction and re-assessment of his own sense of values, and in a pamphlet published by the World Peace Foundation that year, he strongly criticised the emerging global armaments industry and the capitalists involved, "for their power is tremendous, their wealth almost unlimited, and their patriotism nil"

Ack. 'The Bolshevik persecution of Christianity. by Francis McCullagh.
        'Studies - Irish Quarterly Review (2009)'

NB. I hope to post again on this outstanding Catholic journalist.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Francis McCullagh (1874-1956) - War Correspondent 'extraordinaire'

‘The Polish churches, not only in Moscow but all over Siberia, were crowded with men as well as women; and I always felt better, physically and spiritually, after visiting them. They were calm asylums for the sane in a country which had gone mad.  They were altars where one could seek sanctuary from the poisoned shafts of ideas more deadly than the spears of the feudal age, from Kropotkin’s fascinating theories of licence, as well as from Lenin’s stern dogmas of oligarchic tyranny.  Even their severe Latin architecture and the plain, veritable cross of Rome on the steeple were a relief after the twisted oriental style, barbaric colours, and distorted crosses of the Byzantine churches; while, on the other hand, the warm glow of life which animated them was an equally welcome contrast to the chill of death which pervaded the ‘Reformed’ chapels. They were mute but eloquent symbols of a greater and an older International than Lenin’s, of an Institution which had witnessed the fall of the Roman Empire, which had survived the dreadful menace of Islam, which had seen many movements madder even than Bolshevism, rise and rage for a season, and then disappear so completely that the man in the street today does not know their very names.
            I had visited many of those churches during the course of my journey, and had found them open when the others were shut, had found the Catholic priest at his post when all the other ministers of religion were fleeing or had fled. The Red torrent had thundered down on them, the leaping spray had hidden them from sight, and the raging waters had cut them off, but when I came back they still stood like the rock on which they are built.  I thought with awe of that tremendous prophecy which I had seen on the dome of St Peter’s:  “The gates of Hell shall not prevail”.
            There was an indescribable comfort and reassurance in seeing exactly the same service as is to be seen in Ireland, Tyrol, Westminster, the Vatican, France, Valparaiso, the Islands of the Outer Hebrides, and every part of the orbis terrarum Semper eadem.  One heard in all these different places exactly the same Latin words leading up to that stupendous sentence pronounced at the Last Supper,  and followed by those simple, soldierly words of the Roman Captain which are engraven to the end of time on the memory of man.  Yet in each place the Church was no exotic, hothouse plant, but a national growth with its roots in the hearts of the people.  Even in Russia the congregations were made up not only of Poles but of Lithuanians, Ukrainians, White Russians, French, Germans, and Austrians.  Meeting once in Siberia a gentle young priest who had remained behind to share the fortunes of his flock, and knowing that Poles do not like to speak Russian when they can help it (though he turned out to be Lithuanian), I addressed him in the best Latin I could muster, and I shall never forget how his eyes lit up when he heard the sound of that stately tongue. Did it remind him of how Nero failed yesterday as Lenin will fail tomorrow?  Nor can I ever forget the Masses I have heard on dark, frosty mornings in isolated Catholic churches far in the heart of Red Russia, and how astonishingly the calm and dignity of the noble service contrasted with the mad roar of revolution outside.  The church was dark, save where the altar candles made the silvery hair of the priest shine like a nimbus and lit up the altar, evoking a picture of the same Sacrifice being offered in a dimly lit Roman catacomb in commemoration of Sebastian the Soldier or of Agnes the Virgin Martyr, while a tyranny as bad as Lenin’s howled itself hoarse outside.  To me the Catholic priests whom I met represented European culture, Christian civilization; and great indeed was the contrast between their scholarly discourse and the mad babble of the Bolsheviks into which I had again to plunge'.                                                  

                                                                     Light of Faith
 The above extract is taken from ‘A Prisoner of the Reds’ by Capt. Francis McCullagh, being an account of his experiences as a prisoner of the Bolsheviks from January to April of the year 1920. I recently acquired an old (1923) copy of this book and have not yet finished reading it. The writer was of Irish birth and was a journalist by profession. As a war correspondent he had covered
the Russo-Japanese war for the New York Herald, the Turkish civil war of 1909, the Portuguese revolution of 1910, various Balkan wars, hostilities in Morocco, and the Italian invasion of Tripoli.
On the outbreak of World War 1 he was sent as a journalist to the Eastern front, where he reported from the Russian side. He then enlisted in the Royal Irish Fusiliers at the end of 1914, was posted to Gallipoli and spent most of the war in military intelligence. He was then posted to the British Military Mission to Siberia, which was assisting the White Russians in their struggle against the Bolsheviks. Captured by the Russians in early 1919, he persuaded his captors that he was a journalist rather than a British army officer, and was allowed to spend many months wandering around Russia before the increasingly suspicious Russian security services arrested him in Moscow. Under the 'Brest-Livotsk Agreement' he was repatriated to Britain where he wrote many newspaper articles on his experiences in Bolshevik Russia, and also completed this book ‘A Prisoner of the Reds’. 
                   Generals Sakharov and Kolchak, and McCullagh (far right)

I have been fortunate in that I have managed to obtain four books (old copies) by McCullagh namely:-
‘The Bolshevisk Persecution of Christianity’, containing a detailed account of the staged State trial of  several prelates and priests culminating in the murder in custody of Mgr  Budkiewicz, and the sentence of death passed on Archbishop Cieplak, later commuted to life imprisonment to assuage world-wide condemnation of the the trial;  
 ‘Red Mexico’ an account of the terrible persecution of the Church in Mexico in the 1920s, and the role of the United States government in aiding the Masonic Mexican government;    
‘In Franco’s Spain’ being an account of events in Spain during the Civil War of the mid 1930s;  
 'A Prisoner of the Reds',  the book I am currently reading. 
I am amazed and impressed by the achievements of McCullagh, a brave man by any standards, both physically and morally. As a journalist he was fearless in reporting the facts, with his Catholic faith shining like a beacon throughout his work. As a young man he attended a Seminary to test his vocation, but in spite of glowing reports from others, decided that he was not suited to the priesthood. Thereafter journalism  was his life. I strongly recommend these books, the early editions effectively primary source material for detail of some of the terrible persecutions of the Church in the first three decades of the 20th century.

                                              'The Bolshevik' (1920)  by Kustodiev

I hope to publish further posts on Francis McCullagh, in his day a renowned and highly regarded war correspondent, but now largely forgotten. He deserves to be rescued from obscurity, and  publicly recognised as the honest and fearless journalist that he was, and above all as a man who loved God and His Church and was not afraid to say so. In the above quoted passage, it is revealing to read his comments on the universal and traditional Latin Mass celebrated in the isolated Catholic churches in the heart of Red Russia, which gave him ‘indescribable comfort and reassurance’, and his experience of  'the calm and dignity of the noble service, contrasted with the mad roar of the revolution outside'. He was describing experiences of  nearly one hundred years ago, with the world a ‘maelstrom’ of bloodshed, violence, and increasing godlessness. Sadly the universality of the traditional Latin Mass is, in practice, no longer the case, and the use of the vernacular and the post Vatican 2  'Novus Ordo' Mass – with variations depending on the country and the celebrant, perhaps diminishing that sense of  'spiritual unity' once so universally evident in Christ’s Church. The world today is threatened with destruction, physical and moral, with ungodly and powerful nations deliberately following the wide road that leads to perdition, with Christ’s Church persecuted and vilified by enemies both outside and within the Church itself. The world today is as much a maelstrom of bloodshed, violence, and godlessness, as it was in 1920, but sadly the Church now seems somehow less visible, less united, and sometimes almost deferential in its attitude to the world. Nevertheless we live in certain hope that Christ will never abandon His Church, and that the gates of Hell will never prevail. Glory to God in the Highest!

'Holy Mary, Mother of God and mother of mercy, pray for us and for the faithful departed'
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