Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Some Final Advent Exhortations

I am greatly indebted to Mgr Charles Pope, for this article published on the 'Community in Mission' blog-site on 20 December. I find his posts extremely instructive, balanced, and truly edifying, and this post is no exception.

'As Advent approaches its end, the Office of Readings features some final admonitions for us from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. On the one hand they console; on the other hand they challenge us to remain firm.

Isaiah addressed a people in exile who still awaited the first coming of the Lord. These texts now speak to us in difficult days when, exiled from Heaven, we await the His great second coming.

Let’s look at these admonitions of the Lord’s (from Isaiah 46:1-13) that were addressed to three different groups in ancient Israel, three groups still present in our time: the faithful remnant, the foolish rebels, and the at-risk fainthearted.

To the faithful remnant 
Hear me, O house of Jacob, all who remain of the house of Israel, My burden since your birth, whom I have carried from your infancy. Even to your old age I am the same, even when your hair is gray I will bear you; It is I who have done this, I who will continue, and I who will carry you to safety.

          Yes, this is directed to the devoted, to the remnant, to those who remain after the cultural revolution, to those sometimes discouraged and sorrowed over the infidelity of loved ones and the world around them. To these, often the elderly among us who remember a more faithful even if imperfect time, to these the Lord first speaks.

          Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Who are the mournful? They are those who see the awful state of God’s people: not glorifying the Lord in their lives, not knowing why they were made, spending themselves on what neither matters nor satisfies. Yes, those who mourn shall be strengthened, and, as their sorrow has motivated them to pray and work for the kingdom, they shall be borne to safety.

          Such as these, the faithful remnant, should never forget that God has carried them from the beginning, even in the strength of their prime. And now, reduced by age, the Lord still carries them. He has never forgotten them and will carry them to safety; their faith in difficult times will be rewarded.

To The Foolish Rebels 
Remember this and bear it well in mind, you rebels; remember the former things, those long ago: I am God, there is no other; I am God, there is none like me. Whom would you compare me with, as an equal, or match me against, as though we were alike? There are those who pour out gold from a purse and weigh out silver on the scales; Then they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god before which they fall down in worship. They lift it to their shoulders to carry; when they set it in place again, it stays, and does not move from the spot. Although they cry out to it, it cannot answer; it delivers no one from distress.

          The word “rebel” is from the Latin re (again) + bellum (war). In this context it refers to those who are forever at war against God and His plan for their lives. They foolishly forget His saving deeds of the past. They imagine vain things: that there are other gods or entities that could save them. Even more foolishly, they craft other “gods” that they have to lift to their shoulders to carry.

          Many in our day act in the same way: always at war with God, His Church, and His plan. As G.K. Chesterton once noted, when people stop believing in God, it is not that they will believe in nothing but that they will believe in anything. Chesterton also wrote that when we reject God’s big laws, we get ten thousand little laws. We transfer our trust away from God to false, crafted gods like government, or science, or the market. We hope that they will carry us, but we end up carrying the weight of these gods on our shoulders. We carry this weight in the form of taxes, debt, and
anxiety about everything in our health or environment (demanded by the increasingly politicized scientific and medical communities).

          Science, the market, and government are not intrinsically evil, but they are not gods either and cannot deliver us from ourselves. Only God can do this. But to the many who rebelliously and foolishly persist with their “non-gods,” God says, “I am God; there is no other.”

To the Fainthearted at Risk

Listen to me, you fainthearted, you who seem far from the victory of justice: I am bringing on my justice, it is not far off, my salvation shall not tarry; I will put salvation within Zion, and give to Israel my glory. At the beginning I foretell the outcome; in advance, things not yet done. I say that my plan shall stand, I accomplish my every purpose. I call from the east a bird of prey, from a distant land, one to carry out my plan. Yes, I have spoken, I will accomplish it; I have planned it, and I will do it.

          Among the faithful there are some who are at risk, who are close to giving up. God encourages them, but also warns that His plan will stand whether or not they endure. Thus there is an implicit warning from Jesus here, and an explicit warning elsewhere, that we must persevere. Jesus says that because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved (Matt 24:12-13).

          St. Augustine also wrote, [God has] devised a plan, a great and wonderful plan … All this had therefore to be prophesied, foretold, and impressed on us as an event in the future, in order that we might wait for it in faith, and not find it as a sudden and dreadful reality (From a discourse on the psalms by Saint Augustine, bishop (In ps. 109, 1-3: CCL 40, 1601-1603)).

          God’s plan will stand whether or not we do. We must stand as well, even when we would faint or fall back. Our love must not grow cold nor our strength fail. God has triumphed and Satan has lost. We must choose with whom we will stand.

          The evidence of the present time does not seem to show this, but as Scripture reminds us,

          'therefore we do not lose heart … So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor 4:16-17)
         For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever (1 Jn 2:16-17) 

Here, then, are some final instructions from the Lord for us this Advent, instructions for us who wait for Him: be faithful; the plan will come to pass. Do not be a foolish rebel, nor one of the at-risk fainthearted. Rather, be part of the faithful remnant. For St. Paul says, Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved” (Romans 9:27).

The song performed in the clip below is entitled “Lord Help Me to Hold Out"    (highlight, then rt. click and open link)

       (Ack. Mgr Charles Pope,  'Community in Mission' blog-site.)

Monday, 7 December 2015

'A Christmas Candle' by Phyllis Taunton Wood

A CHRISTMAS CANDLE  by  Phyllis Taunton Wood

The lover of the world is born
Among the Sainfoin and the corn.
Dear Heart, forget your ancient pain                   
And make a home for him again.


Push in the stubborn door on rusty hinge,
And move the carpet with its ragged fringe;
Scour from the boards the long neglected grime
That all be sweet and clean for Christmas time.

Kindle upon the hearth a friendly blaze
To gladden every guest who hither strays.
Adorn the room with flowers you can bring;
Perhaps a Robin may alight and sing.

Comfort the tenant with your gentle cheer
Lest he despair to entertain you here.
At last, when Mary deems the room is fit,
Her darling baby may be born in it.

And rest within the room a happy space,
And welcome all his friends into the place;
For even a rude and uninvited guest
Is greeted lovingly at his behest.

The Ox and Ass, the Shepherd and the King,
Surround the cradle in a happy ring.
Last comer of the year, and first as well
Shall be the little lord Immanuel.

But You alone, O heavenly Housekeeper,
Could clear the lumber that was here.

 She did not long prepare
For Adam’s heir.

He found where beasts had fed
His little bed.

For so do men despise
The dim sunrise.

Doom of a subject race
He learned to face.

Caesar was master still
And had his will.

He made men’s bodies whole,
And won their soul.

But fear and sloth have part
In mortal heart.

A convict’s death his share,
But God dwells there.

That single-minded quest
Attained its rest.

And we at heart aspire
With like desire;

Though cherishing in shame
Another aim.

JESUS, we hope in you!
Redeem us too.

They kept a vigil for the early lambs,
Those nights of sudden cold,
Rough men that had a wisdom in their hands
To help the labouring ewe, and if they might,
Succour her black legged twins’ divided strength
With careful tending in the fold.

Absorbed in duty to the newly born,
Homage to sacred life,
The shepherds did not childishly complain
Of winter nights, and wind about their necks,
But old men watched the flame with patient eyes
While their sons dozed and stirred and slept again.

Then lightning tore the darkness, and a song
Lovely as light assailed
Their ears, and caught their spirits into joy:
And from the heart of light a trumpet voice
Cried of a Saviour born to set men free.
‘The Son of Man is bare of royal sign.
On straw he lies, with destiny divine.’

They might have hidden from the rose of fire
That crowned the zenith with a diadem,
And sworn such music inconceivable
Was out of all tradition, a wild dream;
But being prone to wonder they arose.
‘Let us now go’ they said, ‘to Bethlehem.’


Contending winds, hail from the bitter north
Buffet the early flowers that struggle forth.
O to reach down into sustaining earth,
The potent source of beauty ere its birth!

In this harsh season comes the Child again,
Unclothed, un-sheltered friend of pitiless men,
Whose flowering spirit dwells in fertile sod,
His root unshaken in the heart of God.


That time of fear,
The legions losing nerve,
Stung into quick reprisals for revolt,
While Zealots, blind with hate
And rancour, paid the unending price
To gain an earthly paradise.
Could mortals bloom for thee
In this sterility?

A soil rock-bound,
Fissured with earthquakes, bare
Of grass and gardens, and the green embrace
Of beech-woods and the yellow Iris, found
With Comfrey in a still, well watered place –
A pledge of bleak despair
Seemed then the human race;
Yet Jesus flowered to Thee,
White-petalled Cherry tree.

They cut it down:
But on our bitter stock
The gardener grafts that dazzling tree of might;
His seeds are left
In many a granite cleft,
And little buds of brown
Turn green, and stretch to long-stemmed cherry flowers.

Rise, Jesus, flower again
Among bewildered men!

Light holds empire
Upon the refluent tide of dark.
Though men’s confused desire
Delay the splendours of the dawn,
Yet can returning chaos drown
No kindled spark.
Fair Jesus, flower in me,
Immortal Cherry tree!


O little hands so soft and pitiful,
Too small to carry what you hold most dear,
No diffident or hopeless man need  fear
To take you, baby hands.

Large skilful hands inscribed with grip of tools
And wise in touch of throbbing flesh and wood,
A humble man will deem it very good
To clasp you, labouring hands.

O wounded hands, helpless & pierced & torn,
Strong hands that suffer more than need be borne.
O patient hands, nailed bleeding to a board –
Into thy hands, O Lord!

                      'A Christmas Candle' by Phyllis Taunton Wood.
                      Published by the Redlynch Press, London. W5.
(limited edition of 50)

Mrs Phyllis Taunton Wood, was a British poet and artist working in the mid 20th century. She was the wife of Sidney H. Wood, described as a leading English educator. Her first exhibition was in 1945 in Salisbury, when she exhibited oil paintings, w/colours, and wood engravings. Her poems in which she included her own hand-painted wood engravings, include 'Prayer of an Artist', 'Four Gates', 'Christmas Candle', 'Pilgrims Elixir', and 'Dark Valley'.

"God is surprisingly good and liberal towards a soul that heartily seeks Him.  Neither can past sins prove a hindrance to our becoming saints, if only we have the sincere desire to attain holiness."                                                                                        'Thoughts from St Alphonsus'

'Wishing you a blessed and happy Christmas and New Year.'

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.