Dear Editor, Your front-page story about Irish missionaries in Venezuela was a perfect illustration of the varied gifts religious life offers to the Church and the world God has created, and a wonderful demonstration of the ‘mosaic’ of consecrated life your paper showcased this week (IC 7/2/2019).
The German journalist Peter Seewald interviewed the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger back in the 1990s, and on asking him how many ways there are to God was told “as many as there are people”. The consecrated life special section of The Irish Catholic really showed this, with features and adverts pointing to over a dozen different orders and congregations, showing admirably that whatever the Church is, it’s not a one-size-fits-all organisation.
Some of these orders serve God’s people in obvious ways – the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, for instance, care for the struggling people of Venezuela in a very clear way, seeking to feed both their bodies and their souls, while the likes of the Sisters of Mercy and the Good Shepherd Sisters try to care for people on the margins of our own society.
For other orders, though, especially those with a more Benedictine background, their relevance may not be so immediately obvious, and your supplement helped bring out how those who pray away from the world do powerful work for the world. In a sense, I suppose, they act as spiritual batteries, helping to empower us all in our own lives and tasks. That, I think, was how they used to be understood in the Middle Ages anyway.
Pope had forewarning of 1916 Rising
Dear Editor, Peter Costello wrote in your issue of January 3 on the subject of evidence that Count Plunkett had an audience with the Pope in 1916, to inform him of the coming Rising. He concludes that no such evidence exists, with the implication that it should exist if it ever happened. This implication I would contest.
It is easy to see that Peter Costello did not know Count Plunkett, nor does he have trust in the word of one of the most conscientious and courageous people of his time. On the other hand, I lived in the same house as him when he was quite old; and while I did not pick up much detail on the subject, we had his word that he not only told the Pope what was about to happen, under strict secrecy (this could imply that records were not to be kept), but that he explained the rationale for the Rising, and the historic reasons for distrust of the British and their propaganda machine. He said that at the conclusion of the interview, the Pope had tears in his eyes, and exclaimed “Oh, my poor Ireland, my poor Ireland!”
The reason for the visit to Rome, I had always been told, was to prevent papal condemnation of the Rising, and was based on the concept of the use of an informed conscience in the face of excommunication threats for “waging an illegal war”. My grandfather’s conscience was very well informed by a lifetime of philosophical and religious studies – his honorary doctorates required an extra line on letters addressed to him – and his fluency in Italian and knowledge of the city and its politics made him the obvious choice to help make the way smooth for his fellow Catholics.
Those who knew him not only revered him, but loved him!
Donnybrook, Dublin 4.
‘Fr Rolheiser’s Ecumenism’
Dear Editor, It was great to see Fr Rolheiser spelling out what ecumenism means as understood by such great Catholic scholars as Cardinal Dulles and Fr Raymond Browne (IC 7/2/2019). The fullness of truth subsists in the Church, of course, but sometimes our emphasis may obscure parts of it that we can be reminded of by others.
Clondalkin, Dublin 22.
‘Chilling abdication of a bishop’
Dear Editor, The statement ‘Don’t rely on a fat, balding, Irish Bishop to speak out and defend the Church’ (front page of the IC 7/2/2019) sounds like a chilling abdication of a bishop from the teaching, prophetic and leadership role which is his “in season and out of season”.
Raheny, Dublin 5.
Bishops’ ‘Friday Penance’ leaflet worth reviewing
Dear Editor, In response to last week’s article ‘Calls for Friday Fast to be reintroduced’ (IC 7/2/2019) I would like to make your readers aware of a helpful resource on ‘Friday Penance’ published by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
The Friday Penance leaflet was a response to Pope Benedict XVI’s Letter to the Catholics of Ireland of 2010 in which he asked us to offer our fasting, prayer, reading of the Scripture and works of mercy in order to obtain the grace of healing and renewal for the Church in Ireland.
The Friday Penance leaflet reminds us of ways in which we can fulfil our Friday penance such as abstaining from meat or alcohol, visiting the Blessed Sacrament or helping the poor, sick and lonely as well as a number of other suggestions.
Penance is as essential part of all genuine Christian living. It arises from the Lord’s call to conversion and repentance. We undertake penance in memory of the Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus, as a sharing in Christ’s suffering, as an expression of inner conversion, and as a form of reparation for sin. Indeed the link between Friday and penance is extremely ancient and is even reflected in the Irish word for Friday: An Aoine (the fast).
During Lent 2019, the traditional season for renewal and penance, bishops will once again be promoting Friday Penance. In the meantime this user-friendly leaflet is available for download from www.catholicbishops.ie or by writing to me directly.
Catholic Communications Office, Maynooth, Co. Kildare.