Saturday, September 27, 2014

Charles Lwanga and the Ugandan Martyrs

The White Fathers, a congregation of priests from Europe, began to preach the Christian faith in Uganda in 1879. They were received peacefully by King Mutesa, the ruler of Uganda. A number of young men who were pages in the King’s court believed in Jesus and the priests began preparing them for baptism by teaching them the Christian faith.

It was during this time that King Mutesa died and his son, Mwanga, became king. Mwanga was a man of corrupt morals who used the young pages for his sexual pleasure. Joseph Mukasa, the chief page who was a Catholic, tried desperately to protect the young pages in his care from the king. At this time King Mwanga had a visiting Anglican Bishop murdered and Joseph Mukasa denounced the King’s action and was beheaded for his bravery on November 15, 1885.

Charles Lwanga, who was 25 years old, was appointed Chief Page in Mukasa’s place. Lwanga was a dedicated Christian and protected the boys from the King just as Mukasa had done. On the night that Mukasa was killed Lwanga and others went to the White Fathers to ask for baptism as they knew their lives would be in danger. In the following week another 100 boys were baptized.

When King Mwanga learned that fifteen of the pages were studying the Catholic catechism he was furious. He lined them up and asked those who were Christians to step forward and fifteen boys, ages 13 to 25 came forward. When the King asked if they would recant or keep their faith they answered, “Until death.” Their hands were bound and they were taken to Namugongo a two day walk away. One of the boys cried out, “God will rescue me. But you will not see how because he will take my soul and leave only my body.” The men cut him to pieces and left his body on the road.
On the Feast of the Ascension, June 3, 1886 Charles Lwanga was taken and burned at the stake. Just before he died he cried out, “My God!”
King Mwanga continued to persecute Christians and 100 more people, Catholics and Protestants, were tortured and killed.

Charles Lwanga and his companions were beatified in 1920 and canonized in 1964 by Pope Paul VI. Charles Lwanga is the patron saint of African Catholic Youth Action.

Today 41.9% of Ugandans are Roman Catholic, 35.9% are Anglican, 4.6% are Pentecostals and 12.1% are Muslim. The remaining belong to other Protestant denominations or tribal religions. (nationmaster.com)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

St. Thomas More: A Man For All Seasons





Thomas More was born in London, England on February 7, 1477, the only son of Sir John More, barrister and judge and his wife, Agnes. When he was thirteen years old, More went to live in the household of Cardinal Morton, who was then the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop noticed his young protégée's superior intellect and sent him to study at Oxford. In 1494 he began to study law.
More considered entering the priesthood but discerned he was not called to the priesthood when he realized that he desired married life. At the age of 28 he married Jane Colte with whom he had three daughters and one son. In 1511, when the children were still very young, Jane died. Soon after More married a widow, Alice Middleton, who was seven years older than him. It was said that she was 'without beauty or education' but she was devoted to the children and More and the marriage seemed to have been a happy one.
More's fame as a lawyer grew and he was chosen by Cardinal Wolsey to go to Flanders to protect the interests of the English merchants there. It was during this time that he began to write his most famous book, Utopia, which was published in 1516.
In October, 1529, More succeeded Cardinal Wolsey as Chancellor of England, a post never before held by a layman. King Henry VIII considered More his friend and would often visit him at his home in Chelsea. He enjoyed More's conversation and admired his character.
Shortly after his first speech as chancellor in 1529, a royal proclamation ordered the clergy to acknowledge Henry as 'Supreme Head of the Church' in England. More resigned his post and firmly opposed Henry's divorce (which had been prohibited by the Pope) and as well as his usurping the role of the Pope as Head of the Church.
Shortly after Henry's marriage to Ann Boleyn in 1533, the Act of Succession was passed and persons of the court and parliament were required to take an oath that the children of Henry and Anne would be the legitimate heirs to the throne. This ignored Mary, the daughter of Henry and Catherine of Aragon, who had remained a faithful Catholic, as a legitimate heir to the English throne. More refused to take the oath and to acknowledge the King as the head of the Church and was consequently sent to the Tower of London. While there he continued to joke with his family and friends when they were allowed to visit but when he was alone he spent his time in prayer.
On July 1, 1535, More was indicted for high treason and perjury at Westminster Hall. Although he denied the charges, he was found guilty and was beheaded on Tower Hill July 6, 1535.
His last words were, "I die the King's servant, but God's first." He is one of several Patron Saints of lawyers and politicians.
Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry and Anne Boleyn, was raised a Protestant and eventually became Queen Elizabeth and head of the Church of England. Although she is remembered as ‘Good Queen Bess’ she had many Catholic priests hunted down and killed for celebrating the forbidden Catholic Mass. Mary for a short time was also Queen and because she had Protestant noblemen killed is known as ‘Bloody Mary’.
The story of Thomas More's life has been excellently told in the movie, A Man for all Seasons (1966), starring Paul Scofield as More. It was directed by Fred Zinnemann. The film won six Academy Awards.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Korean Martyrs: The Seed of the Church

Tertullian wrote in AD197, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Nowhere is this truer than in Korea.

Missions in Asia
When Franciscan and Dominican missionaries went to China in the 13th century, they found that some Chinese were already familiar with the Christian gospel as Nestorian Christians had come in the 7th century. Nestorius taught that there were two separate natures of Christ (human and divine) and Nestorianism was condemned as heresy at the First Council of Ephesus (AD431) and at the Council of Chalcedon in AD451. From then on Nestorius broke with the rest of the Christian Church.
Roman Catholic missionaries, including St. Francis Xavier, went to Japan in 1549 to take the Gospel to the Japanese people. And in Thailand priests who came with Portuguese traders began to teach the Christian religion in the 16th century. In Viet Nam and Cambodia Catholicism was brought by French colonists and priests accompanying them.
Christianity Comes to Korea
It is odd then that by the 16th century no missionaries had entered nearby Korea. At this time some educated Koreans began to study Christian books that had been brought from China. Through their search for truth many of these believed and became Christian. They gathered in house churches without the presence of any priests or other religious teachers. These house churches were led by educated lay people of the Korean aristocratic classes. We can see that the beginning of Christianity in Korea was unusual.
In the middle of the 18th century a Chinese Catholic priest entered Korea secretly and found 4,000 Catholics there! The Christians then sent a party to Beijing to ask the Bishop to send priests to them. Two Chinese priests were sent but were not able to stay long. Almost forty years after, in 1836, missionaries from the Paris Foreign Mission society sent priests to teach and give the sacraments.
Paul Yun Ji-chung (1759-1791)
In 1791 Paul Yun Ji-chung, a member of a noble family, converted to Christianity through the witness of his cousin. Other members of his family became Christians as well. When Paul’s mother died Paul followed her wishes that she be buried according to Catholic rites rather than the traditional Confucian rite. When investigated and arrested by authorities, Paul refused to deny his newfound faith. This brought about the first of persecutions of Christians in Korea. Paul Yun Ji-ching was the first member of an aristocratic class to be martyred for his Christian beliefs. Other members of the nobility were killed along with him. They were the first generation of Korean Christians.
Kim Taegon Andrea (1821-1846)
Saint Kim Taegon Andrea (1821-1846), known in English as St. Andrew Kim, was the first Korean-born Catholic priest. Kim’s parents were converts and Kim was baptized at age 15. Later he went to study at a seminary in Macau and also spent some time in the Philippines. After nine years of study he was ordained in Shanghai, China by the French Bishop there and returned to his homeland to evangelize.
The Josean Dynasty, which was Confucian, was in power and persecuted Christians. Many were martyred during this time. This new learning was said to undermine the teachings of Confucious especially the divisions of class and it was seen as subversive to the state. Official documents give details of trials, sentences and means of torture to the Christians. By 1866 there were only 20,000 Catholics in Korea as 10,000 Christians had been killed in persecutions spanning over one hundred years.
Andrew Kim was tortured and beheaded at the age of 25 in 1846. He was one of several thousand Christians who were executed at that time. Eleven members of his family, including his father, were also martyred. Seventy-nine of the martyrs were beatified (recognized as Blessed) in 1925. Twenty-four martyrs were beatified in 1968 by Pope John Paul II. And on May 6, 1984, Pope John Paul II canonized (recognized as Saints) Andrew Kim and 102 of his companion martyrs. These included men and women and children.
Kim’s last words were recorded as:
"This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning.”
Catholics were not allowed to practise their faith freely in Korea until 1895.
Protestant Missions
The first Protestant missionary to Korea was Robert J. Thomas, a Welshman who was with the London Missionary Society. He arrived from China in 1865. In 1866, when attempting to re-enter Korea on an American ship, he was killed along with the entire crew of the ship.
Korean Catholics Today
The total population of South Korea in 2014 is 50.2 million: 6.6% of the population are Catholics, 19.7% are Protestants (all Protestant denominations), 23% are Buddhist and 47% claim no religion. There are 328 Catholic Schools, 40 Catholic hospitals, 513 homes for the elderly and handicapped, 35 Bishops, 4,261 priests, 516 male religious (Brothers), 9,016 female religious (Sisters) and 14,195 lay catechists.

Visit of Pope Francis
On August 16, 2014 Pope Francis beatified (declared Blessed) Paul Yun Ji-Chung and 123 companions during Asian World Youth Day Celebrations in Seoul, Korea.

20th Century Martyrs
The beatification process has been begun for priests and monks who died between 1940 an 1950 while undertaking evangelization missions. As well, John Song Hae-bung, a lay missionary, was martyred during the Korean War and thrity-six memebers of the Order of St. Benedict died in labour and prison camps between 1949-1952.

Sources

BBC news website accessed August 17, 2014

Salt and Light broadcast of the Mass For Beatification of the 124 Korean Martyrs. August 16, 2014.

Vatican Insider website accessed August 17, 2014
http://vaticaninsider.lastampa.it/en/world-news/detail/articolo/corea-del-sud-corea-del-sur-south-korea-martiri-martires-martyrs-31931/

Wikipedia website. Paul Yun Ji-chung. accessed August 17, 2014.
Wikipedia website. Robert J. Thomas. accessed August 17, 2014.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Pier Giorgio Frassati: A Modern Saint


What do you think saints are like? Are they rather dour looking? Do they look unhappy? Or even unhealthy? Pier Giorgio Frassati is probably not everyone’s idea of a ‘saint’. In fact he looks more like a model for men’s aftershave or some upscale sportswear or expensive watch ad. He was young, healthy and unbelievingly good-looking. He enjoyed being with his friends and he even 'goofed off' sometimes. Yet, on May 20, 1990, Pier Giorgio was beatified (the step before sainthood) by Pope John Paul II in Rome. As a result of his exemplary life, the Pope called him 'a man of the Beatitudes'. Beatifying or canonizing a person doesn't make them a saint, it is the way the Church recognizes the person as having an exemplary life and one which we can follow in our walk with God.

Early Life of Pier Giorgio Frassati
Pier Giorgio was born in 1901 in Turin, Italy to parents who were wealthy and influential. Frassati's father was Italy's ambassador to Germany in 1921 and was the owner of the liberal newspaper, La Stampa. He claimed to be an agnostic. His mother was an accomplished artist. Her daughter, Luciana, says in her book, "Neither of our parents were devoutly Catholic: our father was an agnostic and our mother was not deeply religious. Our mother and her sister, Elena, would not have missed Mass, but they were never seen by us to go to Communion or to kneel and say a prayer." (Frassati, page 21). Blessed Pier Giorgio's niece, Wanda Gawronska commented (in private communication) that it was the custom of many to take Communion only twice a year which was the minimum required at that time. Ms. Gawronska also relates that for his 18th birthday, his mother gave Pier Giorgio the book, "The Imitation of Christ" with a very meaningful dedication. In any case, his parents sometimes wished their son would not spend so much time attending daily Mass and helping the poor but would devote more time to his studies.

On the way to Sainthood
It seems that Pier Giorgio Frassati had always been drawn to the poor and disadvantaged. Once, a woman with a barefoot child, knocked at the door of the Frassati mansion. Pier Giorgio, then himself a child, immediately took off his shoes and gave them to the barefoot child.
Frassati was known for his kindness and courtesy to all and throughout his brief life he was to give away money, his clothes and his time whenever he met someone who needed them. Once he arrived in Berlin to visit his parents wearing only a light jacket in -12° C weather because he had given his overcoat away. He was active in the St. Vincent de Paul Society that provided for the poor but his unselfishness was often more personal. He would give away his books to fellow students or pay for their tuition secretly and in order to have more money to give away he always traveled third class!
Whenever he was able, Frassati went to his beloved mountains in northern Italy. There he would climb, either alone or with his friends, enjoying the challenge of the climb and his time with others. He also loved to ski. He fell in love with a girl in his group of friends but because he knew his parents did not altogether approve of her for their son he did not pursue the relationship.

Life in Pre-War Italy
In October 1922, the Fascists came to power in Italy. Like many Catholics at the time, Frassati opposed Mussolini and his 'black shirts' but could not do much to stop their power. In Turin he took part in a religious procession during a Eucharistic Congress and also a march to Rome with Catholic Youth groups. Taking part in these activities often ended up with some being detained by the police. When Pier Giorgio was detained he would pray the rosary. Once when the authorities discovered that he was the son of the prominent Alfredo Frassati, he was immediately released but he never took advantage of this privilege. Although Frassati believed Jesus' promise that 'the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church', his greatest concern was of the persecution against it by both Marxism and Fascism.
Pier Giorgio was a member of the student group Catholic Action and was also a lay Dominican. Politically he belonged to the Popular Party for, although he believed in charity, he also believed in reform.

Pier Giorgio Frassati's Illness and Death
Frassati knew that to fulfill his dream of becoming a mining engineer he had to study harder. But even with this goal in mind, his studies never prevented him from visiting the sick. Ultimately it was because of his visits to the sick and poor that at the young age of 24 he contracted polio. After a short illness and much suffering, he died on July 4, 1925 at his family home. Years before, he had written to a friend, 'The day of my death will be the happiest day of my life.'
At his funeral hundreds of the poor and sick that he had helped lined the streets of Turin. HIs parents could not believe this outpouring of love to their son.
In 1981, when his remains were transferred from the family tomb in Pollone to Turin's cathedral, his body was found completely incorrupt. Since then many pilgrims, especially young people, have journeyed to his tomb to seek the courage to follow his example.
For those wanting to know the complete story of his life, Pier Giorgio's younger sister, Luciana, has written an excellent biography of her brother, A Man of the Beatitudes (in Italian Pier Giorgio: I giorni della sua vita).
Patron Saint of WYD in Sydney
Pier Giorgio Frassati was chosen to be the Patron Saint of World Youth Day in Australia in 2008. His body was brought to Sydney for that occasion.

References
Frassati, Luciana. A Man of the Beatitudes. (In Italian: Pier Giorgio: I giorni della sua vita) San Francisco:Ignatius Press. 2000.
Personal communication with Wanda Gawronska, Blessed Pier Giorgio's niece.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Lead, Kindly Light: the Story of John Henry Newman


John Henry Newman was born in London February 21, 1801; the eldest of six children. His parents were Anglican and as a child Newman studied at Ealing, a private boarding school where he exhibited an unusual interest in theology, despite his young age.

His later studies were at Oxford and at the age of twenty-one he became a professor at Oxford and a minister in the Church of England (Anglican). His first book was The Arians of the Fourth Century (1833) and he had a great love for the Fathers of the Church. He also wrote poetry and one of his poems was set to music, the well-known hymn, Lead Kindly Light.

Newman and the Oxford Movement

Newman is the best-known member of the Oxford Movement – a group of men whose aim was to invigorate the Anglican Church through spiritual renewal and renunciation of liberalism in the 1830s. They also, at first, condemned what they viewed as the corruptions of the Roman Church. This was Newman's undoing, for in the end his studies of the Church Fathers ultimately led him to that very Church. He discovered that as far back as the Church Fathers, the doctrines of the Church were the same as those that the Roman Catholic Church taught. He said, "When one reads history, he ceases to be a Protestant."

Newman's Resignation from Oxford

In 1841, Newman published Tract 90 in which he claimed that the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England (written in 1563 during the reign of Elizabeth I) were essentially Catholic Doctrine as it had been both in the early church and at the Council of Trent.

A great controversy arose and he was eventually forced to resign both his teaching post at Oxford and his position at the University church of St. Mary the Virgin (Church of England).

Reception into the Catholic Church

In October, 1845, after many years of study and intellectual struggle he was received into the Catholic Church. Two years later he was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in Rome and then joined the Oratorians in Birmingham, England. At the age of 78, he was made a Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII. He died in 1890.

John Henry Newman's Writings

Some of Newman's well-known writings include:

• Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine
• The Idea of the University
• Letter to Pusey
• Apologia pro Vita Sua (his autobiography)
In the story of his conversion, told in Apologia pro Vita Sua, he says, "From the time that I became a Catholic...I have been in perfect peace and contentment, I never have had one doubt...and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption."

Sources

Connor, Fr. Charles P. Classic Catholic Converts. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2001

Ker, Ian. John Henry Newman: A Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1988.

John Henry Newman. Apologia pro Vita Sua. New York:WW. Norton and Company, 1968. p. 184.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Book Review: The Catechism of Hockey by Alyssa Bormes

The Catechism of Hockey. Alyssa Bormes. The American Chesterton Society. 2013



Many catechists have asked themselves the questions; I know I did. Why do parents drive miles to take their children to a hockey game at 5:30 am on a Saturday but complain bitterly that they are expected to attend Mass on Sunday? Why do parents spend hundreds of dollars on hockey equipment but don’t like to spend anything on their child’s religious education? And why do children happily obey the rules and the decisions of the hockey ref but complain about the ‘rules’ of the Church? Well somebody who knows hockey much better than I do, wrote a book about it. Her favourite statement? “Ah, Catholicism is so much like hockey!” And you will be surprised at the comparisons she finds.
If you like hockey, if you play hockey or are a hockey Mom or Dad this book is for you. If your child plays any other game - like soccer, baseball or basketball - you should still read this book. It is especially written with passing the faith of Catholicism in mind and makes pretty good sense. We want our children to succeed in hockey and we want our children to succeed in life. So how do we accomplish these expectations?

Some things Bormes asks us to think about:
- If you play hockey you can't pick out the rules you like and will follow and which ones you won't. You have to take to the complete package. If you changed the rules to something you like better, it ain't hockey!
- If you think hockey is fun but the Mass isn't maybe it's because you understand hockey but not the Mass. I don't understand hockey very well and I guess that is why I don't watch it. On the other hand, I love going to Mass.
- Can we get as excited about Catholicism as we do about hockey? I think we can - I am.
- Maybe sometimes we need to say, if you don't like the rules of the game, play a different game.

The author, Alyssa Bormes, who is from Minnesota, claims that Minnesota is the hockey state. She may be right. My only complaint about the book is that although she mentions Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Maurice Richard and the Stanley Cup she never mentions that all of these are Canadian! I know Canada has only 35 billion people and they may not buy as many books as Americans but would it hurt to at least say that what she calls ‘the ultimate prize’ of hockey, the Stanley Cup, originated in Canada and was a gift from Lord Stanley, the Governor-General of Canada in 1893. For more about the history of the Stanley Cup see https://suite.io/lorraine-shelstad/5fap2vp.
I know a Canadian team hasn’t won it lately (since 1993) but many of the players on American teams learned to skate on the quintessential outdoor rinks of their home country, Canada.

Don’t let that stop you from buying the book which has many words of wisdom about passing on our Catholic faith to our children which is especially relevant in this Year of the Family.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Trinity Western University: Discrimination of Christian Groups?

On April 11, 2014 the Law Society of British Columbia granted graduates from Trinity Western University’s Law School the right to practice law in the province of British Columbia.
Trinity Western University is a private university in Langley, BC which is based on Evangelical Protestant values.
Some individuals and groups (including a group of BC lawyers) disagreed with the Society’s decision because of the covenant TWU students have to sign when they study at the school. The covenant includes abstaining from premarital sex, homosexual behaviour, abortion (as well as drunkenness, cheating and stealing). Students are asked to be responsible citizens both locally and globally who respect authorities, submit to the laws of the country and contribute to the welfare of society.
TWU acknowledges that Canadian Human Rights Laws and the Charter and Section 15 of the Charter protect against and prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and that “the courses that will be offered at the TWU School of Law will ensure that students understand the full scope of these protections in the public and private spheres of Canadian life.”

In the preamble and section 3.1 of the Civil Marriage Act of Canada there is also protection against discrimination of those whose religious beliefs do not allow for their participation to perform marriages which are not in accordance with those same religious beliefs:

WHEREAS nothing in this Act affects the guarantee of freedom of conscience and religion and, in particular, the freedom of members of religious groups to hold and declare their religious beliefs and the freedom of officials of religious groups to refuse to perform marriages that are not in accordance with their religious beliefs;
WHEREAS it is not against the public interest to hold and publicly express diverse views on marriage;

3.1 For greater certainty, no person or organization shall be deprived of any benefit, or be subject to any obligation or sanction, under any law of the Parliament of Canada solely by reason of their exercise, in respect of marriage between persons of the same sex, of the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the expression of their beliefs in respect of marriage as the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others based on that guaranteed freedom.

This could be understood to include allowing those religious groups to be able to have expectations of students, faculty and employees of their institutions to uphold these beliefs.

On the Law Society of BC webpage (http://www.lawsociety.bc.ca/page.cfm?cid=3891&t=Bencher-meeting-consideration-of-TWU,-April-11,-2014) letters showing support and opposition of TWU can be read under ‘public submissions’. One significant supporting letter is from the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association which does not give support easily or without due thought. They state that in many cases they “,,, have been involved with or spoken out about, we have maintained a consistent them of protecting the rights and freedoms of Canadians and the pluralistic and diverse nature of Canada”. (from an e-mail from BCCLA to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, no date given, on the Law Society of British Columbia website)

Referring to deans of law schools who spoke out saying that TWU should not be accredited they go on to say, “ With regard to our first concern, we note that Canada is a country founded upon diversity and tolerance. It is thus startling for deans of publicly-funded university law schools to use their position to attempt to thwart the entry of another voice into academia, particularly where that voice is a religious one. We not that the Human Rights Code of British Columbia expressly provides for religious-based groups, among others, to be exempt from certain of its provision when they grant preferences to members of those groups. Obviously, in order for such groups to survive they must be able to prescribe the conditions of membership of their group and set out their fundamental beliefs.” (from an e-mail from BCCLA to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, no date given, on the Law Society of British Columbia website)

Now a lawyer in Victoria, BC has collected signatures of lawyers in BC who want to re-open the case and have the Law Society of BC change its decision. I call upon people of good will and those who are in favour of just laws to write in to thank the Law Society for their thoughtful and reasonable ruling in favour of TWU’s Law Students and say that you hope they will not change that decision. It is a matter of importance that discrimination against Christian values upon which Canada was founded is discouraged.
The address is:
Mr. Timothy E. McGee, QC, Chief Executive Office and Executive Director
The Law Society of British Columbia
845 Cambie Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 4Z9