Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Were You There When the Sun Refused to Shine?

Sometimes a line in a song cuts straight to the heart.  I feel it with the National Anthem (and the rockets' red glare...), The Celtic Farewell (may holy angels be there at your welcoming, and all the saints who go before you there), and Were You There?  For me it's verse 4, "were you there when the sun refused to shine?"  What event could be so profoundly tragic that the earth itself, even the sun, would go into mourning?  Only the death of God, its beloved Creator.

According to the gospel of Palm Sunday, Luke 22:14-23:56, "It was about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun.  Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle.  Jesus...breathed his last."(NAB)

Both the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus and the pagan Roman historian Tacitus confirm the crucifixion of Jesus in their writings, but historians disagree about the truth of the other phenomena during and after Jesus' death.  Several apocryphal gospels agree with the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), attesting to the eclipse, earthquakes and the resurrection and appearance of dead saints in Jerusalem.  Dionysius the Areopagite, witnessing the eclipse from Heliopolis writes, "Either the Creator of all the world now suffers, or this visible world is coming to an end." Historian Sextus Julius Africanus denies the possibility of an eclipse at Passover, which is held during the full moon, because a solar eclipse can only happen during a new moon. Though he goes on to quote the records of Phlegon, chronicalling a solar eclipse at full moon during the reign of Tiberius. Eusebius also quotes Phlegon connecting an earthquake with the same eclipse. Tertullian and Lucian of Antioch both imply that evidence of this darkness still existed in Roman records during their time. 

Paulus Orosius, historian and student of St. Augustine of Hippo, writes in his "The Seven Books of History Against the Pagans", " that Jesus "voluntarily gave himself over to the Passion but through the impiety of the Jews, was apprehended and nailed to the cross, as a very great earthquake took place throughout the world, rocks upon mountains were split, and a great many parts of the largest cities fell by this extraordinary violence. On the same day also, at the sixth hour of the day, the Sun was entirely obscured and a loathsome night suddenly overshadowed the land, as it was said, ‘an impious age feared eternal night.’ Moreover, it was quite clear that neither the Moon nor the clouds stood in the way of the light of the Sun, so that it is reported that on that day the Moon, being fourteen days old, with the entire region of the heavens thrown in between, was farthest from the sight of the Sun, and the stars throughout the entire sky shone, then in the hours of the day or rather in that terrible night. To this, not only the authority of the Holy Gospels attest, but even some books of the Greeks."

So what do all these interesting writings have to do with faith? Just that I find it utterly sad, when meditating on the Crucifixion, that even creation mourned the death of Christ.

Were you there?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ireland's Rich Religious History - Guest Post

Ireland, known by many as the “Island of Saints and Scholars” has a rich, inspirational and sublime spiritual heritage.  Monastic settlements were founded in many different parts of Ireland.  The fame of these monastic settlements, the quality of their education, their saintly and prayerful way of life attracted many from Europe to come and spend some time in Ireland.  Many of these monks established monastic settlements in many different parts of Europe.  It has been said many times that the Irish monks rescued Europe from the ravages of the vandals who plundered much of Europe during what is often known as the “Dark Ages”.

There is hardly a place in Ireland which does not have a close association with an Irish saint.  The locals are very conscious of their links with their local saints and celebrate these links with great devotion at specific times during the year.   They are very conscious of the heritage they have inherited.  It is not unusual for a community to have its local schools, one of its streets named after its local saint.  Local football teams and clubs are also named after the local saint, such is the awareness of their identity with their local saint.

 Saints such as St. Patrick and St. Bridget need no introduction.  Others almost as well known include St. Brendan, St. Kevin, St Columba, St. Ciaran, St. Enda, St. Finbarr, St. Gobnait, St. Oliver Plunkett, St. Mel and St. Malachy.  Theirs is a heritage which is richly cherished, valued and treasured by the locals in those parts of Ireland which are closely associated with these respective saints.

Many of the most scenic parts of Ireland are very closely associated with the saints in Ireland. Places such as Knock, Lough Derg, Glendalough, Croke Patrick and Clonmacnoise are enchanting, captivating, picturesque and prayerful.  What about a day’s retreat on Lough Derg, the island so closely associated with St. Patrick, the island to which so many Irish people return each year to their renew their faith?  Or what about Mass out in Inishfallen, one of the many islands in the Lakes of Killarney?  Maybe one would like to visit Knock in Co. Mayo?   Knock is one of the most important Marian Shrines in the world and draws huge numbers of pilgrims each year. Maybe one would like to visit Ballintubber Abbey or Holy Cross Abbey, places of worship which have barely changed despite their antiquity. All these sights can be seen on an O’Connor Autotours Religious tour program either tailor made or by taking part in their popular Celtic Cross program.

 Combine all this with the opportunity to see the Green Isle and have a relaxing holiday.  Whether the sun shines, the fog lies low on the mountains or the rain falls, the vista constantly changes as one travels around the shores of this beautiful country one calls the Emerald Isle.  And there will also be opportunities to do some shopping if so wished by the members of the group. 

One will return home, invigorated and renewed, refreshed and energised, revitalised and strengthened in one’s faith and beliefs.  One will view life from a more affirmative and more positive perspective.

The list of places to visit is endless, the choice is yours.  Every effort will be made to accommodate the wishes of the group. The aim will be to make sure that all the members will value the time spent on pilgrimage and will recall their pilgrimage as one which will have a bearing on their lives in the years ahead.  In all cases the group will have their own Spiritual Director which will add immeasurably to your pilgrimage experience in Ireland.  For further details of the service provided by O’Connor Autotours please view the following link   or contact them by email

Guest post courtesy of Michael Clifford, O'Connor Autotours, Religious Tour Director/Driver-guide, Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland.  O'Connor Autotours website includes details on all their tour packages, including day trips, rail and private tours.  They also have links to many other Ireland travel resources.  

No compensation was received by Catholic Traveller or O'Connor Autotours for this guest post.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Compelling Interest - Review

40 years after Roe vs. Wade, Compelling Interest, by Roger Resler offers an interesting look behind the scenes of the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in the United States.  From the appalling ignorance of the attorneys handling the defense, to the twisting of language and history to manipulate the court’s decision, Resler makes a convincing case for life.  In his interviews with experts and research into other historic court cases, the author demonstrates that the justices and defense attorneys allowed the legal team pursuing the “right” to legal abortion to bamboozle them.

In Resler's reading of his audiobook, actual conversations with the founders of the National Right to Life Committee,  author and speaker Randy Alcorn, bioethics professor Dr. Gerard Magill, and other experts add objectivity and credence to a usually explosive topic.  Doctors' descriptions of the abortion process at every stage of pregnancy are graphic and disturbing.

In the end, the key point I detected, was NOT whether the embryo, fetus, baby or "tissue" (as the attorney for the plaintiff chose to refer to it), was a living, human being.  The question of life starting at fertilization/conception had been scientifically and irrefutably proven long before this case came to trial.  The question before the court was whether this "tissue" had any "Constitutional Rights or protection" due to it.  Unfortunately, as no precedent had been established, the best the defense could come up with was that "natural born" citizens were due protection of life, liberty, etc. under the Constitution of the United States.  Sarah Weddington, attorney for the plaintiff, argued that this meant that since the "tissue" was not yet born, it had no rights.  The Supreme Court justices fell for it.

In the ensuing arguments about how early a fetus could survive outside the womb, "quality of life" issues were introduced.  Now we have a disturbing precedent.  If the "quality of life" that a premature baby can enjoy is not of the quality deemed necessary by the court, what about the "quality of life" of the disabled, the elderly, the poor?  It is frightening to see these very issues beginning to be addressed 40 years later.  

I don't know about anyone else, but after giving birth to 4 children, I greatly respect the life that grows inside a woman's womb, however conceived, and however little "hope" there is for "quality" for that life.  I also do not want anyone but my God deciding when my "quality of life" has ended and so, therefore, must my actual life.  

As a narrator, the author has a deep, commanding presence and the interspersed voices of experts he interviewed for the book offer a pleasant variety and help to keep the reader's interest.

I do not recommend this book for anyone under the age of 16, due to the subject matter and graphic descriptions of the abortion process.   

By Roger Resler, © 2012

ISBN-10: 1618431137

ISBN-13: 978-1618431134       12.4 hrs.         $14.98

read by:  Roger Resler and various guests

Thank you to for the opportunity to review this book.  A free copy was provided for that purpose, no other compensation was received.