“THE PEOPLE PAPER” OF APRIL 25TH 1908 referred to Penal Laws passed in 1703 which laid down that Catholic Parish Priests should register themselves with the state; that they should not have Curates; and that no further priests should succeed them. Priest members of Religious Orders were not to be tolerated at any cost and a high price was placed on their heads. The aim here was that when existing Parish Priests died off, the Catholic religion would disappear from Ireland.
One priest is listed in the Register thus:- JOHN O’CONNOR ; Abode-New Ross; Age -52; Parish- St.Mary’s New Ross; Ordained- 1687; where- Alesham, near Basle, Switzerland; by whom – Bishop Jasper Selmorris of Basle; guarantor- Richard Whelan, New Ross.
These extraordinary destructive laws and more like them were passed by a foreign power- The British Government- which can be described as “The enemy WITHOUT”.
Is our Church and religion being threatened today by equally sinister forces; this time by an enemy WITHIN? It would appear that certain vocal and powerful elements in our own society have a similar aim to the Penal Laws-to see the Catholic Religion disappear from Ireland.
In short the Penal Law makers failed in that objective due to the determination of our ancestors to hold on to what they valued “in spite of dungeon, fire and sword”. We stand on their shoulders; we are free to worship our God today because many of them died for the same right .
Is our generation to be the one to succumb to INTERNAL pressures – not in our case “fire,dungeon and sword” but to no less destructive actions aimed at undermining Christian truths and values in society?
Out Catholic Faith sits on three legs:-
FAITH at the level of INFORMATION. We need to KNOW in what we believe – details of the life of Jesus; His teachings ; the Word of God; the teachings, the traditions and practices of the Church etc.
FAITH at the level of FORMATION; that we base out values, life style and standards on the values and principles expounded by Jesus Christ.
FAITH at the level of TRANSFORMATION- that we CHANGE into people like Jesus Christ – “like Him in all things but sin”; “to live, now not I but Christ lives in me”, as St. Paul describes it. Here FAITH IS A PERSON .
We believe in the person of the RISEN Jesus- a real, alive, active, personal friend present in our daily lives- one whose values influence and colour our attitude and approach to every aspect of life.
This closeness to Jesus can only be established by a personal friendship with Him in daily prayer and regular participation in the greatest prayer of all -the Mass.
An Atheist could have “faith” at the level of INFORMATION and know all about Jesus.
An Atheist could have “faith” at the level of FORMATION and decide that Jesus’ way is a good, sensible and moral way to live.
FAITH at the level of TRANSFORMATION is only possible for the one who BELIEVES in the PERSON of Jesus Christ …” in whom we live and move and have our being”.
When our Church – leaders, laity, religious and clergy- gets back to accepting that its only function is the cultivation of this personal relationship with the Risen Lord, then we need have no fear for the future
When we are one with Him, all the powers on earth- whether enemies WITHOUT or enemies WITHIN will hold no fear for us.
We will indeed hand on that “FAITH OF OUR FATEHRS AND MOTHERS LIVING STILL IN SPITE OF…..”