Saturday, 9 December 2017

Repentance is the Precursor of Healing

The Miracle at the Tomb of Sister Faustina

Before the age of 15, Maureen Digan enjoyed a normal healthy life. Then she was struck down with a very serious, slowly progressive but terminal disease called Lymphedima. This is a disease that does not respond to medication and does not go into remission. Within the next ten years Maureen had fifty operations and had lengthy confinements in Hospital of up to a year at a time.

Friends and relations suggested she should pray and put her trust in God. But Maureen could not understand why God had allowed her to get this disease in the first place, and had lost her faith completely. 

Eventually her deteriorating condition necessitated the amputation of one leg. One evening while Maureen was in hospital her husband Bob went to a film called Divine Mercy, No Escape, and there he became convinced of the healing powers of intercession by Sr. Faustina. Bob persuaded Maureen and the Doctors that she should go to the tomb of Sr. Faustina in Poland. 

They arrived in Poland on March 23rd 1981 and Maureen went to confession for the first time since she was a young girl. At the tomb (now the Shrine of Blessed Faustina) Maureen remembers saying in her own inimitable style "O.k. Faustina I came a long way, now do something". 

Innerly she heard Sister Faustina say: "If you ask for my help, I will give it to you." Suddenly she thought she was having a nervous breakdown. All the pain seemed to drain out of her body and her swollen leg which was due to be amputated shortly, went back to its normal size. 

When she returned to the U.S.A. she was examined by five independent doctors who came to the conclusion that she was completely healed. They had no medical explanation for the sudden healing of this incurable disease. The accumulated evidence of this miracle was examined in consultation by five doctors appointed by the Sacred congregation for the causes of saints, having passed this test it was examined by a team of theologians, and finally by a team of cardinals and bishops. The cure was accepted by all as a miracle caused by Sr. Faustina's intercession to the Divine Mercy.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Urgency of praying for souls in Purgatory

( a padre Pio story)

“One evening, while I was alone in choir to pray, I heard the rustle of a suit and I saw a young monk that stirred next to the High altar. It seemed that the young monk was dusting the candelabra and straightening the flower vases.

I thought he was Padre Leone rearranging the altar, and, since it was supper time, I went to him and I told him: “Padre Leone, go to dine, this is not the time to dust and to straighten the altar”.

But a voice, that was not Father Leone’s answered me”: “I am not Padre Leone”, “and who are you? “, I asked him. “I am a brother of yours that made the noviciate here. I was ordered to clean the altar during the year of the noviciate. Unfortunately many times I didn’t reverence Jesus while passing in front of the altar, thus causing the Holy Sacrament that was preserved in the tabernacle to be disrespected. For this serious carelessness, I am still in Purgatory. Now, God, with his endless goodness, sent me here so that you may quicken the time I will enjoy Paradise. Take care of me.”

I believed to be generous to that suffering soul, so I exclaimed: “you will be in Paradise tomorrow morning, when I will celebrate Holy Mass”.

That soul cried: “Cruel!” Then he wept and disappeared.

That complaint produced in me a wound to the heart that I have felt and I will feel my whole life. In fact I would have been able to immediately send that soul to Heaven but I condemned him to remain another night in the flames of Purgatory.”

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Prepare for Miracles

A few days ago, in a small town in the Cordillera mountain range, we sat at a table having dinner opposite a man with a vision. I was surprised by it and at the same time knew that it would be magnificent. 

Earlier that day after Mass the Priest asked people to share any testimonies or insights on the goodness of God and my wife gave witness to a period in our lives where through prayer for healing, both the laying on of hands and prayers over the phone from overseas, I had been healed by God following a rather unpleasant brain haemorrhage I had 9 years ago. I left the hospital without any operation, without medication or any permanent ill effects.

Whenever we go away we always bring blessed oil (a sacramental) and prayer cards from our prayer group for whatever local community we encounter; but this trip was different. The apostolic zeal and intense hunger for God of the town’s folk took our breath away. We were invited to speak at different prayer and church groups, taken out into the hills, to the many dwellings on the rice terraces where the sick were waiting for prayers. 

And together with the priest and praying community so many were prayed over: a patient with multiple sclerosis, a stroke patient and finally a lady with gall stones and heart complications who was in such agony when the group arrived. By the next morning the lady we last visited was sat on the porch enjoying the sunshine and praising God, feeling better. Serious illness is a lonely place for patients and their care givers alike, and hearing testimonies of healing and receiving prayers for it injects a ray of hope into the gloom.

As we finished dinner with the Principal of the local High school, he shared his dream of Catholic groups from their community visiting the sick in their homes and hospitals, not only for company or sympathy, but to bring the healing power of God to them. His own experiences with the long illnesses of his wife and children have shown him that it was only the non-Catholic Christian sects who sent people to pray for healing. Surely, as Catholics we must do likewise. Now they will begin.

It was a beautiful thing to see such love in a community for their sick and elderly neighbours as well as this intense desire to serve them and put their faith in the living God. The parishioners have purity of heart and purity of intention; that is a rare sight. Somehow I know God will honour that and we will hear of great miracles in that town. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:14)

Monday, 13 November 2017

War against Self-Interest

Padre Pio commented once that “only a general knows how and when to use one of his soldiers” There is as wide a variety of men and strategies as there are battles to fight. 

I suspect the Celtic part of my ancestry led me to embrace the idea that you can get a lot further in battle with an axe and a kind word than you can with just a kind word but I am also inspired by the diplomacy and patience of an Englishman, William Wilberforce who stood valiantly against slavery for most of his life, completing the task of its abolition across the whole British Empire just three days before he died. 

The key to success for this great man of God was that he not only had a clear vision of what was right and wrong in the sight of God but also he knew why his opponents (almost everyone at the time) could not see it. As he put it in one of his speeches “ self interest can draw a film across the eyes, so thick, that total blindness could do no more; and how it is our duty therefore to trust not to the reasonings of interested men, or to their way of colouring a transaction...”

He knew and made allowance for the weaknesses of man. Self-interest can justify absolutely anything in the mind of the one who wants it badly enough. Anyone can produce a litany of reasons for pursuing whatever he desires; he justifies what he wants so he can have it regardless of whether or not it is right. 

Wilberforce knew it and patiently made the blind to see, lifting the film off gradually through prayer, words and deeds until the nation understood, through a gift of grace, the horror of slavery and the ugliness of their own selfish hearts.

The same is true in the smaller details of life and this is where it becomes personal. What are the motives behind our daily decisions, choices, and speech? Do we give reasons for our actions to justify them or are they pure enough that there is no need to qualify them?

Every human heart is the battlefield and it’s only the amazing grace of God that can win the day as it enlightens individual hearts, heals the blindness of self-interest.

Whatever kind of Christian soldiers we are, whether savages or diplomats, we must hold our place in the line and with the weapon of prayer we will overcome.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

‘Ancient Paths’

When my grandfather was born, the steam train and walking were the means of transport as they had been for a long time. He lived to see supersonic flight and a man on the moon. Our last century seems to have produced such advancements in technology that it’s almost as if someone had nipped back to Eden for another bite of that apple.

Some are indeed amazing, from the heights of the Cordillera mountain range, with a laptop, a mobile broadband and harnessing the satellites that are encircling the earth, I can zoom in to the roof of a shed in old Trafford to see if my cat (Max) is sleeping in his favourite spot after a hearty lunch. His is. No amount of technology can change his nature, but alas ours has been.

In that same mountain range, I had the privilege to meet people who, in their hearts, have not moved too far from Eden.A tribal people living a simple agricultural lifestyle, very much in harmony with their ancestral land and the seasons.Organically grown food, using other plants as fertiliser and for pest control, water from a crystal clear river and mountain springs above.Vegetarians, except when a deer or a wild boar wanders by.

But the most astonishing thing, was the beauty of their hearts. A natural hospitality that welcomes strangers as family, without question. At first I found it slightly unnerving, having lived mostly in rather inhospitable places by comparison. It was an all embracing loving community, seasoned by Christianity (only a few centuries ago). Minimal crime if any, a small school and some of the most beautiful mountains and valleys that our Creator ever trod.A dead-zone for cell phones, no internet, no TV, and an improvised hydro electric system for lighting. Just what was useful.It is holy ground.

.There is something in the pace and noise we have created in the modern world that deadens the soul, crushes the spirit, we become machine-like, on a production line from birth to death, sometimes without entering into the purpose of our existence at all. We have disconnected the workings of our lives (and government of our world) from God and from each other almost entirely and so our problems multiply. The natural rhythm of life and the planet were disrupted.  How we need to go back and discover the ancient paths, the simplicity of life, see what we have lost... just how much we have given away

One retiree I read about remarked that whilst he had ‘climbed the ladder of achievement all the way to the top’ he had come to realise that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall!

I am fortunate that circumstance has given me the opportunity to simplify my lifestyle over the years and the more I do, the more I gain. When I give something up or get rid of something I don’t really need, mostly what I feel is relief.

Permanent Revolution

I heard a sermon once, the gist of which was that whilst the church’s mission is to evangelise the world; the world also seeks to evangelise the church. Whilst there are many examples of where this has taken place, a particularly prominent one I noticed is in the area of Catholic education.

Here in the Philippines there are many religious orders and many of them are involved in education, it’s their particular gift. Arriving centuries ago they set to work starting schools. Their founding fathers focus was generally the poor children, seeking to give them their faith and values and also a way out of poverty through a good education.

If we look at these same schools and colleges now it is a very different picture. Most are for the elite, the richest of the rich and their middle class poorer cousins. Whilst there will certainly be a proportion of scholarships, most are paying top dollar because the schools are the best. 

The poor alas will remain barefoot and living under the stars for some time yet. At some point someone was seduced by the dollar or the peso; maybe for the best of reasons, they could expand, have better facilities, all they had to do was play by the world’s rules and become what it wanted them to become. Such is the weakness of man. 

Another allied area is where they were nobbled, not by weakness this time but by their strength. Catholic schools have a reputation for being academically brilliant. I think this is true from primary schools to universities. All well and good, nothing wrong with that, until it becomes the primary driving force.

I have noticed that there is a tendency to hire teachers who are well qualified and competent in their chosen field whether it’s ABC or nuclear physics but not necessarily measuring up quite so well (or at all) as men and women of God. If the teachers are atheists or living lifestyles which are incompatible with Christianity can they really pass on the faith and values of the Catholic Church? Can they give what they do not have? The focus on academic excellence at the expense of its other purpose of making saints of the young is the most insidious worldly evangelisation.

They may become the most prestigious institutions and most sought after but fail to fulfil their stated purpose. By not being mindful of this struggle for mastery we risk being in the service of the enemy camp.

Leon Trotsky believed that for socialism to thrive and not become decadent, it needed to be in a constant state of flux or “permanent revolution” as he called it; (we might call it vigilance) he knew that any deviation from the ideal would be its downfall. As Catholics, as we know our enemy is far more powerful than tainted human nature alone, we should be all the more mindful and alert to his tactics. 

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Ancient Weaponry

I live in the Philippines, one of the few citadels of Christendom that has not as yet ‘flung wide its gates’ to every evil; for example abortion is still illegal here.

Perhaps the reason it remains relatively strong is the realisation that on earth we are living in enemy occupied territory, there is a great confidence and reliance on prayer not only for help and defence but also for offence as I re-discovered last week.

I was in the shopping mall, a bit distracted and irritated, (I hate shopping) and at noon, over the loudspeaker a bell rang, and everyone in the place stopped dead in their tracks, like someone pressed pause on the remote. And we began to pray the Angelus together.

A few minutes and suddenly the atmosphere had changed, people were noticeably calmer, whatever was bugging me had gone too. Had we all just refocused our hearts heavenward or had the demons fled?  Both I believe.

I noticed the same thing on another day, this time at 6pm in the grounds of a Catholic University in Manila. Again as the bells rang out over the loudspeaker, everyone stopped, even the cars stopped and the security men at the gates bowed their heads and those few thousand souls, (together with those in every Catholic school in the entire country), as one, knowingly or unknowingly, went into battle together. 
What a great victory it must have been to eliminate this ancient weapon from everyday life in Europe, the sophistication or complexity of society makes the supernatural seem remote, irrelevant or unnecessary in the age of reason, but look at the continent now.

The funny thing is that it would be quite easy to reinstate this practice in all the Catholic schools and offices in the country; the benefits would be greatly felt.

A samurai warrior (Miyamoto Musashi) was onto something when he said “This is a truth: when you sacrifice your life, you must make fullest use of your weaponry. It is false not to do so, and to die with a weapon yet undrawn”.  

Friday, 27 October 2017

‘What if we listened ?’

I wondered the other day, how the world would look if the Second World War did not happen. No Nazi’s, no holocaust nor concentration camps, no mourning widows and orphans, no dead soldiers; Eastern Europe without  a half-century of living in the dark shadows of the Soviet Union.

In this 100th anniversary year of the apparitions of Fatima, it’s worth pausing to consider the magnitude of the opportunity humanity has missed. Unlike in the Garden of Eden where Eve was deceived and our first parents had less understanding of the consequences of failure, our Lady gave really quite clear instructions to our more recent ancestors and even prophesied the stern, far-reaching result of not responding to her requests:- “But if people do not cease offending God ... another and more terrible war will begin. If my requests are heard, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, fomenting wars and persecution of the Church.” It could have all been prevented through repentance, change of heart, fervent prayer and sacrifice. Instead we chose death.

The wars and their consequences that we see playing out in our own day are an extension of the spiritual battle; that’s where the real action is and we are invited to participate in that through our prayer to advance against the forces of darkness that are behind the veil and the woes of this world.

Our collective and consistent prayers, we have been told, can prevent and stop wars, suspend the forces of nature, bind and disarm Satan and the fallen angels and save souls. And so we don’t get confused, our Lady even supplies the weapon we require: the Rosary. Young or old, illiterate or educated, ‘one size fits all’.

We have, within our grasp, such an amazing opportunity to change the world, or, we can wait ... for the next war, the next terrorist group, the next deadly disease, famine or weapon of mass destruction and bear the pain of our complacency and disobedience, like our ancestors did.

The conclusion of Fatima’s message is reassuring though “In the end my Immaculate heart will Triumph”.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

‘Love Conquers Hate in Marawi’

Perhaps in an effort to re-establish credibility, as their strongholds in the middle east crumble, ISIS-inspired groups sprung up in the Southern Philippines. The ‘Maute group’ backed by foreign fighters from Indonesia and Malaysia started an insurrection in the Islamic city of Marawi in Mindanao. Hundreds of people killed, hundreds of thousands internally displaced and as the siege enters its last days, as the Philippine army clears out the few remaining terrorists, the city is now in ruins.

Mindanao has been a tinder box for a long time with deep mistrust between Muslim & Christian communities and frequent clashes between armed rebels & government forces. But in the midst of the immense suffering caused by the Marawi Crisis, a new hope has been ignited.

In the wake of the siege, with internally displaced Muslim families on the move to find shelter with relatives and in improvised camps in the north of the island, help came not only from government but in large measure from the Church. Caritas Philippines (using their nationwide network and the previous experience gained through the many natural disasters that the country has faced over the years) were early responders. The way they did so is of particular note.

As well as the nation’s Catholics coming together to give generously to their suffering brothers & sisters, they did so with great sensitivity to the religious and cultural background of the Maranao tribe. They employed what they called a Survivor Led Response whereby the religious and tribal leaders designed the relief plan with Caritas. Young Muslim volunteers led with the distribution of relief goods by taking it to the displaced families in their temporary homes instead of making people stand in endless queue’s at the back of trucks which we often see in such disaster scenes. Also care was taken in what kind of aid they provided for the Muslim evacuees eg:- prayer mats, halal foods etc as well as other items and services that were supplied to the children to help them cope-up like toys and group activities.

Groups from different dioceses/islands near to Mindanao prepared their own aid convoys and brought them over and helped with distribution too and the youngsters of both Muslim and Christian communities worked together. (see attached pics from Archdiocese of Capiz)

The Maranao people are a proud and self-sufficient tribe and unused to receiving help, much less from the Christian community, so it was a great witness really. Love is felt. And relations between the two groups, particularly with the youth, has been greatly enhanced as a consequence of this kind of response which acknowledges the evil of ISIS inspired groups without tarring the whole community with the same brush.

The same people are now working on rebuilding the community, as well as the city itself, and hopefully what rises from the ashes will be more unified with greater mutual understanding as the Muslim community has experienced firsthand the love of the Christian community for them and perhaps a glimpse of their Saviour.

ISIS brought the people death & destruction, the Catholic community brought them breakfast, friendship and a new hope.

NB :- the Residents of the Islamic City of Marawi are primarily the Maranao Tribe

Saturday, 2 September 2017


Last year I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to swim with whale sharks, in what was once a small fishing village now catapulted into the spotlight with the sudden arrival of these enormous beasts. Two tons and twenty feet long with a gaping mouth the size of an open car boot, that could easily have accommodated Jonah, and yet it glides through the waters with the grace and charm of a ballerina. Mesmerising. A few days later I swam with sardines; equally captivating. The shoal moves as one; close-packed as if already aware of their destiny. The shoal twists and turns with the movement of the sea or in response to the arrival of predators, its appearance is reminiscent of the DNA double helix. It was a glimpse at the wonder of God’s creation and its harmony, a real privilege. 

Back on land, things were less orderly. Gold fever gripped the town as visitors flooded in. The prices were elevated and quality of services plummeted. The fisherman after building new homes and getting new vehicles already, were loaded with wads of cash that would pique a senator’s interest. After the morning’s work taking the visitors out in their boats, the afternoons were spent in drinking sessions, high stakes gambling and any other pursuit money can buy. 

Systems were quickly put in place to harvest cash from visitors who were herded into queues to pay the fees for boats, snorkels etc. Foreigners were charged double price (except residents), and on discovering that I was a resident and therefore was to pay the normal fee, the cashier slammed the register impatiently with a look that told me that this incredible blessing this town had received with the arrival of the Whale Sharks must surely come to an end as mysteriously as it began. Not because of Karma, nor divine wrath at what they were becoming, no, it must come to an end out of love for them. 

Many times. the blessings God gives His children, become His worst enemy if they are not received with humility and gratitude and so some misfortune must come to correct their behaviour again. 

There was an odd feeling to the place that I couldn’t quite put my finger on for ages until I remembered a story about Auschwitz. So much evil was committed in that concentration camp that even to this day the birds who live in the area don’t sing. They must be feeling it. And then it clicked, this was the only town I ever saw in the Philippines where Filipinos don’t smile! Greed robs people of Joy.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Crossing the Rubicon

Julius Caesar paused before he crossed the Rubicon, a step that would eventually change the world. He knew there would be a high price to pay for his action; that he would have to conquer or die. He had the advantage of a few thousand loyal soldiers at his back of course and ultimately rid Rome of his rivals. 

At one time or another on our journey through life we will all have such a step to make, especially as Christians in a hostile world where we will often have to stand outnumbered or entirely alone for what we believe in or hold dear.

Sad to say it may not only be in the clearly defined and obvious conflicts with an increasingly godless society; but also within our own Christian organisations. Those who still believe that whilst we can work our side of the street while the devil works his are underestimating his malice and influence. Slithering under the doors of committees, councils and board meetings; he has a man in room, (and perhaps a few ladies). 

Their role is simple and subtle and they play a long game to gradually erode and dismantle and thus render impotent whatever generations of the faithful before them had put in place. This is done through, de-Christianisation of policy, centralised control, modernity and impenetrable bureaucratic structures.

A recent example I saw close-up showed this precise pattern and, sadly, not for the first time in the organisation’s history, a marvellous piece of work is being corrupted due to a lack of vigilance. A division of the organisation that existed to serve the poor in Christian charity ‘transformed’ over time, systematically and methodically into a business which will feed off the poor and will pad a few retirement plans. 

It is not easy to stand against tyranny, nor great odds, to challenge what you can’t quite put your finger on due to its ‘cloak & dagger’ cleverness and deceit, but we must defend our own Christian organisations from any enemies within, with prayer, courage and collective determination.