Sunday, 22 May 2016

What should you say to a woman pregnant through adultery?

I was having lunch with a Catholic acquaintance who mentioned St Rita of Cascia is popular in the Philippines because the rate of domestic violence is high and battered wives beseech her for graces to cope with bullying husbands. Thoughtlessly, I said I would look into praying to her. The person sitting opposite me raised an eyebrow and asked if I was having “man trouble”. Quickly, I clarified that I wasn’t, but was eager to pray to St Rita for work and money intentions.
It is not surprising that some of my female friends say they become tongue-tied when St Rita comes up.  Our being tight-lipped is due to St Rita’s reputation as the saint for heartbroken women, victims of punch-throwing husbands and those in unhappy marriages. Were we to admit praying to her, we fear others may wrongly draw the conclusion we have been or are being abused at the hands of our boyfriends and husbands.
St Rita herself was in an abusive marriage – she had been married off as a child of 12 – even though she wanted to become a nun. It was the late 1300s, and her husband Paolo Mancini was as wretched as any cad drawn from an EastEnders plot. He lashed out at her, beat her and was unfaithful to her.
On that last point, the fact that Rita suffered because her husband cheated on her places her as a saint for those who are victims of adultery. Our thoughts immediately fly to the grown men and women who find out their spouses are carrying on with someone else. But there is another set of victims in mind, who are not grown men and women: the unborn children conceived in adultery who are “evidence” and who risk being destroyed.
During the course of my pro-life work I have met dozens of women who were pregnant as a result of affairs with married men.
One case concerned a man who told a very young woman that he had to put his kids and wife first, and that she would help him by aborting their baby. I remember saying to her, “Congratulations”. She looked at me like I was a loon, and said, “Why would you say ‘Congratulations’?'” I answered quietly, “You’re pregnant and that’s why I say ‘Congratulations’.”  When she had had the baby, I found out that this one moment jogged her thinking and made her to view the pregnancy in a new light, the baby was a cause for champagne corks sounding, and did not deserve to be maligned on account of the shame she felt.
Another woman who was pregnant from an affair, kept making appointments at abortion clinics, but could not make herself go through with it. I found out that the pregnant mother’s own mother had conceived her during an affair but had decided not to abort her, so she kept the baby becasue she had been conceived in the same circumstances as her baby.
It is unthinkable for many people to ask a saint like St Rita to intercede for pregnant women who have carried on with married men and for their unborn children.  They, however, need our prayers to St Rita so that they may avoid abortion and so the innocent party can live. 
I wrote this post for The Catholic Herald. Today, May 22nd is St Rita of Cascia's feast day,  happy feast!

Friday, 20 May 2016

Why I wouldn’t want to be a female deacon


"Mary, why wouldn’t you become a deacon?  It seems like the only logical next step for a woman like yourself who spends so much time availing yourself of the sacraments, why not help out in administering the sacraments?” Long ago, I got used to hearing such suggestions and at times I feel undermined by people who think the less of me for maintaining it is not my place to be a deacon.
The same people who push other women to be female deacons often – not always but very often – seem to imply that one can only have a vocation if one is in ordained ministry, conveniently overlooking lay vocations and vocations to religious life as consecrated Brides of Christ who can do wonders for the lives and souls of others.
Whenever these people talk about the lack of female religious and that some orders of sisters and nuns are not getting new postulants and are having to close convents, I can’t help but think this is also a fruit of undermining the vocation to be a Bride of Christ because women are told this profound vocation is somehow ‘not good enough’ and that women religious are taking second-best by not clamouring to be in ordained ministry.
In my early teenage years I had a negative encounter with a nun who had problems. She made inappropriate remarks about peoples’ weight and was given to prolonged ranting. But later on I had a good experience with nuns at a convent school in Bandon, West Cork, and had it not been for their kindness, I do not think I would be a practising Catholic today. So it is perhaps thanks to them and the noble pursuit of their time-honoured religious vocation that I am writing this piece.
The push for female deacons is sadly becoming a tool of manipulation whereby there is pressure being put on Holy Mother Church to ‘prove’ that She is ‘doing something’ for the advancement of women by agreeing to ordain women deacons. Given the unfortunate level of ignorance surrounding Church history and tradition on this question, and the potential manipulation of what data and reasoning remains from the historical record, there is good reason for Pope Francis to launch a study into the role of female deacons in the early Church, and why that practice, if it occurred as some contend, did not continue.
Women, like myself, who are not called to be Brides of Christ are told that we ‘could be so much more’ were the Church to allow us to be ordained female deacons. This is specious, again implying that we are somehow ‘not good enough’ even if we are striving to live our challenging discipleship as true Christians (each of us has something that is very hard; in my case I find forgiving others for slights quite difficult).
Given the need for more nuns and sisters, and the difficulty of persisting in holiness in the lay state, I respectfully decline to support that women be ordained deacons, but instead prefer that we deepen and recommit to the various states of life entrusted to us by the continuity of long tradition, which is challenge enough for me. 
I wrote this piece for The Catholic Herald. To read my full author archive, go here

Sunday, 15 May 2016

It may get you called a freak, but Marian devotion is indispensable

If you ever want proof that I’m in the Densa category, reference this fact: it has taken me the past 10 days to figure out ways to develop my love for Our Lady during this month of May which is dedicated to her.
My normal routine is to offer the Rosary every day of every month as Our Lady asked us to do at Fatima, and to write pieces that spread devotion to the Holy Rosary.
Yet when I started preparing to write this exact piece, I felt self-doubt, asking myself if I’m like a broken record, constantly repeating that Our Lady asked us to offer the Rosary each day, without putting the spotlight on spiritual classics concerning Our Lady that open our minds to appreciate why devotion to Our Lady is so incredibly important. Even the mere words “incredibly important” seem inadequate, but they are the best words at my disposal.
As we are in the midst of May, I have been studying St Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. I recommend this book with every fibre of my being, if like me you are seeking ways to grow in understanding for Our Lady’s role, but most especially for people who believe in God but feel indifferent towards praying to Our Lady, or who sadly feel it is futile. St Louis de Montfort extols us to “pour into the bosom and heart of Mary all your precious possessions, all your graces and virtues. She is a spiritual vessel, a vessel of honour, a singular vessel of devotion. Ever since God personally hid Himself with all His perfections in this vessel, it has become completely spiritual and the spiritual abode of all spiritual souls.”
If we undermine Our Lady and think we are too good to pray to her, we are cultivating a very deadly, sinful pride that separates us from God by way of looking down on the very “vessel” in which God Himself was carried into this world. St Louis’s True Devotion is a challenging work, it makes us question ourselves as to times when we have not given Our Lady her due respect, but it is the perfect read for May.
Even in the glorious month of May it can feel lonely when one is trying so hard to honour Our Lady. I’ve been called a freak, and experiencing the very real disdain that some have for Our Lady can be almost nausea-inducing. I have, however, discovered an amazing writer, one Melissa Presser, a Jewish lawyer in the US who has become Catholic and blogs at God is in your typewriter. Reading her supremely sincere posts is like a tonic for the soul – I have found it healing to read her accounts of doing her utmost to love Our Lord and Our Lady more – even when she is in times of great personal stress. Melissa has a very genuine love for Jesus and Mary and writes in a self-giving way that is designed to invite the reader to love them, too. In reading about Melissa’s journey into the Catholic Church, you can’t help but know interiorly that Melissa wants you to have the same the gift and privilege of faith that she has.
These May days I am offering The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Personally, I have found that I barely have the patience to pray it (I keep thinking of how much I’d like to watch Netflix instead which is a poor indictment of my loyalty) but I keep in mind various friends and loved ones and offer it for their intentions and then find it can be good for my motivation to tell them, because they might ask me to offer the Little Office for them again.
I wrote this post for The Catholic Herald.  I discovered Melissa Presser after she got in touch with John Carmichael and wrote a lovely post on Drunks and Monks (she said she doesn't think she breathed while reading it) and left a review on Amazon describing Carmichael's memoir as, "the best book I have ever read in my entire life". She had initially bought Drunks and Monks after hearing me breathlessly champion it on the  Jennifer Fulwiler show. A very spirited, generous lady, Melissa bowled me over because she is offering to purchase copies for anyone who can't afford it.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

I'm taking up the Pope's challenge to pray for other women

The Pope’s video for May is a series of prayer intentions which asks us to pray for the betterment of women the world over. Pope Francis’ prayer that, “in all countries of the world women may be honoured, respected, valued for their essential contribution to society” got me thinking.
I felt twinges of guilt because it is a prayer intention that I wasn’t aware I was neglecting. The reason for my oversight is that I don’t agree with liberal feminism, and have wrongly labelled praying for women as supporting feminism, which is an incorrect and illogical thought process. I realise that you don’t have to be a feminist to pray for other women.
Padre Pio's favourite painting of Our Lady
Womanhood is cherished by God; it was a woman who was mother to His Son. So praying for the good of other women, even those we do not know is something for every Christian to take to heart and to pray very earnestly for.
How precisely do we pray for such an intention?
One way is to pray specifically for the particular intentions of our female friends around us – and one excellent way is to offer the Rosary.
When meditating on the Visitation, we contemplate that when Our Lady was pregnant she prioritised visiting Elizabeth so she could help her elderly relative who was pregnant with John the Baptist.
Benedict XVI wrote in Spe Salve that Our Lady was the first missionary because she carried Our Lord in her womb as she travelled to Elizabeth.
Praying the Visitation may call to our minds the intentions of pregnant women and even women who are having exceptionally difficult pregnancies, thus each time we offer these intentions it can be a pro-life work.
A lot of attention focuses on how the Church as an institution can do more to value women.
When I was taking my university degree, it was thought by feminist academics that women would only be honoured by the Catholic Church if women were ordained alongside men. When I would proffer an alternative view, I was shut down and increasingly excluded from ‘the debate’, I was one woman they did not recognise because I held differing views.
Much less discussion is given to how Catholic women can do good by their fellow women on an everyday basis. There are those of us, and I accuse myself of this, who are hypocrites in this regard.
I have cheered and cooed at dinner parties that Hermine Speier was the first woman to be employed by the Vatican in 1934. But I can’t remember the last time I had enough generosity of spirit to find and congratulate a female Catholic near me in London who has broken the glass ceiling for women in her area of work.
Now that I am praying in tandem with Pope Francis that women be ‘honoured’, I will be more conscious of honouring other Catholic women, not just for their achievements, but also if they seek to do good to others and who make the Church proud of her female members. 
I wrote this post for The Catholic Herald. For the full selection of my work, see my author archive

Friday, 29 April 2016

John Sullivan SJ: a saintly priest whose story the world needs to hear


Telling the tale of the saintly John Sullivan SJ’s life of heroic virtue could do some good to Ireland’s reputation. Were the life of this priest better known it would go a little bit towards counterbalancing the damage done to Ireland’s standing on the international stage by the clerical sex abuse committed by criminal priests.
John Sullivan SJ did not have the typical upbringing of an Irish Catholic, never mind an Irish Jesuit who voluntarily takes a vow of poverty. His father was a Protestant who was very rich and a highly esteemed barrister who housed his family in Georgian Dublin. John was raised Protestant, even though his mother was Catholic.
John Sullivan converted to Catholicism and was received into the Catholic Church in London’s Farm Street Jesuit community in 1896 when he was a 35-year-old barrister. Throughout all his years as a Jesuit, which were spent in County Kildare, Ireland, there was a touch of Pope Francis about him. He had tremendous affection for the poor, sourcing and making gifts of goods that for the impecunious were ‘luxury’ gifts such as tobacco, fruit, snuff and even drink so that they could have a wee dram.
I find it all the more noble that a cleric who came from such a privileged background was able to identify with the underprivileged people of Ireland in the early 1900s despite never having experienced their hunger pangs himself.
Yet the part I find most impressive is that as he aged and grew in holiness, more and more people spoke about the great efficacy of his prayers, especially for the seriously ill. A cleric who did not allow his ego to inflate with each favour granted by Heaven, he never claimed that his prayers were the reason for miraculous cures.
This week, I believe that praying to Blessed John Sullivan SJ won me a favour. I had been feeling anxious, but after inviting Blessed John Sullivan to pray for me, I felt my burden was lifted and I was granted a sense of serenity about the future.
John Sullivan SJ’s prayers were answered during his lifetime and now that people are praying to him and getting graces, the Vatican is putting him on the path to sainthood. If it is God’s will and if Blessed John Sullivan is a soul in Heaven, then the process of making him a saint will show that Ireland is capable of producing exceptionally kind-hearted, benevolent priests.  
I wrote this post for The Catholic Herald in the wake of the news that the miracle has been approved which will allow for John Sullivan SJ to be beatified and thus one step closer to sainthood. 

Mother Angelica would have been 93 this month, the most successful woman in television history was an 'unwanted' child

Had our cherished Mother Angelica lived, she would have celebrated her 93rd birthday today. I put forward that a birthday present we could give Mother would be to do our best to use her life story and great achievements to counteract what St John Paul II called the culture of death.
This may seem lofty, and could remain just a nice thought, but I think we need not be afraid to discuss Mother Angelica when we are having pro-life discussions, and to help others who think it’s “for the best” if an unwanted unborn child meets their end in an abortion clinic.
For starters, we can retell the story of Mother’s humble beginnings to refute the dire predictions that we hear about “unwanted” children, namely that their being unwanted by one or both of their parents leaves them with emotional scars that keep them from achieving anything in life. The culture of death tars all “unwanted” kids with the same brush.
Mother Angelica’s father John, on finding out that his wife Mae was carrying his child, tore out Mae’s hair and was incandescent with anger. According to court records, he was physically and verbally abusive to her and they had severe financial constraints that caused them to fight constantly.
93 years ago, Mother Angelica’s mother Mae was having a very difficult labour, bringing the 12-pound baby Rita into the world. Mae never flinched from telling little Rita the gory details of her birth. After her parents split, Rita’s father reneged on giving them any financial support and Rita and her mother often had only scraps of bread and a bit of bologna for a meagre dinner.
Her mother learned the dry-cleaning business and the customers collected their clothes, promised to pay, but often did not. On seeing her ex-husband John date other women, Mae would become suicidal and would say to Rita that she wanted to die by her own hand. Mother Angelica later recalled that “when I came home from school, I never knew if I would find her dead or alive”.
Yes, Rita was from an extremely emotionally and materially deprived background, but she became Mother Angelica, the only woman to found and run her own TV network for over 20 years. For an “unwanted” child, that ain’t half bad. A child who had to cope all alone with a mother who had untreated mental health problems would establish a TV network that currently reaches 264 million homes worldwide.
Telling Mother Angelica’s story can edify and encourage our peers as to the fact that an “unwanted” child from a poor family can go onto great things.
I wrote this post for The Catholic Herald and it was published on the date of Mother Angelica's birthday April 20th. I read and re-read Raymond Arroyo's amazing account of her life
 Mother Angelica, please pray for us. 

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

On Turning 100. Mary O'Regan interviews John H Carmichael



Drunks and Monks by John H Carmichael

Q: So you garnered 100 Amazon Reviews in 9 months, almost all of them quite good. How do you feel about it?

A: It is strange to think one would in any way “mark” or take note of “100 Amazon Reviews.”

But Amazon in general and their reader reviews in particular have become important in our time.

And what a strange time it is.

What did we do before we could express our opinions so freely and so permanently about books?

We were at the mercy of professional reviewers, with their dry, arch, sometimes too-clever-by-half musings, meant not just to promote or demote a book, but also to reveal the professional reviewer's acumen, to contribute to an alternative genre of literature -- the literary review. Not so with the reader reviews on Amazon, which sometimes blurt out painful truths akin to “This book sucks!” Or, “Meh. I just couldn't get into it. Two hours I will never get back. I should’ve watched Dancing With The Stars instead.” To be clear, I respect professional reviewers but the reader reviews have a guileless and immediate quality that cannot be denied.

As you said, most of the reviews for Drunks & Monks have been good so far, so that makes it easier to take and I am very appreciative of each and every one.

Q: How important do you think the reviews are?

A: A book marketing expert I know says that after about “100 reviews on Amazon” there tends to be a snowball effect that takes place, so he recommends offering the book to beta-readers for honest reviews to get those numbers. I read somewhere recently that since we are inherently social creatures, we do prefer to read things that other people are also reading. So in that sense, perhaps, nothing succeeds like success. I know I read the customer reviews of books I'm interested in and probably put a little more stock in them than I do the professional reviews. That may or may not be a good thing, but that’s the way it seems to be now.  

Q: What are some of your favorite ones?

A: It is true that more than a few have stood out and touched me on a personal level.

I like the ones where somebody says they went back to Church, or tried to quit drinking, or thought more deeply about the Sacraments because it affirms my hope that I am doing something serious for a serious purpose.

The reviews that praise the writing or the style are very gratifying because I put a lot of effort into the imagery, rhythm and diction and that was the enjoyable part of it for me. 

I combined a lot of post-modern elements with very old techniques and just sort of hurled it out there, with your fine editing, hoping it would fall well on the reader’s ear and release some power at the end. 

A few reviewers objected to the post-modern style, but many more than that liked it. I am not a fan of post-modernism for its own sake but it suited this story somehow. The most important thing is I tried to write about human brokenness and how the Catholic Faith helped me and to offer that to other people. Even if they don't like the “Catholic part” of it I hope they feel some companionship and some hope for healing, or for having a better life, for being less self-destructive. 

When the reviews say that they felt my compassion toward their own sufferings or longings, those are my favorite ones.  

Q: Any other thoughts?

A: It is a common dream to be able to make a living as a writer, or any kind of artist really. Many people have that dream and I certainly have it. I don't know if that will be possible for me long term, but I do know I am not holding anything back in this effort.
The only way to really make a living as a writer is with a contingent of readers, so each individual reader becomes like gold to me.
Each review is of vital importance. That anyone would even take the time to read a book at all these days in between all the distractions and pressures of modern life, is really quite astonishing. 
I hope Drunks & Monks is well received and that I am able to write more books. I have immense tenderness for those people who have written to me and have had more than a few very moving personal interactions.
The reviews are a form of communication and I read each one carefully. I’ve written back to a few people but don’t remark on reviews very often because many people wish to just leave their review and be done with it. I hope the book marketing expert is right and the triple digit reviews spark a buying, reading and reviewing frenzy. Further deponent sayeth not.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Today I will be on the Jennifer Fulwiler Show talking about Drunks and Monks

What a delight it is to have Jennifer Fulwiler, famed author of Something Other Than God visit us here in London.  

Jennifer has been an amazing trailblazer for Drunks and Monks, John Carmichael's epic memoir, and John has been a guest on her show twice. You may listen to his first interview here (at 43:00).  Today, I will be on Jen's show at 3:10 ET, which is 8:10 pm London time. 

The photo below was taken on one of the manicured lawns of South Kensington, in front of the church where TS Eliot was rector. We didn't have time to see Agatha Christie's house which is nearby, but next time, Jen...

Jennifer Fulwiler and Mary O'Regan

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Help abducted priests by praying to the clergy who have gone before them

Dire rumours circulated last week concerning Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, a Salesian priest who was abducted by ISIS in Yemen on March 4. The worst hearsay was that his captors had crucified him on Good Friday, which thankfully appear to have been false.
We can take heart that the most recent news has been positive; the bishops’ conference of India has said that Fr Tom is alive and still in the hands of his captors, but intense negotiations are underway to secure his release.
It’s easy to feel powerless when we hear of a good priest being held hostage by terrorists, but I suggest we can pray for Fr Tom in a specific way, by praying to the souls of saintly priests who were imprisoned unfairly. One such priest is Fr Walter Ciszek, who has been proclaimed a Servant of God.

Fr Walter was captured by the Russian Army during World War II. After being accused and convicted during a phony trial of being a ‘Vatican spy’, Fr Walter spent 23 harrowing years in Soviet prisons and working in the salt mines of Siberia, all of which he details in his spiritual masterpiece, He Leadeth Me.
A great irony was that Fr Walter, when he had been a seminarian at the Russicum in Rome had been known for his passionate wish to be a priest in Russia.

If any saintly priest who has gone to God knows extreme suffering at the hands of captors, it is Fr Walter. His years in the Lubyanka Prison were spent mostly in solitary confinement and he was subjected to brutal torture until he signed a document where he ‘confessed’ to being a spy for the Pope, which led to him being sentenced to 15 years in the Gulag.
Fr Walter would be the ideal intercessor for Fr Tom – we can pray to Fr Walter that the negotiations go well and that Fr Tom is unharmed and set free. If it were to catch on, people praying to Fr Walter for priests who are persecuted and imprisoned, then maybe his cause could advance and he would one day be Blessed Walter. 
I wrote this piece for The Catholic Herald.  I hope to write more about Fr Walter Ciszek and his memoir of imprisonment under the Soviets, He Leadeth Me.  A friend of mine is a Jesuit priest and I look forward to asking him if he ever met Fr Walter...

Friday, 1 April 2016

Why Mother Angelica was Mother Angelica

Back in the 1930s when Mother Angelica was Rita Rizzo, her mother took her out of a convent school because the nuns belittled her. After a priest cajoled and persuaded little Rita’s mother to send her back to the convent school, the same nuns singled Rita out for more of the same.
At the Christmas party, they gave shiny new toys to all the other kids, but reserved a broken yo-yo for Rita. Raymond Arroyo’s biography quotes Mother Angelica as remembering that the toy “was old and scratched, had knots in it, you couldn’t use the thing.” When Rita grew up to become Mother Angelica she would always say that she hated “those nuns” and was clear that they could and should have told her that Jesus loved her.
Perhaps it is a miracle in itself that Rita became a nun: it shows amazing strength of character on the part of Mother Angelica that she did not let fear that she would might become like the nuns from her childhood crush her vocation.
Mother Angelica as a toddler
I know that I wouldn’t have had the determination. When I was 14, a nun who was teaching me spent some a lot of class-time shouting at me, “you’re a liar”, after she caught me doing my homework in class, which I denied I was doing, so I got lambasted with, "liar, liar!" Afterwards I wanted to become a lapsed Catholic and it was only positive encounters with nicer nuns who changed my mind.
Mother Angelica became a champion of the same institution that had produced the sadists in black veils who bullied her. One of the most unstoppable nuns to have ever lived in my view, Mother was the only woman to found and run a TV network for 20 years.
The reason that “those nuns” never spoiled her vocation was the same reason she founded EWTN: Jesus chose her to be His bride and she was willing to do anything for Him. When she was a newly minted nun, she wrote a letter to her mother, addressing her as the mother-in-law of Jesus.
Her apostolate in Catholic media, even from the early recordings explaining God’s love for each person, was a bold endeavour to give the masses what the nuns of her childhood had not given her: the empowering knowledge of Jesus’s love for us.
Mother Angelica’s life and works prove that her love for Our Lord was genuine: this is precisely why she is an inspiration to Catholic women. Angelica alone shows that a Catholic woman driven by love of Jesus can achieve great things; even in our times when many young women like me are told that being successful and being a Catholic are incompatible.
Mother Angelica could be vociferous in defending Our Lord, like a hyper-defensive and devoted wife, she would not broke the slightest undermining of Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. Yes, she sparred with important men of the cloth, but she could never be accused of clericalism.
Mother Angelica saw her role as bride of Christ as infinitely more important than following the party line. When she was investigated by the Vatican, and sent male interrogators, she was asked who had given her permission for this or that. Going rogue, she was frank that she had acted on inspirations from Our Lord and that He had supplied her with permission.
Mother Angelica, I hope you are united with your Beloved as I write this. Remember us, please pray that we can be together in Heaven one fine day. 
I wrote this article for The Catholic Herald. You may see the full catalog of my online articles for this publication here

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Why I didn't have my feet washed on Holy Thursday - foot washing is too important to be dragged into a feminist debate

The debate over foot-washing is often seen in terms of simply excluding or including women. But it would seem very different if we were informed by our Christian consciences and not by feminism.
In our ‘post-feminist’ society, we women are told that Christianity is informed by misogyny. That women will now have their feet washed on Maundy Thursday is seen by some as one means of correcting a male-dominated system. Of course, the Pope did not reform the rite for feminist reasons. However, the issue can get caught up in political debates, which is a pity.
I won’t have my marble-white, blue veiny feet washed today. But I won’t object when I hear of a female friend or acquaintance who will have their feet washed; they are doing so in line with the Church’s teachings and they may be trying to reach greater holiness. I’d just invite them to think twice if they are merely having their feet washed in response to feminist propaganda which seeks to turn women against Our Lord, by arguing that He was in the wrong when He did not wash the feet of women.
At Easter, we pledge our gratitude to Our Lord for His Ultimate Sacrifice on the Cross, and if we trust that He shed His Blood to wash away the sins for both men and women, why not trust that he had only our good in mind when He did not wash the feet of women?
At this time of year, more so than any other time, we are contemplating that Christ so loved the world that he gave His life on the cross in atonement for our sins. It’s all very well to go through the motions at Easter, but if we accept the reality of Our Lord’s sacrificial love then it instructs us that Our Lord always, always wants the best for humanity, and to my fellow women, I’d like to say that includes us.
I wrote this post for The Catholic Herald and it was posted on Holy Thursday of this year, which fell on March 24th. 

Friday, 18 March 2016

Praying to St Joseph for a spouse can have unexpected consequences...

When I was 18, I prayed the novena to St Joseph for the intention of getting a husband of the Orlando Bloom variety. Yes, I know, 18 is childishly young, and at the time I yearned to be a teenage bride with a pale pink lace veil who would dance down the aisle to Chuck Berry’s It Was A Teenage Wedding (I’m not joking – those were my wedding plans).
At the time, it didn’t matter to me if the guy was Catholic or not, as long as he was extremely good-looking and had thick hair. Clearly, my priorities were in order. Needless to say, it did not come to pass and I am still unmarried. Thank you, St Joseph for unanswered prayers.
I did not, however, dare to offer the novena to St Joseph for a devastatingly handsome hubbie during my twenties.
Why ever not? My reason has ironically to do with the fact that I became more serious about my faith. Bear with me while I explain: during the decade-long time between 20 and 30 I heard quite a few men and women say that they prayed to St Joseph for a husband or wife, and that, yes, they got a husband or wife, and that St Joseph gave them what they asked for, but there was a splinter: namely that their spouse was not a Catholic and in some cases their life-mate was anti-Catholic.
I was quite put off praying to St Joseph because I didn’t think my nerves could stand someone who hated Mother Church.  Listening to people who regretted marrying non-Catholics, I perceived that on balance, marrying someone who hated the Catholic Church was far worse than being single. I was afraid the same fate would befall me, finding someone and falling in love, but with a man who was contemptuous of the Church.
But time is a healer and many of the same non-Catholics (mentioned above) married to cradle Catholics have converted and become Catholic. It may be part of St Joseph’s master-plan that he pairs Catholics with non-Catholics so that the Catholic will influence the non-Catholic to convert. The splinter wears away in time, worn away by St Joseph, until things are smooth.
Given his track record of finding husbands and wives for men and women called to marriage, St Joseph’s feast day should really be celebrated on the same scale as St Valentine’s Day. If St Valentine’s Day is a metaphor for romance, then St Joseph’s day could be a metaphor for love and marriage.
February 14 is for bubbly wine and cheap chocolate hearts, but St Joseph’s feast day could become the day when there is a renewal of wedding vows, a time when the wedding dress is brought out and shown to the children (maybe the daughters can try it on) and a time to break out the best champagne. For some Catholics who prayed the novena for a spouse – and got the man/woman of their dreams – it could be a time of offering prayers of thanksgiving...
I wrote this post for The Catholic Herald and it was posted on March 11th - the first day of the novena - so that people might start it and finish today March 19th which is the feast of St Joseph. I have offered the novena with another person for a mutually special intention of ours. I will have a lot to write about if the favour is granted, and in my irritatingly private way, that's all I'll say for now.   Happy feast of St Joseph!
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