Monday, 31 December 2012

Homily for the Marriage of Benedict Carter & Zhuojun (Miki) Zhang

Readings Gen 1:26-31; 1Cor 12:31-13:8; Matt 7:21, 24-29

When I was preparing this homily, I vividly recalled a similar situation 25 years ago when I was sitting where Ben is sitting now.  Months of preparations and excitement had all built up to these few short hours on this very special and joyful day.  The nerves were jangling, the adrenaline was pumping – then it was over in a flash and we were married.  It was perhaps a month later before the reality of spending the rest of our lives together really dawned on us.  The more perceptive one of us – (I won’t mention who that was) but she woke up one day saying: “What on earth have I done?”  That was followed very quickly by me discovering that men really are from Mars - and women really are from Venus!

Ben and Miki, this day is so important because you have chosen to have your marriage witnessed before God and our Holy Mother the Church.  But this day is just the first day of the rest of your lives together.  Your marriage is just beginning - and so we now take a few moments to consider the true meaning of this Sacrament.

In our first reading from Genesis we see that God created man as male and female.  The complementarity of the sexes is built in to human nature by God from the very beginning.  Man and woman are both created in the image and likeness of God, with equal value and worth, but yet radically different.  True equality does not enforce sameness – rather it embraces difference.  God’s command to go forth and multiply teaches us that one purpose of marriage is the procreation of children. Marriage is the foundation of the family.  So Ben and Miki, in obedience to God’s first command to man, your marriage is called to be open to receiving all the children He sends you. Receiving them with generous hearts - and raising them in their turn to know, love and serve God.

Although man and beast are created on the same day, only man is created in the image and likeness of God.  This tells us that man was destined to enter a family relationship with God Himself – even to the point of partaking of God’s own life and nature.  And as St John reveals to us in His writings: the nature of God is love.  Love is what makes man different from the beast.  Man and woman are made for love.  Love is how they reflect God’s image and likeness. The exclusive and lifelong union of marriage reflects the very nature of Christ’s love for His Church.  And so, Ben and Miki, as you enter into marriage, you are both called to a life of love for each other – a faithful love that will last until death.

St Paul speaks of this love in our second reading.  He tells us that love is patient and kind, it delights in the truth, is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, to endure whatever comes – and that it never comes to an end.  To love somebody, then, is to constantly seek their good.  Notice that St. Paul does not talk about love in terms of feelings.  We might be thinking: typical man!  But love should not be confused with the feeling of love - emotions - they are not the same thing.  Love is far too important, far too vital, to be dependent on something that comes and goes – that has its ups and downs.  Love – to be love – must endure, whatever emotions we have at any given time.

That is not to disregard the importance of emotion and feelings. Learning to communicate at an emotional level will be important for your unity as a couple.  Emotions signpost the mountain tops and the valleys of our journey through life together.  While the highs of the mountain tops may be exhilarating, it is in the lows of the valleys that most growth occurs.  And so it is with love.  It is during the hard times and challenges of life that love is tested. And it is in that testing that love grows and bears most fruit.

Our example in this way of love is Our Lord Himself.  It was in the midst of ridicule, rejection and pain that His infinite love bore most fruit for us.  It was His love for each one of us that caused Him to lay down His life on the Cross. It was His love that gave Him strength to endure to the end.  If you can keep Our Lord – and the example of His love – at the centre of your life together – then you will indeed build your marriage and family on the Rock. 

Miki, these last 18 months have been a wonderful time to get to know you.  We thank God and thank your parents for raising a beautiful, kind, and intelligent woman to be a loving wife for our son.  We welcome you into our family as a new daughter.  We are proud to have you and we look forward to getting to know our new family and friends across the world in Shanghai.

Ben, if you have the privilege of being present at the birth of your first child, a word of fatherly advice – do not ask your wife:  “Does it hurt?”  You won’t like the answer or the tone of it!  But it seems like only yesterday that I held you in the palms of my hands for the first time. Until that point I never knew how much it was possible to love someone so small, so dependent.   And yet now here you stand.  Your mother and I are very proud of you. You have grown up to be a good man who has kept the faith.  We are proud that you have grown up with the strength and independence of character to be head of your own family before God.
As you start out in married life with Miki all our love and prayers go with you both.

The Feast of the Holy Innocents was a very special occasion for me and my family this year.  It was a great privilege to be able to celebrate the marriage of my son, Benedict and his wife, Miki.  A number of you have asked for a copy of the homily.  In order to save paper and make it available quickly, I have posted a transcript of it here. 

Please keep both of them in your prayers for all the challenges which will inevitably lie ahead.

An English Bishop teaches on Humanae Vitae - finally!


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In this second Pastoral Letter, I want to discuss something that many people find very challenging and controversial. But let me first, on this feast of the Holy Family, wish you the continuing joys of Christmas. Since becoming your bishop a few weeks ago, I have been visiting our priests. I thank God for all the wonderful priests we have and for their inspiring love and service of Jesus and his Church. I thank God too for the many beautiful churches in our diocese and not least for you, the People of God, for your perseverance in faith and Christian discipleship in these difficult times. As we enter the New Year 2013, I urge you, in the words of today’s Second Reading, often to “think of the love that the Father has lavished upon us by letting us be called God’s children.”[i]

The context of this Pastoral Letter is two-fold. First, the Year of Faith, in which I want to explore the articles of the Creed. Today, let us consider the second article: “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God.”[ii] Jesus Christ is Divine. He is God the Son. He is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, or to use that daringly non-Scriptural term, “consubstantial with the Father”. This is an important doctrine to teach today. For many would acknowledge Jesus to be a great religious leader, a Prophet and teacher, a good and holy man. But in fact He is infinitely greater: He is God the Word. When Jesus speaks, it is God speaking. This changes everything. In this Year of Faith, it would be good to review our prayer and catechesis to ensure it reflects the fullness of this truth. We should also study afresh the Creed and its origins[iii] so we can understand better the Church’s teaching and why Jesus Christ is the only Way to salvation.

The second context of this Letter is today’s feast of the Holy Family, which presents us with the humanity of Christ: that he became incarnate “for us and for our salvation”. Or to paraphrase St. Leo, “He came down from heaven that we might go up to heaven”[iv]. In taking on human nature, Jesus also took on a human history and a human culture. He was brought up in Nazareth in the home of Mary and Joseph[v]. Mary, His mother, taught him his prayers and the religious traditions of his people. Joseph, as a father, gave him a trade and initiated him into the society of the day. We recall all of this in the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, which it would be good to recite every day during the Christmas season. You might also consider reading the new book by Pope Benedict: “Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives”[vi].

So the Creed affirms that Jesus Christ is truly divine, God from God; but it also states that He is the New Adam, the Perfect Human.[vii] To say this today is highly controversial. If in the fourth century it was the doctrine about how Jesus could be divine yet human, today the hot-button issue is what it means to be human. Indeed, most of the big debates in our society revolve around two matters: sex and authority. What is the truth about human sexuality? And who can tell me how to live my life?

In 1968, at the height of the Sixties, Pope Paul VI wrote an Encyclical Letter that then and now many Catholics find difficult. He repeated the traditional teaching of the Church, based on the natural law and confirmed by revelation, that sexual intercourse is an integral act for love and for life, and that these two aspects of sexuality – love and life - cannot be divorced[viii]. Humanae Vitae was a prophetic document. Pope Paul spoke of catastrophic consequences for society and culture if these two ends of marriage were split. 45 years on, we can see what he meant in such things as the reduction of sex to a leisure activity, the trafficking of people for prostitution and pornography, broken family relationships, and the explosion of addictive behaviours leading to despair, shame and guilt[ix].

As Catholics, we believe in the natural way of life. We believe that the purpose of sexual intercourse is to express the love between a man and a woman, a love which, within the permanent commitment of marriage, is open to being fruitful to life.[x] This is the way to lasting happiness and fulfilment, even if to become chaste - that is, to develop a mature and fully integrated sexuality, as a single person or a married couple - involves a life-long struggle and “apprenticeship in self-mastery”[xi]. To help us, Jesus calls us to be his disciples, and offers us the healing balm and the strength we need, above all in confession and Holy Communion.

Jesus Christ is the way to personal happiness and authentic humanism. Sadly, the teaching of Humanae Vitae about sexual morality and family values has become something of an ‘elephant in the room’ that no-one seems to mention. In this Year of Faith then, I would like to invite everyone to discover again the Church's wonderful vision of love and life, as expounded in the Catechism. I would also like to ask all families, whatever their form or circumstances, to think about developing a deeper and richer Catholic ethos in the home, so as to give a clearer witness to contemporary culture. For instance, why not spend an evening together as a family, occasionally switch off the computer, make the Sign of the Cross on entering the house, adopt a communal work of justice and charity, or keep special the fast-days and feast-days? I am sure you will think of many other ways of preserving our Catholic distinctiveness.

In this Mass of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, let us thank God for our own families, and pray for them. Let us pray for those who struggle to live a chaste life in imitation of Christ. Let us pray for families who are struggling or who have suffered tragedy and pain. And let us pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on our land. Like Mary and Joseph who found Jesus in the Temple, may the people of England find their way to salvation and happiness in Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, ever present and active in his Church. Indeed, in this Year of Faith, may the Spirit lead us all to the living waters that stream from the Heart of Jesus, burning with love for us.

In Corde Iesu,

+ Philip

Bishop of Portsmouth

[i] I John 3: 1. This is the second reading given in the alternative set of readings for optional use in Year C.
[ii] Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, The Roman Missal 562
[iii] see Catechism of the Catholic Church. Second Edition (Rome, Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2000) 422-455; Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (London, CTS 2006) 81f and YOUCAT Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church (London, CTS 2010) 71f
[iv] Cf. St. Leo Sermo 6 In Nativitate Domini 2-3, 5 (PL 54, 213-216). This constitutes the Second Reading in the Office of Readings for 31st December.
[v] Luke 2: 51-52
[vi] Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (New York, Image 2012)
[vii] Gaudium et Spes 22
[viii] For a concise summary of the Church’s teaching, see Catechism 2331-2400
[ix] See Paul VI Humanae Vitae (London, CTS 1968) 19-30
[x] John Paul II Gratissimam Sane (Letter to Fanilies) 7-8, available online at (December 2012)
[xi] Catechism 2339

Sunday, 23 December 2012

A Christmas Sermon, St. Augustine of Hippo

Awake, mankind!  For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened ‘to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Christ: for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory”, but of God’s glory: for justice has not come out of us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to men of good will.

For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head. For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

This excerpt from a sermon by St. Augustine (Sermo 185: PL 38, 997-999) on the mystery of the incarnation is used in the Roman Office of Readings on Christmas Eve, December 24, the last day of the Fourth week of Advent.


Saturday, 15 December 2012

A Taste of things to come in "the brave new world."

PARIS, December 14, 2012, ( - The French government will use a new proposed “Observatory of Secularism” to monitor and perhaps “dissolve” organizations such as Institut Civitas, a Catholic activist group opposing the government’s proposed homosexual “marriage” law, according to Reuters.

Reuters’ Religion Editor Tom Heneghan reports that France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced the policy at a Meeting on Secularism organized by socialist members of France’s National Assembly, the country’s lower legislative house, on Tuesday.  Reuters is the only news agency known to to have reported on the statements, which were left unmentioned in the French press.

Valls claimed that that Institut Civitas, a group that socialist legislators have called to be disbanded for its aggressive defense of Catholic values and opposition to the homosexual political agenda, is close to “the limits of legality,” and warned that “all excesses are being minutely registered in case we have to consider dissolving it and defending this before a judge.”

Valls claimed at the meeting that “the aim is not to combat opinions by force, but to detect and understand when an opinion turns into a potentially violent and criminal excess,” according to Reuters. “The objective is to identify when it’s suitable to intervene to treat what has become a religious pathology.”

“Behold a program of radical secularist extremism, which fraudulently equates choice of life, of convictions, with terrorist and criminal acts,” wrote French journalist and correspondent Jeanne Smits, editor of the French newspaper Present, in response to the statements.

France’s socialist education minister has also been under fire for his promotion of “secularist morality” classes for the nation’s schools, which have been compared to brainwashing classes instituted by Vichy France’s pro-Nazi leader Philippe Petain during World War II. The proposed “Observatory of Secularism” would also be used to institute such classes, according to government officials.

“Secularism is not about simple tolerance. It’s not about ‘anything goes.’ It is a set of values that we have to share,” Minister of Education Vincent Peillon told the French press recently. “To be shared, these values need to be taught and learned and we need to rebuild them among France’s children.”

Pellion’s immediate predecessor in the Ministry of Education, Luc Chatel, called Peillon’s words “frightening,” claiming that his call for the “intellectual and moral reeducation” of French children was a “word for word the call of Marshal Petain on June 25, 1940.”

Some commentators dismiss Bishop Egan's concerns for the future freedom of those who will never endorse the government's proposed attempt to redefine marriage.  However, as we see above, they only have to look a few miles across the English Channel from Portsmouth to see what is being discussed to impose false secular ideologies on French citizens.

What comes to France now, comes to the EU next.  Then that institution, which increasingly resembles the Beast of the Apocalypse, imposes its sordid designs on the rest of us.

How pitiful are the MP's who call themselves Catholic, yet support these plans?  Our prayers for the protection of the Holy Sacrament of Marriage, should be accompanied by prayers for the conversion of our own backsliding brethren.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Full Text of Letter of Bishop of Portsmouth to David Cameron

15th December 2012

Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP
Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party
10 Downing Street

Dear Mr Cameron

From Rt. Rev. Philip A. Egan, Bishop of Portsmouth

I am writing to you to send you best wishes from the priests and people of the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth, and the promise of our prayers for you, as you carry the heavy responsibility of leading our great nation. However, I am also writing to ask you, indeed to urge you, to change course on your intention to introduce same-sex marriage.

You have said you are an enthusiastic supporter of marriage and that you do not want "gay people to be excluded from a great institution." Yet I wish respectfully to point out that behind what you say lurks a basic philosophical misconception about the nature of 'equality.' Equality can never be an absolute value, only a derivative and relative value. After all, a man cannot be a mother nor a woman a father, and so men and women can never be absolutely equal, only relatively equal, since they are biologically different. So too with marriage. Marriage, ever since the dawn of human history, is a union for life and love between a man and a woman. It is a complementary relationship between two people of the opposite sex, the man and the woman not being the same, but different. They are not, in other words, absolutely equal but relatively equal. This is why gay couples, two men or two women, are not being ‘excluded’ from marriage; they simply cannot enter marriage.

By enabling gays to 'marry' and by equating the union of gay people with marriage, however well-intentioned, you are not only redefining what we mean by marriage but actually undermining the very nature, meaning and purpose of marriage. Marriage, and the home, children and family life it generates, is the foundation and basic building block of our society. If you proceed with your plans, you will gravely damage the value of the family, with catastrophic consequences for the well-being and behaviour of future generations. The 2011 Census shows the parlous state of the institution of marriage which you claim to believe in so strongly, and of family life in general, with one in two teenagers no longer living with their birth parents and over 50% of adults living outside of marriage.

Can you imagine the confusion and the challenge for teenagers as they grow up and seek to reach a fully mature and integrated sexuality? This is why I fail to see how your intentions can possibly strengthen the institution of marriage and family life. Rather they will dilute it.

More, you are ignoring the huge opposition of Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, as well as that of a huge number of ordinary people. You are imposing the aspirations of a tiny minority on the vast majority. Make no mistake, the change you are proposing is of immense significance. By it, you will be luring the people of England away from their common Christian values and Christian patrimony, and forcing upon us all a brave new world, artificially engineered. What you are proposing will smother the traditional Christian ethos of our society and in time strangle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church in Britain to conduct its mission. There is no sanction whatsoever in the Bible and the Judaeo-Christian tradition for gay marriage. I cannot see how anyone who claims to be a Christian can possibly justify what you are intending to do.

I know you have spoken of the 'quadruple lock' and other legal safeguards. Yet for me many grave concerns remain about the brave new world you are fashioning in the name of the false gods of equality and diversity. For example, will I as a Christian have to support your ideology when preaching? Will you exempt the Church, its resources and premises, from charges of discrimination if it declines to host same-sex social activities? Will Catholic schools, Catholic societies, Catholic charities and Catholic institutions be free (and legally protected) to teach the full truth of Christ and the real meaning of life and love?

I appreciate how politically difficult it can be to undertake a U-turn and to sustain the attendant criticism such would bring. But when it is a matter of the truth, and the reasons are cast-iron clear, a U-turn would be hailed by history only as brave and courageous. This is why, like a Thomas a Becket appealing to Henry II, I do not hesitate to ask you to consider doing what is the right and just thing to do. Otherwise, will we ever be able to forget that it was the leader of the Conservative Party (sic) who finally destroyed marriage as a lasting, loving and life-giving union between a man and a woman?

I assure you of my respect, best wishes and prayers. 

Rt. Rev. Philip A. Egan

Bishop of Portsmouth

CC:  Priests and People of Diocese of Portsmouth

It appears that the Diocese of Portsmouth is blessed to have a bishop who is also an erudite theologian:

"Yet I wish respectfully to point out that behind what you say lurks a basic philosophical misconception about the nature of 'equality.' Equality can never be an absolute value, only a derivative and relative value."

Bishop Egan has hit the philosophical nail on the head in his "speaking the truth to power."  False conceptions of equality lie at the heart of the government's misbegotten plans to redefine marriage - as well as false conceptions of marriage!

As with all falsehood, its ultimate originator is the Father of Lies himself who has it in his heart to destroy all that is good, true and beautiful.  As St. Paul reminds us, it is a spiritual war that we wage against the dominions, thrones and powers, and David Cameron has proven himself to be nothing but their latest tool or "useful idiot".

As well as our political protests and campaigns to stop this madness, every Catholic should be called to arms with the Rosary and the prayer to St. Michael on our lips.  We need the help of the full heavenly array to turn this tide of demonic perversion back.

"Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle.
Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
And do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
By the power of God thrust down to hell Satan
and all the evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.  Amen"

Monday, 10 December 2012

Response of Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth to David Cameron on same-sex "marriage".

9th December 2012

David Cameron has said that he is an enthusiastic supporter of marriage and that he does not want "gay people to be excluded from a great institution." Yet however well-intentioned, and despite huge opposition from Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, by attempting to change the natural meaning of marriage, he seems utterly determined to undermine one of the key foundations of our society.

Such a change is of immense significance. By this change, he is luring the people of England away from their common Christian values and Christian patrimony, and forcing upon us a brave new world, artificially engineered.

To "extend marriage to gay people", he intends to impose the will of a tiny minority on the vast majority. If the prime minister proceeds with his intentions, he will pervert authentic family values, with catastrophic consequences for the well-being and behaviour of future generations. He will smother the traditional Christian ethos of our society and strangle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church in Britain to conduct its mission.

Of course, we will need to wait for the results of the current consultation-exercise. But in the meantime, I would like to ask Mr. Cameron: What about my rights as a Christian? Will you exempt the Church, its resources and property, from having to support your harmful ideology? Will Catholic schools, societies and institutions be free (and legally safeguarded) to teach the full truth of Christ and the real meaning of life and love?

The institution of marriage has its ups and downs, but will we ever forget that it was the leader of the Conservative Party who finally destroyed marriage as a lasting, loving and life-giving union between a man and a woman?