Thanks be to God – Part two

Yesterday, the Feast of the Transfiguration, I attended Mass – at the Oratory of St Joseph of Mount Royal in Montreal, Canada, the Basilica on the side of a mountain. It’s one of the three places I’ve wanted to visit before I die. The others are Altotting in Germany and Czestochowa in Poland. Each has a variant of the ‘Black’ Madonna. The Montreal Oratory (if you’ve a mind, do research it on the internet) is the largest and most spectacular pilgrimage centre in the world dedicated to St Joseph. It was the dream of Brother Andre of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, now St Brother Andre. He was a humble doorkeeper at the College Notre-Dame just across the road from what is now the Oratory, and there had the job of greeting visitors and parents of students. The sick began to appear in its corridors and healings occurred through the prayers of Brother Andre to St Joseph.

I’ve long had a devotion to Brother Andre and St Joseph. Artefacts of each festoon my little Chapel of St Francis and the Angels at home. The only time I remember dreaming about Jesus – we flew through the air together – was on the Feast of St Joseph (March 19). In the Votive Chapel of the Oratory are the eight titles, and accompanying prayers, which Christian tradition has accorded to him. One is ‘Terror of Demons’. Part of that prayer reads: “Courageous Joseph…you confront your fears of the unknown…your fears dispersed, you rediscover your true face….”

Fear, yes, it’s something we all suffer, and it masks who we truly are. The enjoining ‘Do not fear’ is a very Gospel thing. The archangel Gabriel says it to Mary at the annunciation. The angel awakens the shepherds on Christmas night and tells them “Do not fear”. When the risen Jesus enters the upper room and stands in the midst, he tells the disciples “Do not fear”. And to all of us, he says “Fear not, little flock. It’s your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of being afraid. Don’t even be afraid of showing your love, your tenderness, your compassion – no matter what the world throws at you…

Which brings me to the ‘Page Three’ people, Baird, Wood and Durant, in the 31 July issue of another newspaper. I’m sure many of you would have seen it.

There they invoked, these so-called “Church leaders”, dire consequences for me as a consequence of the ‘take’ that same newspaper had of what I said at the Pride March on 22 July.

As I wrote last week, I’ve written to the Press often enough as priest over the years in support of LGBT-ism. How can you do that and not show your face at their moment in time in Barbadian terms? Of course, I realised that the dark feelings shafted at them, by my Page Three-ers and others, while yet emptily professing love for them on occasion, would in all likelihood be projected to me. Never mind. There’s honour in being scapegoated. It’s a very Old Testament thing and – well, you know.

In essence, this is what my Page Three people said: I had undermined the Christian community; I must apologise, as should the Anglican Church, and repent or be defrocked; I was ruining young people and had confused others; I had committed blasphemy and affronted God; I was a lost soul; I had rejected the “Word of God”; in a Muslim country they would know what to do with me. Strong stuff, yes? The only words they omitted were “Crucify, crucify” – well, just about.

Frankly, I found the self-righteous, judgmental, arrogance of these people hilarious, except in two respects.

First, the clumsy reference to what would happen to me in the Muslim world – and this from an “Apostle” (you what?) – came over as a threat or incitement. Well, Mr Apostle, I’m sure you know the words of Yeats’ poem ‘Beautiful Lofty Things’ of Lady Gregory. “Her eightieth winter approaching: ‘Yesterday he threatened my life/I told him that nightly from six to seven I sat at this table/The blinds drawn up.’”

Second, there’s the reference to people being confused by what I’d said, again from Mr Apostle. Now look Page Three-ers – the days have gone when you can use religion as a means of social control and censorship, as a way of ordering people about, of telling them how and what they must think and do. We don’t live in a patriarchal theocracy. We’re not ISIS. People can ask questions, can experience joy and doubt, irrespective of what you tell them to swallow whole. You tell people anything you like, but want to silence the rest of us. Grow up, as the rest of us have grown up to use the faculties God gave us.

My sons saw the ‘other’ newspaper’s film recording of what I actually said at the March. They’re both strong, lusty rogues. Independently, they said, bless them: “Dad, you were so passionate. I’m so proud of you.” That brought tears to my eyes. Thanks be to God.

Go safely, then – until the next time.

‘Get this’ from the boundary: Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 “cannot be transformed into a base for the retention of sodomy laws” (Archbishop John Holder).

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