Battle against secularism is priority for Christians says Cardinal:
Preaching at the annual Whithorn pilgrimage yesterday, Cardinal Keith O'Brien called on Scotland's Christians to fight;
"a constant battle against secularism" which he described as "an almost rising tide in the world of today almost submerging us with its volume and its power."
Cardinal O'Brien added;
"It is surely the task of the Christian journeying along the way with and to Christ to say:
Any standards just will not do! We must follow and maintain the standards of Jesus Christ and try to spread them in the Church and in the world of today ."
The full text of Cardinal O'Brien's homily is shown below.
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ANNUAL PILGRIMAGE TO ST NINIAN S CAVE, WHITHORN
AND ST NINIAN S CHURCH, WHITHORN
HOMILY PREACHED BY CARDINAL KEITH PATRICK O BRIEN
SUNDAY 29 AUGUST 2004
It is indeed a privilege being gathered here at the mouth of St Ninian s Cave, Whithorn in the company of your retired Bishop, Bishop Maurice and your new Bishop, Bishop
John. I know that in union with us gathered here at St Ninian s Cave there is a congregation of those less able to make the journey gathered in St Ninian s Church in Whithorn itself uniting in prayer with us at this Mass while Monsignor Boyd celebrates Mass with them in the Church.
Here in this area we are brought back 1600 years ” to the roots of Christianity in Scotland. Just a few years before the great jubilee of the year 2000 in 1997 at the request of Pope John Paul II, the Christians of Scotland commemorated St Ninian s journey back to his native land bringing the Christian Faith.
We have with us those two heirs to that long and proud Christian tradition in our country “ Bishop Maurice and Bishop John. They in the restored Hierarchy of Scotland are respectively the sixth and seventh Bishops of Galloway, following the long and proud tradition of bishops in this area. When preaching at Bishop John s Episcopal Ordination I remembered those words in stone in the crypt of the Scots ColIege Rome above the mosaic in honour of St Ninian: Sancte Ninianus Romae Episcopus Consecratus in Patriam mittitur. These words mean: St Ninian, having been consecrated Bishop at Rome, was sent to his native land .
At this cave ” and along this Galloway coastline as indeed along the coastline of my own native land in County Antrim Northern Ireland there are constant reminders for us of
Christian journey, constant reminders as we undertake the physical journey to this place. If there is any phrase which would be of practical application as we walk to the cave
it would quite simply be take the rough with the smooth . There are those stretches of dry packed sand ” but there are also the rough stones and pebbles which remind you with a
jolt that the journey is not all that easy.
I use that parallel in my words with you today as we continue our Christian journey ” take the rough with the smooth ; as well as those easy patches along the way there are also
those sharp reminders that we are indeed Christians on a Christian journey in union with Jesus Christ.
The rough at this present time:
Perhaps we could consider the rough at this present time “ just what it is and just how it affects us!
We could sum up the rough under two principal headings ” headings which I have been considering since my own appointment as a Cardinal last year by Pope John Paul II.
First of all there is that constant battle against secularism; an almost rising tide in the world of today almost submerging us with its volume and its power.
So often the things of God don t seem to matter to those around us; the lowest common denominator with regard to behaviour will do; any course of action is regarded as being sufficient at this present time.
It is surely the task of the Christian journeying along the way with and to Christ to say:
Any standards just will not do! We must follow and maintain the standards of Jesus Christ and try to spread them in the Church and in the world of today .
I have summed up my thoughts on this matter quite simply by saying that here in Scotland we do need a ˜re-Christianization ; we need to remind ourselves and others that we have heard the Christian message for the last 1600 years ” just 400 years after Jesus himself was on Earth. But the standards of society in general, and at times the standards of our
fellow Christians, our fellow Catholics and our own standards, have fallen drastically. We must remind ourselves of these standards day by day. We must remind ourselves that we are indeed a Christian country in a Christian Europe ” while welcoming those of other faiths and of no faith in our midst.
We do have a Christian heritage and a Christian teaching. I have indicated apparently small ways in which we can remind ourselves and others of our Christian heritage: Christmas stamps and nativity scenes: public stations of the cross and Easter plays or tableaux at Eastertide; ensuring that the Christian message is broadcast on our media. There are many apparently minor ways ” which all mount up into a public display. And following on reminders of Christianity we ourselves must ensure that Christianity is lived in our own homes, in our own communities.
The other emphasis on which I have placed a great deal of hope at this present time is with regard to marriage and family life.
You are as aware as I am of the ways in which standards with regard to marriage and family life have fallen drastically over the last few decades. I think back to some 40 years when I was ordained a priest ” it was the norm for young couples to enter into the Sacrament of Matrimony and to have a family; it was most unusual for anyone to declare publicly that they were living a lifestyle different from that norm; when not all Catholic marriages were
successful there was no public display as to how the Church was wrong and ˜they were right. How different it is in Scotland at this present time!
I do appeal for better preparation for marriage; I appeal for young people to consider calling Christ into their union in the Sacrament rather than simply living together; I ask that children be welcomed into our families as a gift from Almighty God; and I urge every possible help and care be given by both Church and State to ensure that marriages do thrive at this present time, surviving those rough times which fall in the paths of everyone.
A reminder of the smooth:
It would be wrong on this occasion if I did not remind you also of the ˜smooth given us by Christ to help us along the way.
Christ is indeed with us ” in prayer and sacraments ” as he was here in this place with St Ninian some 1600 years ago. It is indeed very moving to realise that in this very spot perhaps Christian prayer was offered in Scotland for the first time. Here we can imagine St Ninian repeating the words of the Our Father from Sacred Scripture and handing those words on to those who would listen to him; as a priest and as a bishop it is reasonable to assume that St Ninian offered the Sacrifice of the Mass in this place; and can we not also assume that he spoke and taught of the standards of Jesus Christ, of the necessity of living true to these Christian standards, and of the basic Christian values of marriage and family life as taught by Jesus Christ himself.
Perhaps we can consider another great ˜smooth on our pathway through life ” our union with the whole Catholic Church throughout the world.
Perhaps we do not think of this often enough ” and of the constant call to prayer from our Church and the means of prayer offered to us. Just recently we have celebrated the Year of the Rosary and in a few weeks time we will begin our celebration of the Year of the Eucharist. Perhaps the title of that last ˜year will remind us of the strength of the Church and that the Church is indeed formed from the Eucharist.
We have the teaching of Christ Sunday by Sunday at Mass and in our Catechism; we realise the value of the lay faithful in our Church at this present time as they grow stronger not just in their faith but in their commitment to service; we realise as never before in Scotland the tremendous and vitally important role of the lay faithful in the Church and in society.
Here on this rocky shore as I remind you to take the rough with the smooth, I ask you to remember that the smooth will help us over those rough patches.
Go forward confidently remembering those wonderful words of Pope John Paul II at the beginning of the new millennium: Launch out into the deep!
As Ninian and those early apostles of the faith in our land were not frightened to launch out into the deep neither must we be frightened.
We are not on any sort of ˜losing side ! We sing: Christ is for us who can be against! .
We are with Christ and heirs to a long and proud Christian tradition. The world is waiting to hear again that Christian message ” and we must be among those who spread it in our own land and further afield.
Battle against secularism is priority for Christians says Cardinal: