All over the world today, the gospel story of Lazarus would have been (or is being, or will be) read. It comes around every year on the Fifth Sunday of Lent and is probably one of the better-known miracles of Jesus.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most homilies today were about death. The homily I heard certainly was, and I can’t remember ever hearing someone preach on this gospel and not focus on death. I mean, just look at the readings that go along with it today. The reading from Ezekiel: “I am going to open your graves [and] raise you from your graves… you will live”. The second reading, from the letter to the Romans: “Though your body may be dead it is because of sin… [and] he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies…”
I was surprised, then, to be sitting in Mass today and have a totally different theme leap out at me.

Have you ever experienced a line of Scripture striking your heart like an arrow? It’s as though that line was shouted, while the rest was barely whispered. It doesn’t happen to me very often, but when it does I try to sit up and take notice – it’s usually because the Man Upstairs is trying to get my attention. That’s what happened today, proving once again that “the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Psalm 129 is fairly familiar to me – it comes up often in the breviary. So I was surprised when I heard a line with ‘new ears’, as though for the first time.

Let the watchman count on daybreak
     and Israel on the Lord.

That one line was like… a mental explosion. Or at least, the catalyst for a mental explosion. (Let’s now hope I can trace the wreckage in an intelligible way!)

If I went and asked a random pedestrian whether the sun is going to rise tomorrow, they’d look at me like I was crazy. Of course the sun will rise tomorrow, they’d exclaim, There’s no doubt about that! And I would agree with them. But do I have that same trust, that same confidence, in the Lord? His love for us is more dependable, more certain, than the sun rising tomorrow morning. I plan things for tomorrow without even questioning whether dawn will break; yet how often do I question God’s love, or faithfulness, or power, or truth?
The question resounded within me: Do I count on the Lord as surely as I count on daybreak?




This idea of trust formed itself for me as a ‘key’ to the rest of today’s Scriptures.
Death – usually preached as today’s dominant theme – is what Tolkien calls ‘the doom of man’. When someone close to us dies, it doesn’t feel like some normal or natural process. It jars us. It disturbs us. It is one of our biggest fears and preoccupations. Our entire being cries out, This is not right! Because it isn’t right: we were made for life, not for death. Death is a punishment for sin, and sin entered the world through one man (see Romans 5:12, 6:23).
So how can we love God in a world plagued by death? How can we know that He is loving, faithful, powerful, and truthful?

You will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and raise you from your graves, my people.

Right there, in the first reading, the Lord is crying out: Trust in me! I can destroy your greatest fear! The second reading reinforces this by telling us exactly how our death is overcome: it is by the Spirit of God living within us! But we, in our weakness and distrust and sin and blindness, reply: What gives you the power to do this? Can we really trust you? And Jesus says:

     Do you believe this?

Do you believe this? Do you trust him? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart… and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3: 5-6)
To finish, I wish to share Charles de Foucald’s Prayer of Abandonment.


I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.


The Crowded Seminary

Faith, Photos

Today I have begun my second official year as a Catholic Seminarian.

It’s funny saying that, because I feel like I’ve been on this journey for all of my life; it feels impossible to split things up into ‘before preparing for priesthood’ and ‘preparing for priesthood’. I suppose this is because the Lord is now using all my experiences, all my joys and hopes, my griefs and anxieties (see Gaudium et Spes 1), to shape me into His priest. Somehow, in His wisdom, the Father is able to take hold of my entire life and use it for His will. Looking back with a heart that now knows Him, I can see His fingerprints and recognise His voice. My sins, weaknesses, failures and mistakes are all still there – sometimes in
So yes, I’m entering my second year. But, in a certain way, I’m also halfway through my 21st year of preparation for Holy Orders.

To begin our year, we have travelled down to the old Seminary which was founded in 1900 and active for nearly a century. Celebrating the Sunday Eucharist in the chapel there was a beautiful experience. As you can see from my photo below, the chapel itself is beautiful – but what was truly special was celebrating Mass in that place where so many seminarians before me have prayed. Fr Alan, our spiritual director, said in his homily that it has a special feel to it because “the walls are filled with the prayers of seminarians who have gone before us.” I thought of all the men who would have sat or knelt in there, pouring their hearts out to the Lord. At different times they would have felt afraid, uncertain, excited, bored, nervous, peaceful. Their prayers would have been fervent, desperate, difficult, honest, hollow, beautiful. In other words, these men – my ancestors in the faith – were like me, and prayed like me.


To be one of thirty men in the New Zealand seminary, it’s easy to feel lost among the four-point-something million Kiwis currently living here. And sometimes this feeling of minority can lead to either pride (‘Aren’t I good to be doing this, when so few do?’) or despair (‘Why the heck am I doing this, when do few do?’). But now, recognising the ‘great crowd of witnesses’ who have gone before me, I can see it from a new perspective. I’m no longer one of thirty; there are hundreds and hundreds of NZ men who’ve answered the call.
Suddenly, the journey towards priesthood is a lot more crowded – I like it.

Truth, Sainthood, and Suffering


Peter KreeftThere is only one reason why anyone should believe anything: because it’s true.

CS Lewis and Mere Christianity (talk), Peter Kreeft


[Become a saint] not by giving up your desires, but by giving up the ‘you’ in your desires! It is simply like giving God a blank cheque.

– Peter Kreeft


The Church is big, and rich, and free… Yes, just like ancient Israel. And if God still loves his Church […] he will soon make it small and poor and persecuted, just as he did to ancient Israel, so that he can keep it alive – by pruning it. If he loves us, he will cut the dead wood away, and we will bleed, and the blood of the martyrs will be the seed of the Church again. And a second spring will come, and new buds – but not without blood. It never happens without blood, without sacrifice, without suffering. Christ’s work, if it is really Christ’s work and not a comfortable counterfeit, never happens without the cross. Whatever happens without the cross may be good work but it is not Christ’s work, for Christ’s work is bloody.

Culture War (talk), Peter Kreeft

‘big words and windows’


Here’s an excerpt from big words and windows, a post by Fr John O’Connor, a Catholic Priest in the diocese of Christchurch, NZ.

The language we use in church is often an obstacle for good people. A sermon flowing with words like adoration, beatific vision, catechesis paschal mystery and dogma may be thoroughly orthodox and inspiring to the theologian, but it will probably not touch the hearts of the worshippers at a parish Sunday Mass.

These big words are important since they are the windows to essential knowledge of our faith. The big words are our linguistic short-cut, our method for conveying all that scripture and tradition teaches us about each aspect of our faith.

Therefore it is important that when we use these words, we also provide the meaning in an understandable, accurate and attractive form. At times, for a particular audience, we might speak about (for example) the “incarnation,” without using the word itself. Our hope is that with good catechesis there will come a time when the simple use of this big word will remind the hearers of the full meaning of the incarnation of Jesus. The word will be the window leading us to recall the full significance of the event of the incarnation.

Read his full post here and check out his awesome blog food for faith.

Gaming – and Faith?!


Confession time: at the end of a long or tired day, I enjoy nothing more than blowing stuff up, shooting stuff to pieces, or silently stalking my enemies. Yes, I am a gamer.

The sad thing is, when I tell people that I enjoy gaming, they assume I’m an anti-social freak who can’t leave his house without a digital device. Though all of that is partly true, it’s not gaming that’s done that to me! Gaming is an awesome hobby, but it doesn’t dominate my life. And I know I’m not the only one who feels like this.

This morning I stumbled upon a couple of awesome articles by Catholic blogger, Colin Gormley. They speak of his love for gaming and how he is now trying to ‘intersect’ his love for gaming with his Catholic faith. Whether or not you’re a person of faith, they’re pretty interesting articles. Check out part one here, and part two here.

In part two, he mentions a few of the good aspects of gaming, which should be focused on to endorse and support development and society:

  1. Games provide a rule set and structure
  2. Games provide community and foster cooperation
  3. Games are fun


With games as common as they now are, how do you think they can or will affect our society?

Blind Faith?


In discussions about faith with non-believers, it always eventually comes to me saying “I don’t know why, I just believe that” or “I can’t prove it, but I trust God/the Church”. To the non-believer this ends up seeming like blind faith. If I asked them to picture what they thought of me at that point, they’d probably see me in a dark room, flailing wildly, trusting that I’m somehow protected.

That is the exact opposite of what faith really is. True faith is not ‘blind’ or foolish. Faith is ‘seeing with our soul’, while knowledge is ‘seeing with our mind’ and physical sight is ‘seeing with out eyes’. Faith is light! Looking with the eyes of the soul brings light into our soul, and when partnered with knowledge and physical sight we can truly grow as a full human being. Of course, this sort of faith must be the gift of God; one could say that he must be the ‘light switch’ or ‘electricity’ that brings the light of faith to us.


So when I say that I believe something without really knowing why it happens, I am not speaking as if I’m in the dark. Rather, I’m meaning that I truly do see something – I just don’t understand the why or how.

The light of faith… does not so illumine those truths as to make them no longer obscure, for faith must ever be ‘the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not’ (Hebrews 11:1).

The only true ‘blind faith’ is believing that there is no light – or rather, refusing to open the eyes of the soul in order to see the light.

Three Amazing quotes from JRR Tolkien


J  R  R TolkienTolkien is my favourite – hands down favourite – author. Here I have three quotes of his which aren’t actually fiction at all; they’re about his faith in the Catholic Church.


The Pope and the One True Church

I myself am convinced by the Petrine claims, nor looking around the world does there seem much doubt which (if Christianity is true) is the True Church, the temple of the Spirit dying but living, corrupt but holy, self-reforming and re-arising.

But for me that Church of which the Pope is the acknowledged head on earth has as chief claim that it is the one that has (and still does) ever defended the Blessed Sacrament, and given it most honour, and put (as Christ plainly intended) in the prime place.

‘Feed my sheep’ was His last charge to St. Peter; and since His words are always first to be understood literally, I suppose them to refer primarily to the Bread of Life. It was against this that the W. European revolt (or Reformation) was really launched—’the blasphemous fable of the Mass’—and faith/works a mere red herring.

– Tolkien: Man and Myth, pg 193


The Virgin Mary

I think I know exactly what you mean by the order of Grace; and of course by your references to Our Lady, upon which all my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded.

– The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind the Lord of the Rings, pg  76


The Eucharist

Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. . . . There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death.

By the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste—or foretaste—of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man’s heart desires.

The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion. Though always itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise.

Frequency is of the highest effect.

Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals.
Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your Communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children—from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn—open-necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to Communion with them (and pray for them).

It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people.

It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand—after which our Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.

– The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind the Lord of the Rings, pg  219


Originally posted here by Matt Fradd on