From 'Mementoes of the Martyrs' : "...which provoked a Frenchman who was there to comment on the strange ways of the English, "those who are for the pope are hanged, those who are against him are burned:"                                               Saint John-Paul II wrote: "The fact that one can die for the faith shows that other demands of the faith can also be met."                                                 Cardinal Müller says, “For the real danger to today’s humanity is the greenhouse gases of sin and the global warming of unbelief and the decay of morality when no one knows and teaches the difference between good and evil.”                                                  St Catherine of Siena said, “We've had enough exhortations to be silent. Cry out with a thousand tongues - I see the world is rotten because of silence.”                                                  Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”                                                Brethren, Wake up!


Last Saturday saw the Mass for the feast of our holy founder, Blessed Gerard, which was held at St James's Spanish Place. The Choir of St James's, under the glorious direction of Iestyn Evans, sang Victoria's Missa O quam gloriosum est regnum, Hans Leo Hassler's Cantata Domino and Ave verum by Byrd. Dr Antony Conlon, chapel of the Grand Priory, preached the homily given below; the title of his talk is that given above this post. Dr Conlon addresses the problems in the Church today, and the necessary disposition of the Soul, if we are to achieve Salvation. The Mass was followed, as every year, by Veneration of the jaw-bone Relic.

Sometimes it is best to be blunt. The turnout of members of the Order at the Mass was pathetic; once a year we celebrate the sanctity of the man without whom there would be no Order of Malta, the man who gave us our twin charism of Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum. He has a feast day conveniently situated outside the holiday periods. It is very disappointing that a large number, indeed the great majority, of knights and dames (some of whom will indeed have had genuine reasons), are somehow unable to be present, to support the work of the Order spiritually and collectively. It is equally unkind to our guests who make the effort to attend, and to the young Companions who come to serve the Mass and assist at the lunch reception.

The picture above shows Blessed Gerard receiving Godfrey de Bouillon, King of Jerusalem, painted by Antoine de Favray (1706-98), it hangs in the Fine Art Museum in Valetta.
While thinking over what I might preach about in my homily today I came across this text from Pope St Gregory the Great “A religious leader should be careful in deciding when to remain silent and be sure to say something useful when deciding to speak. In this way he will avoid saying things that would be better not said, or leaving unsaid things that ought to be said. For just as thoughtless remarks can lead people into error, so ill-advised silence can leave people in their error, when they could have been shown where they were wrong. Negligent religious leaders are often afraid to speak freely and say what needs to be said – for fear of losing favour with people. As Truth Himself says, they are certainly not guarding their flock with the care expected of a shepherd but are acting like hirelings, because hiding behind a wall of silence is like taking flight at the approach of the wolf.”  

There is both wisdom and warning in these words and those of us with the responsibility for the spiritual as well as the material welfare of others ought to ponder them well. In deciding when and how to speak one has always to make every effort to be in possession of the truth regarding the matter. Where questions of faith are concerned we are guided and supported by teaching of the Church. That comes to us in a variety of forms. The Holy Scriptures remind and record for us the revelation of God and its personification and presentation in Jesus our Lord. On the level of explanation and guidance the Catechism is a compendium of references regarding definitions and doctrines which regulate and record aspects of belief and behaviour defining and identifying a Catholic. It helps to simplify and render accessible the more extended statements and pronouncements of the magisterium of the Church. Whatever he or she may be led to believe to the contrary, a literate adult member of the faithful has no excuse for ignorance of the true position of the Church on any matter relating to faith and morals. Though one may plead personal weakness or inability to grasp the full implication of a subject, we may not take refuge in failure to discover exactly what the Catechism says about it. 

As believers truth demands our unconditional assent. Still, our faith as well as our confidence can be challenged in ways that may leave us shaken and disoriented. Assailed on all sides by information and communication on various levels we can’t always be sure either of the veracity or the source of the data. It can be very difficult at times to verify in every case the accuracy and reliability of accounts, attributed actions or statements, or reports. Not every communication we receive or text that we read reflects the reality of either the situation it describes or the reliability of the source from whence it came. At the same time, irrefutable evidence of wrongdoing and immorality can’t be ignored or dismissed. Current issues present a serious test of faith to all of us as well as a weapon of assault to the enemies of our religion. I freely admit to you that in recent times both my faith and my loyalty have been and are frequently tested by the onslaught of confusing reports, and allegation and counter-allegation accessible at the click of a mouse. There can be no doubt that the standards of integrity, decency and honesty that the faithful as well as the secular world are entitled to expect from all in positions of leadership in the Church have been proved recently to have been betrayed and in some cases abandoned altogether. It is a minority but it is sufficiently grave and high placed to represent a crisis of leadership. This puts us all in the front line of fire and for some this has led to complete disillusion while for others it has weakened their trust and lessened respect.  

It needs to be admitted that this not the first time that a situation of this magnitude of complexity and misconduct has overtaken us. The unmistakable difference between those epochs and our own is instant global communication. It’s true that 500 years ago the printing press assured the success of the revolt against doctrine and worship caused in part by lack of reform in the Church. The result of hostile news as well as evident misconduct in our own time is not difficult to discern. Today, even areas once considered among the most loyal and devout have succumbed to secularism and sometimes apostasy.  It behoves us – especially in our capacity as a fraternity of charity embracing loyal defence of the faith as well as care of those in need regardless of their origin or status not to retreat from the field of conflict even when it is at its most enervating. 

Above all, we have tried and tested spiritual resources to call upon and employ. We should seek to offer our worship, our works and our woes in union with our Blessed Lord and Saviour to ask for that recovery of integrity and humility whose neglect has led to the scale of impropriety now being witnessed. True reform comes about as a conversion of minds and hearts after guilt has been acknowledged, remorse demonstrated and appropriate penance done.  

As part of our daily routine of prayer we should begin again to recite the prayer to S Michael, not doubting its efficacy or the realisation that all the evils which seek to undermine and God’s work of salvation stem from Satan.  
May our union with Christ and His Holy Mother as well as the patronage of St John Baptist and our Holy Founder Blessed Gerard, keep us in one mind and aid us in our endeavours. Amen.
Our Lady of Philermo, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Blessed Gerard, pray for us.