The Valley of Darkness

Let us continue to pray earnestly for our bishops who have been entrusted by God with caring for the Catholic faithful in their Dioceses.

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum. Benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

On 24th May this year, we sent a letter to the three bishops who are on the board of Trustees of Mary Immaculate College in Limerick. At the time of this writing, no response has been received.

It is important to write to our bishops when we see something contrary to the Catholic Faith happening within a diocesan institution. As Bishop Brendan Leahy, who is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, said in his Pentecost Pastoral Letter this year:

“Our own lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

It matters that children in Catholic schools are being indoctrinated with the false LGBT ideology which promotes the homosexual lifestyle. It is in fact a form of child abuse to teach children in Catholic schools falsehoods about human sexuality.

These falsehoods ignore the scientific realities of pro-creation which only happens naturally between a man and a woman. The God given purpose of our human sexuality, to ‘increase and multiply, and fill the earth’, is also ignored in favour of a contraceptive mentality being foisted on children in Catholic schools.

One can only wonder at the silence of our bishops in the face of this form of child abuse.

Another disturbing matter that has been doing the rounds lately comes from a group called ‘Irish Parents Review English Curriculum Blog’ which can be accessed at the following link ‘

The blog tells us “We are a team of concerned parents (some of us are also teachers) who have come together to highlight any objectionable, extreme or inappropriate material which is being introduced into the new curriculum for English at both Junior and Leaving (Senior) Cycles.”

I have read some of the reviews of the books in question and I find it very disturbing and unsettling that such evil books are being recommended for children in second and third year classes in Irish secondary schools. The material in some of these books is dangerous even for adults to read about, it is so depraved and evil.

It is further evidence that we live in a society which shamelessly promotes evil, even to children.

There is a grave danger for those of us who read up on these matters, especially when we see the seeming indifference of those in the Church who should be protecting our children. The danger is that one’s faith in the Catholic Church and her teachings can be damaged when one is constantly being exposed to scandal after scandal emanating from within the ranks of the hierarchy.

One Catholic blogger, Steve Skojec, a cradle Catholic, recently wrote a post online which went viral called ‘Against Crippled Religion’, where he basically says that he has had enough and is no longer sure where to turn to or where to go.

“I’m angry — but perhaps even more sad — because I have begged God to help me find my way through all this mess, to do the right thing, and to hold on to my faith, but I get no perceptible answer, and I don’t know where to go from here.” (Steve Skojec)

Rod Dreher, another American journalist who covered the Catholic Church scandals in America ended up leaving the Catholic Church for Eastern Orthodoxy.

He announced this publicly in 2010 and as part of his explanation he wrote the following.

“Back in 2001, when I first started writing about the child sex-abuse scandal in the Church, Father Tom Doyle, the heroic priest who ruined his own career by speaking out for victims, warned me, ‘If you keep going down this path, you are going to go to places darker than you can imagine.’”

The darkness is palpable when one is dealing with the abuse of children, whether that be sexual abuse, abortion, or the educational child abuse which teaches children in Catholic schools falsehoods about human sexuality, and denies them the full teachings of the Catholic Church.

Catholics should beware of becoming obsessed with looking at the Hope-draining darkness within the Church in our times. We need to strive to keep our focus on Jesus Christ and on the Crucifixion.

Many Catholics struggle perhaps because they are somehow trying to reconcile what is irreconcilable – Catholic clerical child abuse. Many simply walk away from the Catholic Church. Others avoid or tend to minimise the problem. But the problem is real and needs to be faced up to, especially for the sake of our children.

I was invited by Steve Skojec to do a video interview for his blog after the abortion referendum passed in Ireland in 2018. The passage of this referendum has institutionalised abortion as a new form of child abuse here in Ireland. I felt a connection with Steve and I wanted to reach out to him and to others whose faith is suffering because of the constant bashing that the Catholic Church is getting and the almost total lack of a defence in the face of grave scandals.

Where are today’s saints when we need them?

I wrote the following in a comment I left on Steve’s substack blog. I do not particularly like to relate personal stories from my life as I always hear my father’s voice telling me, “we are all the heroes of our own stories”. It is not meant to be about me, even though what follows happened to me. The purpose is to encourage people to “persevere to the end”, in order to be saved”. Here is some of what I wrote to Steve Skojec, after congratulating him on the birth of his eighth child – Elijah Daniel Skojec.

“I am reminded of the time I nearly drowned in Germany, I was over for my sister’s wedding and we had gone swimming in a fresh water lake. It didn’t occur to me that fresh water gives you less buoyancy than sea water and I also ignored the rule my father had drummed into us when we were children, “always swim parallel to the shore”.

I saw these people sitting out on a wooden platform and I decided to swim out there myself. I was about half way there when I realised that I was getting tired and I wasn’t going to make it, so I turned back. Very soon I realised that I didn’t have the strength to make it back to the shore.

The mind seems to speed up in such situations and the thought of drowning just before my sister’s wedding, and this after losing another sister in a motor cycle accident not two years previously, filled me with regret at the heartbreak it would bring to my parents. I could have kicked myself for my own stupidity but I was in danger of drowning and I needed to focus if I was going to get out of this.

I had to continually fight the urge to panic and the urge to lash out for the shore, which would have been fatal.

I was not a strong swimmer so I tried floating on my back for a while. I then turned back over and started doggy paddling, all the time trying to conserve energy while edging ever closer to the shore. I was away from the Catholic faith at this time and the thought of praying did not even occur to me. So I doggy paddled, realising that at every minute I was getting more and more tired, but I was also getting closer to the shore. I kept scanning the shore for a friendly face. I was in Germany and didn’t have the language.

Eventually, almost exhausted, I was close enough to the shore to recognise a friend of my sister, I think his name was Dieter. He spoke no English. I summoned my remaining strength and cried out to him, waving my hands. He saw me, didn’t realise I was struggling, smiled and waved back. I went under the water for the first time swallowing a little.

I came back up fighting what was now an extreme urge to panic, and I waved at Dieter again shouting ‘HELP’. He must have seen the look of desperation in my face for he raced to the water, dived in, and began swimming towards me. I doggy paddled and waited for him to reach me.

As soon as he got close enough, I threw both of my arms around his neck and locked them tight around him. Thank God he was a strong swimmer and obviously had training in life-guarding. He thumped my shoulder to break my grip and then very firmly placed my hand on his shoulder and he began swimming for the shore. I will never forget the feeling of his strength and the calming effect it had on me as I realised that I was going to make it, so long as I did not hinder his efforts. I kicked my legs out behind me in the water.

The sense of relief when we made it to shore cannot be described. I stood for ages, bent over, with my hands on my knees just glad to be alive. I thanked Dieter as best I could given the language barrier, and I told my sister what had happened. I’m not sure if she ever realised how serious the situation had been and how close I came to drowning. I never told anyone else in my family of this experience and when I arrived back home to Ireland, I simply picked up living my life where I left off. But it had an effect on me.

Many years later, after my reversion to the Catholic Faith, I got married to a good Catholic woman who loved swimming, but for many years I always made excuses as to why I wouldn’t get in the water when we took our now growing family to the beach. One day I admitted to myself, and then to my wife that I realised I was afraid of the water. We lived quite close to the sea at that time and there was one of those beaches nearby which is very safe for children as the water is quite shallow for a long way out from the shore. I still remember the day that I decided to face my irrational though understandable fear of the water. We went to the shallow water beach, and I told my wife that I was not leaving until I had had a swim and to just leave me there to my own devices. I was at least an hour standing and pacing in the water before I plucked up the courage to take the plunge, but I did it, I overcame the fear and whilst I am still not a strong swimmer and it is still not my favourite pastime, I am no longer afraid of the water.

I had not intended writing that story to you Steve, but I woke up thinking of your struggle and wondering how I could be of help. Perhaps there are similarities in my story of nearly drowning and your own situation. The water was not my enemy even though I nearly drowned. The Catholic Church is not your enemy Steve, but if you don’t understand it, you could drown.

Too often, I think we men try to over rationalise the Catholic Faith. We are looking for solid proof as to her claims to be the one true Church, to have infallibility, in order to be able to submit to her teachings. But that is not the deal that God offers to us through His Catholic Church. He will not accept us if we will only accept Him based on our having reasoned our way through to the Church. “God, I accept you and your church because you conform to what I have reasoned in my mind that you should be”.

It is like the story told of St Augustine, when he was trying to write his treatise on the Holy Trinity.

He was walking along a beach and he came across a young boy filling a hole in the sand with sea water from a bucket. When St Augustine asked him what he was doing the boy replied, “I am going to put the sea into this hole’.

St Augustine told the boy that what he was trying to do was impossible. The story goes that the boy replied, “I have a better chance of putting the sea into this hole in the sand, then you have of trying to fit the Holy Trinity into that puny mind of yours’. The boy then disappeared and St Augustine realised that it must have been an angel.

The point of this story is, that we cannot compress God and His Catholic Church to conform them to our very limited rational human minds. This is not to deny reason, but to recognise its limits when we are dealing with the infinite God, creator of the universe and founder of the One True, Catholic and Apostolic Church, outside of which there is only darkness.

God has given all of us free will, but in order for us to exercise it in relation to God, we must be free to choose to reject God. A terrifying thought but a founding principle of the Catholic Faith. All of us are put to the test to see if we will choose God.

Sometimes, I think that God allows himself to be disguised in order to test our loyalty to Him. Do we love Him because of Who He Is, or do we love Him because of the benefits to us? The way I have sometimes imagined this test is for a child to be offered a choice between an ice-cream and some cow-dung. God is in the dung, not the ice-cream and the child who chooses the dung has made a real choice for God because he has done it despite the appearance of filth. A simplistic example but a way to demonstrate that the child has chosen God not for the benefits to him, but because of Who God Is.

We must learn to develop a supernatural outlook on the world, to see beyond the seemingly endless scandals and to know that above the clouds of scandal and moral corruption, God still smiles on the world and He still loves us.

We should not be surprised at the apparent state of the Catholic Church in her human members, but we must remember that the spiritual entity of the Catholic Church, founded by Jesus Christ, always retains her spotless purity, her indefectibility, and against her the gates of hell will not prevail. We have Christ’s Word on that.

Christ has not left us without warning us of what is to come. Read and meditate upon chapter 24 of St Matthew’s Gospel and you will understand what we are living through. “And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12) Is this not where we are at? Iniquity abounds, and the charity of many has grown cold. Let us strive to preserve the ‘heat’ of our charity.

Christ also gives us what I consider to be the most frightening piece of scripture in Matthew chapter 24 “And unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved:” (Matthew 24:22)
Christ tells us to stay put – “But he that shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:13) and “but for the sake of the elect those days shall be shortened.” (Matthew 24:22)

Given the darkness of the hour, I have also added a recommendation to my advice to people to read and meditate on Matthew chapter 24. Afterwards, I recommend reading and meditating on Matthew chapter 6:24-34 – the piece my wife and I chose for our wedding. Christ tells us not to worry about worldly things but to seek first His Kingdom and He promises to give us all that we need to get to Heaven. In these dark times our focus must remain on Christ and His cross and we must seek first His Kingdom – which is to focus on the salvation of souls.

I also find great consolation in the Psalms and in the simple version of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady – which consists in reciting seven Hail Marys each day for each of her sorrows.”

In writing this, it was interesting for me to recall that event in my life which happened almost forty years ago. As I said, I had fallen away from the Catholic faith and, whilst I cannot be sure, it is doubtful that I was in the state of grace at that time.

Perhaps there were many coincidences, but it is certain that there were also supernatural forces at play including my guardian angel looking after me. Thank God I did not drown, but this once again reveals the extent of God’s love for us and the great need to keep ourselves in the state of grace. In these times, where we have seen how quickly we can be deprived of access to the Sacraments, it is important to keep nourishing our spiritual life.

May God bless you