BOBF: You face Mecca, while I pray the Benedictus…

Tuppence was one of the most itinerant authors in Being Frank's history, writing from as far afield as Africa. In this "Best of" post from early 2009, she reflects on her new home in a Muslim country. 

My voyage on this gargantuously large continent that is Africa has shifted from the East now to the West as I find myself in the predominantly Muslim-populated Senegal.

I can tell you that if you look out my bedroom window then turn 90 degrees to your left, you are facing Mecca. How do I know? My hosts come and plant their prayer mats in that direction right outside my window a number of times each day.

There's no need for an alarm clock (which is lucky, since you can't buy one in Nairobi airport…you can buy plasma screens, irons and car stereos though!)…because you're bound to get woken by the 5am call to prayer that blares throughout the neighbourhood. And in case that doesn't work, there's the 6.30am call to prayer also.

I have to admit, it's very handy. Their call to prayer is my call to prayer. I pull out my Liturgy of the Hours Prayer book and find some rest as I pray the Psalms and other scripture. Sometimese it can be a real challenge to prayer, travelling, being disorientated etc, that I find a lot of comfort in the routine of the Divine Office (aka LotH).

It's a bizarre situation I guess, but in this country there is an incredible tolerance for the Catholics (they don't really have any other sense of there being other denominations of Christian…bad luck for the Proddies!). And there's a respect for and understanding about the fact that you have a faith. In some ways, more so than in a country like New Zealand where faith can seem a bit strange.

Hmm, I think it's time for evening prayer…

BOBF: What a History!

He might be one of the most polarising Popes in recent memory, but that wasn't going to stop Filia Day from giving some blog time to Pope Pius XII. Check out Filia's post from October 2008 on the man hailed as a hero in some quarters and denounced in others.

Often families and individuals go to great lengths to uncover their family roots. I was thinking about it the other day and, as Catholics, we should really be doing the same. Of course, like in any family, sometimes we find villains in our ancestry – in the case of Christianity those who have rejected outright the message of Chraist. As we know from history, and past blogs, Hitler and Stalin feature among the names of those baptised who refusing to follow, in word and deed, the call the sanctity. At the same time, the history of the Church is full of heroes and heroines, those who have responded to grace, would rather die than not follow our Lord will and eventually fallen head over heels in love with Love. Ironically, often these heroics persons are often overlooked, underrated and even criticised. Pius XII is one of our unsung heroes.

I bring this topic up this week because it is fifty years since Pope Pius XII's death in 1958 (one could say it's a family anniversary). Pius XII is often portrayed by the mass media (and in academic scholarship) as cold-hearted and unceasingly on a quest for political power. One of the most strident attacks against Pius XII is that he refused to assist persecuted Jews and persecuted Catholic faithful during the Second World War. Attackers take the position that Pius XII, as a public and powerful leader, should have formally condemned the atrocities against humanity committed by the Nazi regime. However, they refuse to consider the fact that Bishops who had previously openly condemn the regime via letters or from the pulpit were severely punished; Nazi officials responded by deporting more jewish and Catholic civilians to concentration camps as well as increase violence against Jews and Catholic dissenters. Likewise, those who attack Pius XII ignore the fact that Pius XII organised a mass clandestine effort to save as many Jews as possible – hiding thousands in the Vatican (not to mention his holiday home) as well as encouraging the lay faithful to hide those persecuted in Europe at the time.

Pope Benedict XVI, in a recent homily for the occasion of Pope Pius' anniversary adds "How can we forget his radio message of Christmas 1942?" Pope Pius asserted in the address "In a voice stirred by emotion he deplored the situation of "hundreds of thousands of people who through no fault of their own, sometimes only because of their nationality or race, are bound for death or who slowly waste away"

Although he couldn't speak out blatantly against the atrocities, this was a clear reference to the deportation and extermination of the Jews. As a recent study (for the life of me I can't remember the name of the book) showed the lay faithful understood his message clearly and acted to assist those persecuted by the Nazi regime.

At the end of the war and at the time of his death because of his many actions he received many and unanimous expressions of gratitude from the highest authorities of the Jewish world, people like Israel's Foreign Minister Golda Meir who wrote: "During the ten years of Nazi terror, when our people went through the horrors of martyrdom, the Pope raised his voice to condemn the persecutors and commiserate with their victims." He ended by saying "We mourn a great servant of peace."

Pius XII was truly a great man and a great pope. Let us not forget the Church's unsung heroes.

BOBF: All’s Fair in Love and War?

On our continuing journey down Being Frank's memory lane, and in light of the Government yesterday saying it will send troops to the Middle East to assist in the fight against ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State — and the NZ Bishops supporting that decision — this post from EyeWitness in October 2006 examines the Catholic understanding on war.

Something that has always vaguely puzzled me is how come war “heroes” are regarded as such even though they killed people in war.  Are you allowed to kill people in war as a special exception to the commandment “thou shall not kill?”  

Customary International Law and the Geneva Conventions certainly say the killing of a combatant by another combatant in an international armed conflict is not murder, and is legal.  It’s an odd concept really that at international law we have all these rules about how we might kill each other and conduct wars against each other.  The use of force is illegal unless in self defence.  Fundamentally, you must always distinguish between civilians and combatants once you're at war.  If you are going to kill civilians (collateral damage) the military advantage or military necessity must outweigh the loss of innocent life.  You can use certain weapons but not others that cause unnecessary or superfluous suffering.  Not that you would notice that countries have agreed to any rules at all if you watch the news! 

So are we justified as Catholics in going to war?  The catechism of the Catholic Church states on legitimate defence that: 

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not."65 

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:  

If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one's own life than of another's.66 

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.     

 The theory of “Just War” is thought to have been first developed by St Augustine.  He writes of the right of rulers to declare a just war to maintain peace.  St Thomas thought a sovereign has the lawful right of recourse to “the sword” to defend its people against internal strife by punishing those that do evil for the common good, justified by St Paul in verse 4 of Chapter 13 in the letter to the Romans.  Moral theologians have taught that “only an injury so grave that it outweighs the risks and losses of war is a justification for making war”.  The second Vatican Council justified “the right of a nation to defend itself by a discriminate and proportionate use of force as a last resort”.   

Modern age warfare with its massive destruction capabilities has come along since the era of the bible.  It’s quite scary what we can do to each other.  Obviously we should avoid war if at all possible, but could we have stood back and let Hitler kill so many people because we didn’t want to use armed force?  Would the Iraq war have been justified if it had turned out they really did have nuclear weapons and were a threat to world peace and security?  Would you feel justified pulling the trigger of a gun and killing another human being? 

Or is this all a little heavy for a Sunday afternoon!! 

BOBF: The Cafeteria Myth

As we trawl through the archives, we come across these musings from Peter the First, a Being Frank original, from August 2007: The Cafeteria Myth.


As the title implies, I'm inclined to place the notion of "cafeteria Catholics" into the same box as Bigfoot. I have never met, heard or read about anyone who would fit the criteria so often espoused.

The central concept of these elusive beings is that they "pick and choose" which teachings of the Church they adhere to – correct me if I've been mislead there.

I have yet to meet any human being who has any real choice about what they really believe: which makes "picking and choosing" problematic.

We have free will in our conscious response to stimuli and in thought. We are free to ponder particular questions, to choose which shirt to wear. Over a lifetime, we make millions of conscious decisions of this type. We are shaped by our choices, by our long-term response to experiences, and that shapes the way we interpret every new situation we enter. It shapes the way we understand a blog post, the way we ignore a particular word or nuance, and it shapes our attempt to grasp the divine.

Given that, how dare anyone imply that anyone else "picks and chooses" their beliefs? All people meet their faith in one place: life. As soon as you separate faith from life, and try to reduce it to purely academic arguments, you've lost the point. We are immersed in life.

I don't wake up and decide to disagree with the magisterium on "x" today. I live my life, of which faith is one important aspect, and encounter different situations, texts and people whose sum influence leads me to see and understand "x" in a particular light. Because these encounters are, implicitly, modified by my response to them, or participation in them, it's never a simple reduction to x=y.

I'd ask people not to nitpick particular words I've chosen, or take phrases out of context, but to actually consider the thesis of this post in the context of your own experience: there is no such thing as "cafeteria Catholicism".

Best of Being Frank: 6 x 7 + 4 = 40?

As we continue the "Best of Being Frank" farewell tour, we continue with the Lenten theme. Today we delve into mathematical analysis of the length of this great season in the Church. This post first appeared way back in 2007 and was written by Being Frank original James the Least. 

I feel cheated. :)

I grew up being told that Lent started Ash Wednesday and lasted for forty days. That means that it ends at the Easter Vigil on Easter Saturday night. This meant that when I was a kid, I would go without lollies or whatever until Easter Sunday as that was the forty days of Lent.

Have you ever counted up on a calendar?

Despite the fact that Lent was originally called quadragesima (literally meaning "the fortieth" day before Easter), the actual count for that period is 46 days. That's four days from Ash Wednesday to the first Sunday of Lent, then five weeks to Palm Sunday, and a final seven days from there to Easter Sunday. That's 46 days.

How does that work? Well, it turns out that Sundays are exempt from Lenten fasting, as each Sunday we celebrate Easter Sunday with the Mass. This means that, strictly speaking, I can have lollies from sundown Saturday to Sunday.

The other thing I just don't get about Lent is why we should abstain from flesh meat? I mean, I get the idea of fasting and giving up something, but why meat? What if you don't like meat? Not much of a then. What if you're a vegetarian? Every day is a Friday then! :) Why doesn't fish count – you're still eating an animal, right? Is chicken really meat? I mean chicken comes from eggs just like fish, so what's the difference?

Anyone out there want to offer any answers?

Best of Being Frank: Fitting into our world

As we start the "Best of Being Frank" farewell tour in the first days of Lent, what better place to start than a post written at the great season in the Church?  This post first appeared way back in 2008  and was written by Being Frank original The Captain.

I didn't realise I was patriotic until I went overseas (properly, as opposed to holidays in other countries) when I was 19. I tells ya, I've never been more proud to be a pounamu-wearing Kiwi. In fact, before then I hadn't even been interested in wearing pounamu…

Something about being with different people strengthens who you really are. And what you really believe.

I pondered this as I sat in the Ash Wednesday service at St Patrick's (and St Joseph's) Cathedral last night. It was a "joint effort" between the Anglican and Catholic communities, led by the Anglican Archbishop and the Catholic Bishop of Auckland. There is now a tradition of the two denominations celebrating Ash Wednesday and Good Friday together, and it's one I've come to love and one that's a huge part of my Lenten journey.

I'm sure it's not a popular idea with some people, but the church was packed last night, and as I looked at the congregation (wondering if the single men were Anglican or Catholic – either way, there seemed to be more of them there last night ;-) ), my heart truly swelled with pride.

Pride in our ability to see past our differences and realise we worship the same recognised God. Pride in our leadership for having the vision and courage to stage such services. Pride in being Catholic.

For it is when you see others doing what it is they do, you realise the importance of what you do. And how you can do it better.

I received ashes from the Anglican minister (not intentionally, that's just the way it worked out) and when he said to me: "Turn away from sin and follow the gospel", I thought: "I'm trying, I'm trying. Good to see you're trying too!"

The beginning of the end

You would have seen MaryandMartha's post yesterday announcing her departure from Being Frank. As with the other authors who have dedicated much time and energy to the blog, we thank MaryandMartha for her efforts and in helping lead Catholic discussion.

For the observant among you, there will have been a realisation yesterday: There are no authors left. MaryandMartha has been handling blogging duties single-handedly for a while now. Her decision has come during a period in which we, the Being Frank administrators, came to the difficult conclusion that the eight-and-a-half-year journey of the blog was coming to an end. 

So, as of today, the Being Frank farewell tour begins. During Lent, we will share some of the best posts since 2006 as new entries on the blog, with links back to the original post so you can check out the comments that were made back then and feel free to add your new reflections. And with 2,443 posts over that time, there are plenty to choose from.

Check back for the first "Best of" post tomorrow, and then each weekday between now and Good Friday. 

You'll hear more from us towards the end of Lent, but let this be our first "thank you" to the Being Frank community. You have contributed more than 55,000 comments since we launched on July 31, 2006 — far beyond our wildest expectations when NZ Catholic got behind the initiative. We hope you enjoy the posts over the coming weeks and look forward to a final six weeks discussing the Faith that binds us together.