Experience Ireland for its Catholic and natural splendor this fall

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Picture yourself contemplating the endless sea from the Cliffs of Moher, praying with Benedictine Monks for the sanctification of priests, or visiting the Knock Shrine, where in 1879, a group of 15 people witnessed an apparition of Our Lady, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist.

These are just a few strokes from the transforming experience the pilgrimage to Ireland “The Beauty of Faith” promises to have Sep. 14-23.

Led by Dr. R. Jared Staudt, Director of Formation for the Archdiocese of Denver, and accompanied by Father Brad Noonan, Pastor at St. Francis of Assisi in Castle Rock, who will serve as the trip’s spiritual director; the inspiring journey will follow in the footsteps of ancient monks and modern saints, immersing the faithful into the beauty and rich Catholic tradition of Ireland.

An info session will be held at Blind Faith Brewing in Littleton (formerly St. Patrick’s Brewery) March 24 at 4 p.m.

“It’s an integrated and transformative experience of Catholic culture that will be inspired by the different types of beauty we will encounter,” Dr. Staudt said.

Ireland is quickly turning away from the traditions that for centuries have stood as her foundation. In this context, Dr. Staudt’s pilgrimage will uncover “the amazing legacy of faith that Ireland has” coupled with the natural beauty it radiates.

“Ireland is a very beautiful country. We will be experiencing the great natural beauty of Ireland, especially the Western coast where the Cliffs of Moher are,” he said. “But I would say that the monastery of Clonmacnoise embodies both [types of beauty] … [It] is an example of how faith beautifully meshes with the natural environment.”

Besides providing a space for a spiritual encounter, the journey will highlight the inspiring efforts of evangelization led by ancient monks, such as St. Kevin, and modern witnesses, such as Blessed John Henry Newman and Venerable Matt Talbot.

“Visiting the apparition site of Our Lady at Knock Shrine will also help us see how Our Lord and Our Lady want us to respond in faith and prayer right now for the conversion and renewal of culture. We have this heritage, but how do we apply it? Our Lady’s apparition is an example of that.”

Among the dozens of sights Dr. Staudt’s pilgrimage to Ireland will visit, the intriguing stop at Silverstream Priory, where the Benedictines are dedicated to Eucharistic adoration for the renewal of priests, promises to be unique.

In his extensive experience of leading pilgrimages that immerse the faithful into Catholic culture, Dr. Staudt deeply values the aspect of community that develops among the pilgrims.

“The wonderful group dynamic, growing together as a group, worshiping together as a group and establishing friendships and supporting one another as we experience the beauty and the tradition was what [has] struck me most profoundly,” he concluded. “It’s a great transformative experience.”

Pilgrimage info session

Blind Faith Brewing in Littleton

March 24, 4 p.m.

Visit rtijourneys.com for more information

COMING UP: The Pell case: Developments down under

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In three weeks, a panel of senior judges will hear Cardinal George Pell’s appeal of the unjust verdict rendered against him at his retrial in March, when he was convicted of “historical sexual abuse.” That conviction did not come close to meeting the criterion of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is fundamental to criminal law in any rightly-ordered society. The prosecution offered no corroborating evidence sustaining the complainant’s charge. The defense demolished the prosecution’s case, as witness after witness testified that the alleged abuse simply could not have happened under the circumstances charged — in a busy cathedral after Mass, in a secured space.

Yet the jury, which may have ignored instructions from the trial judge as to how evidence should be construed, returned a unanimous verdict of guilty. At the cardinal’s sentencing, the trial judge never once said that he agreed with the jury’s verdict; he did say, multiple times, that he was simply doing what the law required him to do. Cardinal Pell’s appeal will be just as devastating to the prosecution’s case as was his defense at both his first trial (which ended with a hung jury, believed to have favored acquittal) and the retrial. What friends of the cardinal, friends of Australia, and friends of justice must hope is that the appellate judges will get right what the retrial jury manifestly got wrong.

That will not be easy, for the appellate judges will have been subjected to the same public and media hysteria over Cardinal Pell that was indisputably a factor in his conviction on charges demonstrated to be, literally, incredible. Those appellate judges will also know, however, that the reputation of the Australian criminal justice system is at stake in this appeal. And it may be hoped that those judges will display the courage and grit in the face of incoming fire that the rest of the Anglosphere has associated with “Australia” since the Gallipoli campaign in World War I.

In jail for two months now, the cardinal has displayed a remarkable equanimity and good cheer that can only come from a clear conscience. The Melbourne Assessment Prison allows its distinguished prisoner few visitors, beyond his legal team; but those who have gone to the prison intending to cheer up a friend have, in correspondence with me, testified to having found themselves cheered and consoled by Cardinal Pell — a man whose spiritual life was deeply influenced by the examples of Bishop John Fisher and Sir Thomas More during Henry VIII’s persecution of the Church in 16th-century England. The impact of over a half-century of reflection on those epic figures is now being displayed to Cardinal Pell’s visitors and jailers, during what he describes as his extended “retreat.”

Around the world, and in Australia itself, calmer spirits than those baying for George Pell’s blood (and behaving precisely like the deranged French bigots who cheered when the innocent Captain Alfred Dreyfus was condemned to a living death on Devil’s Island) have surfaced new oddities — to put it gently — surrounding the Pell Case.

How is it, for example, that the complainant’s description of the sexual assault he alleges Cardinal Pell committed bears a striking resemblance — to put it gently, again — to an incident of clerical sexual abuse described in Rolling Stone in 2011? How is it that edited transcripts of a post-conviction phone conversation between the cardinal and his cathedral master of ceremonies (who had testified to the sheer physical impossibility of the charges against Pell being true) got into the hands (and thence into the newspaper writing) of a reporter with a history of anti-Pell bias and polemic? What is the web of relationships among the virulently anti-Pell sectors of the Australian media, the police in the state of Victoria, and senior Australian political figures with longstanding grievances against the politically incorrect George Pell? What is the relationship between the local Get Pell gang and those with much to lose from his efforts to clean up the Vatican’s finances?

And what is the state of serious investigative journalism in Australia, when these matters are only investigated by small-circulation journals and independent researchers?

An “unsafe” verdict in Australia is one a jury could not rationally have reached. Friends of truth must hope that the appellate judges, tuning out the mob, will begin to restore safety and rationality to public life Down Under in June.

Featured image by CON CHRONIS/AFP/Getty Images