Friday, 27 May 2011

Mother Irini the Coptic Church's newest saint

It was by sheer accident that I came across information about the late Mother Irini of Egypt. From what I have been able to read so far, she was a wonderful woman. Just reading what information there is about her on the web made me "feel good". When I have such a sense of peace and joy, reading about someone who not only suffered much, but asked God for "the joy of illness", who fasted severely and prayed with such fervour, there must be something more than simple admiration going on. Here is more information about this extraordinary woman.

I have been thinking, on and off, about how important monasticism and the religious life in general are to the well-being of the Church. It seems to me that one of the most welcome signs of late in the Catholic Church is the return to traditional monastic life. Whilst I accept and value the active congregations and especially the religious sisters who are involved in pastoral work and the caring professions (and used to be more involved in teaching) it is the case that the religious communities that have begun to grow again - or the new ones that are emerging - have returned to a more obvious community life, with recognizable habits and a more joyful acceptance of austerity. This is not to say that the reforms of Vatican II were not necessary - just try speaking to a sister in her 70s or 80s if you doubt this - but that some things that were removed or changed should have been truly renewed without becoming something almost completely different. The apparent rush to escape from the real challenges of the founders or, indeed, the radical call of the Gospel (or is it re-interpretation of that call) led to the collapse of many religious communities. The Church needs them and we need to reflect on how valuable they are to all of us. Perhaps Mother Irini, and others like her, will remind us of this.

Egypt, they say, is "on the brink" and Christians are bearing much of the suffering. I first met some Coptic Christians about six years ago. They are wonderful people. May God protect them and bless the Holy Land of Egypt.


  1. This is an interesting sentence from the link-

    " Shortly after the resurrection of Christ, she [Mother Irini] believes, a group of women vowed to live a celibate life of prayer in a community at Mount Olive. They are supposed to have been in close contact with St Mary, the mother of Christ."

    I wonder if she personally witnessed the Zeitoun Marian apparitions?

  2. Thank you for highlighting Mother Irini, who my wife met a few months ago, too, and introduced me. Thanks also for drawing attention to the Copts. Two out of every three Christians in the Middle East are Copts in Egypt. Now is our last and best chance to see a community in the Middle East with enough critical mass to be self-sustaining and vibrant. I’m more convinced than ever about the urgency of supporting the Church in Egypt, especially in light of everything that has happened in Egypt recently.

    I have the blessing of working with Coptic Orphans, an organization that operates primarily through about 350 church-based volunteers who visit the homes of the fatherless and widow in their areas. These volunteers connect them to various resources to break the cycle of poverty. I do it because as a Christian in America, I want to strengthen the Body of Christ in Egypt, so that the local church is best able to be salt and light in Egyptian society.

    I especially have a passion about getting Catholics engaged in the cause of the fatherless in Egypt (Isaiah 1:17) because I believe that demonstrations of love between our Churches is the truest way to unity. Plus, it was in the National Basilica 5 years ago that I first sensed the call to join this cause, and so return the hospitality that the Holy Family received in Egypt!

    Coptic Orphans speaks in churches and to church groups about the issues in Egypt with on-the-ground knowledge, and about the very unique cultural aspects of the cause of the fatherless and widow in Egypt. We also send church groups to Egypt to serve alongside Coptic Churches, who are so hospitable. I personally sponsor a child.

    Do you think Holy Spirit would be interested in a presentation when we are in town next?

  3. Thanks Nathan. As you can see I have posted on this. Unfortunately my parish is very small and struggling and we are limited in the causes we can adopt. Last Advent we committed ourselves to helping the Christians in Bethlehem. However, in the future we may be able to do something. I am very interested in working with ACN and the regional rep attend Mass here during the week. I wish I could say and do more, but my parish is one of the poorest in the Diocese and we are now having to find £100,000 for necessary work on the church.