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“You Asked Me About My Opinion So I Will Tell You” – Deacon Nick Donnelly speaks about his Catholic Survival Guide

Deacon Nick Donnelly has spoken with Gloria.tv about his new book A Catholic Survival Guide for Times of Emergency. The interview was conducted by Father Reto Nay.

Mister Deacon, in July TAN Books published your new book A Catholic Survival Guide for Times of Emergency. Isn’t the term “survival” a bit dramatic?

I don’t think so. I wanted to provide a tool that contains the doctrines and devotions for times when the Church goes offline and the faithful are left on their own. The Survival Guide will help them to face personal crises and national emergencies with the treasures which God always meant us to have. Therefore, I don’t think the term “survival” is an exaggeration because it is about the salvation of our soul.

Did the coronavirus make you fear for your life?

Yes, it did, and this was a very personal fear. Let me explain: What has made the coronavirus pandemic so frightening is facing the possibility of dying without the sacraments. As I watched the news of churches being closed around the world due to COVID-19, I became more and more concerned that I could face a life-threatening illness without the sacraments or assistance of clergy. Many others would be confronted with the same fate.

You are a deacon, where you not in a better position than others?

No. My church was closed so that I could not receive Holy Communion and, like many other clergy, I had no recourse to a priest who could hear confession. I also found it unbearable thinking of my fellow Catholics being quarantined in hospital and coping with serious illness, even dying, on their own. So, I started to think about how I could help. I knew that God in His providence would have provided the means to give His people the wisdom and graces to face this test.

So, the Survival Guide is just another book related to the coronavirus?

No, clearly not, it also draws from experiences connected with past bitter emergencies of my life. The darkest times in my life, so far were when my two babies died during pregnancy. We’d hoped for children for over 20 years, and when we conceived it seemed like a miracle, but our only children, in those years following, died before birth. Each time the grief was unbearable, so much so that there were times when I thought I was losing my mind and I was tempted by suicidal thoughts. Thank God for His prohibition against self-murder. Looking back, I can see I was given a great grace. I couldn’t pray in the usual way, but I was irresistibly drawn to Our Lord’s Agony in the Garden, the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Holy Rosary.

You took refuge to Gethsemane?

Yes, for weeks on end I went there in my imagination, in my meditation, and just stayed with Our Lord in His agony. Later on, I found out that my wife was doing the very same thing. When my grandmother was dying of cancer, she also stayed in the first sorrowful mystery. A chapter of my book explores how devotions associated with the imitation of Christ and the imitation of Mary help us carry unbearable grief.

Can we also help others in their Gethsemane?

Yes, I believe so. One of my brothers-in-law, Gerry, was killed in a motorbike crash. He was away from the Church at the time and had a very secular funeral which was extremely painful for the Catholic members of the family. We worried about his state of grace and his eternal destiny. What gave us hope was the thought that Our Lord had given him a final chance to repent in the instant before he died. We discovered that St. Faustina and Padre Pio both teach that we can pray vicariously for others when they die.

Did you say, “vicarious prayer”?

This means that at the time of their death, loved ones can benefit from the merits of our prayers and be enveloped in divine mercy, if they choose to accept it and repent. It was a great sorrow to us that we couldn’t be with Gerry when he died, and that he died on his own. However, we are consoled that we can pray for him now, and that time and distance make no difference so we can be with him spiritually when he died.

Time and distance make no difference?

I give you an example. I never knew my paternal granddad, Joseph, and other members of my family killed during World War II, but due to the encouragement of St. Faustina and St. Pio, I now pray for their hours of death, to help them. A chapter of my book explains how we can assist our loved ones, family members and friends, if they die on their own.

Five specific emergencies were in your mind when writing the Survival Guide…

Yes, these five are: when deprived of Confession and Holy Communion, when suffering life-threatening situations without a priest, when preparing for God’s Judgement on your own, when a family member is dying or has died without a priest, and when grieving without the assistance of a priest.

You told me that the Survival Guide opened your eyes. How?

It struck home just how much we have lost as Catholics since Vatican II. Before the Council there was a whole wisdom about the process of dying that the Church had gained over two thousand years and that informed her pastoral care of the dying. It was called the Ars Moriendi and Bona Mors, the Art of Dying Well and devotions for a Happy Death.

How can we “die well”?

The Art of Dying Well prepared Catholics for the different stages of death. It strengthened the dying person to withstand the final assault of the devil by preparing them for five temptations. They worked on the principle that forewarned is forearmed. Every faithful Catholic faces these five temptations at the hour of death.

Has the Church forgotten about the five temptations?

It seems so. However, before Vatican II the Church taught the faithful that they had a duty to prepare for death so that they could withstand these temptations in the final battle and attain, with the grace of God, the happiness of heaven. Now the tragedy is that, instead of being prepared for the final test at the hour of death, Catholics have been misled into a sense of false security that God will accept anyone into heaven, no matter the state of their faith and the condition of their soul. The Church before Vatican II knew the truth of the matter — God is merciful until the moment of death, then we face the God of justice.

Do you list the five temptations in your book?

Yes, I do.

I noticed that the Survival Guide also contains doctrine. Can doctrine not wait until the emergency is over?

No, it can’t. During a time when the Church’s doctrines are often dismissed with levity, the Survival Guide shows that doctrine is life-giving and liberating, especially when expressed through traditional devotions. After 60 years of neglect of doctrine, this pandemic is an opportunity to recover lost treasures of the Faith that sustained and strengthened previous generations of the faithful in response to plagues, wars and calamities.

Doctrine is knowledge as opposed to fluffy feelings. But why knowledge?

When facing life-threatening emergencies, we need to establish whether we are in a state of sanctifying grace, and are righteous through the grace of God, in case we die and face our individual judgment.

You think the Survival Guide can compensate for the lack of priests and sacraments?

Nobody disputes that the sacraments are absolutely necessary for salvation. Unfortunately, we have seen that we can easily be confronted with circumstances which hinder us from receiving them. For such situations, God in His providence has given the faithful two traditional devotions — the Act of Perfect Contrition and of Spiritual Communion.

What are these?

Through the Act of Perfect Contrition, which is intrinsically related to the sacrament of Confession, we can receive absolution for our sins, under certain conditions. While in Spiritual Communion, which is ardently focused on the sacrament of the Eucharist, we can receive the nourishment of the Eucharistic graces and His salvific healing.

Isn’t “Spiritual Communion” what was recommended to couples living in unlawful liaisons?

Yes, unfortunately. Since Vatican II, a serious misunderstanding about Spiritual Communion has grown up. Spiritual Communion was preserved only in a particular and strange case. Some bishops and priests started recommending that individuals in a state of mortal sin, who cannot receive Holy Communion, should instead make “a spiritual communion” during their participation in the Mass.

Why not?

Well, the Catholic understanding of Spiritual Communion is that, just like Sacramental Communion, we must be in a state of grace in order to worthily receive Eucharistic graces. If we are aware of being in a state of mortal sin we cannot make a Spiritual Communion until we receive absolution through the sacrament of penance.

How can this happen, if no Confession is available?

If confession is not possible due to an emergency, we can prepare ourselves to undertake the devotion of Spiritual Communion by making an act of perfect contrition. Catholics have always understood that the act of perfect contrition and spiritual communion go together.

It seems that at the end of the day, everybody has to take care of himself?

Don’t misunderstand me. I personally know priests who put themselves in harm’s way to bring the sacraments to the faithful suffering from coronavirus. Some of my priest friends even came down with the virus, but thankfully they’ve recovered. Around the world, priests have died caring for their people.

Do you think this was the rule?

Well, I’ve also heard accounts of families desperately trying to find a priest to come out to a dying parent or other family member and priests refusing to help. Hearing that people have died on their own, without the assistance of clergy and family is very upsetting. It must be so painful for their families. The moment I felt most abandoned was when I heard that all the churches in Rome had been closed. It was a real body blow. Thankfully this decision was quickly reversed.

What do you make of the worldwide shutdown of the Church?

You asked me about my opinion so I will tell you: I believe that it is the judgement of God against the infidelity of His people. Sacred Scripture and Holy Tradition tell us that God punishes His people when they break His Covenant and Commandments. Our generation, of all the generations before us, deserves this divine chastisement.

Chastisement? Today everybody is made to believe that we deserve praise and mercy...

There are many wrong beliefs around. We live at ease in a world that has murdered 2 billion babies through abortion. Looking at the average size of Catholic families it appears that many use contraception. When the Pachamama idol was venerated in Rome in the heart of the Church only a few raised their voices in protest. It’s not me, it’s Revelation which tells us that God severely punishes His people when they worship pagan idols, so why does it surprise us when He punishes every parish in the world for the idolatry of Rome?

Did the chastisement through the coronavirus work?

Revelation tells us that God chastises His people to bring them to their senses, so that they repent of their sin and make reparation. However, as I look around me, I don’t see much awareness that the Wuhan virus is an opportunity, a call, to repentance and reparation…

Were online Masses a loophole to escape the chastisement?

Though the online Masses have been a consolation, they are a danger because they foster the illusion that everything will return to normal when the lockdown is over. If ‘normal’ means turning a blind eye to abortion, using contraception, tolerating idolatry then we will have failed to listen to this chastisement.

What does this mean?

A worse chastisement will follow. I also fear that many Catholics may prefer the easy convenience of this simulacrum over the sacramental reality of the sacrifice of the Mass. The undemanding online Mass is the natural end point of the modernist ‘revision’ of the liturgy that dropped so many traditional ascetical practices required for the worthy reception of the Blessed Sacrament.

Did the Vatican get the point?

I am afraid it didn’t and it has done little to help the faithful face the heavy spiritual burdens revealed by this pandemic.

Let’s be fair: The Congregation for Divine Worship even create a special Mass for pandemics…

This liturgy for a "Mass in Time of Pandemic” fails to express a genuine Catholic response to pandemic which is to turn to God in repentance. Sacred Scripture and Holy Tradition present the divine truth that pestilence can express God's wrath at the human race sunk in the depths of sinful depravity. This Mass, unlike the traditional Mass for Deliverance from Death in Time of Pestilence, makes no reference to pandemic as expressing the wrath of God and our need for contrition and repentance.

There was also a document of the Pontifical Academy for Life…

That was even worse. The Academy’s reflection on the COVID-19 pandemic makes no reference to God at all. This humanistic screed is totally devoid of any supernatural faith to the point that it even expresses atheistic nihilism as a proper response to the pandemic, stating “We emerge from a night of mysterious origins ... Too late do we learn consent to the darkness from which we came, and to which we finally return. ”Whom do they want to impress with this non-sense?

Perhaps some Catholics?

Catholics will find no succor in this Vatican document, though Masons will be at home with its references to ‘universal brotherhood’, universal rights and numerous references to the human community; all elements of their false religion that exults man in the place of God. However, it’s unlikely that Masons care about Vatican documents.

How did the diocesan bishops score?

I haven’t got the sense from the bishops that they treated our deprivation of the sacraments with the extreme urgency that sacramental starvation requires.

Why do you think so?

In the same week that young faithful Catholics posted a video appealing for the resumption of public Masses, Cardinal Nichols issued what was perceived as a rebuke saying we must avoid “any sense of self-pity” over church closures. It was pointed out that it was easier for him to exercise patience as he received the Blessed Sacrament every day.

The bishops delegated their responsibility to the State, and disappeared?

This is the reason why the Survival Guide includes a section on prayers for the nation in times of emergency. Looking at the USA, one of the things that has struck me is that those who push for a strict separation of Church and State are the very ones who are now overriding the rightful independence of the Church and assuming they can control every aspect of the Church’s life.

For example?

Knox County in Tennessee, which includes Knoxville, banned the reception of the sacraments after they relaxed lockdown restriction because they deemed sacraments are not ‘core worship’. This is a clear example of the State transgressing the independence of the Church.

By now, everybody believes that the State is above the Church…

It isn’t, because the Church receives its rights from God, not from the State. In France and Italy, armed police have raided churches during the celebration of private Masses and funeral Masses. Across the world, governments have assumed that they have the right to shut or open churches as they decide. They have no such right. We are witnessing the accelerating emergence of the tyrannical secular state.

So, we will end up underground and have to look for solutions starting with Baptism?

You are right. Among all the emergency measures, the most important is Baptism. If there is one thing I would want Catholics to know for an emergency it would be how to do an emergency baptism, because this sacrament is necessary for salvation. All lay people should know the proper method of baptizing in cases of necessity.

You also thought about this?

I have a copy of Bishop Richard Challoner’s devotional manual, The Garden of the Soul, that was written in 1740. It drew together all the devotions and wisdom that helped English Catholics survive 400 years of persecution and anti-Catholic penal laws. A time when Catholic families had to survive without regular access to the sacraments or the assistance of priests. The very first thing it sets out is ‘Baptism in Case of Necessity’.

Ok. Tell us!

To complete an emergency Baptism you pour water three times over the head of the person while saying ‘I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. You should notify the parish priest as soon as possible after the Baptism, so it can be entered in the baptismal records and he can add the additional rites like exorcisms.

Did you Survival Guide already receive feedbacks?

I have received some great endorsements: “essential reading for Catholics facing the emergencies that life brings" and “definitely a book to keep ready to hand” (Rorate Caeli); “There cannot be a better "emergency" resource responding to the Wuhan pandemic” (Dr. Jules Gomes, Rome Correspondent, Church Militant); “This is a precious work of love to help us have a child-like faith in these desert days.” (Father Jeremy Davies, Diocesan Exorcist & Co-founder of the International Association of Exorcists).

To purchase Deacon Nick Donnelly’s ‘A Catholic Survival Guide for Times of Emergency’ you can order directly from TAN Books

tanbooks.com/…de-for-times-of-emergency.html

or you can purchase from Amazon:

USA

amazon.com/…-Times-Emergency/dp/1505118697

UK

amazon.co.uk/…-Times-Emergency/dp/1505118697
Ultraviolet
Deacon Donnelly's aims are certainly laudable. Personally, I'd like to echo Don Reto's question with a slightly different emphasis. How is this "Survival Guide" an improvement on the literally dozens of Pre Vatican II prayer books that already contain huge collections of Catholic prayers, devotions, novenas, etc.?

Also, let's remember some devotions are impossible to complete if Churches remain …More
Deacon Donnelly's aims are certainly laudable. Personally, I'd like to echo Don Reto's question with a slightly different emphasis. How is this "Survival Guide" an improvement on the literally dozens of Pre Vatican II prayer books that already contain huge collections of Catholic prayers, devotions, novenas, etc.?

Also, let's remember some devotions are impossible to complete if Churches remain closed. How can a person fulfill the First Friday Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the First Saturday Devotion to the Immaculate Heart Of Mary
without communion and, in the latter devotion, confession as well?

IMO, Deacon Donnelly is being a bit overdramatic. "What has made the coronavirus pandemic so frightening is facing the possibility of dying without the sacraments."

Each of us face that possibility literally every waking day of our lives, even before "the coronavirus pandemic". Nothing's changed. Most of us don't have a priest constantly standing next to us ready to administer the last rites. Accidents happen. Catastrophic medical emergencies happen. Life happens.

Also, let's not allow history to get re-written just yet. It wasn't the "coronavirus pandemic" that shuttered the churches. It wasn't the "coronavirus pandemic" that explicitly forbade priests to visit the dying in their last hour. It was the gutless, spineless, secularist bishops within the Church. The Catholic Church has weathered plagues that entirely eclipse all things "Covid". Masses were still said. Communion was still given, even to those who were obviously contagiously sick. The Church survived and triumphed because its leaders "at that time" were men of faith, not bureaucrats.

"This means that at the time of their death, loved ones can benefit from the merits of our prayers and be enveloped in divine mercy, if they choose to accept it and repent."

Doesn't the act of death end a person's ability to accept mercy and repent? How does "vicarious prayer" change that? Can we get some official Catechism on this?

"A chapter of my book explains how we can assist our loved ones, family members and friends, if they die on their own."

How about a synopsis? Suppose your Uncle Jimmy dies in mortal sin. How do your "vicarious prayers" or anything else circumvent the state of his soul or alter God's judgement?

*glares suspciously at the book* Who gave the imprimatur?

"How can we 'die well'?"

Blade in hand, fighting the Church's enemies, forcing them to trip and stumble over the corpses of their own dead.

"Then Jesus saith to him: Put up again thy sword into its place: for all that take the sword shall perish with the sword." (Matthew 26:52)

...and I ask, Lord, why do you say that like it's a bad thing?

"Do you list the five temptations in your book?"

So does Wikipedia and Wiki's free. It covers The Ars moriendi ("The Art of Dying") quite exentensively.

Loads of links at the bottom to some truly wonderfully Gothic woodcuts covering the Five Temptations as only morbidly Medieval minds could envision them.

"You asked me about my opinion so I will tell you: I believe that it (the worldwide shutdown of the Church) is the judgement of God against the infidelity of His people."

Well, Don Reto did ask. Fair enough. Personally, I don't like blaming God for what is manifestly human evil and stupidity, notably that inflicted by the Church's current leadership. But that's just me and I didn't get a survival guide published by TAN books.

" Our generation, of all the generations before us, deserves this divine chastisement."

Go tell that to the families of devout Catholics who were forced to let their elderly loved ones die without the Last Rites. Go Tell them how sweet Aunt Edna, after a lifetime of daily rosaries, regular Mass attendance, prayer, charity, and goodwill, now "deserves this divine chastisement".

"There are many wrong beliefs around."

The author's included. ;-)

"A worse chastisement will follow. "

Self-fulfilling prophecy in light of what Revelations predicts. ;-)
Deacon Nick Donnelly
My book was originally inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic, but as the interview indicates expanded as a Catholic response to emergencies in general, such as accidents, catastrophic illnesses. As you say, we all live with the possibility of dying without the sacraments. In my book I attempt to show the inextricable link between specific doctrines and their associated devotions. My own experience …More
My book was originally inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic, but as the interview indicates expanded as a Catholic response to emergencies in general, such as accidents, catastrophic illnesses. As you say, we all live with the possibility of dying without the sacraments. In my book I attempt to show the inextricable link between specific doctrines and their associated devotions. My own experience has shown me that the traditional explication of doctrine is life-changing and life-enriching. In this way my book is different to a manual of devotions.
Ultraviolet
I suppose your book will have value for those who will find benefit in the descriptions of your experiences.

There certainly is a market for that kind of book, not only on religious subjects but even outside it.

There's an entire sub-genre of wilderness safety books that focuses on first-hand accounts on bear attacks. The books do quite well. Technically minded readers prefer the textbook …More
I suppose your book will have value for those who will find benefit in the descriptions of your experiences.

There certainly is a market for that kind of book, not only on religious subjects but even outside it.

There's an entire sub-genre of wilderness safety books that focuses on first-hand accounts on bear attacks. The books do quite well. Technically minded readers prefer the textbook approach and, unsurprisingly, a "dry" devotional is more to their liking.
Cuthbert Mayne
Excellent interview. Great questions. Gives an idea of who this man is.
HerzMariae
Look in these eyes. Honest.
Kevin
Deacon Donnelly talks about the Act of Perfect Contrition. There is a good booklet about this Act here:- 'The Golden Key to Paradise' - A booklet about Perfect Contrition. Necessary reading for those deprived of the Sacraments.
Deacon Nick Donnelly
Excellent work on perfect contrition. Fr. Driesch's book is one of my sources
Tesa
There were many people on social media posting their copy of Donnelly's book. I understood this not only as advertisement for the book but more as a personal appreciation of his Catholic work in general (personal impression).