23 September 2021

'A young Polish priest was clinging to this makeshift altar with one hand, while celebrating Mass. Between his feet lay the body of another priest.' Sunday Reflections, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

 

The Harvest
Auguste-Xavier Leprince [Web Gallery of Art]

Behold, the wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts (James 5:4; Second Reading).

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.

“And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’


Léachtaí i nGaeilge


 

Abbey Road, Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity, Huntsville, Utah, USA
The Abbey, opened in 1947, closed in 2017
[Wikipedia, photo by Exorcisio Te]

In August 1982, after a year’s study in Toronto and before three months of Clinical Pastoral Education in Minneapolis, I supplied in a number of parishes for short periods in the Diocese of Boise, which covers the whole of the state of Idaho in the western USA. One of my purposes for this was to visit the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity, Huntsville, Utah, where I had spent ten days or so in August 1970. There I had met some of the monks who were to be part of the community that would open the first Trappist foundation in the Philippines, in Guimaras island, now Our Lady of the Philippines Trappist Monastery

I spent a week in one parish where the parish priest was from India, there were  reservations of two different Indigenous American tribes, many Spanish-speaking immigrants working on farms in the area. The majority of the people in the town proper were Mormons. The local newspaper carried photos of young Mormons from the area going on mission to other countries.

Just after lunch one day the doorbell rang. A young woman asked me to go to the hospital where an old woman, a Catholic and a relative of hers, had been in a coma for a long time, and was dying. I immediately went to the hospital and, to my surprise, the patient was fully awake and participated joyfully in the Last Sacraments, including Holy Communion, as I had brought the Blessed Sacrament with me. I learned later that she died about twenty minutes after I left.

The young woman who had asked me to go to the hospital was a Mormon. I was able to thank her later.

Finn Street, Dublin

When I was a child we lived in a street of terraced houses in Dublin where no one had a telephone. One time one of our neighbours, Jem Norris, got gravely ill in the middle of the night. Charlie Brooks who lived across the street went for the priest, whose house was about a kilometre away. (The Norris house is the one on the far left above. Ours was the one on the right.)

Charlie was a Protestant.

I have posted in Sunday Reflections before about a Mass in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Germany, shortly after it was liberated in 1945. The account, published in 2004 in The Daily Telegraph (London) but no longer online, is by James Molyneaux (1920 -2015), then a young officer in the Royal Air Force and later leader of the Ulster Unionist Party in Northern Ireland. He wrote:

The most moving experience came on the second morning as I was walking from what had been the luxury SS barracks which our troops had transformed into a hospital. My attention was drawn to two packing cases covered by a worn red curtain. A young Polish priest was clinging to this makeshift altar with one hand, while celebrating Mass. Between his feet lay the body of another priest who probably died during the night. No one had had the energy to move the body.

I had no difficulty in following the old Latin Mass, having been educated at St James's Roman Catholic School in County Antrim, and, although an Anglican, I had gained a working knowledge of all the rituals. Still supporting himself against the altar, the young priest did his best to distribute the consecrated elements [Holy Communion]. Some recipients were able to stumble over the rough, scrubby heathland. Others crawled forward to receive the tokens [Sacred Hosts, the Body of  Christ] and then crawled back to share them with others unable to move. Some almost certainly passed on to another - probably better - world before sunset. Whatever one's race or religion one can only be uplifted and impressed by that truly remarkable proof of the ultimate triumph of good over evil.

When I first read this article I was deeply moved in a number of ways. I was surprised to discover that the author had gone to a Catholic school in a community where, at least since the latter 1800s, there has been a deep divide between Catholics and Protestants, for historical reasons that are not entirely theological. But here was an Anglican from that background giving a powerful testimony to the Mass as the Holy Sacrifice. And he noticed how those who were barely able to crawl shared the Body of Christ with those who couldn't move at all.

I find in the three stories above an illustration of the response of Jesus to the complaint of St John, Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.  Jesus says, For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward. 

St John's complaint reflects that of Joshua to Moses in the First Reading. the response of Jesus reflects that of Moses: Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them! (Numbers 11:29).

Memorial Stone, Bergen

Near the ramps where prisoners for Belsen were unloaded from goods [freight] trains. [Wikimedia]

James Molyneaux's article also illustrates the reality of hell that Jesus speaks about today. He writes:

On arrival at Tactical Headquarters, we had been briefed on the discovery of the Belsen prison camp nearby. In company with our RAF medical unit and the two 2nd Army Field hospitals, we wasted no time. Briefed though we were, the shock excelled all the horrors of the battles of the 12 months since Normandy.

As we passed through the camp gates, the Royal Military Police requested us to drive very slowly to avoid the numerous disoriented prisoners. We were handed adhesive tape to put over the vehicle horns in order to prevent them going off accidentally, lest the shock would cause still more deaths. [This little detail is surely telling.]

The British liberators were staggered and shocked by the inhuman behaviour of some of the former guards, who continued to abuse and torment prisoners nearing death when they assumed we were looking the other way. I confess that on such occasions I may have breached the Geneva Convention to prevent further ill treatment of helpless victims. Their behaviour after we had arrived contradicted the excuse that the SS had forced them to carry out orders. Our new orders to them were ‘Stop acting like savages’. 

The 'Thousand Year Reich' of Hitler was in ruins after twelve years, and millions dead all over the world. These deaths, like countless deaths since, were caused by persons who chose evil over good. Each choice we make for sin is not at the level of choosing the evil of Belsen but it moves us towards that. Other dictators have tried their hand at their own version of Hitler's distorted vision and people have gone along with them.

Each of us likes to have power. We may not be conscious of this and in many instances there's no sin at all. I remember once  seeing in a Catholic magazine a cartoon  of people assembled for Mass where you were asked to 'spot the errors'. One was the proverbial 'little old lady' kneeling in the middle of a pew instead of blocking it at one end. There are times, especially as I grow older, when I can see the 'little old lady' in myself, trying to subtly ensure that things are done my way. Indeed, in the parish in Idaho where that kind young Mormon woman asked me to go to the dying elderly woman, the housekeeper asked me what time I'd like to have dinner at each day. I told her - but she always served it thirty minutes earlier.

But if I am a spouse, a parent, a teacher, a boss, a priest who doesn't listen to the other, who rules my little domain with a heavy hand, the words of Jesus are directed at me. 

What is the 'hand', the 'foot', the 'eye' that causes me to sin, especially in the use of power?


Antiphona ad Communionem
Communion antiphon Cf Pas 118[119]:49-50

Memento etiam verbi tui servo tuo, Domine,
Remember your word to your servant, O Lord,
in quo mihi spem dedisti,
in which you have given me hope.
haec me consolata est in humilitate mea,
This is my comfort when I am brought low.

Choir of St Benedict's Monastery, São Paulo, Brazil

Traditional LaCtin Mass (TLM) 

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost 

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 9-26-2021 if necessary).

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 1:4-8 .  Gospel: Matthew 9:1-8.

Christ Heals the Paralytic
Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini ]Web Gallery of Art]

Authentic Beauty

Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond.

September Song
Singer: Ella Fitzgerald; pianist: Paul Smith
Lyrics by Maxwell Anderson, music by Kurt Weill

Our span is seventy years or eighty for those who are strong (Psalm 90 [89]:10, Grail translation).




21 September 2021

'Is it right to hire a hitman to solve a problem?' asks Pope Francis; post-abortion healiing

 

Pope Francis on 15 September 2021


From the official English translation of the Pope’s words in Italian [emphases added in quotations below]:

Abortion is more than a problem, abortion is a murder.  Abortion... without mincing words: whoever has an abortion, kills. Take any book on embryology, from those who study students at Faculties of Medicine and see that, in the third week of pregnancy – in the third week, and often before the mother is aware of it – the fetus already has all the organs; all, even the DNA. And wouldn't it be a person? It's a human life… period! And this human life must be respected. This principle is so clear… To those who cannot understand it, I would ask two questions: Is it fair to kill a human life to solve a problem? Scientifically, it's a human life. Second question: Is it fair to hire a hit man to solve a problem?

The first sentence above in the original Italian reads:

Il problema dell’aborto. L’aborto è più di un problema, l’aborto è un omicidio.

The Italian word omicidio means both ‘murder’ and ‘homicide’, the latter a legal term used in some English-using jurisdictions.

Laudato si’

120. Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? ‘If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away’.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.

The Catechism deals with the question of abortion from No 2270 to No 2275.

Healing for persons affected by abortion

Rachel's Vineyard

Rachel’s Vineyard is a healing ministry to persons affected by abortion, women and men. It offers healing weekend retreats in many places. It is a Catholic initiative but open to persons of all faiths or of none who are seeking healing in this area.

I have been involved in some of the retreats in Ireland and know how powerful they are.

From the website of Rachel's Vineyard, Ireland:

These weekends offer a supportive, confidential, and emotionally safe environment where women and men can express, release and reconcile painful post-abortion emotions and begin the process of restoration, renewal and healing.

Married couples, mothers, fathers, grand-parents, and anyone affected by abortion have come to Rachel’s Vineyard in search of peace and inner healing.

The weekend is a lot of work, but those who are willing to journey through their grief, will experience the power of resurrection in their own lives. They will find meaning in what has happened, and allow God to transform the experience into something that gives hope, liberation and peace.

Rachel's Vineyard retreats are held at private locations.

Flight into Egypt
Blessed Fra Angelico [Web Gallery of Art]
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).




17 September 2021

'Even amid the ravages of terrorism and war, we can see, with the eyes of faith, the triumph of life over death.' Sunday Reflections, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

 

First Steps (after Millet)

Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]


Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,

and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me. (Mark 30:37; today's gospel).


Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Mark 9:30-37 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

Jesus and his disciples went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

 

Léachtaí i nGaeilge


Bishop Joseph N. Perry on Men and Mass
Bishop Perry is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

In most parts of the world since March 2020 people have not been able to take part in Mass in church on Sunday or on weekdays. Parish priests have been celebrating Mass in empty churches. Funeral Masses here in Ireland were open only to the immediate families of the deceased during the strict lockdown periods. As I write this, churches in the Republic of Ireland may now be filled to 50 per cent of their capacity. More recently, under 'less restrictive' regulations, fifty persons were allowed to attend religious services, no matter how large or small the building was.

Many have become used to online Masses. These have been a great comfort to people. But have we come to see this as a normal way of participating in the Holy Sacrifice?

Families have been communicating by Zoom, Facebook and the like, and these have been truly a blessing in the situation we have all been going through. But this is not the same as meeting in person.

In the video above Bishop Perry is talking about Sunday Mass in the context of the family. A number of times he says husbands and fathers or husband and father emphasising that in God's plan a man is meant to be a husband before he becomes a father. The same holds for a woman. She is meant to be a wife before she becomes a mother. Marriage is the primary vocation of a couple. They are first called by God to be spouses. As spouses they are then, in most cases, called to be parents. The Church honours St Joseph above all as the Husband of Mary. It was as such that in a very real sense he fulfilled the role of being a father to Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary.

Bishop Perry speaks of the importance of the husband/father leading the family by taking part in Sunday Mass. Though I have memories of my mother taking me to Mass when I was a young child, my abiding memories are of my father taking me to Sunday Mass and seeing him attend Mass every weekday morning before preparing my mother's breakfast and then going off to work.

Archbishop of Mosul celebrates First Mass in freed Qaraqosh, Iraq, 30 October 2016

We want to be Christ's witnesses here. Words of Archbishop Youhanna Boutros Moshe of Mosul. He belongs to the Syrian Catholic Church, one of the Eastern churches in full communion with Rome.

Mass had been celebrated in Qaraqosh without break since the early days of Christianity until ISIS drove out its Christians - the majority in the town - in 2014. ISIS gave Christians three coptions: pay a tax, convert to Islam or be executed. 

When churches were closed because of the pandemic none of us were faced with those choices.

Pope Francis visited Qaraqosh this year on 7 March. Here is part of his address to the people there in the Church of the Immaculate Conception.

Our gathering here today shows that terrorism and death never have the last word. The last word belongs to God and to his Son, the conqueror of sin and death. Even amid the ravages of terrorism and war, we can see, with the eyes of faith, the triumph of life over death. You have before you the example of your fathers and mothers in faith, who worshipped and praised God in this place. They persevered with unwavering hope along their earthly journey, trusting in God who never disappoints and who constantly sustains us by his grace.

As we slowly return to a form of normality, maybe we can reflect on what it means to us to take part in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, particularly in Sunday Mass, whether we attend it on Saturday evening or on Sunday itself. We have before us the example of our fathers and mothers in faith. In the words of Bishop Perry, Sunday is the day when husbands and fathers can lead their families to the Lord.

Visit of Pope Francis to Iraq, 5-8 March 2021


 Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) 

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost 

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 9-19-2021 if necessary).

Epistle: Ephesian 4:1-6 .  Gospel: Matthew 22:34-46.

Complaining Pharisee
Matthias Grünewald [Web Gallery of Art]

But the Pharisees hearing that he had silenced the Sadducees, came together: And one of them, a doctor of the law, asking him, tempting him: Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? (Matthew 22:34-36).


Authentic Beauty

Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond.

Kyrie from 'Mass in E flat'
Composed by Josef Rheinberger
Sung by Voces8





09 September 2021

‘I feel called to make my life a little simpler. This comes from trying to be a follower of a poor man.’ Sunday Reflections, 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

 

Mocking of Christ

I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. (Isaiah 50:6. First Reading).

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Mark 8:27-35 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.

 

Léachtaí i nGaeilge


Fr Michael Anthony 'Rufus' Halley
(25 January 1944 - 28 August 2001)

On 28 August 2001 my Columban confrere and friend Fr Rufus Halley, was ambushed while on his motorcycle from Balabagan to nearby Malabang, his parish in Lanao del Sur, Philippines, and murdered. This was in the the Prelature of Marawi, sometimes called the Prelature of St Mary's in Marawi, in a predominantly Muslim are of Mindanao, the southern island that is larger than Ireland.

After spending ten years or so in a rural parish near Manila he felt called by God to go to the Prelature of Marawi around 1980 where he learned Cebuano, the language of the Christians there, and Maranao, the language of the Muslims. He became fluent in both, as was in Tagalog, now the basis of the national language, Filipino.

Father Rufus chose to live in a situation where for centuries there had been tension and, at times, violence. Ten years before he went to Marawi there had been civil war in the area.

At the heart of his life each day was the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and an hour's adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Both Christians and Muslims saw him as a man of God. He was deeply influenced by the spirituality of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, a French priest who spent most of his priestly life living among Muslims in the Sahara, spending much time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and welcoming the Muslims who knocked on his door looking for help.

Father Rufus was an active member of the Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests, an international movement inspired by the spirituality of Blessed Charles. (Many of the members in Ireland will be on retreat together in Star of the Sea Centre, Mullaghmore, County Sligo, from 12 to 15 September after a gap of more than two years due to the pandemic. Prayers appreciated!) Blessed Charles was murdered in the Sahara in 1916.

He was very aware of the possible danger he lived with daily but was deeply respected and loved by those who knew him, Christian and Muslim. On one occasion he was invited to mediate between two warring Maranao clans, a truly extraordinary situation. With God's help he succeeded.

This heroic priest, who came from a wealthy background in County Waterford, Ireland, chose to live very frugally. In a letter to his father he explained, My needs are few and one of the things I feel called to do is to make my life a little simpler. This vision, if that's what you'd call it, comes from trying to be a follower of a poor man, and also, from the poverty on a grand scale which I've seen in the Philippines.

St George Maronite Cathedral and Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, side by side in Beirut 
[Wikipedia; photo by Lebnen 18]

Pope Benedict XVI visited Lebanon from 14-16 September 2012. Lebanon is a country that has seen much conflict down the centuries. Roughly 60 percent of the people are Muslims and 40 percent Christians. In his homily on the last day of his visit, which used the readings of today's Mass some of his words might have been about Father Rufus: Following Jesus means taking up one’s cross and walking in his footsteps, along a difficult path which leads not to earthly power or glory but, if necessary, to self-abandonment, to losing one’s life for Christ and the Gospel in order to save it. We are assured that this is the way to the resurrection, to true and definitive life with God. 

Choosing to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, who made himself the Servant of all, requires drawing ever closer to him, attentively listening to his word and drawing from it the inspiration for all that we do.  


Prayer of Abandonment of Blessed Charles de Foucauld
Introduced and read by Bishop Fintan Monahan of Killaloe, Ireland


Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) 

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost 

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 9-12-2021 if necessary).

Epistle: Ephesians 3:13-21 .  Gospel: Luke 14:1-11.

Wedding Banquet
Jan Brueghel the Elder [Web Gallery of Art]

Authentic Beauty

Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond.

Laudate Dominum
Music by Mozart
Sung by soprano Patricia Janečková 
The Janáček Chamber Orchestrs, directed by Jakub Černohorský 

This is Mozart's setting of Psalm 116 in the Latin. Most modern translations number it as Psalm 117.

Psalm 116 [117]

Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes; laudate eum, omnes populi. Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia eius, et veritas Domini manet in æternum. [Amen, Amen].

O praise the LORD, all you nations; acclaim him, all you peoples!

For his merciful love has prevailed over us; and the LORD’s faithfulness endures forever. [Amen, Amen].