03 June 2023

Those around us can often draw into the eternal life of the Blessed Trinity. Sunday Reflections, Trinity Sunday, Year A

The Coronation of the Virgin
Velázquez [Web Gallery of Art]

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel John 3:16-18 (English Standard Version Anglicised, India)

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Last weekend I was in a parish in Dublin for a mission appeal on behalf of the Columbans with Angie Escarsa, a Columban lay missionary from Zambales, Philippines, who has been here in Ireland since the 1990s. I concelebrated and preached at the Saturday evening Mass. 

I noticed a young man in a hospital-style bed-wheelchair up near the altar-rails with his parents. I observed how they cared for him during Mass, with devotion and tenderness. I briefly met the family afterwards and learned that the young man had been very badly injured in an accident. It was clear that he needed full-time care.

On Sunday morning another Columban, Fr Dermot Carthy, concelebrated and preached. He is a native of the parish who came home last year from Peru where he had worked for 62 years. I simply attended Mass and stayed at the back of the church. (This can be a good experience for a priest from time to time.) I noticed an elderly couple two pews in front of me, both of them white-haired and not very tall. The wife helped her husband a number of times to stand, doing so in a way that indicated a tender love for the man she had spent most of her life with - 61 years as I learned when I met them after Mass. I told them that they had made my day, which they had. The face of the wife lit up when I said this. 

I noticed a young family at the Mass, husband, wife and four children, three girls and a boy. The eldest was in her white First Communion dress, as she had made her First Holy Communion the day before. I saw only one other girl in her Communion dress. When I made my First Holy Communion in 1950 every child would be at Mass the following Sunday, the girls in their white dresses, the boys in their new suits with a white rosette attached to the left lapel of their jacket. I met the family briefly after Mass and told the parents that they too had made my day, which they had.

I saw in each of these couples and families a reflection of the Holy Trinity. We are made in God's image and God is a Community of Three Persons, eternally generating life and drawing us into that life. Each of the three couples I met had shared in that power of generating life through marriage. The elderly couple had grown old gracefully, no doubt with many difficulties as well as joys along the way, but clearly loving each other with the love of Jesus the Risen Lord whom they had given to each other in the Sacrament of Matrimony. Their serenity spoke to me of God's love, of the life-giving Trinity in whom I find my origin and with whom I hope to spend eternity.

The middle-aged couple were carrying a heavy load, but with great love. They had generated their son with God's own loving power of creating which He had shared with them through their marriage. Now they were sharing together in carrying the cross with Jesus whom they had given to each other as the source of their love for each other when they exchanged their marriage vows. They understand the meaning of the words for better, for worse in those vows. The extraordinary love for their adult son who cannot look after himself comes from the heart of the Blessed Trinity.

I constantly marvel at the willingness of young married couples to bring children into the world and to raise them. This speaks particularly powerfully to me when I see parents raising their children in the Faith. I am blessed to know such couples and families and am aware that it is not at all uncommon for couples to have a child - or a parent - who needs special care.

In the lives of each of us there are individuals, married couples and families, often unaware that they are gifts of God to others, who draw us into the eternal life of the Blessed Trinity.

Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear (Matthew 13:16).

For Irish Readers

The legend is that St Patrick explained the Trinity by holding up a shamrock. There are three leaves but only one shamrock.

Preamble to the Constitution of Ireland

In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,

We, the people of Éire,

Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,

Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation,

And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,

Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.

The Preamble has no legal force but is an expression of values. In 2015 the voters of Ireland changed the Constitution so that same-sex 'marriage' could be introduced. In doing so they removed  any connection between marriage and bringing new life into the world. In 2018 the voters, the majority baptised and confirmed Catholics, amended the Constitution to allow the killing of babies in their mothers' wombs. Both decisions were implicitly a rejection of the eternally life-giving Holy Trinity. Explicitly they were a rejection of life-giving and and of life.

Benedictus sit Deus
Setting by Mozart who composed this music when he was twelve.

Antiphona ad introitum   Entrance Antiphon (Cf. Tobit 12:6)

Benedictus sit Deus Pater, Unigenitusque Dei Filius, Sanctus quoque Spiritus, quia fecit nobisum misericordiam suam.

Blest be God the Father, and the Only Begotten Son of God, and also the Holy Spirit, for he has shown us his merciful love.

Traditional Latin Mass

Trinity Sunday

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 06-04-2023 if necessary).

Epistle: Romans 11:33-36. Gospel: Matthew 28:18-20.

Holy Trinity and the Saints in Glory
Sebastiano Conca [Web Gallery of Art]

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19; Gospel).

01 June 2023

June: Month of the HUMILITY of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

St Margaret Mary Alacoque Contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Corrado Giaquinto [Web Gallery of Art]

This morning I celebrated the Mass for the memorial of St Justin Martyr. He was born of Greek parents in Palestine around AD100, was a philosopher who taught and defended Christian teaching and was martyred around AD165. As I did not have a congregation I used the readings that may be used for this saint instead of the readings for Thursday of Week 8 in Ordinary Time.

The readings for the memorial are extraordinarily apt for the first day of June, the beginning of the Month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Christ in Agony on the Cross

The First Reading is from 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. Some quotations: For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God . . . For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

This is in utter contrast to the message of the international lobby that has hijacked the month of June in the Western world to promote sexual sin and bullying. That lobby rejects what nature itself teaches and what the Bible teaches us in the first chapter of Genesis, the first chapter of the Bible: God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply'.

Part of that lobby is now aggressively promoting the genital mutilation of children and adolescents who may have, or think they have, a serious psycho-sexual condition in which they think they really belong to the other sex. Many politicians, powerful businesses and most of the mass media have gone along with this grievously harmful ideology which has even been introduced in schools in some places. Teachers have been sacked for not using the 'correct pronouns' in referring to or speaking to students who say they are something they are not.

The Gospel for the Mass for the Memorial of St Justin is from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:13-19. It includes these words: You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden . . . let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. El Greco's painting above shows Christ in agony on the Cross as the light of a city on a hill, Toledo in Spain, where the artist lived.

Pope Leo XIII in 1887

Stephen P. White, an American layman, has a very fine article today on The Catholic Thing website: June is for the Sacred Heart, which I encourage you to read. He quotes from Annum Sacrum, an encyclical published by Pope Leo XIII in 1899: When men’s minds are raised to such a height of insolent pride, what wonder is it that the greater part of the human race should have fallen into such disquiet of mind and be buffeted by waves so rough that no one is suffered to be free from anxiety and peril? When religion is once discarded it follows of necessity that the surest foundations of the public welfare must give way, whilst God, to inflict on His enemies the punishment they so richly deserve, has left them the prey of their own evil desires, so that they give themselves up to their passions and finally wear themselves out by excess of liberty.

White comments: This is one of the great themes, perhaps the great theme, of the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII. When man, in his pride, attempts to 'free' himself from God, he instead becomes a slave to his passions. When man forgets God, he loses sight of himself.

In the same year he published Annum Sacrum Pope Leo also approved the public use of the Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

El Greco's painting above shows not only the humiliation of Jesus Christ but the humility of the Second Person of the Trinity, the Word of God, who became man out of God's love for us as sinners.

What so many in the Western world celebrate during June in such an in-your-face manner with their flags all over the place is a repudiation of the Cross and the height of insolent pride, to use the words of Leo XIII.

Yet the words of Jesus as he was being nailed to the cross apply to all of us, especially as we struggle in the area of chastity and purity: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).

Mary of Burgundy's Book of Hours

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

28 May 2023

Three feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary this week

 The Blessed Virgin Mary 

Mother of the Church

Monday After Pentecost Sunday


The disciples devoted themselves with one accord to prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Cf Acts 1:14; Entrance Antiphon).

In 2018 the Church established the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church to be celebrated on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday.

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

31 May

The Visitation

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my Saviour (Luke 1:36-37; Gospel).

I just marvel at the vibrancy of this painting of El Greco. For me it is a dance of life, Mary carrying the Word made flesh and Elizabeth carrying John the Baptist.

Our Lady, Virgin and Queen

31 May (Calendar of Missal of Pope St John XXIII)

The Coronation of the Virgin
Blessed Fra Angelico [Web Gallery of Art]

Let all rejoice in the Lord and make a festive day in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Introit).

In the calendar used by those who celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass in the Missal of Pope St John XXIII issued in 1962 this feast is celebrated on 31 May. However, this year that falls during the Octave of Pentecost, a First Class octave, and so the feast will not be celebrated this year.

Bring Flowers of the Rarest

This hymn, very popular in Ireland particularly in May, was written by Mary E. Walsh in the late 1800s. The words are here. It was sung by the late Irish tenor Frank Patterson at the Faith of Our Fathers concert in Dublin in 1997. Frank was a deeply committed Catholic and died in 2000 at the age of 61. May he rest in peace.

Garland of Flowers with Madonna and Child
Christiaen Luyck [Web Gallery of Art]

26 May 2023

'Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm heart and with ah! Bright wings.' Sunday Reflections, Pentecost, Year A



Sir Anthony van Dyck [Web Gallery of Art]

Pentecost Sunday, Year A

NB: The Vigil Mass has its own prayers and readings. It is a celebration proper to the evening before Pentecost Sunday and may be celebrated in an extended form. It also fulfils our Sunday obligation.

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)  

Gospel John 7:37-39 (English Standard Version, Anglicised, India)

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Mass during the Day, Year A

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel John 20:19-23 (English Standard Version Anglicised, India)

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Giuseppe Maria Crespi [Web Gallery of Art]

Forty-one years ago I did a number of short supplies in parishes in a diocese in the western USA. In one parish where I spent only a weekend I found a note that had been shoved under the front door on Monday morning and addressed to me. There was no signature but it was written in the style of a teenage girl.

Very often anonymous letters are negative and condemnatory of the receiver. This was the very opposite. I don’t remember what the gospel reading of the Sunday was but it highlighted the mercy of God and that is what I had preached about. Whatever I said touched the writer of the note profoundly. She wrote that for years she had hated God. I’ve no idea why or of what had been troubling her. She might well have been the victim of some awful act of another. But when at that Sunday Mass she heard the Good News that God is a forgiving God and that he loves each of us individually and unconditionally she was able to let go of the hatred, if that is what it really was, and of the anger in her heart and accept God’s love. She wrote that for the first time in years she went to Holy Communion.

As we celebrate the Descent of the Holy Spirit the gospel today tells us that the Risen Lord, appearing to the Apostles, breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any it is withheld. 

One of the greatest gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Church is the power to forgive in God’s name, to enable us to hear Jesus say to us what he said to the Apostles twice in today’s short gospel reading, Peace be with you. This is the gift he offered at the Last Supper.

This is the gift God gives us most especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, what many of us still call Confession or Penance.   It is the way in which God, through the Church and specifically through the sacrament of Holy Orders, brings back into communion with him those who have turned away from him through mortal sin, that is a sin involving grave matter, a clear awareness that it is such and full and deliberate consent to the act. To go to confession in that situation is a matter of urgency, to be done before we go to Holy Communion again. Then Holy Communion becomes a true celebration of the full communion that God wants each of us to have with him.

But the sacrament is also a great help to those who are faithfully following Jesus but who sometimes take to byways down which God is not calling them, byways that lead into sin. Though the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not essential for the forgiveness of such sins it is the special way given by God through the Holy Spirit for that. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.

The priest too is a sinner and each time he goes to confession himself he understands the struggle to overcome shame of those who come to him to confess their sins and to receive from him the forgiveness of a merciful and understanding God.

I left that parish on Monday morning and did not know who had shoved the note under the door. I’ve no idea what became of the writer. Perhaps she went to confession shortly after. Very likely she hadn’t committed any grave sin but had suffered greatly because of the actions of another; But whatever the situation was she had a profound experience of God’s mercy that Sunday, something like that of Zacchaeus, like that of the woman caught in adultery, like that of the Prodigal Son.

The gospels don’t tell us what subsequently became of Zacchaues or of the woman caught in adultery. But we know that the Holy Spirit profoundly touched their hearts, healed their wounds and changed their lives as Jesus passed by. And I know that the Holy Spirit profoundly touched the heart and healed the wounds of that young woman in the western USA parish as Jesus ‘passed by’ that Sunday morning through a priest who spent only two nights there.

The Sequence in today’s Mass, Veni Sancte Spiritus, ‘Come, Holy Spirit’, expresses something of that in the seventh stanza:

Lava quod est sordidum, Heal our wounds, our strength renew,
Riga quod est aridum, On our dryness pour your dew,
Sana quod est saucium. Wash the stains of guilt away.

The Lock
John Constable [Web Gallery of Art]

The response for the Responsorial Psalm in the Sunday Mass is: Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth. This is from Psalm 103 [104], the great psalm of creation, verses from which are used in the Responsorial Psalm, which includes these words: You send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth. This is a reminder to us that as Christians we are called by the Holy Spirit to respect and take care of everything that God has created so that it may continue to bring life and not death. Six times in the account of creation in Genesis 1:1-31 we read, And God saw that it was good. The seventh time we read, And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.

English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ captures something of the presence of the Holy Spirit in every aspect of creation and life in the closing lines of his poem God’s Grandeur:

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent 
World broods with warm heart and with ah! Bright wings.

God's Grandeur
by Gerard Manley Hopkins, read by Jonathan Roumie

Traditional Latin Mass

Pentecost or Whitsunday

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 05-28-2023 if necessary).

Lesson: Acts 2:1-11. Gospel: John 14:23-31.


And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them (Acts 2:3; Lesson).

17 May 2023

Sunday Reflections, Ascension; 7th Sunday of Easter, Year A


Ascension Cupola
Italian Mosaic Artist [WebGallery of Art]

Ascension, Year A

The Ascension is celebrated on Ascension Thursday, 18 May, in England & Wales, Scotland. In the USA it is celebrated on Ascension Thursday in the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Omaha, Philadelphia. In all of these places Ascension Thursday is a Holyday of Obligation.

The Ascension is observed on Sunday, 21 May, in Aotearoa-New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Philippines, USA (apart from the jurisdictions mentioned above).

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Matthew 28:16-20 (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A

These readings are used in regions where the Ascension is observed on Ascension Thursday.

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel John 17 1-11 (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

Andrea della Robbia [WebGallery of Art]

The reflection is for the Ascension.

Halliday Square, Dublin
[Original source: myhome.ie]

Early in the summer of 1953 when I was ten my father taught me how to ride a bicycle. In August of that year, when we were on holiday in Bray, south of Dublin, he taught me how to swim. I borrowed my cousin Deirdre's small blue bike and practised on Halliday Square, Dublin, just below Finn Street where we lived. It had a long enclosed garden in the centre where some local people grew vegetables, as I recall, and in my young mind was a kind of racing circuit.

However, in order to do any racing I had to learn first to keep on the bike while moving. My father held on to the saddle while I moved forward, wobbling quite a bit for about ten metres before we'd start again. I'm not sure how many times we repeated this or over how many evenings. But a moment arrived when I realized that I was moving forward steadily and surely - and that Dad wasn't holding on to the saddle. I was on my own. A great thrill - with an awareness that I couldn't 'unlearn' how to ride. From that moment I could only move forward, in more senses than one. And before long I found myself racing around the circuit that was Halliday Square, sometimes against others, sometimes just 'against myself'.

Bray Head and beach, Bray, Ireland

Dad's approach to teaching me how to swim was similar. He held his hand under my chest, in fairly shallow water, off the stony beach in the photo above. I was trying to do the breaststroke. As with the bike, he showed great patience and I had absolute trust in him knowing that he wouldn't let me sink, just as he hadn't let me fall off the bicycle.

Once again there was the magic moment when I realized that Dad's hand was no longer touching my chest - I was swimming on my own. And as with cycling, this is an ability that you cannot 'unlearn'.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth, Jesus tells the Apostles in the First Reading (Acts 1:8).

My experience with my father - and with my mother too who often said to me in my childhood years, When you're 21 you'll be responsible for yourself, giving me a goal to reach - helps me understand something of the meaning of today's feast. If my Dad had kept holding on to the saddle of my cousin's bike I would never have learned to go on my own. If he had kept holding me while teaching me to swim I would have remained dependent on him.

If Jesus, the Risen Lord, had stayed with the Apostles they would have remained in Jerusalem and never have gone to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

For the next eight years after learning to ride a bike I cycled to school twice each day, unless it was raining, coming home for lunch, getting about an hour's exercise in the process without calling it that. And in a very real way my Dad was always with me because he had enabled me to acquire a skill that in turn gave me a new freedom that brought with it new responsibilities and new possibilities. New possibilities and the responsibilities that go with them continue to arise in my life as a priest. 

And in the life of the Church, as in the life of each individual, new situations with their challenges are constantly arising. The one thing that we can be certain of as disciples of Jesus, carrying out the mission he has entrusted to the Church, whatever our particular part may be in that mission, is the truth of his final words before his Ascension, And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

He is with us always through his Holy Spirit whose coming we will celebrate next week on Pentecost Sunday.

Antiphona ad introitum  Entrance Antiphon Acts 1:11

Viri Galilaei, quid admiramini aspicientes in caelum? Men of Galilee, why gaze in wonder at the heavens?

Quemadmodum vidistis eum ascendentem in caelum, ita veniet, alleluia, [alleluia, alleluia]. This Jesus whom you saw ascending into heaven will return as you saw him go, alleluia, [alleluia, alleluia].

Traditional Latin Mass

The Ascension of the Lord

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 05-18-2023 if necessary).

Lesson: Acts 1:1-11. Gospel: Mark 16:14-20.

The Ascension of Christ
Rembrandt [Web Gallery ofArt]

And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight (Acts 1:9; Lesson). 

Sunday After Ascension

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 05-21-2023 if necessary).

Epistle: 1Peter 4:7-11Gospel: John 15:26-27; 16:1-4.