28 May 2015

'This is my body . . .' Sunday Reflections, Corpus Christi, Year B

La Disputà (Disputation of the Holy Sacrament), Raffaello Sanzio, painted 1510-11
Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican 

You will find a description of this magnificent fresco here and a video on its restorationhere.

The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA) 

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

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to Jesus, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

Pope Francis leads his first Corpus Christi procession in Rome

‘As a primary school student, each Saturday I would play with my friends in our village but also made time for one hour’s adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in the local church. It was the custom in our village to have exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on Saturday afternoon and the Catholics would spend some time in prayer in the church.  I feel that my personal relationship with God has its origin in those hours before the Blessed Sacrament.’  [Emphasis added].

John Wang Zongshe is one of two young Chinese men who came to Manila four uears ago to prepare to be Columban priests, the first candidates from that country. The original missionof the Columbans was China. John tells his vocation story, Life-giving Connections, in Misyononline.com, the online magazine I edit for the Columbans here in the Philippines.

John is from a village that is one-third Catholic. but his companion Joseph Li Jiangang is from a village where all 800 inhabitants are Catholic.  Joseph, like John became involved actively in the life of the Church when he was young, as he writes in his vocation story, A Church with Room for AllThe Franciscan Missionaries of Mary worked in our village and ran a medical clinic. In junior high school, one Sister got us together for religious education during our summer holidays, and at the age of eleven I began to know more about God.  I was born after the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) when so much religious practice had ceased. I used to sit at the back of the church when I went alone, but when I joined the youth group we would sit at the front. As a youth I went of my own free will to church.

At that time, I was timid and afraid to read in public. I became an altar server and at twelve I was leading the congregation in half an hour of prayers before Mass. I liked that and on returning from school I’d drop my bag and head for the church.[Emphasis added].

Joseph, John and Emmannuel Trocino, a Columban seminarian from Negros Occidental, on a visit three years ago to Australian Columban Fr Brian Gore at San Columbano Mission Center, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, under the watchful eye of St Columban. Joseph and John have since discovered that God isn't calling them to be Columban priests. Emmannuel is currently in Peru on his two-year First Mission Assignment as part of his preparation for the priesthood.

The first Columbans went to China in 1920 to bring the Gospel to the millions there who had never heard of Jesus Christ. Fr Paddy O'Connor, one of the first students to join the Columbans and who was ordained in 1923, wrote a poem called The Splendid Cause, which became the Columban anthem for many years, in which he used the line To bring to the nations the sweet, white Host
. For Father O'Connor the Eucharist was at the heart of mission. 

The Splendid Cause is also the title of a history of the Columbans from 1916 to 1954 by Columban Fr Neil Collins, who was one of the speakers at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress held in Dublin from 10 to 17 June 2012. St Columbanus (Columban), the patron saint of the Society of St Columban,  was one of the patron saints of the Congress.

Recent polls and studies in Ireland indicate a great loss of faith, even though 84 percent in the 2011 census in the Republic of Ireland identified themselves as Catholics. (About 75 percent in the whole of Ireland would call themselves Catholics). Only about one third attend Mass every Sunday and a large percentage, especially of those who don't go to Mass regularly, don't believe that the bread and wine brought up at the offertory of the Mass become the Body and Blood of Christ at the Consecration. If they receive Holy Communion they believe they are receiving only a symbol.

It was a great love for the Mass and a desire to bring the Catholic Christian faith to the people of China that led two young Irish diocesan priests nearly 100 years ago, Fr Edward J. Galvin, later first Bishop of Hanyang, China, and Fr John Blowick to start what initially was 'The Maynooth Mission to China' and later became the Society of St Columban.

No Irish Columban has been ordained in the Third Millenium of Christianity nor are there any candidates at present. But the first two  seminarians from China, a country where the Church is still being harassed, a country from which Bishop Galvin and all other Columbans were expelled 60 years ago, some after having spent time in prison, have now joined us.

We just don't know God's plans. But absolutely central to the spirituality of Bishop Galvin was doing God's will. He cared little for the trappings of the office of bishop but insisted on his episcopal motto being Fiat voluntas tua, 'Your will be done'. He would surely be delighted that the call of John and John was awakened in communities focuses on the Eucharist.

The Columbans came to Manila in 1929 at the request of Archbishop Michael O'Doherty, an Irishman. One of the speakers at the Eucharistic Congress is his current successor, Manila-born Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle. He also spoke at the 49th International Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City, Canada, in 2008.

Please pray that as the Church celebrates the Feast of Corpus Christ, the Body of Christ, which it has done already on Thursday in countries where it is still a holyday of obligation, and that there will be a renewal and deepening of faith in Ireland, a faith centred on the Eucharist, and that the Catholics of China, the Philippines and other countries where Irish missionaries have preached and lived the Gospel, may help re-evangelise the country that produced such missionary giants as St Columban 1,500 years ago and Edward Galvin and John Blowick a 100 years ago.

Lauda Sion Salvatorem
Sequence for Mass on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi

English Version

Sion, lift up thy voice and sing:
Praise thy Savior and thy King,
Praise with hymns thy shepherd true.
All thou canst, do thou endeavour:
Yet thy praise can equal never
Such as merits thy great King.
See today before us laid
The living and life-giving Bread,
Theme for praise and joy profound.
The same which at the sacred board
Was, by our incarnate Lord,
Giv'n to His Apostles round.
Let the praise be loud and high:
Sweet and tranquil be the joy
Felt today in every breast.
On this festival divine
Which records the origin
Of the glorious Eucharist.
On this table of the King,
Our new Paschal offering
Brings to end the olden rite.
Here, for empty shadows fled,
Is reality instead,
Here, instead of darkness, light.
His own act, at supper seated
Christ ordain'd to be repeated
In His memory divine;
Wherefore now, with adoration,
We, the host of our salvation,
Consecrate from bread and wine.
Hear, what holy Church maintaineth,
That the bread its substance changeth
Into Flesh, the wine to Blood.
Doth it pass thy comprehending?
Faith, the law of sight transcending
Leaps to things not understood.
Here beneath these signs are hidden
Priceless things, to sense forbidden,
Signs, not things, are all we see.
Flesh from bread, and Blood from wine,
Yet is Christ in either sign,
All entire, confessed to be.
They, who of Him here partake,
Sever not, nor rend, nor break:
But, entire, their Lord receive.
Whether one or thousands eat:
All receive the self-same meat:
Nor the less for others leave.
Both the wicked and the good
Eat of this celestial Food:
But with ends how opposite!
Here 't is life: and there 't is death:
The same, yet issuing to each
In a difference infinite.
Nor a single doubt retain,
When they break the Host in twain,
But that in each part remains
What was in the whole before.
Since the simple sign alone
Suffers change in state or form:
The signified remaining one
And the same for evermore.
Lo! bread of the Angels broken,
For us pilgrims food, and token
Of the promise by Christ spoken,
Children’s meat, to dogs denied.
Shewn in Isaac's dedication,
In the manna's preparation:
In the Paschal immolation,
In old types pre-signified.
Jesu, shepherd of the sheep:
Thou thy flock in safety keep,
Living bread, thy life supply:
Strengthen us, or else we die,
Fill us with celestial grace.
Thou, who feedest us below:
Source of all we have or know:
Grant that with Thy Saints above,
Sitting at the feast of love,
We may see Thee face to face.
Amen. Alleluia.

Young Jew as Christ, Rembrandt, c.1656
Staatliche Museen, Berlin [Web Gallery of Art]

In regions where Corpus Christi is celebrated on the previous Thursday the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, is observed. Here are links to the readings in the New Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition, the translation used in the English Lectionary in Canada.

Genesis 3:9-15.

2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1.

Mark 3:19-35.

Then Jesus went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

27 May 2015

'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . .' Sunday Reflections, Trinity Sunday, Year B

HolyTrinity, Jusepe de Ribera, painted 1635-36 
Museo del Prado, Madrid [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA) 

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

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped 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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God almighty!

From the evening of 23 May until the morning of 1 June in 2012 I was giving a retreat to a group of Canossian Sisters, also known as Daughters of Charity, Servants of the Poor. They included four novices and seven professed Sisters, including one from Malaysia.Their foundress, St Magdalene of Canossa bequeathed to the Sisters the mission of 'making Jesus known and loved above all'. This comes from a stance of standing at the foot of the Cross with Mary.

During my talks each morning I shared many stories of individuals who had made Jesus known to me, usually with no awareness that they were doing so. Some were persons I knew. Some are now dead. Some I met only once in passing, never learning their names. Most were poor. I know that my stories triggered off similar memories among the Sisters of people who had made Jesus known to them as the Sisters in turn had made him known to those they were serving.

I saw all of this in the context of the Communion of Saints, the angels and saints in heaven, the members of the Church on earth, the souls in purgatory. The story of creation tells us that we are made in the image of God. But what the author of that first account of creation didn't know is that God is a Community of Three Persons. Made in God's image, we are made to be in community with others.

Jusepe de Ribera's painting of the Holy Trinity above, like a number of other paintings, shows the dead Christ. The expression on the face of the Father shows suffering. It is very similar to the face of the father in Rembrandt's The Return of the Prodigal Son, painted about thirty years later. I don't know if Rembrandt was familiar with de Ribera's painting.

The Blessed Trinity call us into the circle of their life through suffering. We know the suffering of Jesus. Some of the great artists show to us something of the suffering of the Father.

One of the stories I told involved two persons I met only once, a mother and her daughter aged about 13. When they first approached me outside a retreat house in Cebu City on the morning of Holy Thursday 1990. I made an excuse that I was only visiting. When I went inside I later saw the two of them sitting on the steps. The daughter had her head on her mother's shoulder. Clearly, they were tired and hungry. When I was leaving I gave them enough to buy breakfast. The young girl looked at me with the most beautiful smile I've ever seen and said to me, Salamat sa Ginoo! 'Thanks to the Lord!' She wasn't thanking me but inviting me to thank the Lord with her and her mother for his goodness. Through her hunger and tiredness she had come to know something of God's bountiful love.

That young girl has been calling me into the life of the Holy Trinity for more than 25 years now. I've no idea what became of her. I came to the Philippines in 1971 to do my part in making disciples of all nations and have baptised many in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. But that young girl, and many others like her, have been constantly teaching me to observe all that I have commanded you and assuring me in the name of Jesus, I am with you always, to the close of the age.

Introit (Entrance Antiphon of Mass)

Benedíctus sit Deus Pater,
unigenitúsque Dei Fílius,
Sanctus quoque Spíritus,
quia fecit nobíscum misericórdiam 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.

Mozart’s setting of the Latin text at the age of 12 sung by the  Meninos Cantores de Campinas, many of them around the same age as Mozart when he wrote the music. Campinas is in São Paolo State, Brazil.

Benedictus sit Deus

High Altar of the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Campinas, Brazil [Wikipedia]

19 May 2015

'Receive the Holy Spirit.' Sunday Reflections, Pentecost, Year B

Pentecost El Greco, painted 1596-1600
Museo del Prado, Madrid [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa) [This page gives the readings for both the Vigil Mass and the Mass during the Day]

Liturgical Note. Pentecost, like Easter and some other solemnities, has a Vigil, properly so-called. This is not an ‘anticipated Mass’ but a Vigil Mass in its own right, with its own set of prayers and readings. It fulfils our Sunday obligation. There may be an extended Liturgy of the Word,er similar to the Easter Vigil, with all the Old Testament readings used. 

The prayers and readings of the Mass During the Day should not be used for the Vigil Mass, nor those of the Vigil Mass for the Mass During the Day. 

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 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 retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Alternative Gospel

Gospel John 15:26-27; 16:12-15 (New Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition, Canada)

Jesus said to his disciples:

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."

Fr Ralph W. Beiting (1 January 1924 - 24 August 2012) street preaching in July 2011

I'm quite happy to live in the present and to look forward to the future without worrying too much. That is all grace from God. There is, however, one event in my life that I would, perhaps, like to relive, if that were possible, which it's not. It was the summer of 1969, less than two years after my ordination in Ireland, when I was studying in a college north of New York City where I was also one of the chaplains.

One day during Lent of that year while walking across the campus to class I met Betty, a student who was in some classes with me, and asked her what she was doing for Easter. I was just making small talk. But when she told me that she and some other students were going to work in a parish in rural Kentucky as volunteers for that week I got interested - and ended up going with them. I spent most of Easter week in Lancaster, Kentucky, cleaning up buildings, getting them ready for summer programmes such as Bible classes and summer camps for local children. The parish priest, Fr Ralph Beiting, had many projects and invited students, most at college level bu some still in high school, to come during the summer for a week, two weeks, a month or longer, to help run the Bible schools in the four towns in his parish, to staff the two camps for children to spend a five-day vacation in, to do house-to-house visitation in pairs, and some other things. He had also founded the Christian Appalachian Project to help the development of this predominantly poor corner of the USA, and an area where there was only a handful of Catholics. There were still remnants of anti-Catholicism.

Fr Beiting used to go around preaching in towns during the summer, accompanied by seminarians and other male college students. They'd park their truck at a place where people could gather and he'd preach basic Christian truths from the back of the lorry. He was following an old Protestant tradition in the area but one that was dying out. On one occasion he was driven out at gunpoint but next day turned up again, not to preach but simply to show himself.

This great diocesan priest had the great gift of organising and inspiring young people in the service of the Gospel. These gifts of his helped me to discover a gift I was unaware of - the ability to listen to people. When I went back to Kentucky for six weeks in the summer of 1969 he asked me to divide my time between the activities in Lancaster and those in Cliffview Camp, where each week a group of local youngsters went on Monday morning and went home on Friday afternoon, with lots of activities to keep them, and the student volunteers, occupied. Cliffview is now a retreat and conference centre for the Diocese of Lexington.

Father Beiting wasn't a person you would go to if you had a problem or wanted to talk about something. He was an 'action man', though a prayerful one. However, I discovered that many of the young volunteers I was working with, and some persons older than me, found in me somebody who could listen to them. I had never been aware of that ability but it was to become very important in my life as a priest. Indeed, in the case of one young volunteer who became a close friend and to whom I was to be a mentor, that ability that God gave me became helped, 12 years later, to draw her back from the brink of suicide. And in that episode I discovered that sometimes a person of deep and generous faith can also be very fragile. My friend died the following year, aged only 29, peacefully and from natural causes. Some months before her death she told me that she thought she didn't have long to live. I had the good sense to listen to her and we spoke to each other as persons of faith as to what her death would mean. There was nothing morbid about our conversation and we went for an Italian lunch afterwards - my friend was pure Italian - and had a joyful time together.It was to be our last time to meet.

But what I still marvel at, and thank God for, is that 'casual' meeting with another student and a conversation that I didn't see as having any importance at all. A question that expressed friendliness rather than curiosity was to receive a profound and life-long answer, not from Betty, but from the Holy Spirit.

Receive the Holy Spirit . . . as the Father has sent me, even so I send you.

Veni Sancte Spiritus (Sequence for Mass on Pentecost Sunday)

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.

Come, Holy Spirit,
send forth the heavenly
radiance of your light.

Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum
veni, lumen cordium.

Come, father of the poor,
come giver of gifts,
come, light of the heart

Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium.

Greatest comforter,
sweet guest of the soul,
sweet consolation.

In labore requies,
in aestu temperies
in fletu solatium.

In labor, rest,
in heat, temperance,
in tears, solace.

O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.

O most blessed light,
fill the inmost heart
of your faithful.

Sine tuo numine,
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.

Without your grace,
there is nothing in us,
nothing that is not harmful.

Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.

Cleanse that which is unclean,
water that which is dry,
heal that which is wounded.

Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.

Bend that which is inflexible,
fire that which is chilled,
correct what goes astray.

a tuis fidelibus,
in te confidentibus,
sacrum septenarium.

Give to your faithful,
those who trust in you,
the sevenfold gifts.

Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,
da perenne gaudium,

Grant the reward of virtue,
grant the deliverence of salvation,
grant eternal joy.