31 May 2018

'The body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Sunday Reflections, Corpus Christi Sunday, Year B

Corpus Christ Procession, Carl Emil Doepler [Wikipedia]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Mark 14:12-16, 22-26 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, Jesus’ disciples said to him, ‘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.

While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’

Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

In countries where  Corpus Christi is celebrated as a holy day of obligation on Thursday 31 May the Mass for the Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, is celebrated this Sunday.

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

The Institution of the Eucharist, Federico Fiori Barocci 

A friend in Dublin whom I have known for many years is going on a pilgrimage to Fatima this week. She is a grandmother and was widowed last year. She told me that she is the only adult member of her wider family never to have gone on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. But she added, 'There's really no need to go on a pilgrimage since the Lord is present in the Blessed Sacrament in the parish church'.

My friend goes to Mass every day but during the last two years of her husband's life was unable to go to church. However, a neighbour who is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion brought her the Body of Christ every day. That sustained her in very difficult times.

Some years ago while visiting Canada I was invited to give a talk to a prayer group in Hamilton, Ontario. During coffee afterwards one of the members told me how she finally decided to become a Catholic. She was originally from Germany and grew up in the Lutheran Church. She had been thinking of becoming a Catholic for many years but could not take the final step. One weekday when she was feeling somewhat down she happened to be passing a Catholic church and decided to go in and pray. While she was there a small group of teenage boys came in, went up to the front of the church, genuflected to the Blessed Sacrament, prayed silently for a minute or two, genuflected again and left.

That was the moment of grace for her, the quiet faith of those boys, their faith in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, No 1374, states: The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as 'the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.' In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist 'the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.

St Norbert, Martin Pepijn [Web Gallery of Art]

St Norbert is kneeling in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance. At a slightly higher level is a sanctuary lamp that reminds us of the presence of the the Risen Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. When we enter a church and see that lamp burning - it is usually an electric lamp these days - we genuflect in adoration because we are in the presence of Jesus Christ body and blood, together with the soul and divinity.

During the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, through the power of the Holy Spirit acting in the priest, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. When we approach the Lord to receive him in Holy Communion we should be prepared, with no grave unconfessed sin, and with reverence and silence. We are not receiving a symbol of Christ the Risen Lord, we are not receiving just a piece of bread but the Lord himself coming to us in the form of bread and wine.

So often when I tell people at parties, for example, and mention that I don't drink alcohol someone will say, 'But you drink wine at Mass!' I try to gently remind them that I don't 'drink wine at Mass' but the Blood of Christ himself.

The late Columban Fr PJ McGlinchey visiting a sick person in Jeju, Korea

A poem can often help us see something ‘ordinary’ in a new way or it may help us see something quite extraordinary from the vantage point of ordinariness – bringing us to see a new aspect of its extraordinariness.
Such is a poem in Irish by Seán Ó Leocháin published in 1986 in Aithrí Thoirní and which I came across in an article in Comhar in May 1992. It is appropriate for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.
I’ve never had the gift of writing poetry but will attempt a translation of the poem.

Nuair a tháinig an sagart
chuig m’athair inniu,
mar a thagann de ghnáth
i dtús na míosa,
le lón na beatha
a thabhairt d’fhear
nach bhfágann an chlúid
in aon chor le tamall,
ní hé an gnás
ab ait liom féin.
Ní hé ba mhó
ba bhun le m’iontas
fear dá chlú,
dá chleacht, dá éirim
ar cuairt na sean
i dtús na míosa
le comhairle a leasa
a chur ar dhream
nach bhfágfadh clúid na haithrí choíche,

ach Críost a theacht
i gcarr athláimhe
a cheannaigh an sagart
ó fhear i Ros Comáin.

When the priest came
to my father today
as he usually comes
at the beginning of the month
with the food of life
to give to a man
who’s been bed-ridden
for some time now,
it wasn’t the rite
that was strange to me.
What really
caused my wonder wasn’t
a man of such repute,
such experience, such intelligence
visiting the old
at the beginning of the month
with wise counsel
to give to those
who would never leave the corner of penance again,

but Christ coming
in a second-hand car
the priest had bought
from a man in Roscommon.

Antiphona ad communionem  Communion Antiphon  John 6:57

Qui manducat carnem meam
     et bibit meaum sanguinem,
in me manet et ego in eos,
     dicit Dominus.

Whoever eats my flesh
     and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him
     says the Lord.

The choir in the video is from Japan, the Kobe Camerata.

28 May 2018

Ireland rejects life

The Nativity, Federico Fiori Barocci [Web Gallery of Art]

After I celebrated Mass yesterday in a Dublin parish a number of women approached me to tell me how devastated they were by the overwhelming majority that voted in the Republic of Ireland on Friday 25 May in favour of removing the Eighth Amendment from the Irish Constitution that protected the right to life of both the life of a pregnant mother and of the child she was carrying. The voters chose to replace this with a sentence that will allow the Oireachtas, the Irish legislature, to legalise abortion.

The government plans to introduce legislation that will allow for abortion for any reason up to twelve weeks and in limited circumstances thereafter.

The women who spoke to me were shell-shocked, as I was myself with the 67 percent to 33 percent in favour of change. One of them told me that she had felt very depressed going to Mass but that my homily had given her some hope. I had simply emphasised, without referring directly to the referendum, that the Holy Trinity is the source of all life, that only God can give life and end our earthly life and that the Holy Trinity wants us to share their life for all eternity. This woman's words were very similar to what my father had said to me after my mother's funeral Mass in 1970.

A friend from overseas who is married to an Irishman here in Ireland emailed me to express her disappointment at what she saw as the lack of leadership from bishops, priests and religious on the matter. Most of the bishops, as far as I know, had issued letters to their people and those I read were clear and charitable.

But because of the scandals caused in the last few decades in Ireland of priests abusing children, of religious treating some children with cruelty in homes they were managing, in many cases on behalf of the State for children seen to be 'in trouble' or 'troublesome', bishops, priests and religious no longer have any moral authority, or very little at the most, even if they have had no connection whatever with what happened in the past.

The pro-repeal movement, who wanted abortion to be legalised widely - it was made legal in very limited circumstances in 2013 - made great use of the word 'compassion'. They emphasised the many women 'forced' to go to England for abortions because they could not have one in Ireland. They emphasised certain cases that were, without any doubt, very difficult and distressing for the parents involved and where they judged that the better thing was to have their child aborted. Some of these spoke specifically of the child they loved.

One of the main emphases of the pro-repeal group was 'healthcare for women'. It would seem that this includes the abortion of a healthy baby being carried by a healthy mother. Yet there are hundreds of patients in Irish hospitals in need of genuine medical care who are lying on trolleys, sometimes for days.

There was no mention by the pro-repealers of the rights of the unborn child, no compassion whatever. And there was no mention of the responsibilities and rights of fathers. They can simply walk away from the mother of their child and from the child. Or their desire to take care of the child can be simply ignored.

In the Philippines I found myself a number of times helping young women who found themselves with an unplanned pregnancy. There were always others willing to help in very practical, loving ways, caring both for the young mother and the child before and after birth. Not one of these mothers every regretted giving birth to their child. And some of the mothers I knew who were not married were welcomed as teachers in Catholic schools.

What disturbs me right now is that some legislators in Ireland who very publicly opposed the change are now saying that they will not oppose the proposed legislation, though as far as I know none have said that they will support it. At least one, Senator Rónán Mullen, whom I know personally, has said that he would work 'to try and curb the worst excesses of what the Government is proposing'. I have no doubt whatever that he will but some other pro-life politicians may need some encouragement so as not to lose heart.

Breda O'Brien, a teacher, columnist and patron of Iona Institute, reflects on the aftermath of the referendum in The Irish Times today: Anti-abortion movement has not given up and will not disappear.

John Waters, another strongly pro-life Irish writer, reflects on the vote in  First Things, an American review: Ireland: An Obituary.

The Visitation, El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

Blessed is the fruit of your womb (Luke 1: 42)

Del Verbo Divino
San Juan de la Cruz

Del Verbo divino
la Virgen preñada
viene de camino:
¡ si les dais posada !

Concerning the Divine Word
St John of the Cross

With the divinest Word, the Virgin
Made pregnant, down the road
Comes walking, if you'll grant her
A room in your abode. 

Translation by Roy Campbell


Rachel's Vineyard

One of a number of ministries to both women and men who have been directly affected by abortion is Rachel's Vineyard. I have connections with Rachel's Vineyard, Ireland, which has brought its healing retreat to such places as the Faroe Islands, South Korea and Lebanon.

22 May 2018

Columban Fr Francis J. Keaney RIP


4 November 1934 – 13 May  2018

Fr Frank Keaney was one of six children born to John Keaney and Nora Theresa Curristan Keaney. They lived in Immaculate Conception Parish, Winchester, MA, within the Archdiocese of Boston, USA. (The parish was suppressed in 2004). 

Winchester Town Hall [Wikipedia]

The young Frank attended Noonan Public School, and later studied at Winchester Junior High School, Winchester High School, and Bentley College, Boston. As an adult, he worked in the accounting department of Revere Sugar Company, later renamed Domino Sugar.

When Frank decided that he wanted to become a priest he studied at the School of St Philip Neri for delayed vocations in order to familiarize himself with Latin. He then entered the Columban seminary in Milton, MA in 1957.

Health issues centering on his thyroid gland resulted in the
postponement of his ordination to the priesthood by six months. He was ordained in June 1966 at St Columbans Major Seminary, Milton, MA, with Jeremiah F. Minihan, the auxiliary bishop of Boston, as the presiding prelate.

In July 1967 he was appointed to the Philippines. After language studies he became assistant pastor in Holy Rosary Parish in Oroquieta, Misamis Occidental, but had to undergo surgery on his thyroid gland at the end of that year. During the years that followed, up until 1988, Father Frank ministered in the churches of St Michael the Archangel in Iligan City, as well as St Francis Xavier, Lopez Jaena, and St Matthew, Aloran, both in Misamis Occidental.

St Matthew's Catholic Church, Aloran [Facebook]

Despite his limitations with the local language, Father Frank found ways to communicate with the local people. Furthermore, he strove not only to remember the names of those who crossed his path, but also their relationship with one another. It was clear to the Filipino people that his heart was in the right place.

During those decades that he spent in the Philippines, and for many years after he returned home, Father Frank provided assistance to numerous children of poor families, which enabled them to obtain high school and college education. He understood that by helping an individual poor student to succeed, he was indirectly lifting an entire family out of poverty.

St Michael's Cathedral, Iligan City [Wikipedia]

In 1980 Father Frank did Clinical Pastoral Education at Bon Secours Hospital (later renamed Holy Family Hospital) while on home vacation.

Though he continued to be assigned to the Columban District of Ozamiz in the Region of the Philippines, from January 1989 Father Frank was given compassionate leave in order to support his brother Terry, who had special needs. After his assignment to the US Region in 1997, he continued to support Terry, and later lived with him in the family home in Winchester.

During those years, Father Frank became known for his compassion for and patience with those who were suffering, whether his own brother, or his Columban confreres in the retirement home in Bristol, Rhode Island, or neighbours and relatives in nearby hospitals or nursing homes.

Statue of St Columban, St Columban's, Bristol, RI

At the time of his brother, Terry’s death in May 2015, Father Frank’s physical and mental health was already in decline. During these last three years, despite the challenges that resulted from a faltering memory, a broken hip, as well as various ailments, his family insisted on caring for him in the family home. He did, however, have spells in care facilities, and died at the Vibra Hospital in Rochdale, MA, where he had spent the last few months adjusting to a tracheotomy.

Fr Keaney's Funeral Mass was celebrated at nearby St Charles Borromeo Church. The principal celebrant was Fr Chuck Lintz with Fr Tim Mulroy delivering the homily. Several other Columbans and the two nurses from the Columban retirement home in Bristol were among those in attendance. Afterwards, Father Frank was laid to rest in the Keaney family plot in nearby Calvary Cemetery, Winchester. He is survived by one sibling, Joan Keaney Cole, and a large number of nieces and nephews.

May Father Frank rest now in the peace of Christ.

Fr Tim Mulroy

'I am with you always.' Sunday Reflections, Trinity Sunday, Year B

Holy Trinity, Jusepe de Ribera [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)

Gospel Matthew 28:16-20 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

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

Words by Blessed John Henry Newman
Stanzas 1, 2, 3 and 6 sung here.

From the evening of 23 May until the morning of 1 June in 2012 I was giving a retreat to a group of Canossian Daughters of Charity. 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.

Return of the Prodigal Son (detail), Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

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 28 years now. I've no idea what became of her. I went 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.

Antiphona ad Introitum   Entrance Antiphon

Benedictus sit Deus Pater,
Blest be God the Father
Unigenitusque Dei Filius,
and the only Begotten Son of God,
Sanctus quoque Spiritus,
and also the Holy Spirit,
quia fecit nobiscum misericordiam suam.
for he has shown us his merciful love.

This is the Offertory Verse in the Mass in the Extraordinary Form (the 'Old Mass' or 'Tridentine Mass' in the 1962 Missal).

17 May 2018

'As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ Sunday Reflections, Pentecost, Year B

Pentecost, Sir Anthony van Dyck [Web Gallery of Art]

Vigil Mass

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Mass during the Day

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel John 20:19-23 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

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.’
John 15:26-27; 16:12-15 may also be used.

Mysteries of Faith, Guido Reni [Web Gallery of Art]

Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you . . . Receive the Holy Spirit.

Today's feast of Pentecost is a celebration of our being given a mission by Jesus himself: so I send you. This mission is lived mainly in our daily life, in our family, in our workplace and in the way we become involved in the life of the wider community. Gaudium et Spes, one of the major documents of the Second Vatican Council, devotes much space to the latter. In No 75 of that document it states: All citizens, therefore, should be mindful of the right and also the duty to use their free vote to further the common good

We in the Republic of Ireland will be voting on Friday 25 May in what is perhaps the most important issue to face the people since independence in 1922. We are being asked to delete the current wording of Article 40.3.3, known as 'The Eighth Amendment' from the Constitution because it was inserted as such in a referendum in 1993, and to replace it with different wording. 

The current article readsThe State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right. This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state. This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.

The proposed replacement readsProvision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.

If a majority votes 'Yes' for this change the government proposes to legalise abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. After 12 weeks the proposed legislation would allow for abortion in certain circumstances.

Nos 27 of Gaudium et Spes, promulgated in 1965, speaks very specifically 53 years later to what faces Irish voters this week: 

27 . . . Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person . . . all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.

Pope Francis in his encyclical on Care for Our Common Home, Laudato Si’ , says in No 12o: 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'.

Jesus says to us in John 10:10, I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Please pray that we in Ireland will affirm life, not only by our vote but by everything we do to protect and nourish life, particularly for those in difficult situations. The Holy Spirit is speaking to us this Pentecost in a very specific situation of life and death and is asking us in Ireland, with the help of the prayers of people throughout the world, to proclaim the God of life through our vote. 

Veni Sanctus 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.