26 February 2021

'I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us.' Sunday Reflections, 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B


The Transfiguration
Blessed Fra Angelico [Web Gallery of Art]

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Mark 9:2-10 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

After six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean.


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Assumpsit Iesus Petrum
Sebastián de Vivanco (Ávila, 1551 - Salamanca, 1622)
Música Reservata de Barcelona directed by Bruno Turner

Assumpsit Iesus Petrum, et Iacobum et Ioannem fratrem eius, et duxit eos in montem excelsum seorsum, et transfiguratus est ante eos.

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.

Et ecce vox de nube dicens: His est Filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi bene complauci, ipsum audite.

And a voice came out of the cloud, "This is my beloved Son; listen to him" (Mark 10: 2,7).

Clement Shahbaz Bhatti [Wikipedia]

(9 September 1968 - 2 March 2011)


In today's first reading God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son 'on a height that I will point out to you'. We can only imagine the heartbreak of Abraham being asked by God to give offer his only son by Sarah his wife, born when both of them were very old. But God wasn't looking for the life of Isaac but for Abraham to submit himself to God's will, no matter the consequences. Abraham's sacrifice of his own will made him our Father in faith, as the Roman Canon says, the Father of countless Jews and Christians.

From the time of St Stephen, the first Christian martyr, down to our own day, God has been calling certain individuals to give up everything that is precious to them, including life itself, for the sake of others.

The struggle of Abraham is a sign of the struggle that Jesus would have to go through. Last Sunday we got a glimpse of his struggle in the desert where he was tempted by Satan, basically to abandon the mission the Father had given him. During Holy Week we will see his awful struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane and his cry from the Cross, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Each of us in some way has to share in that struggle, to let go of our own will in something big or small for the sake of others and to do what God want us to do.

Shahbaz Bhatti was living in a situation where he knew that God might ask him to give up his own life. Less than two months before his own death, Governor Salmaan Taseer of Punjab, a Muslim, was murdered by one of his own security guards because of his opposition to Pakistan's Blasphemy Law.

 Mr Bhatti was deeply committed to working for groups discriminated against, including the Christian minority in Pakistan. He gave as the reason for his commitment, I only want a place at the feet of Jesus. I want my life, my character, my actions to speak for me and say that I am following Jesus Christ. He was gunned down on 2 March 2011 in  Islamabad, just after leaving his mother's home.

In the video below Shahbaz Bhatti speaks about the possibility of his death. A note with the video says :Bhatti's close colleague shared the video with Al Jazeera saying that Bhatti had requested him to do so in the eventuality of his assassination because 'it is with the Muslim world I want to share the message of love. That is the only message that can bring the Muslim world out of the circle of hate and killings'.

Al Jazeera is not responsible for the content of this video.

[Update: Benedict Rogers, a close friend of Shahbaz Bhatti, in an article published on 2 March 2021 writes about this interview: Four months before his murder, he recorded an interview with the BBC for broadcast in the event of his death.]

Below the video is a transcript of what Mr Bhatti said.

Minister Bhatti, you forgot one question in the interview. Your life is threatened by whom and what sort of threats are you receiving?

The forces of violence, militant banned organizations, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda, they want to impose their radical philosophy on Pakistan. And whoever stands against their radical philosophy that threatens them, when I’m leading this campaign against the Sharia Law, for the abolishment [abolition] of [the] Blasphemy Law, and speaking for the oppressed and marginalized, persecuted Christian and other minorities, these Taliban threaten me.

But I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of [the] Cross and I am following of the Cross and I am ready to die for a cause. I’m living for my community and suffering people and I will die to defend their rights. So these threats and these warnings cannot change my opinion and principles. I will prefer to die for my principle and for the justice of my community rather [than] to compromise on these threats.

Sts Peter, James and John, as they came down the mountain after having seen the Transfigured Jesus, wondered what 'risen from the dead' meant. A few weeks after the assassination of Clement Shahbaz Bhatti the bishops of Pakistan petitioned the Holy See to declare him a martyr. Bishop Andrew Francis of Multan, who drafted the petition, said, We Christians in Pakistan want to transform the death of Shahbaz Bhatti into a prophecy of the Resurrection. It was only after the Crucifixion that the Resurrection could occur and it was only after Easter Sunday that the Apostles found the answer to their question. On 2 March 2016, the fifth anniversary of his death, the Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi began collecting testimonies about Shahbaz Bhatti to inquire into his martyrdom and sanctity.

May each of us pray for the grace to make these words of Shahbaz Bhatti our own: I just want a place at the feet of Jesus. I want my life, my character, my actions to speak for me and say that I am following Jesus Christ.

Christ in the House of Mary and Martha (detail)
Velázquez  [Web Gallery of Art]

Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:41-42).

I just want a place at the feet of Jesus. (Shahbaz Bhatti).

Extraordinary Form of the Mass

Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) 

Second Sunday in Lent 

The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 2-28-2021 if necessary).

Epistle: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7.  Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9.

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.

Pope Benedict XVI meeting with artists in the Sistine Chapel, 21 November 2009.

by Antonín Dvořák 

Violin: Itzhak Perlman; Cello: Yo-Yo Ma; Conductor: Seiji Ozawa; Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Czech composer, Israeli violinist, Chinese-American cellist, Japanese conductor, American orchestra.

Laudate Dominum, omnes gentes; laudate eum, omnes populi.

O praise the Lord, all you nations, acclaim him, all you peoples! (Psalm 117 [116])

19 February 2021

'The martyrs belong to all Christians.' Sunday Reflections, 1st Sunday of Lent, Year B


The Temptation of Christ
Tintoretto [Web Gallery of Art]

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Mark 1:12-15 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

The Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Responsorial Psalm (NAB Lectionary, Philippines, USA)

One of my teachers in the Columban seminary in the 1960s was a saintly priest, Fr Edward McCormack. Father Ted, as we knew him, spent most of his life as a priest teaching Scripture to Columban seminarians in Ireland and the USA. But he taught our class Latin.

I vividly remember one occasion when he celebrated our community Mass on the First Sunday of Lent. In the Old Mass Matthew 4:1-11 was always read. That's now the Gospel for Year A. As he was preaching  it was clear that he had a deep, personal sense of the horror of Satan tempting Jesus, God who became Man, of Evil trying to prevail over Love, God himself. 

We have daily examples of the power of evil. One is the murder on 12 February 2015 of 2o Coptic Christians, Egyptian men working in neighbouring Libya and one other man, Matthew Ayariga, either from Chad or Ghana - like the countless OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) - working abroad. They were beheaded simply because they were Christians.

In a meeting four days later with a delegation from the Church of Scotland, which is Presbyterian, Pope Francis said the following.

I would now like to turn to my native tongue to express feelings of profound sorrow. Today, I read about the execution of those twenty-one or twenty-two Coptic Christians. Their only words were: 'Jesus, help me!' They were killed simply for the fact that they were Christians. You, my brother, in your words referred to what is happening in the land of Jesus. The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ. As we recall these brothers and sisters who died only because they confessed Christ, I ask that we encourage each another to go forward with this ecumenism which is giving us strength, the ecumenism of blood. The martyrs belong to all Christians.

Cupola Decoration
Early Coptic Painter [Web Gallery of Art]

The vast majority of Christians in Egypt are Coptic Christians and according to tradition they trace their origins to St Mark preaching the Gospel in Alexandria in the very early days of the Church. A minority of Coptic Christians are in full communion with Rome as the Coptic Catholic Church. They number fewer than 200,000.


These are the men who were martyred:


·                     Bishoy Adel Khalaf           

·                     Samuel Alhoam Wilson  

·                     Hany Abdel-Masih Salib

·                     Melad McCain Zaky         

·                     Abanoub Ayad Attia       

·                     Ezzat Bushra Nassif

·                     Yousef Shokry Younan   

·                     Kirillos Shukry Fawzy      

·                     Majid Suleiman Shehata

·                     Somali Stéphanos Kamel              

·                     Malak Ibrahim Siniot       

·                     Bishoy Stéphanos Kamel

·                     Mena Fayez Aziz              

·                     Girgis Melad Siniot          

·                     Tawadros Youssef Tawadros

·                     Essam Badr Samir             

·                     Luke Ngati           

·                     Jaber Mounir Adly

·                     Malak Faraj Abram          

·                     Sameh Salah Farouk       

·                     Matthew Ayariga.


A note in the Wikipedia entry says of Matthew Ayariga: It was later learned that this 21st victim was named Matthew Ayariga and that he was from Ghana. (A few sources say he was from Chad, but most say he was from Ghana) . . . His remains were finally transferred to Egypt and laid to rest with the other martyrs at the end of September 2020.

These men are now honoured as saints by the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, to give it its full name. The remains of the 21 martyrs were laid to rest in the newly-built Church of the Martyrs of Faith and Homeland in the village of Al-our where 13 of the martyrs were from.

The Roman Martyrology contains many lists of martyrs like the one above. In some monasteries these lists are read each day during the Office of Prime. The Roman Canon, also known as Eucharistic Prayer I, includes two such lists of martyrs of the early Church, one before the Consecration and one after.

May all Christian martyrs who shared in the temptations of Jesus Christ and in his Crucifixion obtain for us the courage to be fearless witnesses of our Lord Jesus Christ in our daily lives. (The Greek word from which the word 'martyr' derives means 'witness.)

Church of the Martyrs of Faith and Homeland
Al-our, Minya, Egypt

Extraordinary Form of the Mass
Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) 

First Sunday in Lent 

The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 2-21-2021 if necessary).

Epistle: 2 Corinthians 6:1-10.  Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11.

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.

Pope Benedict XVI meeting with artists in the Sistine Chapel, 21 November 2009.

To Daffodils
by Robert Herrick (1591 - 1674)
The video doesn't give the name of the person reciting the poem.

  Last Monday, two days before Ash Wednesday, I saw daffodils for the first time this year, at the entrance to our grounds. These beautiful flowers are among the first reminders that spring is near. They are also a reminder of the shortness of life: We have short time to stay, as you, / We have as short a spring; / As quick a growth to meet decay, / As you, or anythingThese words of Herrick echo those used on Ash Wednesday: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
by William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850)
recited by J'Kobe Wallace (poem begins at 0.59)


09 February 2021

'Everything he did enriched the spiritual lives of the people who were in contact with him.' Sunday Reflections, 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B


Christ Pantocrator (Christ in Majesty)
Monreale Cathedral, Palermo, Sicily [Web Gallery of Art]

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Mark 1:40-45 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

A leper came to Jesus, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 

And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

(1956 - 2004) [Wikipedia]

I have used this material before. The story of Dr Carlo Urbani is one that gives me hope during the current pandemic. It is a story of a person inspired by his Christian faith to serve the poor as a doctor with the full support of his wife Giuliana. And in serving the sick he gave up his life. Covid-19 is closely related to SARS, the disease that he discovered and from which he died.

Towards the end of February 2003 Dr Carlo Urbani, an Italian, went to Vietnam, representing the World Health Organisation, to investigate an American businessman who was showing unusual symptoms. It turned out to be severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a highly contagious virus. The man who discovered this new disease died from it himself about a month later on 29 March. In a conscious moment, while in the ICU in a hospital in Bangkok, he asked for a priest to give him the Last Rites.

Vladimir Redzioch of Inside the Vatican interviewed Giuliana Chiorrini, the widow of Dr Urbani. MISYON, the Columban magazine in the Philippines, published the interview, with permission, in its March-April 2004 issue. Here are extracts from it.

ITV: Your husband chose to work with the sick and poor around the world. Why?

Giuliana Chiorrini: Carlo was always involved in volunteer work and since his youth was attracted by the poor. He cultivated the desire to discover new horizons. To do this he left for Africa with the missionaries. Since his days as a young student with a backpack full of medicines, he had traveled in Africa (Mali, Niger, and Benin). Afterwards he work in solidarity camps run by the Xaverian Fathers, Catholic Action and Open Hands. He was always in contact with missionaries. As a doctor he wrote for the missionary magazine Missioni Consolata. Carlo also fulfilled his desire to help he poor during his 10 years working at the hospital in Macerata. This confirmed him in his work with Médecins Sans Frontières, of which he was the president, and in this capacity he received the Nobel Peace Prize when it was conferred on the organization in 1999. 

ITV: What role did his faith play in his choice of life?

Chiorrini: Faith had an extremely important role in my husband’s life. Everything he did enriched the spiritual lives of the people who were in contact with him. He was also very sensitive to the beauty of creation - he even used to go hang-gliding to admire nature.

Dr Carlo Urbani with his wife, Giuliana, and their children, Maddalena, Luca and Tommaso [Source]

That year St John Paul II invited the family of Dr Urbani to carry the Cross during the Via Crucis on Good Friday, 18 April, in the Colosseum.

ITV: This year, during the Via Crucis at the Colosseum, you and your son carried the cross. How did you react when you heard you had been chosen by the Holy Father, and what significance did it have for your family to participate in this Good Friday liturgy?

Chiorrini: I am a believer, as was my husband, and knowing I was to carry the cross during the Via Crucis touched me a great deal, as well as giving me an enormous joy. It was a very intense moment of the interior spirituality and in all honesty it was also very moving, with the evocative atmosphere which was created that evening.

Giuliana Chiorrini, Dr Urbani's widow, carries the cross during the Via Crucis at the Colosseum, Good Friday 2003

If you will, you can make me clean. Like Jesus, Dr Carlo Urbani chose and made many clean, sacrificing his own life in doing so.

The video is based on a letter that Dr Carlo Urbani wrote in May 2002. It is in Italian and contains many photos of his family and in his work situation. He writes very warmly about his family and thanks God for the generosity he has experienced from so many.

There is a longer video, with English subtitles, about the life of Carlo Urbani here. It is just over 16 minutes in length and I would encourage you to view it.

Healing Scenes from the Life of Jesus
Codex Aureus of Echternach [Web Gallery of Art]

A Brief Reflection

The last two verses of the First Reading (Leviticus 13:45-46) could well describe the situation of so many today: The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.

So many persons very sick with Covid-19 cannot be visited by their own family. A friend of mine whose brother-in-law was very sick with the illness spent two hours in very cold weather, along with family members, outside the window of the room of the sick person, who has since died. So many die isolated from their family with the medical staff attending them dressed like astronauts, something that is extremely uncomfortable for them and not only physically. The PPE they are required to wear in a sense hides their humanity. And, very distressingly, many cannot attend the funerals of persons who were close to them.

And all of us are required now in many situations not only to cover our upper lip but our whole mouth and our nose with our masks.

I have a priest-friend who has been isolated in his room for more than three weeks in the nursing home in Dublin where he now lives  because of an outbreak of Covid-19. Ten priests there died in January, all over 80 and eight of them positive for the virus. My friend is managing well. He spent many years working overseas and is used to being on his own. And he is grateful for the care of the Sisters and staff.

But many do not have such care. Families are not able to come together except through phone calls or Zoom meetings. These are helpful but are not the 'real thing'.

A friend who is a parish priest told me the other day of a six-year-old boy in his parish who told his parents that he wished he had never been born. He is feeling the isolation from his friends and is too young to understand it.

Jesus in healing the leper in today's gospel brought him back into society. The way society in his time dealt with leprosy and those who had it is not really all that different from how we are dealing with the current pandemic, though we have much greater medical knowledge now.

We are not totally helpless but we can pray to Jesus on behalf of all with the words of the leper: If you will, you can make us clean. He is already responding through the countless front-line workers taking care of the needs of those seriously ill with Covid-19. Some of theses workers, like Dr Carlo Urbani, have given their lives so that others might live.

Extraordinary Form of the Mass
Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) 

Quinquagesima Sunday 

The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 2-14-2021 if necessary).

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.  Gospel: Luke 18:31-43.

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.

Pope Benedict XVI meeting with artists in the Sistine Chapel, 21 November 2009.

My Thanks to You
Sung by Steve Conway

Music: Noel Gay / Lyrics: Norman Newell

Orchestra of Roberto Inglez

I have posted a number of times about St Valentine's Day, a feast day that is observed in the calendar of the Traditional Latin Mass, though not this year, as it falls on Sunday. In an audience with newly-married couples Pope Francis reminded them of the importance of three expressions: May I?, Thank you and I'm sorry. He told them: The second word: be appreciative. How many times the husband needs to say to his wife, ‘Thank you’. And how many times the wife must say to her husband, ‘Thank you’. Thank each other, because the sacrament of marriage is conferred by the two spouses, one to the other. This sacramental relationship is maintained with gratitude.

The song above is just that: My Thanks to You, a husband singing to his wife. The singer, Steve Conway, was a husband and the father of a young daughter when he died after heart surgery in 1952 at the age of 31. As a child I loved his voice, which I would now describe as beautiful.

This weekend we are holding the first online Marriage Encounter in Ireland, led by three couples ans myself. I would appreciate your prayers very much.