25 February 2022

Is my way of being as a follower of Jesus evident to those around me? Sunday Reflections, 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Regina Pacis - Queen of Peace

University of Bonn [Wikipedia; photo]

Pope Francis has called for Ash Wednesday, 2 March, to be a day of prayer andfasting for peace in Ukraine.

Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for peace in Ukraine.

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 6:39-45 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)  

Jesus told a parable to his disciples:

“Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye’, when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye.

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Peach Tree in Blossom
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

I have used this story before on Sunday Reflections. I heard it from the late Fr Giuseppe Raviolo SJ, an Italian Jesuit who worked in Mindanao, Philippines, for many years and was one of the founders, in 1985, of St John Vianney Theological Seminary in Cagayan de Oro City there. More than 40 years ago he and I and some other priests were on a team together giving a directed retreat to seminarians. We stayed in a dormitory that was far from being 'Five Star'. He reminded me very much of St Pope John XXIII in girth and in personality and was always a delight to be with. I feel a great sense of gratitude to God for having known this wonderful man who lived his priesthood so joyfully.

Fr Giuseppe Raviolo SJ 

During the Vietnam War Father Joe, as we called him, had been rector of the major seminary in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, when it was capital of the then South Vietnam. When the North Vietnamese army moved into Saigon the soldiers were divided into groups of three with a standing order that if any of the three tried to surrender the others were to kill him. One particular group of three found themselves surrounded by soldiers either of the American army or the army of South Vietnam, I forget which. One of them ran forward and surrendered and his two comrades did not shoot him. They two were captured. 

Later the other two asked the soldier who had surrendered why he had taken such a risk. He told them that he knew they were Christians and would not shoot. This man was a Buddhist and his two companions were Catholics. These two had discussed the order to kill and had decided that it would be wrong to do so. As Catholic Christians they saw that as murder. These were soldiers of a Communist army, without any chaplains.

Clearly they had been well formed as followers of Jesus despite living under a Communist regime that restricted the activities of the Church. Vietnam has a long history of persecution with figures of between 100,000 and 300,000 martyrs being given. The second-century theologian Tertullian wrote, The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. Jesus says to us in today's gospel, No good tree bears bad fruit. The two Catholic Vietnamese soldiers were the fruit of the tree produced by the seed that was the countless martyrs among their ancestors.

And their Buddhist companion showed that he understood Jesus who said, The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good. He put his life in the hands of his two companions because he knew they were Christians. Would anyone do the same with me simply because I am a Christian?

I see some of the words of Pope Benedict XVI in his Angelus reflection in 2007 on last Sunday's gospel being lived out in the incident involving the three North Vietnamese soldiers: One then understands that for Christians, non-violence is not merely tactical behaviour but a person's way of being, the attitude of one who is so convinced of God's love and power that he is not afraid to tackle evil with the weapons of love and truth alone

The way of being of those two Catholic soldiers as followers of Jesus was evident to their Buddhist comrade. Is my way of being as a follower of Jesus evident to those around me? 

The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good

The Sorrowful Mother, Страдальна Мати
Ukrainian Lenten Hymn


Lent begins on Wednesday 2 March. For the people of Ukraine it has already begun in a very real sense. Pope Francis has asked us to make Ash Wednesday a day of prayer and fasting for Ukraine

It is a day of fasting and abstinence every year. The Pope has asked us to focus through that on the urgency of the situation in Ukraine where the majority of people are Christian, mostly Orthodox. About ten per cent are Catholics, most of them members of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

You will find the rules for fasting and abstinence here. The rule about abstinence on Fridays during Lent may vary from one country to another.

These rules are not an expression of legalism but a call to generosity and to share in the fasting and abstinence of Jesus himself during his forty days in the desert.

Traditional Latin Mass

Quinquagesima Sunday 

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 02-27-2022 if necessary).

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

Christ Healing the Blind
Nicolas Colombel [Web Gallery of Art]

17 February 2022

Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. Sunday Reflections, 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Christ as Saviour

It is he who forgives all your guilt,
who heals every one of your ills (Ps 102 [103]:2; Responsorial Psalm).

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA) 

Gospel Luke 6:27-38 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)  

Jesus said to his disciples:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

The Merciful Christ
Juan Martínez Montañes [Web Gallery of Art]

Love your enemies, Jesus tells us twice in today's Gospel, which concludes with his words Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. These words of Jesus are perhaps the most difficult of all to follow.

Nearly 50 years ago I was chaplain in a third-level school in the Philippines run by religious sisters. One day the Directress asked me to go to the station of the Philippine Constabulary (PC) in the city. One of the male students was filing a case against another. The two had been close friends but had had a serious disagreement. I went to the station with some reluctance. It was during the early years of martial law in the Philippines and the PC was deeply involved in this. They were the national police force at the time and part of the military. I saw the PC as part of 'the enemy of the people'.

I was pleasantly surprised when I met the officer on duty, a major as far as I can recall. He was speaking to the young man filing the charge when I arrived and was trying unsuccessfully to persuade him not to go ahead with this move. The other student was also present.

The officer gave me a warm and courteous welcome. When I told him why I was there he suggested that I speak to the student filing the charge and brought us to a room where we could have some privacy.

As it happened, this young man had attended a weekend retreat for male students in the college that I had given only a week or two before in the local seminary. I had remembered how well he had participated and told him that. We spoke about the retreat and how it had challenged all of us. And I reminded him that all the participants had availed of the chance to go to confession.

I could see that he was reflecting on all of this as I brought up the question of his filing a charge against a man who had been his best friend. I gently encouraged him to drop the case. I could see in his physical behaviour the inner struggle he was going through. His whole body had tightened up. The tension within him was great and very obvious. After a long struggle he agreed to withdraw the charge.

We went back to the officer on duty and the student told him that he was dropping the charge. The other student was there and very relieved to hear this. The officer encouraged them to shake hands, which they did, though the student dropping the charge didn't do so with great enthusiasm.

However, he had done something very difficult: he had decided to forgive the man who had been his friend. He still had strong painful feelings. But forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. It is a decision made with God's grace. In some situations it can be like major surgery. The surgery heals but physical pain still remains and takes time to disappear naturally. A scar that usually doesn't bother us may remain. In some instances there may be a permanent mark such as lameness after an operation on the back, for example. But healing has taken place.

And our feelings in a situation like this need time to subside, depending on the gravity of the situation.

For my own part, I was very grateful for the kindness, thoughtfulness and wisdom of the PC officer. He had acted entirely as a friend in this situation, not as an 'enemy of the people'. I had to take that on board and not condemn everyone in the PC out of hand.

I do not know if the former friendship between the two young men in the story was rekindled. Perhaps I should have followed up. I was then a young, inexperienced priest. 

The ongoing grace for me from that incident iss the awareness that forgiveness can be very difficult but, with God's grace, not impossible. The young man who withdrew his charge against his friend was the bearer of that grace from God for me, just as the PC officer and I were the bearers of God's grace to him enabling him to make the decision to forgive.

Kyrie from Missa Papae Marcelli
Composer: Palestrina
Sung by Sistine Chapel Choir
Directed by Fr Massimo Palombella SDB

Kyrie, eleison - Christe, eleison - Kyrie, eleison
Lord, have mercy - Christ, have mercy - Lord, have mercy

Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) 

Sexagesima Sunday 

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 02-20-2022 if necessary).

Epistle: 2 Corinthians 14:19-33; 12:1-9.  Gospel: Luke 8:4-15.

The Sower (after Millet)
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

10 February 2022

What I saw that day more than 40 years ago was an expression of God's pure love. Sunday Reflections, 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C


River Bank in Springtime
Vincent van Gogh [Wikipedia; source]

He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit (Jeremiah 17:8; First Reading).

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither (Psalm 1:3; Resposnorial Psalm).

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 6:17, 20-26 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)  

Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon.

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

“Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”

 Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Prayer Before the Meal
Adriaen Jansz van Ostade [Web Gallery of Art]

More than 40 years ago when I was in charge of a small formation house for young men preparing for the diocesan priesthood in Mindanao, Philippines, I came to know a young girl named Patricia. She had just turned ten when we first met. I learned that her father had died when she was an infant. She 'adopted' me and called me Tatay, Dad, as she still does. She is now a widow and a grandmother.

The first time I visited her home, a small wooden structure built on stilts, I thought that it might fall over. Patricia's family, like most of the families around them, were poor, though not destitute. They struggled from day to day and managed to get by.

Very often after class in the public elementary school Patricia would drop by the formation house for a chat. One day when we were talking in the dining room upstairs we heard the 'clump-clump-clump' of somebody coming up the stairs wearing heavy boots and carrying a staff. It was a man named William Smith, probably the poorest person I have ever met. It was believed that his father had been an American soldier. William was tall and thin, never looked healthy, had very poor sight and had no home of his own. Sometimes children would tease him in a disrespectful way. He would go from parish to parish and the priests, mostly Columbans, would give him a place to sleep, food, clothes, shoes and some money. After a few days he would head off to another parish. Poor William went to his reward when struck by a truck one day. May he rest in peace.

When William arrived at the top of the stairs Patricia went over to him, took him by the hand, sat him down at a table and brought him something to eat and to drink. I asked her some years later if she remembered this incident. She had no recollection whatever of it.

The Infant Jesus Distributing Bread to Pilgrims

St Matthew's first beatitude reads, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The New English Bible translation of this is, How blest are those who know their need of God; the kingdom of heaven is theirs. I find that latter translation very helpful.

St Luke's version has a different emphasis. He shows us Jesus speaking about those who are economically poor. Jesus is also, I think, giving a message of hope pointing towards eternal life where the injustice that is the cause of so much economic poverty will no longer have any force, where God's will reigns. The words of Jesus also call us to work for a world in the here and now where economic poverty caused by greed and injustice no longer exists.

Jesus has very harsh words for those whose focus is only on the present life and the ultimately shallow 'rewards' so much of it offers: But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

God reveals himself as Love in so many 'insignificant' moments. What I saw that day more than 40 years ago was an expression of God's pure love: a child who was poor serving an adult who had absolutely nothing of his own. Patricia was blessed by God in serving William and he was blessed by God in being served by a child. I have been blessed by this little incident ever since. The kingdom of God broke through that afternoon. 

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God

Antiphona ad Communionem

Communion Antiphon (Cf Psalm 77 [78]:29-30).

Manducaverunt, et saturaviti sunt nimis, [They ate and had their fill,] 

et desiderium eorum attulit eis Dominus, [and what they craved the Lord gave them;] 

non sunt fraudati a desiderio suo. [they were not disappointed in what they craved.]

Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) 

Septuagesima Sunday 

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 02-13-2022 if necessary).

Epistle1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 10:1-5.  Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16.

SAINT Valentine's Day

Shrine of St Valentine, Whitefriar St, Dublin

Monday 14 February is SAINT Valentine's Day, not 'Valentine's Day'. He was a Roman priest martyred for officiating at weddings when the pagan emperor of the day forbade that. His feast day is celebrated by those who use the Roman Missal of 1962 authorised by Pope St John XXIII in the year that the Second Vatican Council began.

You can read about the saint on the website of the Carmelite Friars (OCarm), Whitefriar Street, Dublin. 

03 February 2022

'Alberto, you have touched our soul and I feel that I am lit by the fire of God.' Sunday Reflections, 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Miraculous Draught of Fishes
Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord (Luke 5:8).

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 5:1-11 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)  

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, Jesus was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signalled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Luke 5:1-11, today's Gospel, in Filipino Sign Language

The painter Raphael captures something of the awe of St Peter when he saw how much fish he and his companions had caught, despite their misgivings as experienced fishermen in following the advice of someone they knew to be a carpenter from the mountains of Galilee. St Peter, who had a long way to go in his formation as a follower of Jesus, recognised the utter generosity of God's providence.

Columban Fr John Griffin, a New Zealander who worked for many years both in the Philippines and Chile tells a story about St Alberto Hurtado SJ (1901 - 1952) - still known and loved in Chile as 'Padre Hurtado' - and his trust in God's providence in A priest, I bless you - Alberto

Providence was always on his side. At a meeting one night his board of directors was unwilling, for lack of funds, to approve a new project. In the midst of discussions there was an unexpected call for Fr Hurtado to attend to someone at his front door. He had a brief conversation with the caller who said she wanted to leave a gift to help the great work he was doing.

He gratefully put her envelope in his pocket, wished her a good evening and returned to his meeting. He looked at the contents of the envelope as he sat down. Then he tossed a check onto the table saying, ‘There you are, ye of little faith!’ It was for one million pesos – worth about US$30,000 at that time. 

Benedict XVI canonized San Alberto on 23 October 2005

God's providence is something I have experienced many times. One example is when I was asked to write an article for the Columban magazine in the USA, Columban Mission. So I wrote  The Miracle Girls! and it was published in October 2012 (pages 17-19) and later in The Far East, the Columban magazine in Australia and New Zealand.

I got the title from one of the girls at Holy Family Home for Girls, Bacolod City,after the release of kidnapped Columban Fr Michael Sinnott in the Philippines in 2009. I had asked the girls to pray for Fr Sinnott's safe release. When I told them that God had heard their fervent prayers - and fervent they were - one of them came up to me and said, 'Father, we are the miracle girls!' (They were actually part of an international 'prayer brigade').

She was expressing something like St Alberto, a total trust in God's providence.

I was happy when my article was published but had no idea how many readers would respond with generosity, a generosity that enables the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of the Holy Family to continue to take care of the girls whom God sends their way just as God continues 70 years after his death to provide for the Hogar de Cristo (Home of Christ) movement that San Alberto started and that has spread to other countries.

Like many of 'The Miracle Girls' Father Alberto came from a background of poverty and of violence. But that didn't stop him from hearing God's call. He wanted to be a lawyer in order to help the poor. God answered his desire to help the poor of Chile, not as a lawyer but as a Jesuit priest. God called Peter and his companions to let go of their fears and of their work: Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.

St Luke tells us directly and simply how Peter and Andrew, James and John, responded to the words of Jesus: When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him

They didn't become saints overnight. They failed Jesus many times and Peter even betrayed him. But Jesus never abandoned them and their hope and trust in him never vanished.

St Peter's words can encourage us when we can't see things clearly, when we are disheartened, when we've nowhere to turn to: Yet if you say so . . .



Columban Fr Chris Saenz, now Regional Director of the Columbans in the USA, on two occasions in Chile threw a chronic alcoholic named Ronnie out of his church because he was disrupting Mass. In Interview with Ronnie he allows this man to tell the story of the extraordinary change in his life and the part Padre Hurtado played in that. And Ronnie experienced God's providence in being able to attend the canonization of this remarkable saint in 2005: There was a national lottery for Hogar de Cristo to send 36 persons from around the country.  There were seven spots for volunteers/workers of Hogar de Cristo and 29 for those who, like me, received aid. Different names were submitted from around the country, including mine and a few others from the Ninth Region. When the first ticket was drawn at the lottery my name was on it. I knew than it was Padre Hurtado’s hand again. In fact, I was the only one from our Region to go.

A Hymn to Alberto Hurtado SJ
Written by Pablo Coloma for the beatification of Blessed Alberto on 16 October 1994, Sung by Pablo Coloma and Ximena Concha

Alberto, hoy resuena tu nombre
Se escucha tu palabra encendida
Tu rostro hoy recorre las calles
Tu huella marca un nuevo camino
Profeta que anunciaste el Reino
Supiste denunciar el dolor
Reíste con un canto a la vida
Mostraste un camino mejor.

Alberto, your name resounds today,
your enlightening word is heard,  
your face is seen today on the streets,
your footprints mark a new path.
A prophet who proclaimed the Kingdom,
who knew about pain,
who laughed with a song to life,
who showed a better way.

Alberto contemplé tu figura
incendiando las calles de una oscura ciudad.
Y vi que mil rostros reían
y otros más comprendían que era el paso de Dios.
Alberto has tocado nuestra alma
y ya siento que enciende ese fuego de Dios.
Tu vida fue un regalo divino,
una historia que hizo de este Chile un hogar.

Alberto, I watched you
lighting up the streets of a dark city.
And I saw a thousand faces laughing
and others who understood that that was the way of God.
Alberto, you have touched our soul
and I feel that I am lit by the fire of God.
Your life was a divine gift,
a story that made this Chile a home.

Maestro que enseñaste a vivir
la vida como lo hizo Jesús,
mirando en los hombres que sufren
su cuerpo castigado en la cruz.

A teacher who taught how to live
as Jesus did,
looking at those who suffer,
his body punished on the cross.

Apóstol, compañero de pobres,
viviste en tu carne el dolor
de tantos que viván despreciados,
tus manos fueron pan y un hogar.

Apostle, companion of the poor,  
you lived in your flesh the pain
of the many who are despised,
your hands were bread and a home.

Alberto contemplé tu figura
incendiando las calles de una oscura ciudad.
Y vi que mil rostros reían
y otros más comprendían que era el paso de Dios.
Alberto has tocado nuestra alma
y ya siento que enciende ese fuego de Dios.
Tu vida derramada en las calles
se alsa inmensa hasta el cielo en las manos de todos.

Alberto, I watched you
lighting up the streets of a dark city.
And I saw a thousand faces laughing and others who understood
that that was the way of God.
Alberto, you have touched our soul
and I feel that I am lit by the fire of God.
Your life poured out on the streets
is infinitely raised to heaven in the hands of all.

Isaiah, Sistine Chapel Ceiling

Michelangelo [Wikipediaphoto]

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8; First Reading).

Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) 

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 02-06-2022 if necessary).

Epistle: Colossians 3:12-17.  Gospel: Matthew 13:24-30.

The Sower
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field (Matthew 13:24).