30 June 2022

'That young Italian's joy has remained with me for 31 years now.' Sunday Reflections, 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C


Madonna and Child

Francisco de Zurbarán [Web Gallery of Art]

For thus says the Lord:
“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem (Isaiah 66:12-13, First Reading).

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 [or 10:1-9] (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)  

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.  Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money bag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the labourer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 

["But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."]

Léachtaí i nGaeilge 

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes

I have just returned from a week in Lourdes, my first visit in twenty years. I was chaplain to pilgrims mostly from Ireland. They included a mother and daughter from Nigeria living in Dublin and three women originally from Hong Kong where they were at school together and were also members of the Legion of Mary there. Two of them live in England and the other in the USA. They have Zoom meetings regularly where they pray the prayers of the Legion of Mary.

I paid a couple of visits to the baths while in Lourdes. Due to government regulations it is now a different experience from what it used to be. Before, an individual was immersed in a bath, the water flowing from the spring that our Blessed Mother had asked St Bernadette to drink from, a spring that the young girl located only by digging the ground with her hands. There were volunteers from different countries, working in teams, helping those who had difficulties in immersing themselves.

Now there are two volunteers at each bath, only one pilgrim at a time going in. Pilgrims pray silently, then wash their hands with the spring water, drink from their cupped hands and wash their face, praying again before leaving.

While in the baths I recalled a pilgrimage I was on during Easter Week 1971. Our group, all from Ireland, included a number of persons with physical disabilities. One, Tony, also had brain damage, all his injuries the result of a car accident. I accompanied Tony to the baths. I still vividly remember one young Italian man who was part of the team on duty that day in the men's section. He had a smile that conveyed utter joy coming from within his very being, an expression of what Jesus had said to the Apostles the night before he died: These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11). The Italian and his companions showed the greatest respect to Tony as they lowered him into the water.

That young Italian's joy has remained with me for 31 years now, an abiding blessing or grace from God, as so many apparently insignificant events in our lives are.

The First Reading today is also used on the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes (11 February) and that of St Thérèse of Lisieux (1 October). Discovering that after returning from Lourdes was for me a reminder of what I call the thoughtfulness of God. That reading speaks of joy: Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her . . . You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice. The Responsorial Psalm echoes this in its first line, which is also the response: Cry out with joy to God, all the earth. And in the Opening Prayer we pray, fill your faithful with holy joy.

In the longer form of the Gospel we read: The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them . . .  ‘Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

Three years ago the June or July issue of Magnificat, a pocket-sized monthly magazine that is a prayer book and Missal that I highly recommend, has this story of St Justin Martyr who died c.165. He was a philosopher who attached himself to philosophical schools in different places. 

One day, while walking along the beach in Ephesus, Justin met an old man who told him of the teachings of the Hebrew prophets and their fufilment in the person of Jesus Christ. 'My spirit was immediately set on fire,' Justin wrote later.

That young Italian in the baths in Lourdes was to me as the old man St Justin met was to him. But we don't have to go on a pilgrimage to meet such persons. We may meet them on the bus, in the supermarket, while walking in the park. If our hearts are attuned to God's will, especially by walking with our Blessed Mother. She was totally attuned to God's will and was chosen by God from all eternity to bring his Son to the world and to bring all of us to his Son. Guided by her we may find many occasions when we can say, My spirit was immediately set on fire.


Just today, Thursday, The Catholic Thing published an article by Francis X. Maier that shows how someone can be a great blessing to others without being aware of it: Homage to a Good Man.

Calon Lân (A Pure Heart)
Words by Daniel James, tune by John Hughes

I don't ask for a luxurious life,

the world's gold or its fine pearls,

I ask for a happy heart,

an honest heart, a pure heart.

This Welsh hymn is sung on many occasions, including international Rugby matches in Wales. This video was made by BBC Cymru/Wales in the context of the 2014 Six Nations Championship.

And I think that only a pure heart can really Cry out to God with joy.


Traditional Latin Mass

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 7-3-2022 if necessary).

Epistle: Romans 8:18-23Gospel: Luke 5:1-11.

Miraculous Draught of Fishes

29 June 2022

Bono, Pope Benedict XVI and Spe Salvi



[Wikipedia; photo]

Paul David Hewson, the U2 member better known as Bono, spoke recently with Lauren Laverne on Desert Island Discs, a long-running radio programme on the BBC, about his half-brother and his at times difficult relationship with his father, Bob Hewson. 

Sinéad Crowley, the Arts and Media correspondent of RTÉ, Ireland’s national broadcaster, in her report on this wrote: 

Bono (62) also spoke to Laverne about how his relationship with his father came under tremendous strain following the death of his mother, although he now admits he was partly to blame, adding that after Bob's death in 2001, he apologised to him during a visit to a chapel in France.

'There was nobody there, I lit a candle and I got on my knees, and I just said, “look, I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, you went through a lot and please forgive me”, and I felt free,’ Bono said.

Pope Benedict XVI in 2006

What Bono did reminded me of a beautiful passage in Spe Salvi, the Latin title of Pope Benedict's encyclical issued in 2007, words taken from Romans 8:24, in hope we were saved. I have often used this passage, section 48 of the encyclical, at funerals. I have highlighted some parts.

The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death—this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today. Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon?

. . . We should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another . . . The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for him—can play a small part in his purification. And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God's time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain. In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too.

No Man is an Island
by John Donne

Pope Benedict quotes from this poem in the passage from Spe Salvi above .

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
U2 with a gospel choir in Harlem. Lyrics here.

Since we are travellers and pilgrims in the world, let us ever ponder on the end of the road, that is of our life, for the end of our roadway is our home (St Columban, 8th sermon).

18 June 2022

'Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy.' Sunday Reflections, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C


Farmer in a Field
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62, today's Gospel).

I am posting this early because I will be in Lourdes from 20 to 27 June and will not be doing any work on the computer. The post for 19 June, Corpus Christi Sunday, 19 June, is here.

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 9:51-62 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)  

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set towards Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Columban Fr Rufus Halley (1944 - 28 August 2001) with friends in Mindanao

Jesus speaks clearly to us in Sunday's gospel about the cost of following him. Christians are still prepared to give up their very lives to follow Jesus. One example is Fr Rufus Halley, killed on 28 August 2001 in the Philippines. He was a close friend of mine and a Columban confrere. Father Rufus was from County Waterford in Ireland. He entered the Columbans one year after me, in 1962, and was from a relatively wealthy family. But he lived very simply and chose to spend the last 20 years of his life in a predominantly Muslim area in Mindanao, an area where for centuries there has been distrust, and sometimes open hostility, between Christians and Muslims. 

Many of us tend to react as James and John did in a 'them and us' situation. Not Father Rufus. He chose the path of dialogue, learning two new Philippine languages in order to do that - he was already fluent in Tagalog, the language spoken in central Luzon where he had worked for many years - Maranao, the language of most of the Muslims in Lanao del Sur where he was based, and Cebuano, the language of most of the Christian minority there.

He was ambushed and shot dead while riding back to his parish in Malabang from the neighbouring parish of Balabagan. He had been at a meeting of Christian and Muslim leaders. Though the killers happened to be Muslims, both Christians and Muslims mourned him.

Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, then Archbishop of Manila, now retired, wrote an article about Father Rufus, who was known to many as ‘Father Popong’, published in Misyon in July-August 2006

Fr Rufus Halley

In the last two paragraphs of his article Cardinal Rosales writes:  

I knew of the intensity with which Father Rufus lived his own Christian faith, how he began each day with an hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, the centrality of the Mass in his life. A big influence on him was the life of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, 1858-1916, beatified on 13 November 2005. This Frenchman was also from a privileged background. Unlike Pareng Rufus, he lost his Catholic faith and became a notorious playboy before re-discovering it, partly through the example of Muslims living in North Africa. He spent many years as a priest living among the poorest Muslims in a remote corner of the Sahara, pioneering Christian-Muslim dialogue by discovering himself as the Little Brother of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and as the Little Brother of the Muslims who came knocking at his hermitage door.

St Charles de Foucauld, c.1907

Pope Francis canonised St Charles on 15 May this year.

On 1 December 1916 Charles de Foucauld died at the hands of a young gunman outside his hermitage and on 28 September 2001 Pareng Rufus died at the hands of gunmen who ambushed him as he was riding on his motorcycle from a meeting of Muslim and Christian leaders in Balabagan to his parish in Malabang. The local people, both Christian and Muslim, mourned for him deeply. The grief of the Muslims was all the greater because the men who murdered my Pareng Rufus happened to be Muslims. The death of this great missionary priest brought both communities together in their shared grief for a man of God, a true follower of Jesus Christ.

Plaudite Manibus (Psalm 46[47]:2-3, 6-7, 2-3)

Composed by Branko Stark, performed by Thai Youth Choir conducted by Dr Pawasut Piriyapongrat

Branko Stark is a contemporary Croatian composer. Only 1.13 per cent of the population of Thailand is Christian so it is quite possible that there are no Christians in this choir. 

The setting above includes the words of today's Entrance Antiphon, in bold below, taken from the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible.

Antiphona ad introitum  Entrance Antiphon Ps 46[47]:2

Omnes gentes, plaudite manibus; jubilate Deo in voce exsultationis: quoniam Dominus excelsus, terribilis, rex magnus super omnem terram.

Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth.

Ascendit Deus in jubilo, et Dominus in voce tubae. Psallite Deo nostro, psallite; psallite regi nostro, psallite;

God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.

Omnes gentes, plaudite manibus; jubilate Deo in voce exsultationis: quoniam Dominus excelsus, terribilis, rex magnus super omnem terram.

Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth.


Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) 36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

Vatican II, while it introduced the use of the mother tongue, did not banish Latin from the Mass and other liturgies!

Traditional Latin Mass

Third Sunday after Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 06-26-2022 if necessary).

Epistle: 1Peter 5:6-11. Gospel: Luke 15:1-10.

Parable of the Lost Drachma
Domenico Fetti [Web Gallery of Art]

16 June 2022

'O wondrous gift indeed! The poor and lowly may upon their Lord and Master feed.' Sunday Reflections, Corpus Christi Sunday, Year C


Pope Benedict elevating the Body of Christ
[Wikipedia; photo]

Corpus Christi, Year C

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year C 

In most countries this solemnity, formerly celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, is now celebrated on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday, this year replacing the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Luke 9:11b-17 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)  

When the crowds learned it, they followed Jesus, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who needed healing. Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” And they did so, and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

The Elevation of the Host
Jean Béraud [Wikipedia; source]

Jean Béraud’s painting reminds me of Sunday Mass when I was growing up in Holy Family parish in Dublin in the 1940s and 1950s. During the Consecration and the Elevation of the Host and then of the Chalice, there would be a ‘living silence’ expressing a sense of awe at what was happening, the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit acting through the priest. The silence would then be broken by everyone coughing, releasing the life-giving tension of the community’s shared act of adoration.

Each time the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered, the bread and wine brought to the altar at the offertory become the Body and Blood of Christ. They're not 'symbols' of this. They are the Body and Blood of the Risen Lord Jesus. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No 33, puts it, At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood. 

Paul Comtois (1895 - 1966)
Lieutenant Governor of Quebec (1961-1966) [photo]

Just after midnight 21/22 February 1966, a fire destroyed the official residence of Paul Comtois, the Lieutenant Governor of Quebec, Canada,  the official representative of Queen Elizabeth of Canada who lives in England, where she is also Queen. Lieutenant Governor Comtois had been given permission, reluctantly, by the Archbishop to have the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel in his residence. He prayed there every night.

Paul Comtois immediately thought of the Blessed Sacrament when the fire broke out. Having made sure that others in the house were safe he went to the chapel, already in flames. He was able to rescue the Blessed Sacrament but didn't make it to safety. The pyx containing the Blessed Sacrament was found, untouched by the flames, under his charred body.

Canadian priest Fr Raymond de Souza wrote on 7 March 2016 in National Post, one of Canada's dailies, Paul Comtois, the former lieutenant governor of Quebec, was a different kind of martyr. He was not killed by the hatred of others; rather, he was motivated by his own love of Christ. He might be considered a martyr for the Eucharist. 

I might have missed it, but it didn’t seem as though anything was done last month, by either church or state, to mark the 50th anniversary of his death on Feb. 22, 1966. And his story is one that needs to be told.

Fr de Souza quotes from an article by Andrew Cusack in which a family friend, Mac Stearns, relates: His tremendous religious faith impressed me greatly and was no doubt instrumental in my embracing the Catholic faith some time after his death. Knowing his great fervor for the Blessed Sacrament, I have no doubt whatsoever that Paul would do all in his power to rescue the Holy Eucharist from the fire.

The reason for the death of Lieutenant General Comtois was ignored at the time not only by the secular press but by the Catholic press. Cusack quotes Sr Maureen Peckham RSCJ writing in 1988: Yet, Paul Comtois was a man of the world, a well-known socialite, one who had reached the heights of worldly glory; he was one whom the world could recognize as its own. Furthermore, his chivalrous and brave death should, even on the human and wordly level, have merited the title of hero. That he, who had been honored by the world during his lifetime, should have been ignored by the world at the moment of his death, can only be explained by the fact that he died for One Whom the world does not recognize and has ever refused to acknowledge.

I had never heard of Paul Comtois until 2016 when I came across his story on the internet. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No 1374, teaches: 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.' 'This presence is called "real"- by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be "real" too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present. [Emphasis added.]

It is that Presence of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament that the Church celebrates today.

Words by St Thomas Aquinas, music by César Franck
Sung by Patricia Janečková with The Janáček Chamber Orchestra

Patricia Janečková was born on 18 June 1998 and was 19 when the video above was made. Last February she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Please pray for her full recovery.

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 (Benedict XVI).

Latin of St Thomas Aquinas

Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
Dat panis cœlicus
figuris terminum:
O res mirabilis!
Manducat Dominum
pauper, servus et humilis.

English translation by John David Chambers

Thus Angels' Bread is made
the Bread of man today:
the Living Bread from heaven
with figures dost away:
O wondrous gift indeed!
the poor and lowly may
upon their Lord and Master feed.

Traditional Latin Mass

Second Sunday after Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 06-19-2022 if necessary).

Epistle: 1 John 3:13-18. Gospel: Luke 14: 16-24.

St John the Evangelist