28 May 2023

Three feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary this week

 The Blessed Virgin Mary 

Mother of the Church

Monday After Pentecost Sunday


The disciples devoted themselves with one accord to prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Cf Acts 1:14; Entrance Antiphon).

In 2018 the Church established the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church to be celebrated on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday.

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

31 May

The Visitation

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my Saviour (Luke 1:36-37; Gospel).

I just marvel at the vibrancy of this painting of El Greco. For me it is a dance of life, Mary carrying the Word made flesh and Elizabeth carrying John the Baptist.

Our Lady, Virgin and Queen

31 May (Calendar of Missal of Pope St John XXIII)

The Coronation of the Virgin
Blessed Fra Angelico [Web Gallery of Art]

Let all rejoice in the Lord and make a festive day in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Introit).

In the calendar used by those who celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass in the Missal of Pope St John XXIII issued in 1962 this feast is celebrated on 31 May. However, this year that falls during the Octave of Pentecost, a First Class octave, and so the feast will not be celebrated this year.

Bring Flowers of the Rarest

This hymn, very popular in Ireland particularly in May, was written by Mary E. Walsh in the late 1800s. The words are here. It was sung by the late Irish tenor Frank Patterson at the Faith of Our Fathers concert in Dublin in 1997. Frank was a deeply committed Catholic and died in 2000 at the age of 61. May he rest in peace.

Garland of Flowers with Madonna and Child
Christiaen Luyck [Web Gallery of Art]

26 May 2023

'Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm heart and with ah! Bright wings.' Sunday Reflections, Pentecost, Year A



Sir Anthony van Dyck [Web Gallery of Art]

Pentecost Sunday, Year A

NB: The Vigil Mass has its own prayers and readings. It is a celebration proper to the evening before Pentecost Sunday and may be celebrated in an extended form. It also fulfils our Sunday obligation.

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)  

Gospel John 7:37-39 (English Standard Version, Anglicised, India)

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Mass during the Day, Year A

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel John 20:19-23 (English Standard Version Anglicised, India)

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And 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 withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Giuseppe Maria Crespi [Web Gallery of Art]

Forty-one years ago I did a number of short supplies in parishes in a diocese in the western USA. In one parish where I spent only a weekend I found a note that had been shoved under the front door on Monday morning and addressed to me. There was no signature but it was written in the style of a teenage girl.

Very often anonymous letters are negative and condemnatory of the receiver. This was the very opposite. I don’t remember what the gospel reading of the Sunday was but it highlighted the mercy of God and that is what I had preached about. Whatever I said touched the writer of the note profoundly. She wrote that for years she had hated God. I’ve no idea why or of what had been troubling her. She might well have been the victim of some awful act of another. But when at that Sunday Mass she heard the Good News that God is a forgiving God and that he loves each of us individually and unconditionally she was able to let go of the hatred, if that is what it really was, and of the anger in her heart and accept God’s love. She wrote that for the first time in years she went to Holy Communion.

As we celebrate the Descent of the Holy Spirit the gospel today tells us that the Risen Lord, appearing to the Apostles, breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any it is withheld. 

One of the greatest gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Church is the power to forgive in God’s name, to enable us to hear Jesus say to us what he said to the Apostles twice in today’s short gospel reading, Peace be with you. This is the gift he offered at the Last Supper.

This is the gift God gives us most especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, what many of us still call Confession or Penance.   It is the way in which God, through the Church and specifically through the sacrament of Holy Orders, brings back into communion with him those who have turned away from him through mortal sin, that is a sin involving grave matter, a clear awareness that it is such and full and deliberate consent to the act. To go to confession in that situation is a matter of urgency, to be done before we go to Holy Communion again. Then Holy Communion becomes a true celebration of the full communion that God wants each of us to have with him.

But the sacrament is also a great help to those who are faithfully following Jesus but who sometimes take to byways down which God is not calling them, byways that lead into sin. Though the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not essential for the forgiveness of such sins it is the special way given by God through the Holy Spirit for that. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.

The priest too is a sinner and each time he goes to confession himself he understands the struggle to overcome shame of those who come to him to confess their sins and to receive from him the forgiveness of a merciful and understanding God.

I left that parish on Monday morning and did not know who had shoved the note under the door. I’ve no idea what became of the writer. Perhaps she went to confession shortly after. Very likely she hadn’t committed any grave sin but had suffered greatly because of the actions of another; But whatever the situation was she had a profound experience of God’s mercy that Sunday, something like that of Zacchaeus, like that of the woman caught in adultery, like that of the Prodigal Son.

The gospels don’t tell us what subsequently became of Zacchaues or of the woman caught in adultery. But we know that the Holy Spirit profoundly touched their hearts, healed their wounds and changed their lives as Jesus passed by. And I know that the Holy Spirit profoundly touched the heart and healed the wounds of that young woman in the western USA parish as Jesus ‘passed by’ that Sunday morning through a priest who spent only two nights there.

The Sequence in today’s Mass, Veni Sancte Spiritus, ‘Come, Holy Spirit’, expresses something of that in the seventh stanza:

Lava quod est sordidum, Heal our wounds, our strength renew,
Riga quod est aridum, On our dryness pour your dew,
Sana quod est saucium. Wash the stains of guilt away.

The Lock
John Constable [Web Gallery of Art]

The response for the Responsorial Psalm in the Sunday Mass is: Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth. This is from Psalm 103 [104], the great psalm of creation, verses from which are used in the Responsorial Psalm, which includes these words: You send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth. This is a reminder to us that as Christians we are called by the Holy Spirit to respect and take care of everything that God has created so that it may continue to bring life and not death. Six times in the account of creation in Genesis 1:1-31 we read, And God saw that it was good. The seventh time we read, And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.

English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ captures something of the presence of the Holy Spirit in every aspect of creation and life in the closing lines of his poem God’s Grandeur:

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent 
World broods with warm heart and with ah! Bright wings.

God's Grandeur
by Gerard Manley Hopkins, read by Jonathan Roumie

Traditional Latin Mass

Pentecost or Whitsunday

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 05-28-2023 if necessary).

Lesson: Acts 2:1-11. Gospel: John 14:23-31.


And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them (Acts 2:3; Lesson).

17 May 2023

Sunday Reflections, Ascension; 7th Sunday of Easter, Year A


Ascension Cupola
Italian Mosaic Artist [WebGallery of Art]

Ascension, Year A

The Ascension is celebrated on Ascension Thursday, 18 May, in England & Wales, Scotland. In the USA it is celebrated on Ascension Thursday in the Ecclesiastical Provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Omaha, Philadelphia. In all of these places Ascension Thursday is a Holyday of Obligation.

The Ascension is observed on Sunday, 21 May, in Aotearoa-New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Philippines, USA (apart from the jurisdictions mentioned above).

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Matthew 28:16-20 (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year A

These readings are used in regions where the Ascension is observed on Ascension Thursday.

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel John 17 1-11 (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

Andrea della Robbia [WebGallery of Art]

The reflection is for the Ascension.

Halliday Square, Dublin
[Original source: myhome.ie]

Early in the summer of 1953 when I was ten my father taught me how to ride a bicycle. In August of that year, when we were on holiday in Bray, south of Dublin, he taught me how to swim. I borrowed my cousin Deirdre's small blue bike and practised on Halliday Square, Dublin, just below Finn Street where we lived. It had a long enclosed garden in the centre where some local people grew vegetables, as I recall, and in my young mind was a kind of racing circuit.

However, in order to do any racing I had to learn first to keep on the bike while moving. My father held on to the saddle while I moved forward, wobbling quite a bit for about ten metres before we'd start again. I'm not sure how many times we repeated this or over how many evenings. But a moment arrived when I realized that I was moving forward steadily and surely - and that Dad wasn't holding on to the saddle. I was on my own. A great thrill - with an awareness that I couldn't 'unlearn' how to ride. From that moment I could only move forward, in more senses than one. And before long I found myself racing around the circuit that was Halliday Square, sometimes against others, sometimes just 'against myself'.

Bray Head and beach, Bray, Ireland

Dad's approach to teaching me how to swim was similar. He held his hand under my chest, in fairly shallow water, off the stony beach in the photo above. I was trying to do the breaststroke. As with the bike, he showed great patience and I had absolute trust in him knowing that he wouldn't let me sink, just as he hadn't let me fall off the bicycle.

Once again there was the magic moment when I realized that Dad's hand was no longer touching my chest - I was swimming on my own. And as with cycling, this is an ability that you cannot 'unlearn'.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth, Jesus tells the Apostles in the First Reading (Acts 1:8).

My experience with my father - and with my mother too who often said to me in my childhood years, When you're 21 you'll be responsible for yourself, giving me a goal to reach - helps me understand something of the meaning of today's feast. If my Dad had kept holding on to the saddle of my cousin's bike I would never have learned to go on my own. If he had kept holding me while teaching me to swim I would have remained dependent on him.

If Jesus, the Risen Lord, had stayed with the Apostles they would have remained in Jerusalem and never have gone to 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.

For the next eight years after learning to ride a bike I cycled to school twice each day, unless it was raining, coming home for lunch, getting about an hour's exercise in the process without calling it that. And in a very real way my Dad was always with me because he had enabled me to acquire a skill that in turn gave me a new freedom that brought with it new responsibilities and new possibilities. New possibilities and the responsibilities that go with them continue to arise in my life as a priest. 

And in the life of the Church, as in the life of each individual, new situations with their challenges are constantly arising. The one thing that we can be certain of as disciples of Jesus, carrying out the mission he has entrusted to the Church, whatever our particular part may be in that mission, is the truth of his final words before his Ascension, And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

He is with us always through his Holy Spirit whose coming we will celebrate next week on Pentecost Sunday.

Antiphona ad introitum  Entrance Antiphon Acts 1:11

Viri Galilaei, quid admiramini aspicientes in caelum? Men of Galilee, why gaze in wonder at the heavens?

Quemadmodum vidistis eum ascendentem in caelum, ita veniet, alleluia, [alleluia, alleluia]. This Jesus whom you saw ascending into heaven will return as you saw him go, alleluia, [alleluia, alleluia].

Traditional Latin Mass

The Ascension of the Lord

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 05-18-2023 if necessary).

Lesson: Acts 1:1-11. Gospel: Mark 16:14-20.

The Ascension of Christ
Rembrandt [Web Gallery ofArt]

And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight (Acts 1:9; Lesson). 

Sunday After Ascension

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 05-21-2023 if necessary).

Epistle: 1Peter 4:7-11Gospel: John 15:26-27; 16:1-4.

13 May 2023

'Even the Spirit of Truth.' Sunday Reflections, 6th Sunday of Easter, Year A

The Holy Family with the Father and the Holy Spirit
Carlo Dolci [Web Gallery of Art]

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth (John 14:16-17; Gospel).

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

GospelJohn 14:15-21 (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

Jesus said to his disciples:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

The Last Supper

El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

Today's Gospel is taken from the Last Supper Discourse, found only in St John's Gospel. These are the last intimate words of Jesus to the Twelve Apostles before his death on Calvary the next day. He makes this promise to them: I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.

The Helper, the Spirit of truth, is the Holy Spirit whom the Father was to send on Pentecost Sunday to guide the Church until the return of Jesus in glory on the Last Day. The Holy Spirit guides us through the Holy Bible, through the teaching of the Church and through the many great teachers He has raised up down the centuries. One of those teachers was the author of the Letter to Diognetus, who lived towards the end of the first century AD and into the second. An extract from it was in the Office of Readings in the Breviary last Wednesday. Here is part of that. I have added emphases. 

Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law.

It was the upright lives of the followers of Jesus, especially in the area of chastity, that slowly transformed those around them. Countless Christians from every background, young and old, were martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ and, in many cases, out of contempt for their chastity. 

I'm writing this on Friday 12 May when the Church honours three martyrs. Pope St Damasus writes of two of them: Nereus and Achilleus the martyrs joined the army and carried out the cruel orders of the tyrant, obeying his will continually out of fear. Then came a miracle of faith. They suddenly gave up their savagery, they were converted, they fled the camp of their evil leader, throwing away their shields, armor, and bloody spears. Professing the faith of Christ, they are happy to witness to its triumph. From these words of Damasus understand what great deeds can be brought about by Christ's glory. The third martyr honoured today is St Pancras, from Syria, who became a Christian when he went to Rome and was beheaded for his faith in Jesus Christ, at the age of 14.

The Letter to Diognetus speaks to today's world, especially in the West. Like others, [Christians] marry and have children, but they do not expose them. Another translation of those last few words reads, but they do not destroy their offspring. The killing of babies in the womb is now legal in most countries, in some jurisdictions right up to the moment of birth. And there are places where children who survive abortion are left to die, allowed by law.

Christians share their meals, but not their wives. In many Western countries now the very concept of family, consisting of husband, wife and children, has been undermined, with divorce becoming more and more common among those who have married, and sexual activity outside of marriage being accepted as normal, usually with no till death to us part involved. 

A parody of marriage is now legal and socially accepted in many countries, mostly in the West, and those who oppose 'marriage' between two persons of the same sex are often condemned as 'bigots'. Two generations ago the very idea of such a 'marriage' would have been laughed at.

What Genesis 1:27 teaches us, as does nature itself, is now being rejected more and more: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Legislators, some of them claiming to be 'devout Catholics', approve of the genital mutilation of minors, in some jurisdictions without the consent of their parents, in a vain and tragic effort to change their sex, an impossibility.

Language has been corrupted to bring all of this about. Terms such as 'the gender assigned at birth' instead of the sex of a person being there from the moment of conception, as science teaches us, are being widely used in order to dehumanise us. We are being asked to worship false gods just as Saints Nereus, Achilleus and Pancras were asked to do. They gave their lives for Jesus Christ rather than do that.

Every moment of our life, everything we do, every decision we make, are meant to be informed by our faith in Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, as Jesus described himself in last Sunday's Gospel. We know that he loves us, that he died for us, that he rose again in glory, that he and the Father have sent the Holy Spirit to guide us, that he will come to judge us on the Last Day when everything will be seen clearly.

The description of the life Christians are called to in the letter to Diognetus written 1,800 years ago speaks to today's world, especially the Western world, now a post-Christian world, but a world where the Holy Spirit still can fill us with wisdom and courage to bear witness to Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

I will finish with two quotations that reflect what the Letter to Diognetus says. One is on the top of the homepage of this blog: 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). 

The other is from the Servant of God Sr Lucia of Fatima OCD which I found in Magnificat - a monthly liturgical publication I can recommend unreservedly - and is a reflection for the Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima, celebrated today as I finish this. Sr Lucia writes: From the moment of our conception, our life continues through time and goes on to eternity, where it will abide. As long as we live on this earth we are pilgrims on the way to heaven, if we keep to the way that God has marked out for us. This is the most important thing in our lives: that we should behave in such a way as to ensure that, when we depart from this world and at the end of time, we shall deserve to hear from the lips of Jesus Christ those consoling words: 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world'.

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth.


David Carlin describes what has happened in recent decades in the Western world and in the USA in particular in Logical, but Mad.

If Ye Love Me
Music by Thomas Tallis (c.1605 – 1685)
Sung by The Mancunium Consort

Text: If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; e’en the Spirit of truth (John 14:15-17; King James Version).

This is from today’s Gospel and includes the words of the Communion Antiphon.

Traditional Latin Mass

Fifth Sunday After Easter

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 05-14-2023 if necessary).

Epistle: James 1:22-27. Gospel: John 16:23-30.

The Penitent Magdalen
Georges de La Tour [Web Gallery of Art]

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (James 1:23-25; Epistle).