25 August 2023

‘To serve the unity of those who have become brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.’ Sunday Reflections, 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

St Peter

'You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it' (Matthew 16:18; Gospel). 

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Matthew 16:13-20 (English Standard Version Anglicised)

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Benedict XVI in 2010

This week I'm using what I used three years ago, with some slight editing. Again I fall back on Pope Benedict XVI. This is the Angelus talk on today's gospel that he gave on 24 August 2008 in Castel Gandolfo. I have highlighted parts of it, something I found difficult to do as it is so deep and rich - and yet so clear and simple.

Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday's liturgy addresses to us Christians but also at the same time to every man and every woman the double question that one day Jesus put to his disciples. He first asked them: ‘Who do men say that the Son of man is?’ They answered him saying that some of the people said John the Baptist restored to life, others Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. The Lord then directly questioned the Twelve: ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter spoke enthusiastically and authoritatively on behalf of them all: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’. This solemn profession of faith the Church continues to repeat since then. Today too, we long to proclaim with an innermost conviction: ‘Yes, Jesus, you are the Christ, the Son of the living God!’ Let us do so in the awareness that Christ is the true ‘treasure’ for whom it is worth sacrificing everything; he is the friend who never abandons us for he knows the most intimate expectations of our hearts. Jesus is the ‘Son of the living God’, the promised Messiah who came down to earth to offer humanity salvation and to satisfy the thirst for life and love that dwells in every human being. What an advantage humanity would have in welcoming this proclamation which brings with it joy and peace!

‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Jesus answers Peter's inspired profession of faith: ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven’. This is the first time that Jesus speaks of the Church, whose mission is the actuation of God's great design to gather the whole of humanity into a single family in Christ. Peter's mission, and that of his Successors, is precisely to serve this unity of the one Church of God formed of Jews and pagans of all peoples; his indispensable ministry is to ensure that she is never identified with a single nation, with a single culture, but is the Church of all peoples - to make present among men and women, scarred by innumerable divisions and conflicts, God's peace and the renewing power of his loveThis, then, is the special mission of the Pope, Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter: to serve the inner unity that comes from God's peace, the unity of those who have become brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.

In the face of the enormous responsibility of this task, I am increasingly aware of the commitment and importance of the service to the Church and the world that the Lord has entrusted to me. I therefore ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to support me with your prayers so that, faithful to Christ, we may proclaim and bear witness together to his presence in our time. May Mary, whom we invoke with trust as Mother of the Church and Star of Evangelization, obtain this grace for us.

Young Jew as Christ
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

Pope Benedict's short reflection touches on so many fundamental things. Our faith as Christians is in the Person of Jesus Christ, God who became Man. Jesus calls us into a personal relationship with him, not in an exclusive 'You and I only' sense but in an intimate 'You, I and all of us' sense as members of the Church with a common mission given by Jesus to the Church.

As members of the Church we share in the mission given us by Jesus Christ. Pope Benedict says, I therefore ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to support me with your prayers so that, faithful to Christ, we may proclaim and bear witness together to his presence in our time. 

Our common mission is to proclaim and bear witness together to his presence in our time. That means that Jesus calls each of us to realise that every person we meet is meant to meet Jesus in us - in every aspect of our lives, private and public. 

Yet so many politicians, for example, who announce to the world that they are faithful Catholics promote the evils of abortion and the genital mutilation of confused minors who think they want to be the opposite sex. Many voters who see themselves as faithful Catholics support them in this. This, in effect, is saying that Jesus Christ our Saviour promotes the killing of unborn children and the physical/sexual abuse of minors. 

Pope Benedict by addressing us as Dear brothers and sisters, reminds us of our deepest identity: we are sons and daughters of God the Father through our baptism. We are brothers and sisters of Jesus through our baptism. As such, we are brothers and sisters of one another through baptism.

Our baptism, through which we have received our Christian faith, is pure gift from God. Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. We are called by baptism to proclaim the presence of Jesus in the world so that others may come to know Him. Pope Benedict doesn't mention baptism specifically but everything he says makes sense only in the context of our having been baptised.

Jesus through his Church does not identify himself with any particular nation or with any particular ethnic group. Yet he speaks to each nation, to each group, to each individual within their own culture. Some years ago in the Philippines when celebrating Sunday Mass in a home for girls most of whom had been abused before going there, I showed during my homily a very poor black-and-white reproduction of Rembrandt's painting above. One girl, aged about 14, asked me if she could have the picture. (I later had a proper copy made and framed for her). I asked her what had attracted her in the painting. He is so human, she said. This painting done in Amsterdam nearly 400 years before spoke to her heart. Rembrandt, through his painting in which he had a Jewish refugee from Spain as a model, was able to proclaim and bear witness to the presence of Jesus in our time to a young girl in the Philippines in the 21st century who had suffered greatly.

These are some random thoughts. Pope Benedict's Angelus message has so much in it and can be a source of prayer and contemplation in trying to answer the question Jesus puts before us today: But who do you say that I am?

Collect from the Mass for the Pope

O God, who in your providential design 
willed that your Church be built 
upon blessed Peter, whom you set over the other Apostles, look with favour, we pray, on Francis our Pope 
and grant that he, whom you have made Peter's successor, may be for your people a visible source and foundation 
of unity in faith and of communion.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Tu es Petrus
Setting by Palestrina
Sung by Yonsei University Concert Choir, South Korea
conducted by Hae Ock Eunice Kim Bang        

Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversum eam. Et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum.

You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:18-19). 

Traditional Latin Mass

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 08-27-2023 if necessary).

Epistle: Galatians 3:16-22. Gospel: Luke 17:11-19.

Codex Aureus of Echternach
German Miniaturist [Web Gallery of Art]

The lowest panel depicts the Gospel, the healing of the ten lepers.

19 August 2023

'Let all the peoples praise you.' Sunday Reflections, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A


Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Fahey (née Phelan)
14 February 1945 – 2 August 2023

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Matthew 15:21-28 (English Standard Version Anglicised, India)

Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Christ and the Canaanite Woman
Juan de Flandes [Web Gallery of Art]

But she came and knelt before him, saying, 'Lord, help me' (Matthew 15:25; Gospel).

On Friday the fourth of August I concelebrated at the funeral Mass of my friend Betty in the Church of the Holy Family, Aughrim Street Dublin, the parish in which we both grew up. Betty and I lived on the same street, though both our families moved to different streets in the area in the late 1950s. Betty spent her whole life in the parish. We were just friendly neighbours until one summer's afternoon when I was home from St Columban's seminary where I'm living once again, though there are no more seminarians here but mostly retired Columban missionary priests. We happened to be on the same 72 bus from Dublin city centre to the area where our families lived. From that conversation on the bus I became a good friend of Betty and her family rather than just a friendly neighbour.

Houses in Finn Street, Dublin

We lived in the house on the right while Betty’s family lived on the other side of the street. These houses had two bedrooms upstairs and one room downstairs with a small kitchenette and an outdoor toilet. They were built by the Dublin Artisans’ Dwellings Company.

When Betty and I were young our parish had five priests. Now it has two, the curate (assistant priest) being from Romania, Fr Coriolan Rumesan, known as 'Father Corri'. He is also chaplain to the Romanian-Greek Catholics in the Archdiocese of Dublin. Back in the 1950s we could not have imagined that there would be only two priests in our parish by the 2020s. Nor could we have imagined that a priest from Romania would be the celebrant at Betty's funeral Mass.

Betty was very much involved in the parish for many years and was an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. This sometimes involved bringing Holy Communion to the sick. She and Jerry were both involved in the chaplaincy in McKee Barracks, very near where they lived and within the parish. Jerry had been in the Defence Forces for many years.

When Father Corri arrived in Ireland eight years ago, a stranger, Jerry and Betty befriended him, helped him get settled into his house beside the parish church and adjust to life in Ireland. He became a close family friend. Betty sometimes accompanied him on his Communion calls.

Father Corri tended to Betty during her last illness, bringing her the sacraments and helping her family cope with the situation. In his homily at the funeral Mass he pointed out aspects of Betty's life that were a living out of the Scripture texts read at the Mass. His homily wasn't a eulogy but a call to the congregation to faithfully follow Jesus Christ. He pointed out some of the ways in which Betty had done this while asking us to pray for her soul and the souls of all who had died.

The friendship of Jerry and Betty with Father Corri has been a precious gift for him. Such a friendship is a grace from God for any priest, as I know from happy experience with married couples.

Holy Family Window
Holy Family Church, Aughrim St [Source]

A central theme running through the readings in this Sunday's Mass is welcoming the foreigner. In the First Reading Isaiah tells us: And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants . . . these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

One of those 'foreigners' was offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in our parish church at Betty's funeral and it was truly a house of prayer for all peoples.

It is only in the last 25 years that immigrants, some of them refugees, have been coming to Ireland in large numbers. Before that the percentage of people from overseas in the country was negligible. Recent censuses in both parts of Ireland show that around twelve per cent of people living in the whole of Ireland are from other countries. 

The Sanctuary
Holy Family Church, Aughrim St [Source]

The altar is the original one, moved forward. I celebrated my First Mass on this altar in its original position on 21 December 1967, the old feast of St Thomas the Apostle.

The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 66 [67] and the response is taken from it: Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you. It is a very joyful psalm, foreshadowing the universality of the Church.

Knock Shrine

I had a very personal experience of that as June turned into July this year. I spent a weekend at Knock Shrine in County Mayo, Ireland, where our Blessed Mother appeared in 1879. ('Knock' is an anglicised form of the Irish word cnoc, meaning 'hill'. The place is now known in Irish as Cnoc Mhuire, 'Mary's Hill'.) With me were William and Nina Cimafranca, a Filipino couple whom I have known for many years and who now live in Sydney, Australia. While there I went to confession in the Chapel of Reconciliation to an African priest, probably a Nigerian. Again, this is something I simply could not have imagined when I was young. 

William and Nina went back to Dublin on Sunday afternoon while I stayed on to make a retreat for priests to be given by Fr Eric Lozada, a priest of the Diocese of Dumaguete in the Philippines. Father Eric has been a friend for many years and is currently the International Responsible of Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests, a movement inspired by the spirituality of St Charles de Foucauld. William, Nina and I were able to have lunch with Father Eric before they left and the retreat began. It turned out that he knew some of William's relatives in Dumaguete. 

During my stay in Knock I met members of a large contingent of pilgrims from the African Chaplaincy in Dublin and Syro-Malabar Catholics from Kerala, India. Knock is a place that lets all the peoples praise you.

Chapel of Reconciliation, Knock Shrine

The feisty Canaanite woman in the Gospel, an 'outsider' whose faith in Jesus and love for her sick daughter touched his heart, foreshadows that our fundamental identity comes from our baptism through which we become sons and daughters of our loving Father, brothers and sisters of Jesus and, through him, of one another. Betty and Jerry welcomed Father Corri as a brother in Christ. They supported him in his ministry as a priest in what was initially for him a strange land. Father Eric in his retreat talks repeatedly addressed us as Brothers.

Let all the peoples praise you.

Laudate Dominum
Composed by Jacques Berthier
Sung by Bethlehem Choir, Catholic Church of the Nativity, Festac Town, Lagos, Nigeria

Laudate Dominum omnes gentes  (Latin) - Let all the peoples praise you.

Traditional Latin Mass

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 08-20-2023 if necessary).

Epistle: 2 Corinthians 3:4-9. Gospel: Luke 10:23-37.

The Good Samaritan
Théodule-Augustin Ribot [Web Gallery of Art]

But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine (Luke 10:33-34; Gospel)).

11 August 2023

Christ at the Helm. Sunday Reflections, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A


St Peter Walking on the Water
Alessandro Allori [Web Gallery of Art]

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Matthew 14:22-33 (English Standard Version Anglicised, India)

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land,[b] beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Fr Willie Doyle SJ
3 March 1873 - 16 August 2017 [Source]

Last Sunday, the Feast of the Transfiguration, I highlighted Fr Willie Doyle's description of two Masses he celebrated during World War One, the second just ten days before his death. I first learned about Father Willie during my kindergarten in Stanhope Street, Dublin (1947-51). Sr Margaret Stanislaus, a member of the Irish Sisters of Charity, now known as the Religious Sisters of Charity, was the principal of the boys' kindergarten. She prepared our class for our First Holy Communion in May 1950 and was for ever talking about two holy priests. One was Fr Damian of Molokai, a Belgian, who chose to liver with lepers on that Hawaiian island and who died among them in 1889 aged 49, a leper himself. Pope Benedict XVI canonised him in 2009.

St Damien of Molokai, 1889
3 January 1840 – 15 April 1889 [Wikipedia]

The other priest Sister Stanislaus spoke about very often was Fr Willie Doyle SJ, killed in Belgium on 16 August 1917 while trying to save two wounded soldiers who happened to be Protestants from what is now Northern Ireland in the Third Battle of Ypres/Ieper, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele. His story became very widely known through the biography written by Alfred O’Rahilly and published in 1922.

Bishop Thomas Deenihan of Meath lauuched the process for the canonisation of Fr Willie Doyle on 22 November last year. Father Willie did his Jesuit novitiate in Tullabeg, which is in the Diocese of Meath. There is a wealth of information about him and of his writings on Father Willie Doyle Association.

The following is Father Willie's reflection on this Sunday's Gospel.

About the fourth watch of the night he cometh to them

Christ did not show himself until the fourth watch of the night. How often is this same history repeated in our own case! There is no encouragement, no comfort. We are wearied waiting. There is no sign of approaching help. Why not give up! Surely we never bargained for this. We never believed things would come to such a pass! Oh, the anguish of these moments, when in the midst of struggle, depression and loneliness Christ withholds his sensible presence. 

Christ delays to come. But he is watching all the time; he would only test us. Let him not be disappointed. This is a moment of tremendous grace. If we are stout of heart and bear our trial manfully, we will emerge from the crucible with well-nigh herculean strength. These are moments that disentangle us from many of the trappings that weaken and weigh us down. After they have passed, invariably we find our vision clearer and our appreciation of the value of things truer.

Walking upon the sea

Thus does he come to us also walking upon the sea with these words upon his lips. 'Have a good heart, fear not. It is I.' And we whisper to ourselves, 'It is the Lord.' Yes, then we understand. Then everything goes easy and we wonder that we should ever have doubted. Then we are ashamed of our wavering. What a beautiful tribute to Christ our trust would have been. So we determine next time we will understand. We decide that when next the tide of our life runs high, when our heart-boat is lashed by a rugged sea, we will understand that Christ is near, watching us and we fight fearlessly and cheerfully. Thus, little by little, troubles and crosses will serve to clamp the trust in Christ that will steady our hearts and like St Peter will will cry out: 'Lord if it be thou, bid me come to thee across the waters.' O the joy of our hearts as the master says 'Come.' And we go. We really walk upon the sea. We do wonders until some tremendous sorrow-wave dashes up between us and Christ, and for a moment we lose heart and cry out 'Lord save me'.

Immediately he spoke with them

Immediately - that word is full of love - stretching forth his hand he takes hold of me. And when He has come into my heart-boat the wind ceased. But it is only after Christ has been given full control of our heart-boat that the winds cease. This is the struggle of our life - to let Christ rule.

So long as he must come over the waters to us there will be many a lonely struggle. But when through great generosity on our part we have emptied our lives of everything likely to raise a tempest in the heart, then Christ will sit at the helm and the waves may toss, the winds may roll and blow about the boat. We are calm. We have no cause to fear. Christ sits at the helm and rules.

The Man at the Helm
Théo van Rysselberghe  [Web Gallery of Art]

The reflection above was taken from pages 182-184 of To Raise the Fallen, compiled and edited by Patrick Kenny and published by Veritas. He also maintains Father Willie Doyle Association the official site for the canonisation cause of the Servant of God Fr Willie Doyle SJ and which has a wealth of information on Fr Doyle and many extracts from his writings, a new post each day.

Father Willie's body was never found

The 'Pioneer pin' mentioned in the video is the emblem worn by members of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart.

Traditional Latin Mass

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 08-13-2023 if necessary).

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 15:1-10Gospel: Mark 7:31-37.

The Conversion on the Way to Damascus
Caravaggio [Web Gallery of Art]

Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God (1 Cor 15:8-9; Epistle). 

09 August 2023

Brendan Kelly, a saintly teenager with Down Syndrome who died from leukaemia

The Little Children Being Brought to Jesus
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

A few weeks ago I came across an article in Crisis Magazine with the intriguing title Brendan Had Three Babies by Austin Ruse. (There is a delightful photo of Brendan there supplied by his family that I was unable to save.) Brendan Kelly, from Virginia, USA, was born with Down Syndrome and developed leukaemia at a young age. This eventually led to his death at the age of 16 in 2013. Here are the opening paragraphs of Austin Ruse's article.

Every year on the anniversary of his passing, Brendan Kelly gives a little gift to a woman who was close with him. It has never been great big things, but always a kind of wink that Brendan is there, and that he loves her. This past May was the 10th anniversary of this 16-year-old boy’s passing, a boy with Down syndrome and a lifelong struggle with leukemia that eventually took his life. 

This year she waited and waited for the little gift that she expected. At the last minute, she was invited to a fundraising dinner for a local school here in Northern Virginia, and she thought that was a lovely little present from Brendan. It was bigger than that, though. That night, she sat at the table and struck up a conversation with a couple sitting near her, Joe and Roxanne Miller. Over the course of the evening, they realized that their little girl, Megan, also with Down syndrome, also with leukemia, had been on the cancer ward with Brendan nearly 16 years ago, when she was 11 months old. Megan was one of “Brendan’s Babies.”

Continue reading Austin Ruse's article to find out who the other two of 'Brendan's babies were'. Towards the end of his article the author writes: God sent Brendan a community that is almost like a desert, a community of vast power and fabulous wealth. He was sent to show that all lives are worth living. I believe Brendan is a canonizable saint, that he will become the patron saint of those with intellectual disabilities. There are many stories to tell about Brendan and his almost mystical faith

Only the Church will eventually decide if Brendan should be formally recognised as a saint. But his story is for me truly inspiring and uplifting, pointing towards God's personal love for each of us and showing it in the most unexpected ways and through the most unexpected persons.

I recently featured Blessed Carlo Acutis in Sunday Reflections. He died in 2006 at the age of 15, also from leukaemia, dying within a week of it being diagnosed. Last Friday I attended the funeral of Mrs Mary (Hurley) Higgins. I didn't know Mary but I knew her three brothers who became Columban priests, Dermot, Paddy and Gerry, and her sister Catherine who became a Columban Sister. Mary was 92. After the funeral Mass Bishop John Buckley, Bishop Emeritus of Cork and Ross, came to pay his respects. I saw him handing out prayer cards of Blessed Carlo to mourners.

God calls young people, including those with various disabilities, to be saints. Pope St John Paul II emphasised this. Young Brendan Kelly met him in 2001 when he was four, as this article by Al Eisele in HuffPost reports.

Chris Ullman shows the impact that Brendan had on him and his family in Brendan Kelly: A Life that Touched Many Hearts

For me one of the most striking things about Blessed Carlo Acutis and Brendan Kelly is their influence on the lives of adults, including their own parents. Chris Ullman highlights this in his article: Imagine that – a father asks me to help keep the spirit of his son alive through a simple song; a son my wife and kids and I never met, but formed a bond with nonetheless, a kid who battled and beat a cruel illness three times until he couldn’t fight any more. He was a child of God who was challenged with Down Syndrome, but who touched many lives: 3,000 people attended his wake.

There is an old expression in the Irish language for a person such as Brendan: Duine le Dia, A Person with God.