29 March 2024

'Christ is risen, he is alive and he walks with us.' Sunday Reflections, Easter Sunday


The Resurrection of Christ

Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

At the Mass during the Day

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel  John 20:1-9  (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going towards the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Regina Coeli
Sung at a Vigil for Life in Notre-Dame de Paris, 22 May 2012

Queen of heaven rejoice, alleluia!
for he whom you were worthy to bear, alleluia!
has risen as he said, alleluia!
Pray for us to God, alleluia!

The Regina Coeli replaces the Angelus during the Easter Season.

Conclusion of Pope Benedict's Urbi et Orbi Message 
Easter Sunday 2011

Dear brothers and sisters! The risen Christ is journeying ahead of us towards the new heavens and the new earth (cf. Rev 21:1), in which we shall all finally live as one family, as sons and daughters of the same Father. He is with us until the end of time. Let us walk behind him, in this wounded world, singing Alleluia. In our hearts there is joy and sorrow, on our faces there are smiles and tears. Such is our earthly reality. But Christ is risen, he is alive and he walks with us. For this reason we sing and we walk, faithfully carrying out our task in this world with our gaze fixed on heaven.

Happy Easter to all of you! 


I have told the following story before here and on many other occasions, especially giving retreats. Each time I share it or recall it I experience the truth of Pope Benedict's words, Christ is risen, he is alive and he walks with us. I have also learned that persons with a deep, committed faith can sometimes be very fragile.

Forty-four years ago I spent part of a summer working in a suburban parish in the USA. One night at around 11 I did something I rarely did: make a late night phone call, and for no other reason than to say 'Hi'. I phoned a friend who was a teacher whom I had first met twelve years earlier when I was a young priest and she a generous, idealistic but confused 16-year-old. I'll call her 'Lily' since that flower is often associated with Easter in northern climes. Over the years I met 'Lily' very rarely as I was in the Philippines.


I was shocked when 'Lily' answered. Her speech was slurred. She told me she had taken an overdose of a drug prescribed for a serious illness she had. I told her I would come over immediately but she said she would not let me in. She lived on her own but near her parents, about thirty minutes from where I was. I took another priest with me.

'Lily', of course, let us in. We spent about three hours with her. I was satisfied that what she had taken wasn't enough to kill her and that she wouldn't do anything drastic in the meantime. I promised to return in the morning.

I spent most of the next two days with 'Lily'. I called her doctor and also phoned a helpline for those dealing with or attempting suicide. 

I had seen 'Lily' grow in her faith over the years. After qualifying as a teacher she chose to teach in a parochial elementary school rather than in a public school, even though the salary was lower. She had a sense of mission. She came from a Catholic family but was aware since her childhood of her father's infidelity. But when she had attempted suicide when about 17 she saw her parents' great love for her, despite everything.

Yet it was something her mother said to her that had triggered off this latter attempt at suicide. 'Lily' felt that she wasn't living up to her mother's expectations. I think it was during the second morning I was with 'Lily' that she asked me, 'What are your expectations of me?' I answered, 'I don't have any expectations, only hopes'.

Hearing the word 'only hopes' was the turning point. That was when 'Lily' decided to live.

A few days later ‘Lily’ came to the parish where I was working for confession and Mass and she was truly filled with the joy that only the Lord can give. She also wrote me a long letter - she was a wonderful letter-writer - about her experience

Woman Writing a Letter
Gerard Terborch [Web Gallery of Art]

In her letter 'Lily' said: I have come to learn more about myself - as a 'vulnerable' yet 'hopeful' person, and yet even more important - I feel that my relationship with the Lord has deepened. I have a deeper hunger to be united with Him on a more intimate and dependent level.

Further on 'Lily' wrote: Most times we need to see and hear and feel Christ through another, to be able to believe in Him more faithfully and securely . . . I realize that years and years of therapy can amount to nothing unless the Lord is a very central part of it. I was able to share my fears, hurts, confusion, pain and - thank God - tears with you in and through the anointing of your priesthood . . .

'Lily' died peacefully the following year having received the Last Sacraments and ready to accept death at the age of 29. May she enjoy the fulness of the Resurrection.

Jesus is Risen
Flashmob, Beirut, Lebanon

I have posted this video every Easter for some years. For me it is one of the most joyful proclamations of the Resurrection I have ever come across. It is also a reminder to us that most Christians in the Middle East, including Lebanon, are Arabs whose language is Arabic, the language in which this Easter hymn is sung by professional singers.

Traditional Latin Mass

Easter Sunday

The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 03-31-2024 if necessary).

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 5:7-8Gospel: Mark 16:1-7. 

Breviary, Baking Bread

French Miniaturist [Web Gallery of Art]

Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:8; Epistle).

22 March 2024

St Óscar Romero's 44th anniversary. Sunday Reflections, Palm Sunday, Year B

Entry into Jerusalem (scene 1)
Duccio di Buoninsegna [Web Gallery of Art]

And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! (Mark 11:9).

Palm Sunday, Year B

The Commemoration of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem

Mark 11:1-10. (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”


John 12:12-16. (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,

“Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
    sitting on a donkey's colt!”

His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.

Readings for Mass

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

The Adoration of the Name of Jesus

At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11; Second Reading).

This reflection is a slightly edited version of what I posted in 2012. This Sunday is the 44th anniversary of the murder of Archbishop Romero who was canonised on 14 October 2018 by Pope Francis. His feast day is 24 March.

There’s an expression in Irish, An té atá thuas óltar deoch air; an té atá thíos buailtear cos air (‘The one who succeeds is toasted; the one who fails is kicked’). On Palm Sunday Jesus was joyfully welcomed with people shouting ‘Hosanna!’ Five days later the mob that surely included at least some who had cried out ‘Hosanna!’ was shouting ‘Crucify him!’

The last century saw Hitler's ‘The Thousand Year Reich’ end in ruins after only twelve years, the overthrowing of many dictators, powerful politicians ending up in jail or on the gallows, statues that some of them had built in their own honour toppled from their pedestals.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) in A Christmas Carol describes the reaction of a young woman when her husband comes home with news of the debt they owed.

He sat down to the dinner that had been hoarding for him by the fire; and when she asked him faintly what news (which was not until after a long silence), he appeared embarrassed how to answer.
'Is it good,' she said, 'or bad?' – to help him.
'Bad', he answered.
'We are quite ruined?'
'No. There is hope yet, Caroline.'
'If  he relents,' she said, amazed, 'there is! Nothing is past hope, if such a miracle has happened.'
'He is past relenting,' said her husband. 'He is dead.'
She was a mild and patient creature if her face spoke truth; but she was thankful in her soul to hear it, and she said so, with clasped hands. She prayed forgiveness the next moment, and was sorry; but the first was the emotion of her heart.

This took place after Scrooge, in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come had asked the Ghost, who had been showing him scenes around the death of someone unloved whom Scrooge had not yet recognized as himself, If there is any one person in the town, who feels emotion caused by this man’s death, show that person to me, Spirit, I beseech you!

The instinctive emotion was relief, as it always is, at least for a while, when a tyrant is overthrown. I remember my own feelings of relief and joy when dictator Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines was overthrown in February 1986.

The story of the conversion of Scrooge is set at Christmastime but what underlies it is what we commemorate and celebrate during the coming week, the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, God who became Man. Jesus could see clearly through the adulation offered him on Palm Sunday. We’ve no reason to believe that the welcome the people gave him was insincere or that Jesus didn’t accept it. But, for some at least, the welcome they gave Jesus was surely shallow. The parable of the seeds was reflected in the responses showed during the coming week by those who welcomed him.

Overthrown or deceased tyrants are not usually remembered for being loving. Some children are unfortunate enough to have a parent who is tyrannical. Some have been affected for life by a teacher who has terrorized his students. Dickens’s novels provide us with many such characters, reflective of people in real life. They are full of children who have been abused in different ways. In recent years we have become all too familiar with a reality that many of us could never have imagined – the abuse of children by priests and religious. There is a growing awareness of the much wider reality of abuse of children in families.

But the death of Jesus led initially to great sorrow and remorse, a loss of hope, until the reality of his Resurrection became apparent to his closest followers. Then they began to see him and understand his mission in a new way. Then they began to see how he had always been on the side of the outsider – the blind, the lame, the deaf, the leper, the child. Even the animal he chose to ride on into Jerusalem is described by GK Chesterton in the poem below as The devil’s walking parody / On all four-footed things. But the humble donkey also had his hour.

When Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez was appointed Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador, on 23 February 1977 the governing authorities welcomed this. They gave him a sort of Palm Sunday welcome as someone they perceived to be pious and compliant. He was indeed a deeply pious person, in the full sense of one devoted to the will of God the Father, and this was the foundation on which the dramatic last years of his life were based. On 24 March 1980 agents of the state shot Archbishop Romero dead while he was celebrating Mass in a hospital chapel (photo below). His 'Holy Week' had lasted just over three years.

St Óscar Romero assassinated while celebrating Mass, 24 March 1980

In his final homily, just before he was murdered, Archbishop Romero concluded with these words, May this Body immolated and this blood sacrificed for Mankind nourish us also, that we may give our body and blood over to suffering and pain, like Christ – not for Self, but to give harvests of peace and justice to our people.

A few days earlier Archbishop Romero had said to a journalist, I need to say that as a Christian I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the people of El Salvador . . . If they manage to carry out their threats, as of now, I offer my blood for the redemption and resurrection of El Salvador. If God accepts the sacrifice of my life, then may my blood be the seed of liberty and the sign that hope will soon become a reality. May my death, if it is accepted by God, be for the liberation of my people, as a witness of hope in what is to come. You can tell them that if they succeed in killing me, I pardon and bless those who do it. A bishop may die, but the Church of God, which is in the people, will never die.

In 1994 St John Paul II wrote in Tertio AdvenienteAt the end of the second millennium, the Church has once again become a Church of martyrs . . . It is a testimony that must not be forgotten. Among the Catholic martyrs of the new millennium are my close friend and Columban colleague Fr Rufus Halley, shot dead on 28 August 2001 having spent 20 years trying to be a bridge between Christians and Muslims in Mindanao, Fr Ragheed Aziz Ganni, shot dead in Iraq after celebrating Mass on Pentecost Sunday 2007 and Pakistani politician Clement Shahbaz Bhatti, murdered just after visiting his mother on 2 March 2011.

Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter bring hope into our lives. We can see our often shallow enthusiasm for Jesus echoed in the crowds greeting him on Palm Sunday. We can see our frequent betrayals of him in small matters and big as we listen to the Passion, this year that of St Mark, on Palm Sunday and again to St John’s version on Good Friday. But the reality that Jesus, God who became Man, the Son of God the Father, took on all of this so that we might have life to the full. Óscar Romero, Rufus Halley, Ragheed Ganni and Shahbaz Bhatti all walked with Jesus on Palm Sunday, walked with him to Calvary on Good Friday and now share in the joy of his Resurrection, bringing hope to the rest of us, a hope rooted in their faith in Jesus the Risen Lord.

Traditional Latin Mass

Palm Sunday

The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 03-24-2024 if necessary).

The Blessing of Palms

Gospel: Matthew 21:1-9

The Mass

Epistle: Philippians 2:5-11. Gospel: Matthew 26:36-27:66. 

Christ Carrying the Cross

19 March 2024

Honouring the Queen of Heaven during Lent

The Coronation of the Virgin
Blessed Fra Angelico, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence [Web Gallery of Art]

Compline, the official Night Prayer of the Church ends with an anthem  of antiphon to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In monasteries this is sung. In the traditional liturgical calendar there are four of these, all in Latin.

Alma Redemptoris Mater is sung from Saturday before the 1st Sunday of Advent through February 1.

The anthem from 2 February, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, through Wednesday of Holy Week is Ave, Regina caelorum.

Regina caeli is the Easter anthem, sung from Easter Sunday through Friday within the Octave of Pentecost.

The best known anthem, sung on many occasions apart from Compline, is Salve, Regina. It is the anthem for Compline from Saturday after the Octave of Pentecost through Friday before the 1st Sunday of Advent.

Sung by the Choir of the Holy Ghost Fathers (Spiritans), Chevilly, France, conducted by Fr Lucien Deiss CSSp.

 Ave, Regina caelorum , / Ave, Domina Angelorum: / Salve, radix, salve, porta, / Ex qua mundo lux est ora:

Hail, Queen of heaven; / hail Mistress of the Angels; / hail, root of Jesse: hail, the gate / through which the Light rose over the earth.

Gaude, Virgo gloriosa, / Super omnes speciosa, / Vale, o valde decora, / Ex pro nobis Christum exora.

Rejoice, Virgin most renowned / and of unsurpassed beauty. / Farewell, Lady most comely. / Prevail upon Christ to pity us.

English translation from The Roman Breviary, published by Baronius Press, MMXIX.

Ave, Regina caelorum
Setting by Cipriano de Rore (c.1516-1565)
Sung by Voces8 with Voces8 Foundation Choir

For me this music is utterly sublime, a foretaste of heaven. One doesn't have to listen to the lyrics, just the blend of voices, voices that remind us that we are truly made in the image and likeness of God.

15 March 2024

'And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.' Sunday Reflections, 5th Sunday of Lent, Year B


Sheaves of Wheat
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24).

In Ireland the Solemnity of St Patrick is celebrated this Sunday, with everything from the Mass for that feast including the Gloria. However, the readings are those of the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B.

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel John 12:20-33 (English Standard Version Anglicised, India)

Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.

“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Christ in Agony on the Cross

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself (John 12:32; Gospel).

I am using here what I posted in 2012 on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B, with some modifications.

When Fr Patrick Sheehy died suddenly at the age of 80 in the Columban retirement home in Ireland eight days before Christmas 1999 people began to notice that certain things weren’t being done anymore, simple things such as newspapers and letters being brought to men who weren’t very mobile.

Father Pat, from Union Hall, in west Cork, one of the most beautiful parts of Ireland, if not the world, was ordained in 1944 and went to China in 1946. He was expelled from there in 1951 and moved to Japan, where he was to spend the next 38 years, apart from a two-year break for health reasons. When he retired to Ireland ‘he quietly kept busy at many corporal works of mercy until his sudden death, as Those Who Journeyed With Us, the Columban book of brief obituaries, puts it.
When I read in today’s Gospel, And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself, I thought of Father Pat. He didn’t do anything to draw attention to himself. But in his death he drew the attention of those around him to the simple ways in which the Lord had been present through him in his thoughtful acts.

The Venerable Matt Talbot (2 May 1856 - 7 June 1925)
This is the only known photo of Matt Talbot, taken near the end of his life.

I thought of the Venerable Matt Talbot, - ‘The Workers’ Saint’ - whose sudden death in Granby Lane, behind the Dominican church in Dublin, where he was on his way to Mass on Trinity Sunday, 7 June 1925, led to the discovery of the extraordinarily ascetical life he had led for 41 years after giving up the alcohol to which he had been addicted. A penitential chain was found on his body. All the evidence later discovered pointed to the fact that this was something he wore only occasionally and with the permission of his spiritual director. But without that chain nobody would have known anything about this extraordinary man, with little formal education, living a profound life of penance and prayer while working as a labourer on the docks of Dublin and sharing the little money he had with those poorer than himself.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. Again, Matt Talbot never sought any attention for himself. As a poor, working man, he would have got little attention anyway. But in his death he brought many closer to the Jesus he loved, especially alcoholics like himself. He had to decide each day to live soberly. He had to decide each day to pray, to attend Mass, to fast, to give himself to his work, to give away what he earned.

Father Pat Sheehy had to give up his dream of spending all his life in China when, with so many others, he was expelled. He had to let go of Japan for two years in the mid-1950s because of poor health, though the Lord brought him back there. When retired he had to decide each day to do each act of kindness that he did quietly, many of which weren’t clearly seen until he died.

Each decision we make to die to self in some way is a living out of the words of Jesus today: unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Very often it is others who reap this rich harvest.

Matt Talbot Servant of God Part 1

In 1985 the late Fr Desmond Forristal, a priest of the Archdiocese of Dublin, wrote the script for a video showing the life of Matt Talbot. It used the device of having Matt himself, played by Seamus Forde, walking through the streets of Dublin 60 years after his death and telling his own story. For me this device works marvellously well. The two videos above and below form a unit and last less than 30 minutes.

When I was growing up in Dublin in the 1940s and 1950s Matt Talbot was a household name. I don't think it is now. In Matt's time alcoholism was a scourge. It still is for many. But today the use of illegal drugs is an even greater scourge, accompanied by violent crime that is an international business causing countless deaths.

Matt Talbot Servant of God Part 2

Prayer for the Canonisation of Matt Talbot 

Lord, in your servant, Matt Talbot you have given us a wonderful example of triumph over addiction, of devotion to duty, and of lifelong reverence for the Most Holy Sacrament. 

May his life of prayer and penance give us courage to take up our crosses and follow in the footsteps of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. 

Father, if it be your will that your beloved servant should be glorified by your Church, make known by your heavenly favours the power he enjoys in your sight. 

We ask this through the same Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Traditional Latin Mass

Passion Sunday

The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 03-17-2024 if necessary).

Epistle: Hebrews 9:11-15Gospel: John 8:46-59. 

Young Jew as Christ
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

Whoever is from God hears the words of God (John 8:47; Gospel).