30 April 2024

Bring Flowers of the Fairest to Mary in the month of May

 May, the Month of Mary

Garland of Flowers with the Madonna and Child
Christiaen Luyckx [Web Gallery of Art]
You can also find this painting on Wikipedia here.

O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today!

Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.

Bring Flowers of the Rarest (Queen of the May)

Composed by Mary E. Walsh, sung by Frank Patterson

Bring flowers of the rarest
bring blossoms the fairest,
from garden and woodland and hillside and dale;
our full hearts are swelling,
our glad voices telling
the praise of the loveliest flower of the vale!

O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today!
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.
O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.

Their lady they name thee,
Their mistress proclaim thee,
Oh, grant that thy children on earth be as true
as long as the bowers
are radiant with flowers,
as long as the azure shall keep its bright hue


Sing gaily in chorus;
the bright angels o'er us
re-echo the strains we begin upon earth;
their harps are repeating
the notes of our greeting,
for Mary herself is the cause of our mirth.


Request for Prayers

May I ask your prayers for Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder and her husband Pieter. Mariette frequently comments on my blog. Pieter is very ill at the moment. Mariette blogs at Mariette’s Back to Basics.

Mariette and Pieter on 17 March this year

24 April 2024

'Such is the Church, this communion of life with Jesus Christ and for one another . . .' Sunday Reflections, 5th Sunday of Easter, Year B


The Red Vineyard
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel  John 15:1-8  (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

Jesus said to his disciples:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Vineyards with a View of Auvers
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

Today’s gospel was the one used by Pope Benedict when he celebrated Mass in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin on 22 September 2011. In his homily the Pope used these striking words [emphases added]In the parable of the vine, Jesus does not say: 'You are the vine', but: 'I am the vine, you are the branches' (John 15:5). In other words: 'As the branches are joined to the vine, so you belong to me! But inasmuch as you belong to me, you also belong to one another'. This belonging to each other and to him is not some ideal, imaginary, symbolic relationship, but – I would almost want to say – a biological, life-transmitting state of belonging to Jesus Christ. Such is the Church, this communion of life with Jesus Christ and for one another, a communion that is rooted in baptism and is deepened and given more and more vitality in the Eucharist'I am the true vine' actually means: 'I am you and you are I' – an unprecedented identification of the Lord with us, with his Church.

So many are caught in a ‘Jesus and me’ mentality, which ignores the reality of the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation, words from the Second Vatican Council that Pope Benedict quotes.

As I was reading the Pope’s homily I was thinking that he could have been speaking directly to the people of my native Ireland where there is a deep crisis in the Church. He says to the congregation in Berlin, Many people see only the outward form of the Church. This makes the Church appear as merely one of the many organizations within a democratic society, whose criteria and laws are then applied to the task of evaluating and dealing with such a complex entity as the ‘Church’. If to this is added the sad experience that the Church contains both good and bad fish, wheat and darnel, and if only these negative aspects are taken into account, then the great and beautiful mystery of the Church is no longer seen.

It follows that belonging to this vine, the ‘Church’, is no longer a source of joy. Dissatisfaction and discontent begin to spread, when people’s superficial and mistaken notions of ‘Church’, their ‘dream Church’, fail to materialize! Then we no longer hear the glad song ‘Thanks be to God who in his grace has called me into his Church’ that generations of Catholics have sung with conviction.

The Virgin of the Grapes
Pierre Mignard [Web Gallery of Art]

I sometimes feel discouraged at happenings in Ireland. I sometimes feel discouraged at happenings in the Philippines, where I spent most of my life as a priest, especially within the Church.

But Jesus tells us clearly that separated from him we can do nothing. Each of us has to decide whether or not we wish to remain united to the life-giving vine who is Jesus himself. Pope Benedict says, Every one of us is faced with this choice. The Lord reminds us how much is at stake as he continues his parable: ‘If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned’ (John 15:6).There is nothing of the ‘meek and mild’ in these stark words of Jesus.

Yet the Gospel, the Good News’ is by definition a message of joyful hope, as the Pope reminded the people in Berlin:

The decision that is required of us here makes us keenly aware of the fundamental significance of our life choices. But at the same time, the image of the vine is a sign of hope and confidence. Christ himself came into this world through his incarnation, to be our root. Whatever hardship or drought befall us, he is the source that offers us the water of life, that feeds and strengthens us. He takes upon himself all our sins, anxieties and sufferings and he purifies and transforms us, in a way that is ultimately mysterious, into good branches that produce good wine. In such times of hardship we can sometimes feel as if we ourselves were in the wine-press, like grapes being utterly crushed. But we know that if we are joined to Christ we become mature wine. God can transform into love even the burdensome and oppressive aspects of our lives. It is important that we ‘abide’ in Christ, in the vine. The evangelist uses the word ‘abide’ [‘remain’] a dozen times in this brief passage. This ‘abiding in Christ’ characterizes the whole of the parable. In our era of restlessness and lack of commitment, when so many people lose their way and their grounding, when loving fidelity in marriage and friendship has become so fragile and short-lived, when in our need we cry out like the disciples on the road to Emmaus: ‘Lord, stay with us, for it is almost evening and darkness is all around us!’ (cf. Luke 24:29), in this present era, the risen Lord gives us a place of refuge, a place of light, hope and confidence, a place of rest and security. When drought and death loom over the branches, then in Christ we find future, life and joy. In him we always find forgiveness and the opportunity to begin again, to be transformed as we are drawn into his love.

To abide in Christ means, as we saw earlier, to abide in the Church as well. The whole communion of the faithful has been firmly incorporated into the vine, into Christ. In Christ we belong together. Within this communion he supports us, and at the same time all the members support one another. We stand firm together against the storm and offer one another protection. Those who believe are not alone. We do not believe alone, we believe with the whole Church of all times and places, with the Church in heaven and the Church on earth.

Pope Benedict finished his homily in Berlin with these beautiful words: Dear Sisters and Brothers! My wish for all of you, for all of us, is this: to discover ever more deeply the joy of being united with Christ in the Church, with all her trials and times of darkness, to find comfort and redemption amid whatever trials may arise, and that all of us may increasingly become the precious wine of Christ’s joy and love for this world. Amen.

Sébastien Stoskopff [Web Gallery of Art]

Antiphona ad communionem  Communion Antiphon (Cf John 15:1,5)

Ego sum vitis vera et vos palmites [dicit Dominus];
I am the vine and you are the branches, [says the Lord].
qui manet in me et ego in eo, hic fert fructum multum, alleluia.
Whoever remains in me and I in him, bears fruit in plenty, alleluia.

Traditional Latin Mass

Fourth Sunday after Easter

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 04-28-2024 if necessary).

Epistle: James 1:17-21. Gospel: John 16:5-14.

Apostle St James the Less

St James the Less, first Bishop of Jerusalem, is considered to be the author of the Letter of St James.

Feast of St Mark. 'Having one soul and one heart, the Church holds this faith, preaches and teaches it consistently as though by a single voice.'


St Mark's Basilica, Venice

The Church celebrates the Feast of St Mark the Evangelist on 25 April.

The Second Reading in the Office of Readings in the Breviary is from the treatise Against Heresies by St Irenaues. Here it is, with highlights added. [Source]

The Church, which has spread everywhere, even to the ends of the earth, received the faith from the apostles and their disciples. By faith, we believe in one God, the almighty Father who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them. We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became man for our salvation. And we believe in the Holy Spirit who through the prophets foretold God’s plan: the coming of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ, his birth from the Virgin, his passion, his resurrection from the dead, his ascension into heaven, and his final coming from heaven in the glory of his Father, to recapitulate all things and to raise all men from the dead, so that, by the decree of his invisible Father, he may make a just judgment in all things and so that every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth to Jesus Christ our Lord and our God, our Savior and our King, and every tongue confess him.

The Church, spread throughout the whole world, received this preaching and this faith and now preserves it carefully, dwelling as it were in one house. Having one soul and one heart, the Church holds this faith, preaches and teaches it consistently as though by a single voice. For though there are different languages, there is but one tradition.

The faith and the tradition of the churches founded in Germany are no different from those founded among the Spanish and the Celts, in the East, in Egypt, in Libya and elsewhere in the Mediterranean world. Just as God’s creature, the sun, is one and the same the world over, so also does the Church’s preaching shine everywhere to enlighten all men who want to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Now of those who speak with authority in the churches, no preacher however forceful will utter anything different — for no one is above the Master — nor will a less forceful preacher diminish what has been handed down. Since our faith is everywhere the same, no one who can say more augments it, nor can anyone who says less diminish it.


I wonder what St Irenaeus (c.130 - c.202), a bishop and doctor of the Church, would say about the Church in Germany and some other countries today.

19 April 2024

'I know my own and my own know me.' Sunday Reflections, 4th Sunday of Easter, Year B

The Good Shepherd
Early Italian Christian Painter [Web Gallery of Art]

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel  John 10:11-18  (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

Jesus said:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Janusz Korczak
(22 July 1878 or 1879 – 7 August 1942) 

Pope St John Paul II said of this man, a Polish Jew, a paediatrician, writer and teacher who went to his death with a group of orphans in his charge although he had been offered the chance to be spared, for the world of today, Janusz Korczak is a symbol of true religion and true morality.

There were similarities between the sacrifice of of St Maximilian Kolbe OFMConv, canonised on 10 October 1982, and Dr Korczak, both Polish. Fr Kolbe offered his life in exchange for that of Franciszek Gajowniczek,  a young Polish soldier interned in Auschwitz who was to be executed with nine others chosen at random because three of their companions had escaped. The Franciscan friar heard the young soldier cry 'My wife and my children'. His offer was accepted and he and the other nine were put in a cell and left without food or water. After two weeks the Franciscan priest was the only one still alive and was given a lethal injection on 14 August 1941.

Almost a year later Janusz Korczak was to die in Treblinka extermination camp along with nearly 200 Jewish orphans who had been living in the orphanage that he had set up in Warsaw in 1911-12. However, when the Nazis took over Warsaw they forced the orphanage to move to the Ghetto that they created in a district of the Polish capital in late 1940.

German soldiers came on 5 or 6 August 1942 to collect the orphans and about 12 staff members to take them to Treblinka. Dr Korczak had already turned down offers of sanctuary for himself before this and turned down an offer at this point.

A witness described the sceneJanusz Korczak was marching, his head bent forward, holding the hand of a child, without a hat, a leather belt around his waist, and wearing high boots. A few nurses were followed by two hundred children, dressed in clean and meticulously cared for clothes, as they were being carried to the altar.

At the point of departure for Treblinka an SS officer recognised Dr Korczak as the author of a book that was a favourite of his children and offered him a means of escape. Once again this remarkable man turned down this offer and went with the children to the camp where their lives were soon to end in the gas chambers.

Janusz Korczak could not save the lives of the children under his care but he made sure that they left the orphanage with dignity, wearing their best clothes and each bringing an item that was special to him or her. He chose not to leave them but to die with them.

St Maximilan Kolbe chose to give his life for someone he did not know because that man had a family and he hadn't.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

Cell where St Maximilian Kolbe died, 14 August 1941

[The hired hand] flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:13-15; today's Gospel).

St Maximilian Kolbe and Janusz Korczak, both sons of Abraham, our father in faith, could say as Jesus did, I know my own and my own know me . . . and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Monument to Janusz Korczak, Warsaw

More than 80 years after the deaths of St Maximilian Kolbe and Janusz Korczak children in their millions are being legally killed in their mothers' wombs. The nearly 200 Jewish orphans, their nurses and Janusz Korczak were also 'legally' killed as were St Maximilain Kolbe and his nine companions.

Ego sum pastor bonus (I am the good shepherd)
Music by Mariano Garau, a contemporary Italian composer
Sung by St Lawrence Catholic Chapel Choir, University of Kansas

The refrain is based on today's Gospel while the verses are from Psalm 22[23]:1-3. The texts are in Latin.

Death of a good shepherd

May I ask your prayers for the repose of the soul of a good friend of many years, Fr Gerry Truno of the Diocese of Dumaguete, Philippines. I knew him through our involvement in Worldwide Marriage Encounter, Philippines, and also in the Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests. Though he was much younger than me he inspired me by his simplicity, humility and prayerfulness, qualities that many saw in him. He truly was a good shepherd, especially to the seminarians he served for so many years.  His funeral will take place on Tuesday 23 April. Solas na bhFlaitheas air - The Light of Heaven upon him. 

Traditional Latin Mass

Third Sunday after Easter

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 04-21-2024 if necessary).

Epistle: 1 Peter 2:11-19.  Gospel: John 16:16-22.

Passover begins 22 April

Never Again: A Song to Remember The Holocaust
Words and music by Stephen Melzack

The words ‘B’YomHaShoah yikatevun’ in the song mean ‘On Holocaust Day it is Written’

In memory of Dr Janusz Korczak, the twelve nurses from his orphanage and the nearly 200 orphans murdered in Treblinka for the sole reason that, like Jesus, Mary and Joseph, they were Jewish.

12 April 2024

'Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.' Sunday Reflections, 3rd Sunday of Easter

Supper at Emmaus, c.1629
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

Then the two disciples told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:35; Gospel).

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel  Luke 24:35-48  (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

Then [the two disciples] told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marvelling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Pope Benedict XVI celebrating Mass 

More than 20 years ago while visiting Canada I was invited to speak to a prayer group in Hamilton, Ontario. Afterwards over coffee I was chatting with an elderly woman, an immigrant from Germany, who had been a Lutheran for most of her life. In Canada she had felt drawn for a long time to becoming a Catholic but could not take the final step. 

One particular weekday afternoon while thinking about this she felt rather like the apostles in today' gospel when Jesus asked them, Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? To calm herself she went for a walk and, as she passed a Catholic church, decided to go in. While she was there a small group of teenage boys came in, went up to the front of the church, genuflected and knelt in silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. After a few minutes they genuflected again and went out. That for the German woman was the moment when, like the two disciples returning from Emmaus, she could say that [Jesus] was known to [her] in the breaking of the bread. Jesus spoke to her through the teenage boys who had silently expressed their faith in the Real Presence of the Risen Lord Jesus, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament. 

This is one aspect of today's readings. Another is repentance. In the First Reading St Peter while proclaiming that Jesus was risen from the dead says to the people: And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out (Acts 3:17-19). St Peter who had betrayed Jesus shows his understanding of our tendency to sin when he says, I know that you acted in ignorance in handing Jesus over to be killed. But his message is stark and clear: Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out.

Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord (Psalm 4:6)
Response to the Responsorial Psalm

The Responsorial Psalm shows us where the source of life is: 'What can bring us happiness?' many say, Lift up the light of your face on us, O Lord (Psalm 4:6). The light of God's face can come to us in unexpected ways, as it did through the smile of my young friend in the Philippines above.

The Second Reading, 1 John 2:1-5a, calls us to repent while at the same time offering us God's forgiveness: My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. St John uses very blunt language while showing us where God is calling us: Whoever says 'I know him' but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him. This reminds me of what St Thérèse of Lisieux wrote on the second page of her autobiography, Story of a Soul: Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wants to be. This is a dynamic expression calling us to grow in holiness. I am guilty of sometimes having said to people that God loves us 'as we are'. Parents love their newly-born son as he is but don't want him to stay like that. They want to lovingly nurture him in every sense so that he may grow to be a responsible adult. And that will involve on occasion reprimanding him when he misbehaves.

There is a tendency to turn Jesus into a teddy bear. In last Sunday's Gospel St Thomas knew that if the Lord was truly risen he would carry the scars of his crucifixion. St Luke tells us in today's Gospel that Jesus said to the apostles, See my hands and my feet. He was showing his scars. Then Jesus goes on to tell them what their mission is to be: Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

To preach Christ as other than the Crucified Christ now risen from the dead is to not preach Christ at all. It is to deny that we are sinners in need of conversion. It is to deny that we need a Saviour. It is to deny that we need a God who became Man and died for us. It is to deny that we need Jesus Christ, the One  known to [the two disciples] in the breaking of the bread. It is to deny the reality of the faith of the teenage boys in Hamilton, Ontario. in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. It is to deny the faith of the German immigrant who, because of the faith she saw in the teenage boys,  was able to recognise Jesus Christ the Risen Lord, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Bread that is the Blessed Sacrament and to embrace the Catholic Faith, letting go of her fears.

All in the April Evening
Words by Katherine Tynan Hinkson, music by Sir Hugh S. Robertson
Sung by London Emmanuel Choir

When I was in Fourth Class (Grade Four) in O'Connell Schools, Dublin, 1953-54, we learned Katherine Tynan Hinkson's poem under our wonderful teacher Mr John Galligan, a man of deep faith who prepared us for confirmation that year. And if my memory is accurate, we sang it the same year in the choir of Mrs Agnes Boylan whom I recall as an 'everyone's favourite grandmother' kind of person. The poem/song reminds us of the price of Easter, the price of our Salvation, the sacrifice of the Lamb of God..

High Altar with Bernini's baldacchino, St Peter's, Vatican City 

Traditional Latin Mass

Second Sunday after Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday)

The complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 04-14-2024 if necessary).

Epistle: 1 Peter 2:21-23Gospel: John 10:11-16

The Good Shepherd
Byzantine Mosaic Artist [Web Gallery of Art]

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11; Gospel).