29 May 2024

Mass in the trenches in the First World War. Sunday Reflections, Corpus Christi, Year B


St Margaret Mary Alacoque Contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Corrado Giaquinto [Web Gallery of ArtWeb Gallery of Art]

June is the month of the

Sacred Heart of Jesus

He guides the humble in the right path; 

He teaches his way to the poor (Ps 24[25]:9).


Supper at Emmaus
Caravaggio [Web Gallery of Art]

Corpus Christi, Year B

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year B 

In most countries  this solemnity, formerly celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, is now celebrated on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday, this year replacing the Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time. In communities where the Traditional Latin Mass is celebrated Corpus Christi is observed on the traditional day, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, this year 30 May.

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Mark 14:12-16, 22-26 (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to Jesus, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him,  and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

British Army Trench, First World War
The Somme, France, July 1916

Alfred O'Rahilly in his Father William Doyle SJ, a biography of an Irish Jesuit who served as a chaplain in the British army in the First World War and who was killed on 16-17 August 1917, writes on page 474 about a Mass celebrated in the trenches. Normally he was not allowed to have Mass with the men there because of the danger. 

On February 2nd [1917], however, he was able to offer the Holy Sacrifice in the trenches , his chapel being a dug-out capable of holding ten or a dozen. 'But my congregation numbered forty-six,' he says, 'the vacant space was small. How they all managed to squeeze in I cannot say. There was no question of kneeling down; the men simply stood silently and reverently round the little improvised altar of ammunition boxes, "glad," as one of them quaintly expressed it, "to have a say in it." Surely our Lord must have been glad also, for every one of the forty-six received Holy Communion, and went back to his post happy at heart and strengthened to face the hardships of these days and nights of cold.' What a difference the Real Presence made in the ministrations of a Catholic chaplain!

The Catechism of the Catholic ChurchNo 1374 states: The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend." In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, popularly known by the Latin name Corpus Christi, celebrates this reality, the same reality that Fr Willie Doyle and the 46 soldiers celebrated in the trenches in Flanders, Belgium, on that cold Candlemas Day in 1917.

Pope Benedict XVI celebrating Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament

Tantum ergo, sung at Benediction, consists of the last two stanzas of Pange lingua, the Latin hymn written by St Thomas Aquinas for the feast of Corpus Christi and sung at Vespers (Evening Prayer) on the evening before the feast and on the feast itself.

Tantum ergo sacraméntum
Venerémur cérnui:
Et antíquum documéntum
Novo cedat rítui:
Præstet fides suppleméntum
Sénsuum deféctui.

Genitóri, Genitóque
Laus et jubilátio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedíctio:
Procedénti ab utróque
Compar sit laudátio.
Amen. Alleluia.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo, the sacred Host we hail,
Lo, o'er ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail:
Faith for all defects supplying,
When the feeble senses fail.

To the Everlasting Father
And the Son who comes on high
With the Holy Ghost proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor, blessing,
Might and endless majesty.
Amen. Alleluia.

Holy Communion at Wedding Mass

Traditional Latin Mass  

Thursday after Trinity Sunday, Feast of Corpus Christi

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 06-02-2024 if necessary).

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 11:23-29.  Gospel: John 6:56-59.

Last Supper

He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him (John 6:56; Gospel).

Second Sunday after Pentecost 

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 05-30-2024 if necessary).

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

St John the Evangelist
Bernardo Cavallino [Web Gallery of Art]

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (1 John 3:16; Epistle). 

24 May 2024

'Salamat sa Ginoo - Thanks to the Lord!' Sunday Reflections, Trinity Sunday, Year B


Holy Trinity
Jusepe de Ribera [Web Gallery of Art]

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

Antiphona ad introitum  Entrance Antiphon

Benedictus sit Deus Pater, Unigenitusque Dei Filius, Sanctus quoque Spiritus, quia fecit nobiscum misericordiam suam.

Blest be God the Father, and the Only Begotten Son of God, and also the Holy Spirit, for he has shown us his merciful love.

This is also the Offertory Verse in the Traditional Latin Mass on Trinity Sunday.

Twelve years ago around this time I gave a retreat to a group of Canossian Daughters of Charity in the Philippines. They included four novices and seven professed Sisters, including one from Malaysia. Their foundress, St Magdalene of Canossa bequeathed to the Sisters the mission of 'making Jesus known and loved above all'. This comes from a stance of standing at the foot of the Cross with Mary.

During my talks each morning I shared many stories of individuals who had made Jesus known to me, usually with no awareness that they were doing so. Some were persons I knew. Some are now dead. Some I met only once in passing, never learning their names. Most were poor. I know that my stories triggered off similar memories among the Sisters of people who had made Jesus known to them as the Sisters in turn had made him known to those they were serving.

I see this in the context of the Communion of Saints, the angels and saints in heaven, the members of the Church on earth, the souls in purgatory. The story of creation tells us that we are made in the image of God. But what the author of that first account of creation didn't know is that God is a Community of Three Persons. Made in God's image, we are made to be in community with others.

Jusepe de Ribera's painting of the Holy Trinity above, like a number of other paintings, shows the dead Christ. The expression on the face of the Father shows suffering. It is very similar to the face of the father in Rembrandt's The Return of the Prodigal Son, painted about thirty years later. I don't know if Rembrandt was familiar with de Ribera's painting.

Return of the Prodigal Son [detail]
Rembrandt [Wikipedia]

The Blessed Trinity call us into the circle of their life through suffering. We know the suffering of Jesus. Some of the great artists show to us something of the suffering of the Father.

Peasant Girl Bringing Basket
Adolf Fényes [Web Gallery of Art]

One of the stories I told involved two persons I met only once, a mother and her daughter aged about 13 or 14. When they first approached me outside a retreat house in Cebu City on the morning of Holy Thursday 1990. I made an excuse that I was only visiting. While inside I saw the two of them sitting on the steps. The daughter had her head on her mother's shoulder. Clearly, they were tired and hungry. When I was leaving I gave them enough to buy breakfast. The young girl looked at me with the most beautiful smile I've ever seen and said to me, Salamat sa Ginoo! 'Thanks to the Lord!' She wasn't thanking me but inviting me to thank the Lord with her and her mother for his goodness. Through her hunger and tiredness she had come to know something of God's bountiful love, the love of the Father that Rembrandt reveals so powerfully.

As I reflect on this incident now, 34 years later, I see it in the light of today's Second Reading, Romans 8:14-17. St Paul writes, For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God . . . When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness. That young girl was led by the Spirit of God to thank the Father for having provided her and her mother with breakfast that day, for having listened to their prayer, Give us this day our daily bread. And she invited me as her brother in Christ to do the same. Without being aware of it she was celebrating the reality of the Holy Trinity.

And she has been calling me into the life of the Holy Trinity for all those year. I've no idea what became of her. I went to the Philippines in 1971 to do my part in making disciples of all nations and have baptised many in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. But that young girl, and many others like her, have been constantly teaching me to observe all that I have commanded you and assuring me in the name of Jesus, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Benedictus sit Deus

This is Mozart's setting of today's Entrance Antiphon, composed when he was twelve.

3 May 1991 - 12 October 2006
Beatified 10 October 2020 [Wikipedia; photo]

On Thursday 23 May Pope Francis cleared the way for the canonisation of Blessed Carlo Acutis. He died from leukaemia at the age of 15. He was a computer 'geek', a skill which he used to be a 'web missionary', as the title of the video below states. If you google his name on YouTube you will find a number of videos about him, most of them short. The one below is just over 30 minutes but is very comprehensive, showing many aspects of his life as seen by others, young people of his own age who were friends of his, and others, young and older, on whose life Blessed Carlo had a huge influence, some while he was alive, others who came to know about him after his death, people drawn closer to Jesus Christ because of him. I've watched the video a number of times and each time it has been a prayerful experience, of being closer to God and with a sense of wonder at how the Blessed Trinity invites us into eternal life.

Young people can draw us into the life of the Holy Trinity, as did the 13- or 14-year old girl in Cebu City with me, as does the 12-year-old Mozart with his setting of Benedictus sit Deus, as has Blessed Carlo Acutis been doing before and after his death. Mozart and Blessed Carlo are known internationally, the young girl known only by her family and neighbours. We never know who may be drawing us into the eternal life of the Blessed Trinity.

Blessed Carlo, pray for us!

Blessed Carlo Acutis

Traditional Latin Mass

Trinity Sunday

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 05-26-2024 if necessary).

Epistle: Romans 11:33-36. Gospel: Matthew 28:18-20.

Giuseppe Maria Crespi [Wikipedia]

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 (Matthew 28:19; Gospel).

17 May 2024

'When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.' Sunday Reflections, Pentecost Sunday, Year B


All [the apostles] with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers . . . When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. (Acts 1:14; 2:1).

Pentecost Sunday, at the Vigil Mass 

(Saturday evening), Years ABC

NB: The Vigil Mass has its own prayers and readings. Those for the Mass During the Day on Sunday should not be used – though some priests seem to be unaware of this. It is incorrect to refer to this Vigil Mass as an ‘anticipated Mass’. It is a celebration proper to the evening before Pentecost Sunday and may be celebrated in an extended form. It also fulfils the 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) 

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 B

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel John 15:26-27, 16:12-15 (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

Jesus said to his disciples:

 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.


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

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

This week I'm using what I used three years ago. I'm focusing on the central role of our Blessed Mother in God's plan for our salvation. I cannot imagine a painting of the Annunciation, a painting of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, a painting of the Birth of Jesus without Mary. I cannot imagine a painting with people at the foot of the Cross without Mary being among them. Michelangelo's Pietá without Mary would be ludicrous. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that Mary was with the Apostles from Ascension Thursday as they awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday. Any of the great paintings of Pentecost show Mary with the Apostles. El Greco catches all of this in the paintings I have used here. I've used his painting of Pentecost above and below.

The Annunciation
El Greco, painted 1596-1600, Museo del Prado, Madrid

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God . . .  And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:35, 38).

Frank Duff, founder of the Legion of Mary, wrote the following in 1937 in his foreward to Mary, Mother of Divine Grace by Fr Joseph Le Rohellec CSSp, translated by Fr Stephen Rigby and Fr Denis Fahey CSSp.

God has set [Mary] in the beginning of our ways. From the first, the idea of Her was present to His mind along with that of the Redeemer. He only looked at poor fallen humanity through Her. When, in the fulness of the ages, She was born and came to maturity, He sent to Her His high angel, and to Her proposed the Divine plan of Redemption for which the world had waited for forty dismal centuries. That plan invited Her participation. Nay, more, He was pleased to make it necessary, so that if Her consent is not forthcoming, that plan will not be put into effect, and the dream of those forty centuries will not pass into actuality, will not come true, will not even continue as a dream. For there is to be no fruition. In Mary, all humanity withers because in Her it has not known the time of its visitation.

. . . Mary was formed by the Holy Trinity for the work She had to do. 'She was the fruit of an eternal deliberation,' says St Augustine.

Mary is central to God's plan for our salvation. When she said, Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word the Holy Spirit came upon her, and the power of the Most High overshadowed her.

The Visitation

When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (Luke 1:41-43).

Here is part of his Regina Caeli address on Pentecost Sunday 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Dear friends, this year the Solemnity of Pentecost occurs on the last day of the month of May on which the beautiful Marian feast of the Visitation is normally celebrated. This fact invites us to let ourselves be inspired and, as it were, instructed by the Virgin Mary, who was the protagonist of both these events.

In Nazareth she received the announcement of her unique motherhood and, immediately after conceiving Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, she was impelled by the same Spirit of love to go and help her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth, who had reached the sixth month of a pregnancy that was also miraculous. The young Mary who is carrying Jesus in her womb and, forgetting herself, hurries to the help of her neighbour, is a wonderful image of the Church in the perennial youthfulness of the Spirit, of the missionary Church of the incarnate Word called to bring him to the world and to witness to him especially in the service of charity.

Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit after his Ascension. But while still in the womb of Mary, the Mother of God, he brought the Holy Spirit to St Elizabeth and the baby in her womb, St John the Baptist.


The Adoration of the Shepherds
El Greco, painted c.1614, Museo del Prado, Madrid

And while they were there, the time came for [Mary] to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And the angel said to [the shepherds], “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:6-7, 10-12).

Mary, the Mother of God, presents her new-born Son, Jesus, God who became Man, to the shepherds and, through them, to us. This is the mission given her by God: to bring Jesus, God who became Man, to us and to bring us to him.

The Crucifixion
El Greco, painted 1596-1600, Museo del Prado, Madrid

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. (John 25-27).

Jesus, God who became Man, as he is dying on the Cross because of God's great love for us, because of God's desire that we spend eternity with him, gives His mother, Mary, to us as our mother so that she will draw us to him.


At the moment of the Annunciation / Incarnation the Holy Spirit came upon Mary, and the power of the Most High overshadowed her. In Bethlehem Mary gave birth to our Saviour Jesus Christ, God who became Man. At Pentecost, the moment of the birth of the Church, the Holy Spirit came upon Mary once again as he came upon the Apostles. In a very real sense Mary is giving birth to the Church.

In 2018 Pope Francis decreed that every year the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, be celebrated by the Universal Church on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday. Here is the Collect or Opening Prayer of that Mass.

O God, Father of mercies, 
whose Only Begotten Son, as he hung upon the Cross, 
chose the Blessed Virgin Mary, his Mother, 
to be our Mother also, 
grant, we pray, that with her loving help 
your Church may be more fruitful day by day 
and, exulting in the holiness of her children, 
may draw to her embrace all the families of the peoples. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect reflects that of the Mass on Pentecost Sunday: sanctify your Church in every people and nation. It is in our baptism that we find our deepest identity as sons and daughters of God the Father, as brothers and sisters of Jesus and therefore of one another, with Mary given to us by God himself as our Mother.

Veni Sancte Spiritus  
Come, Holy Spirit

Music: Jacques Berthier (1923-1994) © Ateliers et Presses de Taizé

The phrase Veni Sancte Spiritu is constantly repeated. This is 'Come Holy Spirit' in Latin, the official language of the Roman (Latin) Catholic Church, the largest of the more than 20 Catholic churches, all in communion with the Pope, all equally Catholic. Individuals sing verses in their own language. There are young people from every continent, a fulfilment of the verses from the First Reading of the Mass on Pentecost Sunday.

And they were amazed and astonished, saying, 'Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? — we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God' (Acts 2:7, 11).

Traditional Latin Mass


The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 05-19-2024 if necessary).

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

Mysteries of Faith
Guido Reni [Web Gallery of Art [Web Gallery of Art]

This is a ceiling in the Vatican Palace showing from the top the Ascension, Pentecost and the Transfiguration.