17 May 2018

'As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ Sunday Reflections, Pentecost, Year B

Pentecost, Sir Anthony van Dyck [Web Gallery of Art]

Vigil Mass

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Mass during the Day

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel John 20:19-23 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ 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 retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
John 15:26-27; 16:12-15 may also be used.

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

Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you . . . Receive the Holy Spirit.

Today's feast of Pentecost is a celebration of our being given a mission by Jesus himself: so I send you. This mission is lived mainly in our daily life, in our family, in our workplace and in the way we become involved in the life of the wider community. Gaudium et Spes, one of the major documents of the Second Vatican Council, devotes much space to the latter. In No 75 of that document it states: All citizens, therefore, should be mindful of the right and also the duty to use their free vote to further the common good

We in the Republic of Ireland will be voting on Friday 25 May in what is perhaps the most important issue to face the people since independence in 1922. We are being asked to delete the current wording of Article 40.3.3, known as 'The Eighth Amendment' from the Constitution because it was inserted as such in a referendum in 1993, and to replace it with different wording. 

The current article readsThe State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right. This subsection shall not limit freedom to travel between the State and another state. This subsection shall not limit freedom to obtain or make available, in the State, subject to such conditions as may be laid down by law, information relating to services lawfully available in another state.

The proposed replacement readsProvision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.

If a majority votes 'Yes' for this change the government proposes to legalise abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. After 12 weeks the proposed legislation would allow for abortion in certain circumstances.

Nos 27 of Gaudium et Spes, promulgated in 1965, speaks very specifically 53 years later to what faces Irish voters this week: 

27 . . . Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person . . . all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.

Pope Francis in his encyclical on Care for Our Common Home, Laudato Si’ , says in No 12o: Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? 'If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away'.

Jesus says to us in John 10:10, I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Please pray that we in Ireland will affirm life, not only by our vote but by everything we do to protect and nourish life, particularly for those in difficult situations. The Holy Spirit is speaking to us this Pentecost in a very specific situation of life and death and is asking us in Ireland, with the help of the prayers of people throughout the world, to proclaim the God of life through our vote. 

Veni Sanctus Spiritus
(Sequence for Mass on Pentecost Sunday)

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.

Come, Holy Spirit,
send forth the heavenly
radiance of your light.

Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum
veni, lumen cordium.

Come, father of the poor,
come giver of gifts,
come, light of the heart

Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium.

Greatest comforter,
sweet guest of the soul,
sweet consolation.

In labore requies,
in aestu temperies
in fletu solatium.

In labor, rest,
in heat, temperance,
in tears, solace.

O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.

O most blessed light,
fill the inmost heart
of your faithful.

Sine tuo numine,
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.

Without your grace,
there is nothing in us,
nothing that is not harmful.

Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.

Cleanse that which is unclean,
water that which is dry,
heal that which is wounded.

Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.

Bend that which is inflexible,
fire that which is chilled,
correct what goes astray.

a tuis fidelibus,
in te confidentibus,
sacrum septenarium.

Give to your faithful,
those who trust in you,
the sevenfold gifts.

Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,
da perenne gaudium,

Grant the reward of virtue,
grant the deliverence of salvation,
grant eternal joy.

15 May 2018

Columban Fr Thomas Kilkenny RIP

Fr Thomas Kilkenny
(23 July 1922 - 7 May 2018)

Fr Thomas Kilkenny was born in Lecarrow, Carrowbehy, Castlerea, County Roscommon, Ireland, on 23 July 1922. He was educated at Gorthaganny National School, County Roscommon, and Summerhill College, Sligo. He came to St Columban's, Dalgan Park, in September 1940 and was ordained priest in December 1946.

Castlerea, County Roscommon [Wikipedia]

Father Tom was assigned to Japan in 1947 and apart from his vacations and a year or so working in Mindanao, Philippines, in the 1950s, he spent the next fifty-five years working there in a variety of pastoral assignments. His first assignment was to Oiso. This was followed by stints in Toshima, Tokyo, and a longer period in Katase, Kanagawa.

Christ the King Church, Choshi [Source]

Then he spent time in two Chiba parishes, in Choshi and then in Tateyama. In Kumamoto he taught in the Marist High School and then worked for eight years in Tamana. After that there were assignments in Kamugawa, Chiba, and Hakone, Kanagawa.

Hakone Tozan Railway [Wikipedia]

His last five years in Japan were spent in Tokyo, and after that, in 2003, he returned to Ireland where he lived in Cloontrasna, Castlerea, County Roscommon, not far from his birthplace. Father Tom valued his independence and reluctantly agreed to move to the Dalgan Nursing Home in December 2015 when he could no longer care adequately for his own needs.

Father Tom was a quiet, private person, a conscientious pastor who spoke excellent Japanese, and dedicated himself to the people in his many assignments. He chose to be buried close to his family in Gorthaganny Cemetery, Castlerea, County Roscommon.

May he rest in peace. 

In the last couple of years of his life Father Tom would often tell Fr Bernard Mulkerins about a blacksmith's forge that he loved to visit in his childhood days. He also loved poetry. The video above begins with the opening lines of The Village Blacksmith by Longfellow. The forge is only about an hour's drive from where Father Tom grew up.

10 May 2018

'You will be my witnesses . . .' Sunday Reflections, The Ascension of the Lord, Year B

The Ascension of Christ, Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

The Ascension of the Lord, Year  B

The Solemnity of the Ascension is celebrated on Ascension Thursday in England and Wales, in Scotland and in parts of the USA.  In these regions the Ascenson is a holy day of obligation. In other countries, including Australia, Ireland, Philippines and parts of the USA, the solemnity is observed on the Sunday after Ascension Thursday.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Mark 16:15-20 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.’
So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year B

These readings are used in countries/jurisdictions that observe the solemnity on Ascension Thursday.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

The Ascension, Theophanes the Cretan [Web Gallery of Art]

Fr Giuseppe Raviolo SJ (1923 - 1998) was a Pope St John XXIII-like figure, physically and spiritually, from Italy who spent most of his priestly life in Mindanao, Philippines, where I came to know him. He was the first rector of St John Vianney Major Seminary in Cagayan de Oro City. But he also spent nine years in Vietnam and was rector of the major seminary in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, during the Vietnam War. He once told me an extraordinary story from that period.

The North Vietnamese Army was advancing on Saigon. The soldiers were divided into groups of three. The standing order was that if one tried to surrender the other two were to shoot him. One particular group found themselves surrounded by American soldiers and one of them surrendered. The other two did not shoot their companion and were captured along with him. Later they asked their companion why he had taken such a risk. He answered, I knew you were Christians and that you would not shoot me. The two were in fact Catholics and had discussed the matter and had decided that, as Christians, they could not shoot their companion if that particular situation arose.

These were soldiers in the army of a Communist country, an army without any chaplains, and their companion, who was not a Christian, took it for granted that they would not take his life because he knew that they were Christians.

In the First Reading today, the opening verses of the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus says to his disciples, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Those two Catholic soldiers in the North Vietnamese  army were powerful witnesses of Jesus to their companion. They chose to live their faith in Jesus.

In the Republic of Ireland citizens will be voting on 25 May on whether to retain a provision in the Constitution that protects both the life of an unborn child and that of its mother or to replace it with a provision that will allow the parliament to legislate for abortion. The current government has stated that if the Constitution is changed they will introduce legislation that would allow abortion up to twelve weeks for no reason whatever.

Please pray that we in Ireland will have the same respect for human life that the two soldiers in Vietnam had and that we will exercise our responsibility as citizens by being witnesses of Jesus not only in Ireland but to the ends of the earth.

St Domitilla with Sts Nereus and Achilleus
Pomarancio [Web Gallery of Art]

Sts Nereus and Achilleus, whose feast is observed on 12 May, were Roman soldiers who were martyred for being Christians.

Entrance Antiphon  Acts 1:11  Antiphona ad introitum

Men of Galilee, why gaze in wonder at the heavens?
Viri Galilaei, quid admiramini aspicientes in caelum?
This Jesus whom you saw ascending into heaven
Quemadmodum vidisti eum ascendentem in caelum,
will return as you saw him go, alleluia.
ita veniet, alleluia.

Palestrina's setting uses a slightly different Latin translation along with a verse that is not in the Entrance Antiphon in the current Roman Missal:

Viri Galilaei, quid statis aspicientes in coelum? Hic Jesus, qui assumptus est a vobis in coelum, sic veniet, quemadmodum vidistis eum euntem in coelum. Alleluia. Ascendit Deus in jubilatione, et Dominus in voce tubae. Alleluia. Dominus in coelo paravit sedem suam. Alleluia.

06 May 2018

Statement of Bishop of Meath on Ireland's Abortion Referendum

The Visitation, El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

On 25 May voters in the Republic of Ireland will be voting on a referendum on whether to retain Article 40.3. of Bunreacht na hÉireannConstitution of Ireland. The text is known as The Eighth Amendment and was included in the Constitution after a referendum in 1983. The English version reads: The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.

It is proposed to replace this with the following: Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.

A 'Yes' vote will be for change while a 'No' vote will be to keep the Constitution as it is.

If the people vote to change the Constitution the present government says it will introduce legislation that will allow abortion, among other circumstances, up to 12 weeks of pregnancy without specific indication, with a time period after an initial assessment by a medical practitioner and the termination procedure

This is the context of the statement of Bishop Michael Smith of Meath, in which diocese the Columbans have been present since 1927 and where I now live.

Bishop Michael Smith [Diocese of Meath]

'A Truly Compassionate Society Values All Life'

Statement by Bishop Smith on forthcoming referendum

In a few weeks time, the people of Ireland must make a decision that will have a profound impact on the kind of society we will be in the future. We will be asked to decide on whether to retain the 8th amendment in our Constitution by voting ‘No’ or to remove it by voting ‘Yes’. I wish to share with you my conviction about why it is essential to vote 'No' if we are to build a truly compassionate society that values all life.

The choice before us has become even starker in the light of the recent judgment of the Supreme Court which stated that the only legal protection the unborn child has at present is the 8th amendment. If this is removed the unborn child up to birth becomes a non-person in Irish law. Do we want to say that the child in the womb has no rights whatsoever in our Constitution? This, I am sure, every mother would find impossible to believe from her experience of her child moving in the womb as he or she grows and develops. The Supreme Court judgment means that the child in the womb would have no constitutional right to treatment or support.

Despite suggestions to the contrary, the Church asks that all necessary medical treatment be given to a mother in pregnancy even if this were to result in the unintended death of the child. Highly respected medical and legal experts have made it clear that under the present law the best standards of care are available to mothers in a crisis pregnancy. All involved in caring for the pregnant mother in Ireland have to take pride in the fact that Ireland is one of the safest countries in which to be pregnant.

A compassionate society will do all in its power to support and love the mother and baby. The 8th amendment is a declaration of equality and respect for human life. It represents, at the very foundation and substructure of our laws, a conviction that all human life has to be cherished. Are we as a society to say to women experiencing a crisis in their pregnancy that the solution to their concern is to be found in abortion? Does this show compassion and care for women? The solution to a crisis pregnancy should be found in addressing the crisis, not in terminating the life of an innocent child. Abortion is a brutal act. There is no semblance of compassion involved in ending the life of the child in the womb. It is difficult to imagine how such an action could be compatible with the Catholic faith in any way.

The recent Supreme Court judgment means that, were the 8th amendment to be removed from the Constitution, the current government will legislate for unlimited abortion on demand up to 12 weeks, for unlimited abortion up to 24 weeks on the grounds of mental health, and for unlimited abortion up to birth in cases of life-limiting conditions. This prospect can only be described as horrifying. The appalling statistics of abortion rates in other countries should fill us with the dread of similar rates becoming normalised here. Are we to ignore the images, which technology makes available to us, of a child at 12 weeks who has a beating heart, a brain, eyes and ears, limbs, who is yawning, sucking the thumb, and who is clearly saying to us, 'I want to live!'? To deprive the child of the right to life would be the gravest of injustices and by removing the 8th amendment we are doing just that.

It remains my hope that we can hand on to future generations a vision for society that is truly inclusive, which enshrines in its laws the equal right of every person to life, and which is capable of offering compassion and care to those in crisis. Our Constitution acknowledges that the right to life precedes all our laws, and our common humanity tells us that this is how it should be. The power to decide who lives and who dies should not belong to the individual. This can never be the foundation for a society that seeks to put compassion and care at its heart. Saving the 8th means that we do not have to choose between two competing rights. To choose life is to choose both.

First Steps (after Millet), Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

04 May 2018

'In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us.' Sunday Reflections, 6th Sunday of Easter, Year B

Christ Blessing the Children, Nicolaes Maes [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel John 15:9-17 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

If ye love me, keep my commandments,
and I will pray the Father,
and he shall give you another comforter,
that he may 'bide with you forever,
e'en the spirit of truth. (John 14:15-17)

This is a setting by Thomas Tallis (c.1505 - 1585) of today's Communion Antiphon, with the first part of John 14:17 added.

Communion Antiphon   Antiphona ad communionem (Jn 14:15-16)

If you love me, keep my commandments, says the Lord,
Si diligitis me, mandata mea servate, dicit Dominus.
and I will ask the Father and he will send you another Paraclete,
Et ego rogabo Patrem, et alium Paraclitum dabit vobis,
to abide with you for ever, alleluia.
ut maneat vobiscum in aeternum, alleluia.

St James, Andrea del Sarto [Web Gallery of Art]

In May 2015 I gave a retreat to the Missionary Sisters of the Catechism in Lipa City, south of Manila. The Sisters have a house dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe where they take care of elderly and sick women whom they refer to as the lolas, the 'grandmas'. In another part of the compound they had at the time a group of orphans, five young boys and six young girls. (If my memory is correct the Sisters were planning to build an orphanage). Four of the boys served Mass every morning, including 'Zacchaeus', as the Sisters called him, the youngest of the boys and small, proudly wearing his white cassock like the others. 'Zacchaeus' wasn't yet old enough to make his First Holy Communion or First Confession. His role as a server was to hold up the small white towel - and he really has to stretch to do so - when the priest washes his hands during the Offertory.

The youngest of the girls was Chiara, aged four or five at the time. The children were present at lunch on the last day of the retreat, which had a celebratory air to it. I noticed after I had said Grace Before Meals that Chiara was somewhat tearful. Then I discovered that on such occasions she led the community in a Hail Mary as part of Grace. so the Sisters encouraged her to do so today even though the visiting priest had pre-empted her. After a little hesitation and the drying of her tears she prayerfully led us all in the Hail Mary and then invoked the protectors of the Congregation - Mother of Good Counsel, St Joseph, St Veronica Giuliani, St Gemma Galgani and St Bernadette Soubirous.

During the retreat I told a number of stories of seemingly insignificant events where God had revealed himself to me through the actions of children and of older persons without their being aware of it. Then on the way back to Manila after the retreat Sister Evelyn Cortes SMC, whose family I have I have known since she was in high school in Tangub City, Misamis Occidental, and Sister Eppie Resano SMC told me a story about Chiara where she showed an understanding of what this Sunday's Second Reading is all about, without being aware of it.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:7-10).

Some time before I gave the retreat a missionary priest visited the Sisters and celebrated Mass for them. Little Chiara saw him as being very severe in his demeanour. After Mass she tugged on his cassock and asked him, Father, are you angry with God? It seems that the following morning he wasn't quite as severe looking!

Some may be angry with God. I don't think that God is too perturbed about that when he knows that the source of our anger may be bewilderment over tragedies in our lives, for example, just as we allow those whom we love to vent their anger on us because basically they trust us and we have some idea of the source of their anger.

Perhaps a more common experience, especially among persons who are serious about following Jesus faithfully but who try to live as if God's love had to be earned - as if it could be earned - is the idea that God is angry with us.

St John tells us so beautifully what the situation really is: In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Most of the Gospel readings on the Sundays and weekdays of Easter are taken from John 13-17, the Last Supper Discourse in which Jesus speaks to each of us with intense love about the intimacy into which he calls each of us through our baptism. In today's Gospel Jesus says to each of us, speaking from his heart to ours - Cor ad cor loquiter, 'Heart speaks to heart', as Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman emphasised on his coat-of-arms - As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love . . . this is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you . . . you are my friends . . . you did not choose me but I chose you . . .

The initiative comes from God. Love comes from God and our loving response to that love is itself a gift from God. We do not and cannot earn God's love. God who is love gives us himself as pure gift.

How can such a God be angry with us and how can we be angry - choosing to remain angry as distinct from a spontaneous feeling - with such a God?

In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).

For the LORD takes delight in his people; 
he crowns the poor with salvation (Psalm 149:4, Grail translation).

May, the Month of Mary

Madonna of the Bower, Stefan Lochner [Web Gallery of Art]

You may read an article by Eileen Kane on this painting in the May 2018 issue of The Sacred Heart Messenger 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.

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.