‘I die His Majesty’s good servant – but God’s first.’ Sunday Reflections, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

‘I die His Majesty’s good servant – but God’s first.’ St Thomas More

A Man for all Seasons

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Matthew 22:15-21 (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

A denarius from 44 BC showing the head of Julius Caesar and the goddess Venus [Wikipedia]

In the time of Jesus a denarius was a day’s wage for an ordinary working man.

I spent three months in the latter part of 1982 working in a hospital in Minneapolis as a chaplain. I was one of seven doing a ‘quarter’ of Clinical Pastoral Education. One day I had to go to a bank and got chatting with an employee at the information desk. When he heard I was based in the Philippines he told me that in the previous elections in the USA he had considered, among other things, what impact his vote would have on the lives of Filipinos and others outside the USA.

I was very struck by his attitude. We never got into partisan politics nor did we discuss religion. The man was almost certainly a Christian, probably a Lutheran if he was from Minneapolis or a Catholic if from St Paul, the other ‘Twin City’. I saw in him a person reflecting the teaching of Vatican II.

One of the major documents of that Council, Gaudium et Spes, addresses the political life of society. No 75 says: All citizens, therefore, should be mindful of the right and also the duty to use their free vote to further the common good. The Church praises and esteems the work of those who for the good of men devote themselves to the service of the state and take on the burdens of this office . . . 

All Christians must be aware of their own specific vocation within the political community. It is for them to give an example by their sense of responsibility and their service of the common good. In this way they are to demonstrate concretely how authority can be compatible with freedom, personal initiative with the solidarity of the whole social organism, and the advantages of unity with fruitful diversity. They must recognize the legitimacy of different opinions with regard to temporal solutions, and respect citizens, who, even as a group, defend their points of view by honest methods. Political parties, for their part, must promote those things which in their judgement are required for the common good; it is never allowable to give their interests priority over the common good.

Robert Schuman [Wikipedia]

A politician of the last century who may be beatified one day is the Servant of God Robert Schuman, one of the founders of what is now the European Union. His politics of reconciliation in post-World War II Europe flowed from his deep Catholic Christian faith. Yet he was never an ‘agent’ of the Catholic Church. He was an embodiment of the vision of Gaudium et Spes, promulgated by Pope Paul VI in December 1965.

Incidentally, Robert Schuman, when Foreign Minister of France – he had been Prime Minister in 1947-48 despite having been born a German citizen in Luxembourg – said at a congress in 1950 to mark the 1,400th anniversary of the birth of Ireland’s greatest missionary saint: St Columban, this illustrious Irishman who left his own country for voluntary exile, willed and achieved a spiritual union between the principal European countries of his time. He is the patron saint of all those who now seek to build a United Europe.

Robert Schuman’s deepest identity was as a Christian. It was as such that he became a patriotic Frenchman and a visionary European. St Thomas More was one of the greatest Englishmen in the history of his country. However, he was His Majesty’s good servant – but God’s first. In 2000 St John Paul II proclaimed him patron saint of politicians and statesmen.

Jesus doesn’t give us any detailed way of being involved in the political life of whatever country we belong to. But he gives us the values to live by. We cannot leave those values at the entrance to the polling booth or at the entrance to the legislative chamber if we happen to be elected to public office. Nor can we leave them at the door of the church after Mass on Sunday.

As voters and politicians Catholic Christians may have very different views on most matters of policy. But there are certain issues on which we must all take a Gospel stand. We may never advocate abortion or support the very new idea of ‘marriage’ between two persons of the same sex. 

In 2013 a member of the Irish parliament who voted in favour of legalising abortion in certain circumstances was aggrieved when his parish priest told him that he could no longer be an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. It is far more important to try to live as Gaudium et Spes teaches – All Christians must be aware of their own specific vocation within the political community – than to be an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion or a lector, important though these roles may sometimes be. But they are simply roles. No one has a ‘vocation’ to be either of these or to take on similar roles. But the Council tells us that each of us has a specific vocation within the political community.

Robert Schuman lived that vocation to the full. St Thomas More was martyred because he lived that vocation to the full.

St Thomas More, Hans Holbein the Younger [Web Gallery of Art]

The words of today’s alternative Communion Antiphon were sung as the Alleluia verse at the canonisation of St Pedro Calungsod and others, 21 October 2012.

Antiphona ad communionem  Communion Antiphon Mt10:45

Ritus hominis venit,

ut daret animan suam redemptionem pro multis.

The Son of Man has come

to give his life as a ransom for many.

World Mission Day

This Sunday is World Mission Day. You may wish to read the Message of Pope Francis for World Mission Day 2017. The Pope quotes his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI: Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a Person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.

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‘Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables.’ Sunday Reflections, 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Supper at Emmaus (detail), Caravaggio [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 Matthew 22:1-14 [22:1-10] (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

[‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’]

Swing made of tyres, East Timor [Wikipedia]

A friend of mine who has four young children and who now lives in California posted on her Facebook that the authorities in some school are removing the swings from its playground because they are ‘dangerous’ for children. I wonder if the committee in the Vatican who drew up the Lectionary we have been using since 1969 thought that some of the words of Jesus might be ‘dangerous’ for us since they have given us the option today of leaving out the last four verses of the Gospel [in square brackets above].

In Matthew 3:7 Jesus addresses some Pharisees and Sadducees with the words, You brood of vipers!, which he repeats in 12:34 and in 23:34 he’s even more scathing: You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?

The words of Jesus aren’t always ‘nice’. And not all the words in the homily of Pope Francis on 5 October 2014 at the Holy Mass for the opening of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family were ‘nice’. Addressing the assembled participants, mostly bishops, he said, And to satisfy this greed, evil pastors lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others . . . We are all sinners and can also be tempted to ‘take over’ the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings. God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants. We can ‘thwart’ God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit

Laid Table with Cheeses and Fruit (detail) 

Floris Claesz van Dijk [Web Gallery of Art]

The First Reading and the Gospel speak clearly of God’s desire for all of us to be with him, sharing in the abundance of his riches, symbolized in both readings by a lavish banquet.

President Ramon Magsaysay of the Philippines (died 1957) wearing a barong Tagalog [Wikipedia]

More than 30 years ago I officiated at a wedding in Sacred Heart Church, Cebu City. The reception was held next door at a centre attached to the church, which belongs to the Jesuits. At the reception I noticed an elderly man wearing a barong Tagalog, which is formal dress for men in the Philippines, especially at weddings. But it turned out that nobody knew him. He wasn’t a guest, but had invited himself along. As there were weddings almost every day at Sacred Heart Church I figured that maybe he invited himself along whenever the reception was held at the adjacent centre.

But nobody minded. Filipinos are hospitable and nobody is ever turned away. Many of us were amused and I had noticed the man at Mass. In other words, he wasn’t a freeloader but participated in the wedding ceremony, something that many invited to weddings an baptisms don’t do. They just turn up for the meal.

The harsh words of Jesus, which I suspect many priests won’t read at Mass, jolt us out of our complacency. The man who turned up at the banquet without bothering to dress for the occasion clearly thought that cultural norms and good manners didn’t apply to him. It’s not a crime to turn up at a wedding or some similar event dressed casually but to do so shows a lack of respect for the celebrants and for oneself.

However, in the parable, Jesus isn’t telling us to be ‘nice’ and well-mannered. He’s telling us forcefully that in order to share in the ‘dream’ that he and our heavenly Father have for us we have to do the Father’s will. Pope Francis referred to this in the closing words of his homily: My Synod brothers, to do a good job of nurturing and tending the vineyard, our hearts and our minds must be kept in Jesus Christ by ‘the peace of God which passes all understanding’ (Phil 4:7). In this way our thoughts and plans will correspond to God’s dream: to form a holy people who are his own and produce the fruits of the kingdom of God (cf. Mt 21:43).

We have to make choices. We often choose to sin. God is merciful, bending down to welcome us back, to acknowledge our sins and to ask for and receive his forgiveness. Jesus has given the Church the wonderful Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession/Penance, precisely so that he can meet us in our sinfulness, forgive and heal us. And the Church teaches us clearly that when we have committed a grave sin we must avail of that sacrament. By the same token, he wants us priests to be available for penitents and to go to confession  regularly ourselves.

When God gave us the gift of freedom he also placed some ‘swings’ in our ‘playground’, knowing that we would sometimes fall and ‘graze our knees’ or even hurt ourselves more seriously. He didn’t protect us from all possible eventualities. Had he done so he would have made prisoners of us. He invites us to his heavenly banquet, paid for by the sacrifice of his Son on Calvary.

In the parable the king’s servants went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. Both good and bad had a sense of being blessed and honored by the invitation, except for one – we don’t know if he was one of the ‘good’ or one of the ‘bad’ – with an insolent sense of entitlement rather than a wondrous sense of being graced.

Vase with Cornflowers and Poppies, Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

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‘You are the heirs of a great testimony, a precious witness to Christ.’ Sunday Reflections, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Virgin of the Grapes, Pierre Mignard [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 Matthew 21:33-43 (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:

 ‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’

Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:

“The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
    and it is amazing in our eyes”?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.

First Reading, Isaiah 5:1-7 [English Standard Version]

The young Fr Edward Galvin in China

Just over a century ago the young Fr Edward Galvin of the Diocese of Cork, Ireland, was sent by his bishop to work for some years in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, because he had no place to put him. This was common at the time and many young Irish diocesan priests spent their early years on loan to English-speaking dioceses in other countries. While in Brooklyn Father Galvin found himself answering God’s call to go to China. This was to lead eventually to the formal founding of the Missionary Society of St Columban, to which I belong, in 1918 with Fr Galvin and Fr John Blowick, another young Irish diocesan priest, as the co-founders. Later Fr Galvin became Bishop of Hanyang, China, and was expelled by the Communist authorities.

When I was growing up in Ireland people who were critical of the Church, sometimes with good reason, often used the term ‘priest-ridden’ to describe the country. Today there are parishes without priests and the average age of priests is, according to reports, approaching 70. In twenty years or so it could well happen that priests will be a relative rarity in the country.

When I was young almost every Catholic in Ireland went to Sunday Mass and the seminaries were full. Today only a minority take part in Sunday Mass, the seminaries have nearly all closed and only a handful of young men are preparing for ordination in the two or three that still remain open. More and more young people are choosing not to get married and not to have their children baptised.

In 1961, the year I entered the seminary, Ireland celebrated the 1,500th anniversary of the death of St Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland. Very few could have foreseen the falling away, not only from the Church, but from the Christian faith, within two generations.

St Paul tells us in the Second Reading today: Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

I sometimes get disheartened at the situation of the Church in my native land and in other Western countries. The First Reading and the Gospel remind us that many have rejected God’s love, God’s gift, especially the gift of faith. Through the Prophet Isaiah God poignantly asks, What more was there to do for my vineyard  that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?

St Andrew Kim Tae-gon

Myeongdong Cathedral, Seoul [Wikipedia]

But in the readings the Lord is really asking us to see what he has given us, to treasure it and to pass it on. In his homily at the beatification of 124 martyrs in Korea on 16 August 2014 Pope Francis said: The victory of the martyrs, their witness to the power of God’s love, continues to bear fruit today in Korea, in the Church which received growth from their sacrifice. Our celebration of Blessed Paul and Companions provides us with the opportunity to return to the first moments, the infancy as it were, of the Church in Korea. It invites you, the Catholics of Korea, to remember the great things which God has wrought in this land and to treasure the legacy of faith and charity entrusted to you by your forebears.

The following day in the opening sentence in his homily at the concluding Mass of Asian Youth Day Pope Francis said, The glory of the martyrs shines upon you! These words – a part of the theme of the Sixth Asian Youth Day – console and strengthen us all. Young people of Asia: you are the heirs of a great testimony, a precious witness to Christ

The Pope was reminding the young people, and all of us, of the legacy of the Christian faith that we have received.

Beatifications, Seoul [Wikipedia]

The Bishop of Rome touched on this again on 21 September when he celebrated Mass in Mother Teresa Square, Tirana, very conscious of the persecution that had ended less than 30 years ago. He concluded his homily with these stirring words: To the Church which is alive in this land of Albania, I say ‘thank you’ for the example of fidelity to the Gospel. Do not forget the nest, your long history, or your trials. Do not forget the wounds, but also do not be vengeful. Go forward to work with hope for a great future. So many of the sons and daughters of Albania have suffered, even to the point of sacrificing their lives. May their witness sustain your steps today and tomorrow as you journey along the way of love, of freedom, of justice and, above all, of peace. So may it be.

The Lord is calling each of us today to look back with gratitude for the gift of faith we have received individually and as community so that we can live that faith fully in the present as we move in hope and love into the future.

But the readings also remind us of the reality that the precious gift of the Christian faith has been lost, not only by individuals but in large areas of the world such as North Africa not that long after the time of such giants as St Augustine.

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‘All our love, then, must be fraternal.’ Sunday Reflections, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Inspiration of St Matthew, Caravaggio [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 Matthew 21:28-32 (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:

‘What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.’ 

The above scene, at the Coliseum in Rome, comes shortly before the end of the 1983 made-for-TV move, The Scarlet and the Black, which tells the true World War II story of Vatican-based Irish priest Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, known as ‘The Vatican Pimpernel’ and played here by Gregory Peck, and Colonel Herbert Kappler, head of the Gestapo in Rome during the Nazi occupation from September 1943 till June 1944, played by Christopher Plummer. The priest has managed to save the lives of many Allied soldiers and others, getting under the skin of Kappler.
When the German knows that the Allies are about to liberate Rome he sends for the Irishman at night, guaranteeing his safety. The Wikipedia article on the movie tells us what happens after their exchange of ‘pleasantries’ above. 

[Wikipedia]

Colonel Kappler worries for his family’s safety from vengeful partisans, and, in a one-to-one meeting with O’Flaherty, asks him to save his family, appealing to the same values that motivated O’Flaherty to save so many others. The Monsignor, however, refuses, disbelieving that after all the Colonel has done and all the atrocities he is responsible for, he could expect mercy and forgiveness automatically, simply because he asked for it, and walks away in disgust . . .

Kappler is captured in 1945 and questioned by the Allies. In the course of his interrogation, he is informed that his wife and children were smuggled out of Italy and escaped unharmed into Switzerland. Upon being asked who helped them, Kappler realizes who it must have been, but responds simply that he does not know.

At the very end we read on the screen: After the liberation Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty was honored by Italy, Canada and Australia, given the U.S. Medal of Freedom and made a Commander of the British Empire.

Herbert Kappler was sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes. In the long years that followed in his Italian prison, Kappler had only one visitor. Every month, year in and year out, O’Flaherty came to see him.


In 1959 the former head of the dreaded Gestapo in Rome was [received] into the Catholic faith at the hand of the Irish priest.

Memorial to Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty (1898 – 1963), Killarney, Ireland [Wikipedia]

[You can view the whole scene between the Colonel Kappler and Monsignor O’Flaherty on Gloria TV here, starting at 06.10. The whole movie is available on Gloria TV here.]

St Paul tells us in the Second Reading, Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. The priest has been putting his life at risk time and again to save the lives of others, while the soldier has been taking the lives of others. But now Kappler looks beyond himself and wants to save the lives of his wife and two children.

St Paul tells us that Christ Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a slave. Kappler in a real sense can be said to have emptied himself when he compares himself to a beggar and lame dog as he requests the priest to help his wife and children get to safety. Saving others is all part of your faith, he says to the priest. Brotherly love and forgiveness – that’s the other half of what you believe.

When the priest storms off with I’ll see you in hell first! Kappler says to himself, You’re no different from anyone else. Your talk means nothing. Charity, forgiveness, mercy – it’s all lies.

But when Kappler is being interrogated by officials of the Allies [here from 1:30 to 3:06]  we discover that the Irish priest too had emptied himself by overcoming his anger at the request to help his enemy’s family to escape, and by enabling them to get to Switzerland. 

Very few of us will have to face the kind of danger that Monsignor O’Flaherty faced. But every day we have to make choices, often between good and bad. The choice to forgive his enemy that the Irish priest made is the kind of choice that faces all of us, even if the perceived crime or ‘crime’ of our enemy or ‘enemy’ is rarely on the scale of those of Colonel Kappler. But the latter, in his need, felt the stirrings of hope in his heart, the stirrings of faith in a merciful God, when he approached his nemesis with his plea. 

Those stirrings were dashed by the priest’s angry refusal. Charity, forgiveness, mercy – it’s all lies. But those stirrings were raised again when he learned that his wife and children were safe and knew that only one person could have seen to that. Then he knew he was wrong when he said, Charity, forgiveness, mercy – it’s all lies. Now he knew it was all true.

I don’t know if the Irish priest was familiar with these words of St Caesarius of Arles (c.470 – 27 August 542): Whenever you love brothers or sisters you love friends, for they are already with you, joined to you in Catholic unity. If they live virtuously you love them as people who have been changed from enemies into brothers and sisters. But suppose you love people who do not yet believe in Christ, or if they do, yet believe as the devil believes – they believe in Christ but still do not love him. You must love just the same, you must love even people like that, you must love them as brothers and sisters. They are not such yet, but you must love them so that they become such through your kindness. All our love, then, must be fraternal.

‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went.

[You can read a fine article by William Doino Jr published in First Things, November 2013: Hugh O’Flaherty, Ireland’s Shining Priest.]

Antiphona ad communionem   

Communion Antiphon Cf Ps 118 [119]:49-50

 

Memento verbi tui servo tuo, Domine,

Remember your word to your servant, O Lord,

in quo mihi spem dedisti;

by which you have given me hope.

haec me consolata est in humilitate mea.

This is my comfort when I am brought low.

   

 

 

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Columban Fr Bernard O’Connor RIP

Fr Bernard O’Connor

(1934 – 2017)

Fr Bernard O’Connor was born on 18 April 1934 in Ballymote, County Sligo, Ireland, and educated in Ballymote Boys National School and St Joseph’s College, Ballinasloe, before joining in the Columbans in St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, Navan, in 1952.

O’Connell Street, Ballymote [Wikipedia]

Fr O’Connor was ordained in St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, on 21 December 1958 and appointed to the Philippines. After language studies in Tagalog he began his many years of work in the Archdiocese of Manila. His first years were spent in Silang and Binangonan but from 1969 he was engaged in Student Catholic Action. This was a dynamic ministry of leadership-training among university students in Manila founded by Columban Fr Edward J. McCarthy in 1936. Father Barney served, mainly in Far Eastern University, during the turbulent years of Martial Law when all student organizations were suspect and many banned.

Far Eastern University, Manila [Wikipedia]

Having served as Superior in the District of Luzon he returned in 1988 to parish ministry in Our Lady of Remedies, Malate, until he was appointed to Britain in 1995. Mission Awareness and House Manager were two of the roles he carried during his thirteen years in Solihull and, as he put it, up to the last he was still seeking new veins on the coalface of British mission.

‘Spaghetti Junction’, M6, near Birmingham [Wikipedia]

Father Barney made his way through this many times while going on weekend mission appeals.

During all these years Fr Bernard suffered from poor health and he returned to Ireland to begin dialysis treatment in 2009.

Eventually he needed treatment three days every week but always tried to bounce back as quickly as possible. As one of the first Columbans to develop computer skills along with his cryptic crosswords and stamp collection he always had ways of coping with the long hours of treatment and recovery.

Father Bernard will be remembered for his droll humour, for his hope and indomitable courage, a witness to all of us on how to cope with life’s difficulties.

Irish airmail stamp (1948-65) [Wikipedia]

Fr O’Connor died suddenly on 17 September 2017. May God reward this generous and faithful missionary priest.

May he rest in peace.

‘The Hearty Boys of Ballymote’

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‘Or are you envious because I am generous?’ Sunday Reflections, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Red Vineyard, Van Gogh [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 Matthew 20:1-16a (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

Jesus told his disciples this parable:

‘For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market-place; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’

Vineyards with a View of Auvers, Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

I spent a grace-filled year in Toronto in 1981-82 doing a sabbatical at Regis College, a Jesuit school. The programme I was in was for persons with pastoral experience. Nearly all of us were priests or religious brothers and sisters, with one or two laypersons. One of the graces of that year was making new friends. 

Five or six of us men used to go for an hour’s brisk walk almost every night after supper. One of them was Brother Luke Pearson FMS, a member of the Marist Brothers of the Schools, from New Jersey whose father was a Scottish Presbyterian and his mother an Irish Catholic. Brother Luke identified with his mother in terms of his faith but considered himself Scottish rather than Irish, even though he was American.

In the 1990s Brother Luke came to be a member of the staff at the Marist Asia Pacific Center in Marikina City, part of the urban sprawl that is Metro Manila, where junior professed brothers from the region have ongoing formation. Sadly, he later died of cancer.

At the end of our academic year most of us went to Loyola House in Guelph, Ontario, for what is now called The Full Spiritual Exercises Experience, which includes a retreat of 30 days. Many of the retreatants were persons we hadn’t met before. We got to know them a little during the preparatory days before we moved into the total silence of the 30-day retreat, apart from three separate ‘repose days’ when we were off silence from after breakfast until late afternoon.

I began to notice as each repose day came about that I was finding it harder to remember who had been on the nine-month programme in Toronto and who hadn’t. In the silence we were gradually becoming a real community, even though after leaving most of us would never meet each other again.

St Michael’s Cathedral, Toronto [Wikipedia]

At the beginning I saw myself and my companions from the Regis College programme as my core group who had borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat, as it were, while the others were those hired about five o’clock.

Unlike the parable, there was no sense of resentment but rather a sense of joy. We were all receiving an abundance of the Lord’s unbounded generosity with the graces he was showering on each of us, and on all of us as a community growing in the silence of prayer. 

And my friendship with Brother Luke had grown deeper during that silence.

I recalled all of this while reflecting on and praying with today’s Gospel. There’s a great freedom in being able to acknowledge and to rejoice in the gifts that God has given others that may be different from those he has given me. When I can do that I will have a sense of gratitude to God not only for the gifts that others have but for those that I have. 

I remember reading an obituary of a Columban who had spent 53 years in Japan and who died in Ireland, Fr Bede Cleary. He was described as a happy, enthusiastic, committed missionary and that people were touched by his friendliness, hospitality and selfless dedication. Among other things, he was  involved with other Christians in bringing on pilgrimages of reconciliation to Japan former prisoners of war from Britain and other places who had suffered cruelly from Japanese soldiers during World War II and who carried bitterness and hatred in their hearts. One of the things that had led to these pilgrimages ws the discovery that young Japanese, born long after the War, were tending the graves of POWs who had died in Japan.

But what I remember most from the obituary written by another Columban in Japan, Fr Eamonn Horgan, now retired in Ireland, was his description of three of the shortest books you could find in a library. One was How to Maintain a Car by Fr Bede Cleary. Father Bede was truly loved by his fellow Columbans as well as by the Japanese people he so faithfully served. But the Columbans in Japan could also see clearly that there were certain gifts he lacked! 

Being able to laugh at what we and others lack while recognizing and thanking God for the many gifts each has is one of the graces that God wants each of us to receive.

If we are truly grateful to God for everything that he has given us, and for what he has given others that we may not have, when we come to receive the usual daily wage, which, if we follow his will, will be eternal life, we won’t provoke him to ask, Are you envious because I am generous?

Antiphona ad introitum     Entrance antiphon

Salus populi ego sum, dicit Dominus.

I am the salvation of the people says the Lord.

De quacumque tribulatione clamaverint ad me,

Should they cry to me in any distress,

exaudiam eos, et ero illorum Dominus in perpetuum.

I will hear them, and I will be their Lord for ever.

 

Ps. 77 [78]:1. Attendite, popule meus, legem meam:

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;

inclinate aurem vestram in verba oris mei. 

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

Gloria Patri, et Filio et Spiritui Sancto;
Glory to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, in saecula saecolurm. Amen.
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen

 

Salus populi ego sum, dicit Dominus.

I am the salvation of the people says the Lord.

De quacumque tribulatione clamaverint ad me,

Should they cry to me in any distress,

exaudiam eos, et ero illorum Dominus in perpetuum.

I will hear them, and I will be their Lord for ever.

 

The text above in bold, in Latin and English, is used in Mass in the Ordinary Form. That and the rest is used in the Mass in the Extraordinary Form on the 19th Sunday After Pentecost.

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‘How often should I forgive?’ Sunday Reflections, 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

St Peter in Penitence, El Greco [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 Matthew 18:21-35 (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

Then Peter came and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’

The Misa Criolla, by Argentinian composer Ariel Ramírez (1921-2010), is a Mass for tenor, chorus and orchestra, is based on folk genres such as chacareracarnavalito and estilo pampeano, with Andean influences and instruments. It is also one of the first Masses to be composed in a modern language. Ramírez wrote the piece in 1963-1964. In Latin America ‘Kyrie eleison’, is translated as ‘Señor, ten piedad de nosotros’, ‘Lord, have mercy on us’, whereas in Spain it is ‘Señor, ten piedad’, ‘Lord, have mercy’. Here it is sung by Los Frontizeros and the choir of San Isidro Cathedral, Buenos Aires. I do not know to what extent the Misa Criolla has been used in worship, as distinct from concert performances.  

 

Fr Werenfried van Straaten OPraem [Wikipedia]

Today’s gospel brings us in touch with what is perhaps its most difficult demand: to forgive. El Greco’s painting shows us St Peter praying with hope and trust in God’s merciful and forgiving love. The setting by Ariel Ramírez of the Kyrie expresses the same thing. 

Two examples come to mind. One is that of Fr Werenfried van Straaten OPraem (1913-2003), about whom I posted on 6 June 2011. A Dutchman, he appealed to his fellow Dutch citizens who had suffered greatly from the Germans during World War II to help German refugees after the war by supplying food and other necessities. He was also deeply concerned about the spiritual welfare of the refugees. His request, especially to those who had family members killed by German soldiers, pushed some of his listeners to the limit. But they acted according to today’s gospel and found hatred and anger replaced by pity and love.

Another is an extract from a letter of Fr William Doyle SJ, an Irish priest who died in August 1917 while serving as a chaplain in the British Army in World War I. The extract is taken from a post in a wonderful blog called Remembering Fr William Doyle SJ.

Father Doyle writes to his father in Dublin about events of 5 September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme:

In the bottom of one hole lay a British and a German soldier, locked in a deadly embrace, neither had any weapon, but they had fought on to the bitter end. Another couple seemed to have realised that the horrible struggle was none of their making, and that they were both children of the same God; they had died hand-in-hand praying for and forgiving one another. A third face caught my eye, a tall, strikingly handsome young German, not more, I should say, than eighteen. He lay there calm and peaceful, with a smile of happiness on his face, as if he had had a glimpse of Heaven before he died. Ah, if only his poor mother could have seen her boy it would have soothed the pain of her broken heart.

To Father Doyle no German soldier was an enemy. Indeed, one of the remarkable things in the literature that came out of the Great War is that soldiers didn’t seem to have hatred for the official ‘enemy’. It was more often against their own generals and bullying corporals. Photos and videos from the war show prisoners of war, especially wounded ones, being treated with the same kindness and consideration as others.

Father Doyle’s description of the British and German soldiers holding hands in death illustrates poignantly and powerfully what Jesus asks of us. 

Christ Carrying the Cross, El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).

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‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’ Sunday Reflections, 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Prayer before a Meal, Adriaen Jansz van Ostade [Web Gallery of Art]

For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them (Matthew 18:20).

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Matthew 18:15-20 (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition) 

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’

Today’s gospel looks at forgiveness, mainly from the point of view of helping someone to acknowledge a wrongdoing and thereby asking for and receiving forgiveness. I often think about a Christian Brother who taught me in Dublin and one incident involving him that I witnessed and another I heard about years later. I’ll simply copy from a previous post, with one or two slight changes.

During my primary school years I came to know an exceptional person, Brother Mícheál. S. Ó Flaitile, known as ‘Pancho’ from the sidekick of the Cisco Kid, a syndicated comic-strip [above] that we used to read in The Irish Press, an Irish daily newspaper that no longer exists. Our ‘Pancho’, like the Cisco Kid’s friend, was on the pudgy side, though minus the hair and moustache. He organized an Irish-speaking club during my primary school years and arranged for me to be secretary. I don’t think I was too happy at the time to get that job but I realized later that he had spotted my ability to write. Other teachers had encouraged me in this too.
My class was blessed to have had Brother Ó Flaitile in our last two years in secondary school, 1959 to 1961, when we were preparing for our all-important Leaving Certificate examination. He taught us Irish and Latin. He probably should have been teaching at university level. What I remember most of all about him was his character. Everyone described him as ‘fear uasal’, the Irish for ‘a noble man’ – as distinct from ‘a nobleman’. A stare from him made you feel humbled, but not humiliated. He had the kind of authority that Jesus had, that we read about in the gospels.

I remember one event in our last year. ‘Pancho’ used to take the A and B sections for religion class together during the last period before lunch every day. One day he scolded a student in the B section for something or other that was trivial and the student himself and the rest of us took it in our stride and forgot about it. We were nearly 70 boys aged between 16 and 18. ‘Pancho’ was probably around 60 then. The next day Brother Ó Flaitile apologized to the boy in question and to the rest of us because he had discovered that the student hadn’t done what he had accused him of. Whatever it was, it had been very insignificant. But ‘Pancho’s apology was for me a formative moment. I mentioned it to him many years later when he was in his 80s. He told me he didn’t remember the incident, but he smiled. He died in the late 1980s.

The Merciful Christ (detail), Montañés [Web Gallery of Art]

Some years ago a classmate told me about an incident between himself and Brother Ó Flaitile in 1959 when we were on a summer school/holiday in an Irish-speaking part of County Galway. If my friend had told me the story at the time I would not have believed him. He got angry with ‘Pancho’ over something or other and used a four-letter word that nobody would ever express to an adult, least of all to a religious brother and teacher whom we revered. The lad stormed back to the house where he was staying and almost immediately felt remorse. He went back to ‘Pancho’ and apologized. The Brother accepted this totally and unconditionally and never referred to the incident again.

After my father, I don’t think that anyone else influenced me more for good when I was young than ‘Pancho’.

Looking back on the first incident I figure that the student in question must have gone to ‘Pancho’ afterwards and explained to him what had really happened. Brother Ó Flaitile was the kind of authority figure whom you felt free to approach in such a situation. If that is what happened, and I believe it was, then the opening words of today’s gospel were what we all experienced in class the following day: If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 

Brother Ó Flaitile’s asking for forgiveness that day was all the more powerful because he was more than three times our age, an authority figure, a religious brother and a truly revered person. What he did showed why he was revered, as did the ‘four-letter word incident’ with my classmate.

For me ‘Pancho’ exemplified the Christian leadership that Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche and, with Marie-Hélène Mathieu, co-founder of Faith and Light, talks about in the video below. He knew and called each of us by name and loved each of us, especially when we were ‘the enemy’, wrongdoing or perceived to be such, and led us by example, most powerfully of all when he asked our forgiveness for having judged one of us wrongly.


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Schola Bellarmina, Brussels, Belgium

Antiphona ad introitum  Entrance Antiphon  Ps 118[119]:137, 124

 

Iustus es, Domine et rectum iudicium tuum;

You are just, O Lord, and your judgement is right;

fac cum servo tuo secundum misericordiam tuam.

treat your servant in accord with your merciful love.

Ps 118[119]:1. Beati immaculati in via: qui ambulant in lege Domini. 

Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.

 

Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto, sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum, Amen! 

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen!

 

Iustus es, Domine et rectum iudicium tuum;

You are just, O Lord, and your judgement is right;

fac cum servo tuo secundum misericordiam tuam.

treat your servant in accord with your merciful love.

[The text in bold is what is in the Ordinary Form of the Mass. The fuller text is used in the Ordinary Form when it is sung.]

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‘For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?’ Sunday Reflections, 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Repentant Peter, El Greco [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 Matthew 16:21-27 (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition) 

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.

Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. But for Wales? [3:36 – 4:15]

For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?(Matthew 16:26, RSVCE)

For Readings and Reflections for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A,  click on the following: 

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

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‘Following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church.’ Sunday Reflections, 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Apostle Peter in Prison, Rembrandt [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 Matthew 16:13-20 (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition) 

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah,[a] the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Pope Benedict XVI

World Youth Day Madrid 2011 [Wikipedia]

The closing Mass of WYD Madrid 2011  was celebrated on the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 21 August, with the same readings we are using this weekend. Below is the Pope’s homily, with emphases added. In his homily, though he is speaking to the young pilgrims in Madrid, Pope Benedict is speaking to us all, reminding us of two central things: ‘Faith . . . leads to a closer and more intense relationship with Jesus’ and ‘We cannot follow Jesus on our own’.

Dear Young People,

In this celebration of the Eucharist we have reached the high point of this World Youth Day. Seeing you here, gathered in such great numbers from all parts of the world, fills my heart with joy. I think of the special love with which Jesus is looking upon you. Yes, the Lord loves you and calls you his friends (cf. Jn 15:15). He goes out to meet you and he wants to accompany you on your journey, to open the door to a life of fulfilment and to give you a share in his own closeness to the Father. For our part, we have come to know the immensity of his love and we want to respond generously to his love by sharing with others the joy we have received. Certainly, there are many people today who feel attracted by the figure of Christ and want to know him better. They realize that he is the answer to so many of our deepest concerns. But who is he really? How can someone who lived on this earth so long ago have anything in common with me today?

The Gospel we have just heard (cf. Mt 16:13-20) suggests two different ways of knowing ChristThe first is an impersonal knowledge, one based on current opinion. When Jesus asks: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”, the disciples answer: “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets”. In other words, Christ is seen as yet another religious figure, like those who came before him. Then Jesus turns to the disciples and asks them: “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responds with what is the first confession of faith: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”. Faith is more than just empirical or historical facts; it is an ability to grasp the mystery of Christ’s person in all its depth.

Yet faith is not the result of human effort, of human reasoning, but rather a gift of God: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven”. Faith starts with God, who opens his heart to us and invites us to share in his own divine life. Faith does not simply provide information about who Christ is; rather, it entails a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person, with all our understanding, will and feelings, to God’s self-revelationSo Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”, is ultimately a challenge to the disciples to make a personal decision in his regard. Faith in Christ and discipleship are strictly interconnected.

And, since faith involves following the Master, it must become constantly stronger, deeper and more mature, to the extent that it leads to a closer and more intense relationship with Jesus. Peter and the other disciples also had to grow in this way, until their encounter with the Risen Lord opened their eyes to the fullness of faith.

Benedict XVI with pilgrims, WYD 2011 [Wikipedia]

Dear young people, today Christ is asking you the same question which he asked the Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?” Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own. Say to him: “Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who have given your life for me. I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word. You know me and you love me. I place my trust in you and I put my whole life into your hands. I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me”.

Jesus’ responds to Peter’s confession by speaking of the Church: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church”. What do these words mean? Jesus builds the Church on the rock of the faith of Peter, who confesses that Christ is God.

The Church, then, is not simply a human institution, like any other. Rather, she is closely joined to God. Christ himself speaks of her as “his” Church. Christ cannot be separated from the Church any more than the head can be separated from the body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12). The Church does not draw her life from herself, but from the Lord.

Dear young friends, as the Successor of Peter, let me urge you to strengthen this faith which has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles. Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life. But let me also remind you that following Jesus in faith means walking at his side in the communion of the Church. We cannot follow Jesus on our own. Anyone who would be tempted to do so “on his own”, or to approach the life of faith with that kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus, or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus.

Having faith means drawing support from the faith of your brothers and sisters, even as your own faith serves as a support for the faith of others. I ask you, dear friends, to love the Church which brought you to birth in the faith, which helped you to grow in the knowledge of Christ and which led you to discover the beauty of his love. Growing in friendship with Christ necessarily means recognizing the importance of joyful participation in the life of your parishes, communities and movements, as well as the celebration of Sunday Mass, frequent reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, and the cultivation of personal prayer and meditation on God’s word.

Friendship with Jesus will also lead you to bear witness to the faith wherever you are, even when it meets with rejection or indifference. We cannot encounter Christ and not want to make him known to others. So do not keep Christ to yourselves! Share with others the joy of your faith. The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God. I think that the presence here of so many young people, coming from all over the world, is a wonderful proof of the fruitfulness of Christ’s command to the Church: “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15). You too have been given the extraordinary task of being disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries filled with young people who are looking for something greater and, because their heart tells them that more authentic values do exist, they do not let themselves be seduced by the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God.

‘Salve Regina’ at WYD Madrid, 2011

Dear young people, I pray for you with heartfelt affectionI commend all of you to the Virgin Mary and I ask her to accompany you always by her maternal intercession and to teach you how to remain faithful to God’s word. I ask you to pray for the Pope, so that, as the Successor of Peter, he may always confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith. May all of us in the Church, pastors and faithful alike, draw closer to the Lord each day. May we grow in holiness of life and be effective witnesses to the truth that Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, the Saviour of all mankind and the living source of our hope. Amen.

Closing Mass, WYD Madrid, 2011

This video includes part of the homily above

Pope Francis in 2015 [Wikipedia]

Collect from Mass for the Pope

O God, who in your providential design 

willed that your Church be built 

upon blessed Peter, whom you set over the other Apostles, look with favour, we pray, on Francis our Pope 

and grant that he, whom you have made Peter’s successor, may be for your people a visible source and foundation 

of unity in faith and of communion.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

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