17 August 2017

'Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.' Sunday Reflections, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A



The Canaanite Woman, 
Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry [Wikipedia]


For Readings and Reflections for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A,  click on the following: 



Sunday Reflections for this Sunday three years ago links the situation of the Canaanite woman in the gospel with the situation of Christians in war-torn Iraq and Syria. The video above features the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, after it was liberated from ISIS last October.

The vast majority of Catholics in Iraq and Syria belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church and Syrian Catholic Church. There are more than twenty Eastern Catholic Churches, though the vast majority of Catholics worldwide are Roman (or Latin) Catholics. All are equally Catholic and all are in full communion with Rome. Archbishop Mouche (also spelled Moshe), belongs to the Syrian Catholic Church.

May we continue to pray for the Church in Iraq and Syria with the persistent faith of the Canaanite woman in today's gospel.

I invite all to pray that Iraq may find peace, unity, and prosperity in reconciliation and in harmony among its different ethnic and religious components. (Pope Francis, 29 March 2017).

16 August 2017

100th Death Anniversary of Fr William Doyle SJ

Fr William Doyle SJ
3 March 1873 - 16 August 1917

Today is the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Fr William Doyle SJ, an Irish Jesuit who served as chaplain to Irish regiments in the British Army during the Great War (1914-18) later to be known also as the First World War. 

There is a beautiful post today on Remembering Fr Willie Doyle SJ, the blog of Dr Patrick Kenny, a blog that nourishes one's Catholic Christian faith, with writings by or about Father Willie each day. There are three other posts on the same site today: here, here and here.

Here I simply copy and paste what I posted six years ago. Fr Doyle was killed in Belgium during the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele.

This account of Father Willie Doyle's death in Ypres/Ieper, Belgium, while serving as a chaplain in the British Army during The Great War is from Father William Doyle S.J. by Professor Alfred O'Rahilly and taken from the blog Remembering Father William Doyle SJ. Fr Doyle was from Dalkey, County Dublin.


Fr. Doyle had been engaged from early morning in the front line, cheering and consoling his men, and attending to the many wounded. Soon after 3 p.m. he made his way back to the Regimental Aid Post which was in charge of a Corporal Raitt, the doctor having gone back to the rear some hours before. Whilst here word came in that an officer of the Dublins had been badly hit, and was lying out in an exposed position. Fr. Doyle at once decided to go out to him, and left the Aid Post with his runner, Private Mclnespie, and a Lieutenant Grant. Some twenty minutes later, at about a quarter to four, Mclnespie staggered into the Aid Post and fell down in a state of collapse from shell shock. Corporal Raitt went to his assistance and after considerable difficulty managed to revive him. His first words on coming back to consciousness were: “Fr. Doyle has been killed!” Then bit by bit the whole story was told. Fr. Doyle had found the wounded officer lying far out in a shell crater. He crawled out to him, absolved and anointed him, and then, half dragging, half carrying the dying man, managed to get him within the line. Three officers came up at this moment, and Mclnespie was sent for some water. This he got and was handing it to Fr. Doyle when a shell burst in the midst of the group, killing Fr. Doyle and the three officers instantaneously, and hurling Mclnespie violently to the ground. Later in the day some of the Dublins when retiring came across the bodies of all four. Recognising Fr. Doyle, they placed him and a Private Meehan, whom they were carrying back dead, behind a portion of the Frezenberg Redoubt and covered the bodies with sods and stones.


On 14 August Remembering Fr William Doyle SJ carried a photo of his last letter to his father, written two days before his death. Read the full post here.

I first learned about Father Willie Doyle from Sister Stanislaus, the Irish Sister of Charity who was principal of the boys' kindergarten I attended in Stanhope St, Dublin. She also prepared us for First Holy Communion. I learned mor about him in my first year in St Columban's College, Dalgan Park, when I entered the seminary there in September 1961. Remembering Fr William Doyle SJ is a blog that is a work of love and a reminder to me of what a priest is called to be.

Prayer for Priests by Fr Doyle

O my God, pour out in abundance Thy spirit of sacrifice upon Thy priests. It is both their glory and their duty to become victims, to be burnt up for souls, to live without ordinary joys, to be often the objects of distrust, injustice, and persecution.

The words they say every day at the altar, 'This is my Body, this is my Blood,' grant them to apply to themselves: 'I am no longer myself, I am Jesus, Jesus crucified. I am, like the bread and wine, a substance no longer itself, but by consecration another.'

O my God, I burn with desire for the sanctification of Thy priests. I wish all the priestly hands which touch Thee were hands whose touch is gentle and pleasing to Thee, that all the mouths uttering such sublime words at the altar should never descend to speaking trivialities.

Let priests in all their person stay at the level of their lofty functions, let every man find them simple and great, like the Holy Eucharist, accessible to all yet above the rest of men. O my God, grant them to carry with them from the Mass of today, a thirst for the Mass of tomorrow, and grant them, ladened themselves with gifts, to share these abundantly with their fellow men. Amen.

12 August 2017

'This is the struggle of our life - to let Christ rule.' Sunday Reflections, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Salvation of Peter, Andrea da Firenze [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)


Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’


Fr William Doyle SJ
3 March 1873 - 16 August 2017

Father William Doyle SJ, killed on 16 August 1917 in the Third Battle of Ypres, Belgium, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele, wrote this commentary on today's Gospel.

About the fourth watch of the night he cometh to them

Christ did not show himself until the fourth watch of the night. How often is this same history repeated in our own case! There is no encouragement, no comfort. We are wearied waiting. There is no sign of approaching help. Why not give up! Surely we never bargained for this. We never believed things would come to such a pass! Oh, the anguish of these moments, when in the midst of struggle, depression and loneliness Christ withholds his sensible presence. 

Christ delays to come. But he is watching all the time; he would only test us. Let him not be disappointed. This is a moment of tremendous grace. If we are stout of heart and bear our trial manfully, we will emerge from the crucible with well-nigh herculean strength. These are moments that disentangle us from many of the trappings that weaken and weigh us down. After they have passed, invariably we find our vision clearer and our appreciation of the value of things truer.

Walking upon the sea

Thus does he come to us also walking upon the sea with these words upon his lips. 'Have a good heart, fear not. It is I.' And we whisper to ourselves, 'It is the Lord.' Yes, then we understand. Then everything goes easy and we wonder that we should ever have doubted. Then we are ashamed of our wavering. What a beautiful tribute to Christ our trust would have been. So we determine next time we will understand. We decide that when next the tide of our life runs high, when our heart-boat is lashed by a rugged sea, we will understand that Christ is near, watching us and we fight fearlessly and cheerfully. Thus, little by little, troubles and crosses will serve to clamp the trust in Christ that will steady our hearts and like St Peter will will cry out: 'Lord if it be thou, bid me come to thee across the waters.' O the joy of our hearts as the master says 'Come.' And we go. We really walk upon the sea. We do wonders until some tremendous sorrow-wave dashes up between us and Christ, and for a moment we lose heart and cry out 'Lord save me'.

Immediately he spoke with them

Immediately - that word is full of love - stretching forth his hand he takes hold of me. And when He has come into my heart-boat the wind ceased. But it is only after Christ has been given full control of our heart-boat that the winds cease. This is the struggle of our life - to let Christ rule.

So long as he must come over the waters to us there will be many a lonely struggle. But when through great generosity on our part we have emptied our lives of everything likely to raise a tempest in the heart, then Christ will sit at the helm and the waves may toss, the winds may roll and blow about the boat. We are calm. We have no cause to fear. Christ sits at the helm and rules.


The reflection above was taken from pages 182-184 of To Raise the Fallen, compiled and edited by Patrick Kenny and published by Veritas. The book launching took place on 10 August at Hodges Figgis, Dublin.

Soldiers Burying their Dead, Bissen [Web Gallery of Art]

Fr Doyle fulfilled one of his duties – and also one of the corporal works of mercy – by burying the dead. His own body was never recovered.

What Happened at the Battle of Passchendaele?

+++

As the current stand-off between North Korea and the USA continues let us pray for a peaceful resolution to the situation.

O God, who show a father's care for all, 
grant, in your mercy, 
that the members of the human race, 
to whom you have given a single origin, 
may form in peace a single family 
and always be united by a fraternal spirit. 
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.

Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice (The Roman Missal).








04 August 2017

'I was able for once to offer the Holy Sacrifice on my knees.' Sunday Reflections, The Transfiguration, Year A

Transfiguration of Christ, Paolo Veronese [Web Gallery of Art]

As the Feast of the Transfiguration is a feast of the Lord  it is celebrated today instead of the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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


Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’



Father Willie Doyle SJ, in a letter, writes about the Mass he celebrated on Monday 6 August 1917 in the trenches during the Third Battle of Ypres, Belgium, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele.
For once getting out of bed was an easy, in fact, delightful task, for I was stiff and sore from my night’s rest. My first task was to look round and see what were the possibilities for Mass. As all the dug-outs were occupied if not destroyed or flooded, I was delighted to discover a tiny ammunition store which I speedily converted into a chapel, building an altar with the boxes. The fact that it barely held myself did not signify as I had no server and had to be both priest and acolyte, and in a way I was not sorry I could not stand up, as I was able for once to offer the Holy Sacrifice on my knees.
It is strange that out here a desire I have long cherished should be gratified, viz. : to be able to celebrate alone, taking as much time as I wished without inconveniencing anyone. I read long ago in the Acts of the Martyrs of a captive priest, chained to the floor of the Coliseum, offering up the Mass on the altar of his own bare breast, but apart from that, Mass that morning must have been a strange one in the eyes of God's angels, and I trust not unacceptable to Him


British trench, Battle of the Somme, 1916
One keeping watch while the others sleep [Wikipedia]

It is clear that Fr Doyle, an Irish Jesuit who had volunteered to serve as a chaplain in the British army during the Great War (1914-1918) and who was assigned to Irish regiments - the whole of Ireland was then part of the United Kingdom - had a profound sense of the presence of God as he celebrated Mass in the tiniest of spaces in a trench unfit for human habitation. He had a deep sense of being graced by God with a deep inner silence despite the noise of shells being fired by both the German and British armies. It was, in a sense, a Transfiguration moment for him.

Peter, James and John got a brief glimpse of the divinity of Jesus Christ when he took them up the mountain. It was a grace for the present and for the future. This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him! It was a grace from God the Father that gave them the courage to preach the Gospel after Pentecost and, for Peter and James, to lay down their lives for the it.

Stretcher bearers, Passchendaele, August 1917 [Wikipedia]
Fr Willie Doyle was more than familiar with scenes such as that in the photo above. He spent much of his days and nights trying to reach wounded and dying soldiers, sometimes including Germans, in order to anoint and give them absolution, to speak a last word of comfort, to assure them that God was not absent from the hell that the First World War was. More than three million soldiers died and more than eight million were wounded in the fighting on the Western Front, of which the Battle of Passchendaele was part, between 1914 and 1918.

One of those who died was my great-uncle, Corporal Lawrence Dowd, an older half-brother of my maternal grandmother, Annie Dowd Collins. He was killed on the day that Father Doyle celebrated Mass in his trench and that he wrote about above, the feast of the Transfiguration, and in the same area. So this Sunday is the 100th anniversary of his death. I do not know if Uncle Larry and Father Willie ever met but my uncle must have known who this heroic priest was as he was known and loved by all the Irish soldiers, Catholic and Protestant, fighting in Flanders.


Fr William Doyle SJ (3 March 1874 - 16 August 1917)

Fr Doyle was killed ten days after my great-uncle. To Raise the Fallen, compiled and edited by Patrick Kenny  and very recently published by Veritas, describes what happened: The precise details surrounding Fr Doyle's death are unclear. But at some time in the late afternoon of 16 August 1917, a group of soldiers led by Lieutenants Marlow and Green got into trouble beyond the front line, and Fr Doyle ran to assist them. It seems that Fr Doyle and the two officers were about to take shelter when they were hit by a German shell and killed. His body was never recovered.


Mass in an Austrian military hospital, 1916 [Wikipedia]

Sir Percival Philips, a war correspondent, wrote in the Daily Express (London) in August 1917: The Orangemen (members of a Protestant organisation, mainly in what is now Northern Ireland) will not forget a certain Roman Catholic chaplain who lies in  a soldier's grave in that sinister plain beyond Ypres. He went forward and back over the battle field with bullets whining about him, seeking out the dying and kneeling in the mud beside them to give them absolution, walking with death with a smile on his face, watched by his men with reverence and a kind of awe until a shell burst near him and he was killed. His familiar figure was seen and welcomed by hundreds of Irishmen who lay in that bloody place. Each time he came back across the field he was begged to remain in comparative safety. Smilingly he shook his head and went again into the storm. He had been with his boys at Ginchy and through other times of stress, and he would not desert them in their agony. They remember him as a saint - they speak his name with tears. (To Raise the Fallen, page 187).

To the hundreds of Irishmen who lay in that bloody place - and to wounded and dying Germans he encountered - Fr Doyle's presence was something of a 'Transfiguration experience'. Through this brave Catholic priest they saw something of the divinity of a loving God, that loving God that he had experienced so many times in unexpected ways and places, the loving God whose presence he was so conscious of as he celebrated Mass on his knees in a muddy hole in a trench ten days before his death.

If we have eyes to see and ears to hear we can see flashes of God's divinity in the actions of those around us, sometimes in the midst of tragedy, of evil, sometimes in the midst of very ordinary events of daily life, sometimes in the midst of joyful circumstances. May God open our eyes and ears to those flashes of his divinity.


At the grave of my Great-uncle Lawrence Dowd in Potijze Chateau Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium, September 2001. Uncle Larry, my maternal grandmother's older half-brother, was killed on the Feast of the Transfiguration, 6 August 1917. I was the first relative to visit his grave, in September 2001.





28 July 2017

'It is the Eucharist, the Christ who died and is risen, that gives us life.' Sunday Reflections, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Religious pendant showing Christ blessing, framed with rubies and pearls [Wikipedia]

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it (Matthew 13:45).

For Readings and Reflections for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A,  click on the following: 

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A


Chaldean Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Sorrows, Baghdad, Iraq [Wikipedia]


In Sunday Reflections for this Sunday three years ago I highlighted the situation of Christians in Iraq and Syria and included a statement by Patriarch Louis Raphael I of the Chaldean Catholic Church dated 17 July 2014. Below is a video of the Patriarch reopening a Catholic Church in Tel Kaif (Tel Keppe), about 12 kms north of Mosul, in January of this year. This area is historically the centre of the Chaldean Catholic community in Iraq.

Please pray for all of the Christians of Iraq and Syria, all of them Arabs whose ancestors became Christians in the very early days of the Church.


Today we brought back part of our dignity.


A recent article about the situation of the Church in Mosul: Now that Mosul is liberated from ISIS, will Christians return?

21 July 2017

' . . . but gather the wheat into my barn.' Sunday Reflections, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Sheaves of Wheat, Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

For Readings and Reflections for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A,  click on the following: 


The HarvestÉmile Bernard [Web Gallery of Art]


When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.


An old Protestant hymn from the USA, Bringing in the Sheaves, performed in Cape Town (Kapstadt), South Africa. The hymn is based on Psalm 126 [125]:6.

They go out, they go out, full of tears,
 carrying seed for the sowing; 
they come back, they come back, full of song, 
carrying their sheaves.


14 July 2017

'. . . and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold . . .' Sunday Reflections, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Sower (November 1888, Arles)
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

Listen! A sower went out to sow . . .


For Readings and Reflections for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A,  click on the following: 


Green Wheat Fields, Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

Other seeds fell on good soil . . . 

Wheatfield with Reaper at Sunrise, Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

. . . and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen! (Matthew 13:1-9)