Sunday Mass Readings

Francesco Cairo (1607-1665), “The Holy Trinity” 

Sunday, June 4 
The Most Holy Trinity – Solemnity 

Roman Ordinary calendar

St. Francis Caracciolo

Book of Exodus 34,4b-6.8-9.

Early in the morning Moses went up Mount Sinai as the LORD had commanded him, taking along the two stone tablets. 
Having come down in a cloud, the LORD stood with him there and proclaimed his name, “LORD.”
Thus the LORD passed before him and cried out, “The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity, 
Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship. 
Then he said, “If I find favor with you, O Lord, do come along in our company. This is indeed a stiff-necked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins, and receive us as your own.” 

Book of Daniel 3,

Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, 
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever; 
and blessed is your holy and glorious name,   
praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages. 

Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory, 
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever. 
Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom, 
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever. 

Blessed are you who look into the depths 
from your throne upon the cherubim; 
praiseworthy and exalted above all forever. 
Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven, 
praiseworthy and glorious forever. 

Second Letter to the Corinthians 13,11-13.

Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. 
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the holy ones greet you. 
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the holy Spirit be with all of you. 

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 3,16-18.

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. 
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 

Symeon the New Theologian (c.949-1022) 
Greek monk, saint of the Orthodox churches 
Hymn 51 v. 75-100, 155

To Christ be the glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit

The Three are God for the Trinity is one God. 

She gave existence to everything, She created all things, 

She created in the world the Logos and Son of the Father 

according to the flesh unto our salvation, 

being inseparable from the Father and the Spirit. 

He truly is made flesh by the arrival of the Spirit, 

and He becomes what He was not, a human being like me 

except for sin and every lawlessness, (Heb 4:15) 

He was at the same time both God and human being seen by all.

having the divine Spirit Who is united with his nature, 

with whom He has given life to the dead, opened the eyes of the blind, 

cleansed lepers, and driven out demons. (Mt 10:8) 

He suffered the cross and likewise death, 

He was resurrected in the Spirit, and taken up in glory, (1Tm 3:16) 

and He has renovated the path to heaven for all (Heb 10:20) 

who have faith in Him, a faith without doubt, 

and He has poured out copiously the All-Holy Spirit (Tt 3:6) 

on all who show their faith by their works. 

Even now He pours out the Spirit abundantly on such people. 

And He deifies by the Spirit those to whom He has been ungrudgingly united; 

He changes them from human beings without changing, 

and renders them children of God, siblings of the Saviour, 

co-heirs of Christ, and heirs of God, (Rm 8:16 seq.) 

gods joined to God in the Holy Spirit, 

prisoners indeed by flesh alone, but free in spirit, 

easily rising together with Christ into heaven, 

and obtaining full citizenship there (Ph 3:20) 

in the contemplation of good things which eyes have not seen. (1Cor 2:9) 

For glory and praise are fitting to You with the Father and your divine Spirit, 

honour and worship now and always.

Traditional Latin Mass Readings for this Sunday

Click here for a live-streamed Traditional Latin Mass

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Sacred Heart: Love that Crushes Evil

By Kathleen Beckman

“Sacred Heart devotion isn’t our devotion. It’s God’s. It’s God’s devotion to us,” writes Fr. James Kubicki, S.J., in his book, A Heart on Fire. He also reminds us that the Sacred Heart devotion didn’t begin in the seventeenth century with revelations to a Visitation nun named St. Margaret Mary Alacoque—it began “before time, in the eternal Heart of God.” This truth aids the joyful rediscovery of God’s perfect love for us. God doesn’t need our love in return, but in the mystery of divine mercy, He desires our reciprocal love. God intends an abiding, loving communion with us. While our hearts are often fickle, forgetful and fearful, His heart is intently focused on us.

In the present culture, so lacking in love, our concept of love is easily distorted, distracted, and destroyed. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a powerful provision against the destruction of authentic love. Christ is present, living and active and his Sacred Heart beats a love song that is uniquely personal.

The devil, our ancient enemy (cf. Eph 6:11-13, Job 2:1-7, Zech 3:1-2, 1 Thes 2:18, Rev 12:10) methodically plots the crushing destruction of authentic love of God and neighbor. Diabolical temptation is aimed at the distortion of God’s image, distraction from our eternal goal, and the destruction of love. When the soul experiences the absence of authentic love, it readily succumbs to the seduction of diabolical liaisons. In the Church’s ministry of deliverance and exorcism we see this repeatedly. A heart on fire with and for divine love repels the demons.

The Catechism addresses the reality of evil and our need to “fix our eyes of faith on him who alone is its conqueror”.

God is infinitely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering or the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitations proper to creatures: and above all to the question of moral evil. Where does evil come from? “I sought whence evil comes and there was no solution”, said St. Augustine, and his own painful quest would only be resolved by his conversion to the living God. The revelation of divine love in Christ manifested at the same time the extent of evil and the superabundance of grace. We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.

When we fix our eyes and heart on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we perceive that God’s heart is loving, omnipotent, omniscient, and protective of beloved creatures. The Sacred Heart burns with incomprehensible power to create good and destroy evil. Our focus is always the Eucharistic heart of God, not the work of the devil. Though we perceive the spiritual battle all around us, and discern well the spirits within and without, our hearts must commune with the Sacred Heart. During terrible temptations and worse diabolical onslaughts, the Sacred Heart is a refuge. Especially in Adoration, we can gaze, pray, converse, refresh, discern and be filled with the fuel of grace to resist the devil and proclaim Christ’s victory.

I’d propose seven ways that devotion to the Sacred Heart protects us from sin and evil.

1. Sacred Heart: Incarnational

War broke out in Heaven at the revelation of God’s plan for the Incarnation of the Word.

The rebellion of one third of the angelic beings (now called demons), occurred because they would not accept that the Son of God would become “flesh” in the lowly form of a creature born of a “woman”.  Devotion to the Sacred Heart cultivates incarnational love. Honoring the human heart of Jesus Christ, loving the Incarnate Word’s living heart, empowers us to imitate Him in loving the Father, self and others. This thwarts the devil’s plan to draw us away from our Creator with doubts that God is impersonal and disinterested. Our heart united to Christ’s heart becomes an impenetrable fortress. Demons may surround the fortress but they cannot enter.

2. Sacred Heart: Eucharistic

We enter the epic drama of the greatest love story ever through communion with Jesus in the Eucharist. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Rekindling Eucharistic amazement is a term that Pope John Paul II used in his encyclical, “Ecclesia de Eucharistia.” This amazement of the human heart enkindles the fire of divine love within. Demons despise the Humble Host. According to the saints, demons fear the disciples who live an intentional Eucharistic life. The Sacred Heart is the vessel from which flows the life-saving Precious Blood. The devil works tirelessly to keep us from Holy Communion. To the dismay of demons who curse, Eucharistic life forms a garment of praise that blesses.

3. Sacred Heart: Revelation

Jesus Christ Incarnate reveals the face and heart of our Father in Heaven. We desperately need this revelation of truth for knowledge of who we are: children of God. When we accept the revelation of Jesus Christ, we know our dignity and destiny. These ground us in the truth so that when the Liar, Deceiver and Thief assails us, we stand firm in the revelation of God’s mercy. Devotion to the Sacred Heart helps us to remember the revelation; the Gospel of love. The devil methodically plots to distract us from the revelation and its relevancy. When the devil tempts us to doubt God’s existence or insinuates that He is mean or punishing, we can fly unto the protection of the Sacred Heart, remembering the revelation of divine love. Knowing who God says that I am strengthens me to resist the devil’s lies.

4. Sacred Heart: Word

Pope Benedict reminded us, “We must never forget that all authentic and living Christian spirituality is based on the word of God proclaimed, accepted, celebrated, and meditated upon in the Church” (Verbum Domini, 121). From the beginning, the Word is love. The creation of mankind is deliberately orchestrated to draw all things to God wherein is the fulfillment of all desire. In the Scriptures, we read about Christ’s life on earth; His many human encounters where love manifested. His heart is touched, He weeps, heals, serves, sleeps, eats, prays—he understands men and women. This flies in the face of the devil who seeks to obliterate our awareness of the dignity given us by God. The Word has a heart of infinite love focused on you and me. The devil hates this reality because he exists in loneliness and alienation from love.

5. Sacred Heart: Altar of Sacrifice

The Sacred Heart is a heart for others. Father Simon Tugwell, O. P., teaches, “The liturgy, faithfully celebrated, should be a long-term course in heart-expansion, makes us more and more capable of the totality of love that there is in the heart of Christ.” The perfect sacrifice of Christ’s love is perpetuated on the altar. This is also the proclamation of His victory over evil. The devil, personified pride, is undone by the humility of Christ on the altar of sacrifice. Love sacrifices; lays down His life. The Sacred Heart radiates love that is aimed at the other; the poor, forgotten, sick, and grieving. His heart dies and rises for our sake. Proud and spiteful, the devils envy Christ’s power to save through sacrificial love. Whenever we love sacrificially, our spiritual armor is strengthened.

6. Sacred Heart: Reparation

“True devotion to the Sacred Heart depends on a proper understanding of reparation, an old theological term that is related to atonement, expiation, salvation, and redemption” writes Fr. Kubicki. In his “Jesus of Nazareth”, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “God cannot simply ignore man’s disobedience and all the evil of history; he cannot treat it as if it were inconsequential or meaningless. Such ‘mercy’ would be that ‘cheap grace’ to which Bonhoeffer rightly objected in the face of the appalling evil encountered in his day.” Christ paid the debt of sinners. Sin continues. Believers can unite with Christ’s reparation and offer up our sufferings and sacrifices to help repair. Devotion to the Sacred Heart helps us to enter Christ’s reparative love. Thus, we reclaim territory, robbing the devil of so many souls that he’d carry to the abyss.

7. Sacred Heart: Union with Immaculate Heart

The Church places the feast of the Sacred Heart on Friday and the feast of the Immaculate Heart on Saturday to reminds us their unity. Jesus Christ and His mother Mary are united in the will of the Father and they cannot be separated. Devotion and consecration to the Sacred Heart is spiritually complimentary to devotion to the Immaculate Heart. This holy liaison forms a powerhouse of protection against evil spirits. Between the Eucharistic Sacred Heart and the Virginal Immaculate Heart, there is a space reserved for you and me where no evil spirit dare to enter. Let us remain in the loving protection of the united Sacred and Immaculate Hearts where we are safe as we walk in the valley of death and evil.

Enthronement of the family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is highly recommended by priests. For more information about this, I highly recommend Fr. James Kubicki’s book, A Heart on Fire.

Devotion affords spiritual benefits, for as Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “Our God is not a remote God intangible in his blessedness. Our God has a heart.” To whom does your heart belong?

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Mission to London


Missione a Londra is the title of a brief volume that collects the memoirs of Count Stanislao Medolago Albani, secret chamberlain of Pope Saint Pius X (D’Ettoris Editore, Crotone 2023, edited by Luisa Maddalena Medolago Albani, with a preface by Marco Invernizzi).

Stanislao Medolago Albani was born in Bergamo in 1851 to Count Gerolamo, a descendant of the famous Savoyard count, and to Benedetta de Maistre. After studying theology and philosophy at the Gregorian University, he played a very prominent role within the Catholic movement. Fr Paolo de Töth, who wrote a beautiful biography of him, stated that “writing the life of Count Medolago Albani is the same as tracing the history of Italian Catholic Action.” He died in Bergamo on 3 July 1921.

Medolago, like de Töth, belonged to the most resolute wing of Italian Catholicism, and because of this was specially esteemed by St Pius X, who in 1905 entrusted him and Blessed Giuseppe Toniolo with the task of reorganising the Catholic movement after the suppression of the Opera dei Congressi, which had been infiltrated by modernism. On 11 April 1911, Medolago received a letter from Pius X’s secretary of state, Rafael Merry del Val, in which the cardinal informed him of the pope’s intention to call him to be part of the pontifical mission that was going to London in June to participate in the coronation of His Majesty the King of England George V. The mission, led by Archbishop Gennaro Granito Pignatelli di Belmonte, made a cardinal in November of that same year, also saw the participation of Monsignor Eugenio Pacelli, undersecretary of the Congregation for Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, and of Count Francesco Bezzi Scali, noble guard of His Holiness.

The pontifical mission arrived in London on 19 June. Its members were received by the English sovereigns and on 22 June they had a place of honour in the royal procession that made its way to Westminster Abbey. But the pope’s representatives avoided attending the religious service at which the sovereign, as head of the Anglican church, publicly reaffirmed his Protestant faith. The Holy See’s participation in the coronation of the English sovereign was in fact a diplomatic gesture, but not an “ecumenical” one. The following day, the members of the mission also participated, in their gala attire, in the second spectacular royal “procession” through the streets of the capital. Archbishop Granito di Belmonte, in his report to the pope, wrote: “What most characterised the kind and affectionate welcome received was the intention manifested by the Sovereigns to honour in the Delegation the person of the Holy Father, and this with extraordinary public displays extolled and approved by the greater number of Foreign Princes, who were glad to follow the example of the English Sovereigns”.

George V, king of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions, as well as Emperor of India, in addition to being head of the Anglican Church was also the Grand Master of English Freemasonry.England, the home of Fabian socialism and of the nascent feminism, was teeming with esoteric sects. Annie Besant was president of the Theosophical Society and had founded the first women’s Masonic lodge in London. Figures like Oscar Wilde embodied the era’s tremendous drive towards moral transgression. 15 July 1909 brought the death in Storrington, in the United Kingdom, of the modernist priest George Tyrrell, excommunicated by Pius X in 1907. The English merchant bankers dominated international finance, and the city of London, with Wall Street, was one of the centres of the Anglo-American imperialist project. Pius X and his secretary of state were perfectly aware of this landscape, but they never demonised the English royal house, nor did they consider the “Anglosphere” as the absolute evil.

There were 32 million Catholics living in England, and a movement for a return to the Church of Rome was developing, launched under the pontificate of Blessed Pius IX by Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, Blessed Dominic of the Mother of God, and the “Oxford Movement”. In 1570, Saint Pius V had excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I, releasing English Catholics from their oath of loyalty to her, because at that historical moment, thanks to the help of Philip II’s Spain, the military and religious reconquest of England was still possible. Three centuries later, the main interest of the Church of Rome was to regain its freedom in a now Protestantised kingdom.

Leo XIII had done the same as St Pius X when, in 1887, he had decided to send a papal mission to London, led by Archbishop Luigi Ruffo Scilla, to congratulate Queen Victoria on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of her ascent to the throne. In the instructions of Secretary of State Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro for the papal envoy, the United Kingdom was praised because, although officially Anglican, it did not set obstacles to Catholic worship in its realms and showed respect “for the Catholic Church, especially in the Missions of Canada and the East Indies”.

The good and most faithful Duke of Norfolk”, wrote Cardinal Henry Edward Manning, archbishop of Westminster, to Leo XIII on 3 July 1887, “has exhibited the most delicate hospitality; our faithful came in crowds to the Cathedral on the Day of Jubilee, when Archbishop Ruffo Scilla did me the charity of most solemnly celebrating the Pontifical Mass. Our Queen has shown at the Palace in London and at Windsor Castle every sign of veneration towards the person of Your Holiness, and of respect and goodwill towards the Envoy”.

In 1887, the then twenty-two-year-old Rafael Merry del Val – Londoner by birth, Spaniard by family, but Roman in spirit – was designated by the pope as secretary of the pontifical mission in England. In 1901, Leo XIII sent him once more to London to convey his congratulations to the new king, Edward VII. Having become Pius X’s secretary of state, Merry del Val wanted to strengthen the relations of cordial friendship with the Court of Windsor. In him, a staunch doctrinal opposition to Protestantism, liberalism and Freemasonry was accompanied by great political flexibility and above all by a deep love for the English people. The 13 September 1896 encyclical Apostolicae Curae of Leo XIII, which declares the invalidity of Anglican ordinations, concludes with a prayer commonly attributed to Cardinal Merry del Val, which is worth presenting in its entirety:

O Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, our Queen and most sweet Mother, kindly turn your eyes to England, which is called your ‘Dowry’, and turn them to us, who place in you all of our trust. Through you we have been given Christ, the Saviour of the world, so that in him our hope may be firm; and from him we have been given you, so that through you our hope might be increased. So come now and pray for us, O sorrowful Mother who have received us as children at the Cross of the Lord; intercede for the dissident brothers, so that with us they may be united, in the one true Sheepfold, to the supreme Shepherd, Vicar on earth of your Son. Pray for us all, O most pious Mother, so that through faith made fruitful by good works we may all merit with you to contemplate God in the heavenly homeland, and to praise him for ever. Amen”.

The Church has never demonised any people; it did not do so yesterday and it does not do so today. Every society, like every individual, can turn its back on God, but it can also come back to his arms, responding to divine grace. The conflicts that are tearing the world apart must always be seen from a supernatural and not a political or ideological perspective, remembering that the Church is Mother, not stepmother, of the peoples, and that her mission is catholic, that is, universal. (by Roberto de Mattei)

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Saint Joan of Arc, pray for us!

 Joan of Arc listening to his voice | Léon-François Bénouville

Saint Joan of Arc’s Story (January 6, 1412 – May 30, 1431)

Burned at the stake as a heretic after a politically-motivated trial, Joan was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.

Born of a fairly well-to-do peasant couple in Domremy-Greux southeast of Paris, Joan was only 12 when she experienced a vision and heard voices that she later identified as Saints Michael the Archangel, Catherine of Alexandria, and Margaret of Antioch.

During the Hundred Years War, Joan led French troops against the English and recaptured the cities of Orléans and Troyes. This enabled Charles VII to be crowned as king in Reims in 1429. Captured near Compiegne the following year, Joan was sold to the English and placed on trial for heresy and witchcraft. Professors at the University of Paris supported Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvis, the judge at her trial; Cardinal Henry Beaufort of Winchester, England, participated in the questioning of Joan in prison. In the end, she was condemned for wearing men’s clothes. The English resented France’s military success–to which Joan contributed.

On this day in 1431, Joan was burned at the stake in Rouen, and her ashes were scattered in the Seine River. A second Church trial 25 years later nullified the earlier verdict, which was reached under political pressure.

Remembered by most people for her military exploits, Joan had a great love for the sacraments, which strengthened her compassion toward the poor. Popular devotion to her increased greatly in 19th-century France and later among French soldiers during World War I. Theologian George Tavard writes that her life “offers a perfect example of the conjunction of contemplation and action” because her spiritual insight is that there should be a “unity of heaven and earth.”

Joan of Arc has been the subject of many books, plays, operas and movies.


“Joan of Arc is like a shooting star across the landscape of French and English history, amid the stories of the Church’s saints and into our consciousness. Women identify with her; men admire her courage. She challenges us in fundamental ways. Despite the fact that more than 500 years have passed since she lived, her issues of mysticism, calling, identity, trust and betrayal, conflict and focus are our issues still.” (Joan of Arc: God’s Warriorby Barbara Beckwith)

Saint Joan of Arc is the Patron Saint of:

Military Members

(Source: Franciscan Media)

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Thousands Visit Sister Wilhelmina’s Incorrupt Body in Missouri 

Washington, D.C. Newsroom (CNA)

Thousands of pilgrims are descending on a Benedictine abbey outside rural Gower, Missouri, this Memorial Day weekend to view the surprisingly well-preserved body of its African American foundress, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, who died in 2019.

On Sunday, the feast of Pentecost, an average of 200 vehicles per hour were coming onto the abbey’s property, an uptick in traffic from the day before, Clinton County Sheriff Larry Fish said in a Facebook video update. He said he expected 15,000 people to visit the site by the end of the day.

“We’re going to see this probably for months, but right now this weekend is probably going to be the biggest influx of people that you’re going to see in this area,” Fish predicted in an earlier video posted May 25.

Part of the urgency for those visiting the abbey over the holiday weekend is the limited opportunity to touch the nun’s body, which has been on public display in a room in the basement of the abbey’s church for more than a week.

On Saturday, a photojournalist working for EWTN News witnessed pilgrims touching parts of Sister Wilhelmina’s body with their hands or rosary beads and even kissing her hands. Such direct physical contact won’t be possible after Monday afternoon when the nun’s remains will be placed in a glass enclosure, though her body will still be available for public viewing.

A Benedictine sister looks on as visitors offer prayers at the side of Sister Wilhelmina’s remains.h

No investigation so far

Sister Wilhelmina, a St. Louis native, founded the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in 1995 when she was 70 years old. She died on May 29, 2019, and her unembalmed body was buried in a simple wooden coffin in the abbey’s outdoor cemetery.

Expecting to find only bones when they exhumed her remains on May 18 to be reinterred in their newly constructed St. Joseph’s Shrine, the sisters were astonished to find her body and traditional nun’s habit still remarkably intact. In addition, pilgrims who have visited the body have told CNA they did not smell any odor of decay. The sisters say they have applied wax to Sister Wilhelmina’s hands and face.

The condition of her body has puzzled even experienced morticians. “If you’re telling me that this woman went into the ground unembalmed in a wooden box with no outer container in the ground and it was not sub-zero up in Alaska, I’m telling you, I’m going to start a devotion to this sister, because something special is going on there,” Barry Lease, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science, told CNA last week.

There has been no official determination that Sister Wilhelmina’s remains are “incorrupt,” a possible sign of sanctity, nor is there any cause underway for the nun’s canonization, a rigorous process in the Catholic Church that can take many years.

The local ordinary, Bishop Vann Johnston of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, who has visited the monastery to see Sister Wilhelmina’s remains, has said that a “thorough investigation” is needed to answer “important questions” raised by the state of her body, but there has been no word if and when such an analysis might take place. On Sunday a spokeswoman for the diocese said she was mistaken when she told CNA last week that Johnston had “been in touch with someone in Rome” about what has happened at the abbey.

Many of the pilgrims brought rosaries to visit the remains of Sister Wilhelmina, who is remembered for her devotion to Our Lady.

Discovery meant to be kept quiet

Over the weekend, the Benedictine sisters posted a new statement on their website, announcing plans to hold a public rosary procession Monday at 4:30 p.m. local time, after which they will place Sister Wilhelmina’s body in the glass enclosure inside the St. Joseph’s Shrine.

In the statement, the sisters also revealed that they had hoped to keep the startling condition of their foundress’ body quiet.

“We had no intent to make the discovery so public, but unfortunately, a private email was posted publicly, and the news began to spread like wildfire.” they wrote. “However, God works in mysterious ways, and we embrace His new plan for us.”

The sisters said that they continued their normal daily routines despite the crowds and worldwide media attention.

“Many have voiced concern about the disruption to our life, but we have, thankfully, remained unaffected and able to continue on in our life of ora et labora, prayer and work, as Sister Wilhelmina would have it,” the statement says.

“Unless we looked out the front windows, or out at the crowds attending our Mass and Divine Offices, we would not even know people are here. An army of volunteers and our local law enforcement have stepped forward to manage the crowds, and we are deeply grateful to each of them, as they allow us to continue our life in peace, while granting the visitors a pleasant and prayerful experience at the Abbey.”

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Every Truth is from the Holy Spirit

By Carl E. Olson

The Descent of the Holy Spirit” (1885) by Mikhail Vrubel.

How are relationships created? What is the primary means by which people first encounter one another and connect? Through words. The use of words and language is unique to man among all the creatures. The Catholic novelist and essayist Walker Percy, who had a lifelong fascination with semiotics—the study of signs and how meaning is communicated—wrote that “the place where man’s singularity is there for all to see and cannot be called into question, even in a new age in which everything else is in dispute … is language”.

This is a very biblical notion, for Scripture is filled, from beginning to end, with examples of the unique power of words. Genesis opens with God creating the heavens and the earth by speaking: “Let there be light, and there was light.” And there was, we read, “a mighty wind sweeping over the waters,” that is, the Spirit of God (Gen 1:1-3). The words of God are always accompanied or communicated by the Spirit of God. When King David, on his death bed, stated, “The spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue” (2 Sam 23:2), and similar statements were made by the prophets.

Jesus, in his great discourse in the Gospel of John, promised to send “the Advocate” and “Spirit of truth,” who would “testify to me” and “will guide you to all truth.” The Holy Spirit gives witness to the Son. And just as the Son came to do the will of the Father, the Holy Spirit speaks on behalf of the Father and Son: “He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.” He glorifies the Son, just as the Son glorifies the Father, for the three divine Persons are completely and perfectly communicating themselves to one another. And that is the essence of love: total and perfect self gift.

Such is the perfect intimacy of the three Persons of the Trinity: the Father, rich in mercy, has sent the Son, who humbles himself to carry out the Father’s will in love; the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father to testify to the Son and to give him glory; the Son and Holy Spirit both, in turn, give everything back to the Father in love.

God is, of course, the author of all Truth. “Every truth,” said St. Thomas Aquinas, “without exception—and whoever may utter it—is from the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit’s work of guiding the Church, as the soul of the Church, is one of truth. The promise given by Jesus to the disciples is revealed at Pentecost. How so? Through a “noise like a strong driving wind” which filled the house, and then through what appeared to be tongues of fire, which rested upon each one there. And then came the words: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”

Those gathered in Jerusalem for the feast were amazed “because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” People from all throughout the Mediterranean heard the Gospel proclaimed: “we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” Those mighty acts had been realized and fulfilled in the Incarnate Word, who became man by the power of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, who suffered, died, and rose again on the third day.

We have been saved by the Word. In Baptism, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are filled with divine life and are thus in communion and communication with God. We are joined to the Body of Christ—the Church—drinking “of the one Spirit”, the Giver of Life.

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Sunday Mass Readings

Juan Bautista Mayno (1581-1649), Pentecost (photo: Public domain)

Sunday, May 28 
Pentecost Sunday – Solemnity 

Roman Ordinary calendar

St. Germanus of Paris

Acts of the Apostles 2,1-11.

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. 
And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. 
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. 
And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. 
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. 
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 
They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? 
Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language? 
We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 
Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, 
both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” 

Psalms 104(103),1ab.24ac.29bc-30.31.34.

Bless the LORD, my soul! 
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed! 
How manifold are your works, O LORD! 
the earth is full of your creatures; 

If you take away their breath, they perish 
and return to their dust. 
When you send forth your spirit, they are created, 
and you renew the face of the earth. 

If you May the glory of the LORD endure forever; 
may the LORD be glad in his works! 
Pleasing to him be my theme; 
I will be glad in the LORD. 

First Letter to the Corinthians 12,3b-7.12-13.

Brothers and sisters: No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; 
there are different forms of service but the same Lord; 
there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. 
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. 
As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. 
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. 

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 20,19-23.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, «Peace be with you.» 
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. 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.” 
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. 
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” 

Saint Gertrude of Helfta (1256-1301) 
Benedictine nun 
The divine Herald Book 4 , SC 255

Filled with gratitude in the Holy Spirit

When we red in the gospel that the Lord has given His disciples the Holy Spirit by breathing on them, Gertrude begged the Lord with fervent devotion to deign, in His goodness, to give her too the Spirit, source of all sweetness. The Lord responded to her ; “If you wish to receive the Holy Spirit, you must, like my disciples, touch my side and my hands.

She understood in these words that if someone desires to receive the Holy Spirit, they must first touch His side, which is to consider with gratitude the love of the Divine Heart which has predestined us from all eternity to be His children and inherit the kingdom. Also consider how, through all these infinite benefits, He has always pursued us despite our ingratitude. One must also touch the hands of the Lord, thus remembering all the acts by which the Lord, for love of us, worked for our redemption during 33 years, particularly His passion and death.

When one is inflamed with this gratitude, he offers to the Lord his whole heart, for the pleasure of the divine will. If one acts in this way, he will receive without fail the Holy Spirit, the paraclete, the breath of God, in the same way as the Holy Apostles.

Traditional Latin Mass Readings for this Sunday

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St Philip Neri, Confessor

Today (26th May) is the feast of one of the most lovable saints of the Catholic Church, St Philip Neri.

St. Philip, born at Florence in the sixteenth century, left everything to serve the divine Master, and founded the Congregation of the Oratory.

The Holy Ghost had inflamed him with such love for God that the palpitations of his heart bent two of his ribs. He would spend whole nights in the contemplation of heavenly things and the Spirit of Truth “taught him true wisdom” (Epistle). His conversations with Jesus filled him with such intense joy that he exclaimed: “Enough, Lord, enough!”

He had an especial ministry to young men: “Amuse yourselves,” he said to them, “but do not offend God.”

He died in 1595 on the feast of Corpus Christi.

Like St. Philip, with our hearts full of a holy and loving joy, let us run in the way of the commandments of God.

Prayer to Saint Philip Neri

O my dear and holy Patron, Philip, I put myself into thy hands, and for the love of Jesus, for that love’s sake which chose thee and made thee a saint, I implore thee to pray for me, that, as He has brought thee to heaven so in due time He may take me to heaven also.

And I ask of thee especially to gain for me a true devotion such as thou hadst to the Holy Ghost, the Third Person in the Ever-blessed Trinity; that, as He at Pentecost so miraculously filled thy heart with His grace, I too may in my measure have the gifts necessary for my salvation.

Therefore I ask thee to gain for me those His seven great gifts, to dispose and excite my heart towards faith and virtue.

Beg for me the gift of Wisdom, that I may prefer heaven to earth and know truth from falsehood :

The gift of Understanding, by which I may have imprinted upon my mind the mysteries of His Word:
The gift of Counsel, that I may see my way in all perplexities:

The gift of Fortitude, that with bravery and stubbornness I may battle with my foe:

The gift of Knowledge, to enable me to direct all my doings with a pure intention to the glory of God:

The gift of Religion, to make me devout and conscientious:

And the gift of Holy Fear, to make me feel awe, reverence and sobriety amid all my spiritual blessings.

Sweetest Father, Flower of Purity, Martyr of Charity, pray for me.

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The Condemnations of Paris and the Christian origins of modern science

By Prof. William E. Carroll on CATHOLIC WORLD REPORT – (H/T to Venite Prandete)

Left: A 16th-c. miniature showing a meeting of doctors at the University of Paris; right: Interior of the Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre.

One of the more widely accepted narratives of the modern world locates its origins in the 17th century with the emancipation of the natural sciences both from the antiquated natural philosophy and metaphysics of Aristotle and from domination by theology and ecclesiastical control. This orthodox narrative of science, religion, and the modern world is the context in which historians, philosophers, theologians, and scientists have made competing claims about how to understand the origin and nature not only of the natural sciences but also the very contours of modern Western culture.

An important challenge to the common narrative is the work of the French physicist, historian, and philosopher of science Pierre Duhem (1861-1916). In 1904, Duhem was working in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, searching for material for a book he planned to write on the history of mechanics. He discovered a treasure-trove of medieval manuscripts in the natural sciences and mathematics. Contrary to the popular view that the Middle Ages was scientifically barren, he concluded that just the opposite was the case.

From Impetus to Inertia

Duhem argued that theories in physics in 14th-century Paris anticipated, in important ways, the contributions of Galileo and Newton in the 17th century. These medieval developments that, according to Duhem, rejected tenets of Aristotelian physics, were encouraged by the actions of the Bishop of Paris, Étienne Tempier, who in March 1277 condemned a series of 219 propositions about nature and God, many associated with the philosophy of Aristotle. Duhem claimed that Tempier’s action freed natural philosophers from the straight-jacket of Aristotelian science and encouraged them to examine ways of understanding the world that Aristotle would reject.

Thus, the real Scientific Revolution occurs earlier than the traditional story relates and, contrary to the view that sees a hostility between science and Christianity, it is the Catholic Church, through the action of the Bishop of Paris in 1277, that plays a vital role in the origins of modern science.

For Duhem the work of Jean Buridan (1301-1358) on projectile motion entitles him to be called a precursor of Galileo and Newton. For Aristotle all motion requires a conjoined moving cause. Buridan offered an explanation of the continuing motion of a thrown object only in terms of an impetus imparted to it when it is first put into motion. In 1913, in a lecture in Italy, Duhem summarized his findings in the following way:

“[I]n the Fourteenth Century the masters of Paris, having rebelled against the authority of Aristotle, constructed a dynamics entirely different from that of the Stagirite; that the essential elements of the principles thought to have received mathematical expression and experimental confirmation from Galileo and Descartes were already contained in this dynamics; that at the beginning of the Fifteenth Century these Parisian doctrines spread into Italy, where they encountered a vigorous resistance from the Averroists, jealous guardians of the Aristotelian tradition. . . ; that they were adopted in the course of the Sixteenth Century by the majority of mathematicians; and finally that Galileo, in his youth, read several of the treatises containing these doctrines.”

Since the principle of inertia is the key to Newtonian science and since its acceptance appears to require the denial of the first principle of Aristotelian physics—that all motion requires a mover, Buridan’s anticipation of inertia in the 14th century represents the true scientific revolution. This revolution, as Duhem saw it, is thoroughly Christian in inspiration because it was made possible by the Bishop of Paris’ theological condemnations of claims made in Aristotelian science.

One of the principal defenders of Duhem’s thesis was the Benedictine theologian and physicist, Stanley Jaki. Jaki thought that in all ancient cultures, including the Greek, science “suffered a … monumental stillbirth,” and it is “biblical revelation … that made the only viable birth of science possible.” Jaki argued 1) that modern science rests on Newton’s laws, the most important of which concerns inertial motion, and 2) that the formulation of this law can be found in the work of Jean Buridan. For Duhem and Jaki – and indeed for many historians of science – the principle of inertia rejects the need to find a conjoined cause for continuous motion. Buridan’s theory of an impetus anticipated the principle of inertia.

The relationship between Buridan’s and Aristotle’s physics is a complex question. It seems to me, however, that Buridan is still operating within the broad outlines of Aristotelian physics; he locates a cause (impetus) of continuing motion within the moved body, yet such a cause, although internal, remains extrinsic to the body that is moved.

Regardless of how we come to understand specific developments in physics in the 14th century, Duhem’s emphasis on the action of the Bishop of Paris invites reflection on how we should understand the historical relationship among the sciences, the philosophy of nature, metaphysics, and theology.

The Condemnations of 1277

The 1277 Condemnations were the most important of a series of reactions at Paris throughout the 13th century to what conservative theologians perceived to be the threat of Aristotelian thought to Christian truth. Aristotle claimed that the world is eternal, and argued, so it seemed, against the immortality of the soul. Furthermore, his insistence that science discovers necessary connections between causes and their effects was a necessity in nature that seemed to be a denial of God’s freedom to create whatever kind of universe God wished. The Islamic world had already experienced a similar debate, and some Muslim theologians had also urged the proscription of the texts of Aristotle.

Despite various efforts to keep Aristotle out of the curriculum of the University of Paris, by the middle of the 13th century his texts had come to play an important role not only in the Faculty of Arts, but also in the Faculty of Theology. In the 1277 decree Bishop Tempier explained his concerns in the prologue, noting that certain scholars in the Faculty of Arts of the University of Paris:

are exceeding the boundaries of their own faculty and are presuming to treat and discuss, as though they were debatable in the schools, certain obvious and loathsome errors. . . that are contained in the roll joined to this letter. . . . [I]n support of the aforesaid errors they adduce pagan writings that . . . they assert to be so convincing that they do not know how to answer them.. . . . For they say that these things are true according to philosophy but not according to the Catholic faith, as though there were two contrary truths and as though the truth of Sacred Scripture were contradicted by the truth in the sayings of the accursed pagans…

Tempier forbade scholars in the Faculty of Arts from affirming as true a wide variety of propositions about nature, human nature, and God. Topics of the condemned propositions included: the eternity of the world, the nature and function of angels, the nature of the heavens, whether there is a single active intellect for all human beings, the extent of God’s power, and, in general, what can be known with certainty on the basis of reason and science alone. Bishop Tempier and his supporters sought to affirm the primacy of revealed truth, expressed in theological discourse, over the claims of philosophy, especially the philosophy of Aristotle and his Muslim commentators. The relationship between faith and reason, or, more particularly, between theology and philosophy, was at issue. The Condemnations show the predominance of a theological view that is uncomfortable with many of the new intellectual currents associated with the reception of newly translated texts of Aristotelian philosophy.

Duhem thought that two condemned propositions in particular were of crucial importance for scientific developments in the 14th century: that God could not produce a plurality of worlds, and that God could not move the entire universe in rectilinear motion, since this would result in a void. The first rejected the view that God cannot create more than one world; the second allowed for the development of new views concerning place and the void. For Duhem, these two condemned propositions were the foundation of the “whole edifice of Aristotelian physics and their being declared anathema implicitly demanded the creation of a new physics that would be acceptable to Christian reason.” Although explaining projectile motion was not a consideration of any of the condemnations, Duhem emphasizes the rejection of what he calls the “whole edifice of Aristotelian physics,” a purge that he thinks prepares the ground for Buridan and the theory of impetus.

Divine Omnipotence and Science

One of the 219 propositions, namely the 147th, reveals a principle that informs many of the condemnations of specific claims in the philosophy of nature. Condemned is the view “that the absolutely impossible cannot be done by God or another agent . . . . If impossible is understood according to nature.” Edward Grant, historian of medieval science, thinks that this emphasis on God’s absolute power “encouraged speculation about natural impossibilities in the Aristotelian world system which were often treated as hypothetical possibilities. The supernaturally generated alternatives, which medieval natural philosophers considered in the wake of the condemnation, accustomed them to consider possibilities that were beyond the scope of Aristotle’s natural philosophy, and often in direct conflict with it.”

This broad claim about the significance of the Condemnations finds support in the work of the German philosopher and intellectual historian Hans Blumenberg, who argues that the affirmation of God’s absolute power marks “the exact point in time when the interest in rationality and human intelligibility of creation cedes priority to the speculative fascination exerted by the theological predicates of absolute power and [divine] freedom.”

One danger, however, in invoking the absolute power of God in an approach to nature is a tendency to consider all possible, all conceivable, cases or examples within a problem under investigation without any notable consideration of what is in fact the case. One might well end up with a philosophy or science of nature without nature.

Discussions of God’s absolute power—as distinct from his ordinary power, that is, the power by which He does what He does, as distinct from what, absolutely speaking, He could do—such discussions played an important part in the philosophical movement known as Nominalism. The more one emphasizes the world simply as the product of God’s will, the more one risks the danger of denying an inherent intelligibility in nature—an intelligibility discoverable by human reason. Thus, an emphasis on sheer possibilities—on imagining what could be possible, given the fact that God is omnipotent—may well lead to the questioning of certain claims in Aristotelian natural philosophy, and this questioning can and did result in fruitful new examinations of nature. Nevertheless, an emphasis on God’s absolute power can result in the denial not only of an appropriate autonomy to the created order, but also a denial of an inherent intelligibility of that order.

Hans Blumenberg pointed out that the theological view that celebrates God’s absolute power prepared the way for its replacement by a radical conception of human autonomy that celebrates man’s absolute power.

It seems to me that the Condemnations of Paris of 1277—especially the emphasis on the absolute power of God—provide not so much an occasion for the rise of modern science, as Duhem thought, as they encourage a view of God, human nature, and nature, that is finally an obstacle that must be avoided if the natural sciences are to flourish.

Christianity is certainly not a barrier to the origin and growth of science, but nor is it a necessary prerequisite. Many scientists from the early stages of the Christian era until the present day have been motivated to explore nature because they thought such an exploration was an eminently Christian calling. Nature, after all, contains the “footsteps of God.” Rather than emphasizing diviner omnipotence in understanding nature, we would be better served by following the admonition of Albert the Great (1200-1280):

In the natural sciences we do not investigate how God the Creator operates according to His free will and uses miracles to show His power, but rather what may happen in natural things on the ground of the causes inherent in nature.

The natural world operates according to principles inherent in it, principles that ultimately depend upon God for their existence, but principles and causes that have a reality and an efficacy that can be studied independently of theological and religious convictions. The Condemnations of Paris failed to make such a distinction.

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Bede’s Death Song

May 25th is the feast day of St Bede the Venerable.

Cropped portrait from The Last Chapter by J. Doyle Penrose (c. 1902), showing Bede finishing his translation of the Gospel of John on his deathbed

St. Bede the Venerable (673-735) was born in the north of England, near the monastery of Wearmouth. He joined that monastery, and spent all his life there or at Jarrow, teaching and writing. He was the outstanding ecclesiastical author of his time. He wrote commentaries on Scripture; an ecclesiastical history of the English people, which is a unique and irreplaceable resource for much of early English history; and the first martyrology (collection of saints’ lives) to be compiled on historical principles. He was also the first known writer of English prose, though this has not survived. He died at Jarrow on 25th May 735: he taught and worked until the last moments of his life, which are narrated by Cuthbert in today’s Office of Readings. He is venerated as the “light of the Church” in the Dark Ages, and as a forerunner of the 8th and 9th century renaissance of the Western Church.

Bede’s Death Song is the editorial name given to a five-line Old English poem, supposedly the final words of the Venerable Bede. It is, by far, the oldest English poem that survives in the largest number of manuscripts — 35 or 45 (mostly later medieval manuscripts copied on the Continent). It is found in both Northumbrian and West Saxon dialects.

In a literal translation by Leo Shirley-Price, the text reads as:

Before setting forth on that inevitable journey, none is wiser than the man who considers—before his soul departs hence—what good or evil he has done, and what judgement his soul will receive after its passing.

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Iraqi Christians Struggle to Survive and Thrive 20 Years After ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’

NEWS ANALYSIS: Signs of hope exist, but Christians continue to be concerned about inadequate security and few job opportunities

A priest leads Divine Liturgy at the Church of Mar Tuma (St. Thomas) in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, on April 28, 2023. The 19th-century church, which was heavily damaged during fighting with the Islamic State group, was renovated thanks to donations from a French NGO, “Fraternité en Irak.”

by Edward Pentin

ERBIL, Iraq — Twenty years on from the military invasion of Iraq, the country’s Christians continue to suffer from the fallout of the conflict and face persecution, marginalization and displacement while governments and the world’s media largely ignore their situation. 

But precisely how did the Iraq War impact Christians, and what lessons can be learned from strategic errors that made the suffering and persecution worse for the ancient community whose presence dates back to the first century, but which has now been forced to the brink of extinction? 

On March 20, 2003, a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq with the aim of overthrowing President Saddam Hussein and his government, primarily and ostensibly to prevent him from obtaining weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) which threatened to destabilize the entire oil-rich region. 

The George W. Bush administration and its “coalition of the willing” expected a swift military campaign, followed by the installation of a democratically elected government that would bring peace and stability to the country. But “Operation Iraqi Freedom” — waged illegally according to some international authorities and executed poorly in the eyes of other critics — became a protracted conflict that cost more than 200,000 civilian and military lives, 2 trillion US dollars, and displaced 9.2 million Iraqis.

Christians and other minorities became targets of Islamist groups, such as al-Qaida, that rapidly gained a foothold in the country. Their many attacks targeted Christians, such as five churches bombed in Baghdad and Mosul in 2004, as well as the murder of clergy including Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul in 2008 — the most senior Chaldean Catholic to be killed in the Iraq War — and Father Ragheed Ganni in 2007. 

After the departure of U.S. forces in 2011, an even more barbaric terrorist group, Islamic State (ISIS), an offshoot of al-Qaida, emerged as a regional power. Having already brutally attacked Iraqi Christians in 2010, in 2014 it invaded the ancient, predominantly Christian-populated areas of Northern Iraq. At its peak, ISIS managed to capture 40% of the country, most notably Mosul, home to 24,000 Christians in 2003 but now to only 350

President Barack Obama, who oversaw the withdrawal of US troops in 2011, ordered the forces back into Iraq in 2014 as part of “Operation Inherent Resolve” in a bid to restore security. But ISIS was not defeated completely until 2018, by which time many Iraqi Christians and other minorities had been violently killed or tortured, and many more had been dispossessed and displaced, or had fled the country altogether to seek refuge in the West.

The overall consequences of the 2003 invasion “brought death to many and has nearly destroyed Iraq, saw the emergence of ISIS, and set wars off in the Middle East that continue today,” said Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil in northern Iraq. “It also destroyed many lives, livelihoods and forced people off to the diaspora.”

In 2003, a total of 1.3 million Christians lived in Iraq and enjoyed protection and near-equal rights with Iraq’s Muslim majority under Saddam. Now that number has dwindled to fewer than 250,000. “I have not met one person both locally and internationally who has said the 2003 military invasion was a good decision,” Archbishop Warda told the Register. No one, except corruption, has benefited from the invasion.”

The impact of the war and its aftermath on Iraq’s Christians has led many to question whether their interests were ever seriously considered by the U.S.-led coalition. Pope St. John Paul II frequently warned, in vain, against the conflict and sent peace envoys to try to avert it, largely because he could foresee the devastating effect it would have on Christians there.

‘Massive, Massive Failure’

Christian and Yazidi minorities were either seen as “acceptable collateral damage in the long-term planning of the Iraq campaign” or they were “never accurately accounted at all,” said Stephen Rasche, an American who has served the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq since 2014 and was present throughout the recovery of Christian Iraq following the ISIS occupation. 

“Either way this was a massive, massive failure in planning and intelligence by the Bush administration which raises very difficult moral questions — questions which have not come close to being answered by those most responsible,” Rasche told the Register. He added he was particularly disappointed by the absence when marking this anniversary of any “sincere apology or real remorse for the thousands of lives taken.”

Some commentators have traced the catastrophe inflicted on Iraqi Christians and other minorities, especially by ISIS, to at least one key decision made by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the caretaker government established in May 2003 and run by the U.S. Department of Defense: the formal disbandment of the Iraqi Army, otherwise known as CPA Order 2, on May 23, 2003 — exactly 20 years ago. 

Rasche said he believes this order was “clearly a mistake” and a “major contributor to the violence which engulfed Iraq, not just from ISIS in 2014, but by other sectarian fighters from 2003 onward, which were very ugly times in many parts of Iraq.” Archbishop Warda agreed, believing the decision was a “tragedy for the country.”

The person ultimately responsible for implementing this order was Iraq’s de facto head of state at the time, Ambassador Paul Bremer, a seasoned U.S. diplomat whom President Bush appointed to run the CPA from 2003 to 2004. 

Speaking to the Register May 10, Bremer defended his decision, saying that when he arrived in early May of 2003, nearly two months since the invasion, “there really was no army” as it had, in the Pentagon’s words, “self-demobilized.”

“I have often said the mistake was using the verb disband as there was nothing to disband,” Bremer explained. “The question was, should we recall the old army or should we build a new army? That was our dilemma.”

When asked if the army’s dissolution led to a power vacuum to be later filled by ISIS, Bremer said he believed such a theory was “demonstrably wrong.” 

“What actually happened was, when I issued that order, we said we were going to build a new Iraqi army,” and that “anybody up to the grade of colonel could apply for a role in the new Army. And of course, the draftees could then become enlisted if they wanted to. 

“And when I left Iraq 14 months later, 60% of the officers and men in that new Iraqi army were from the old Army. So, they came back, and that made the training of them easier. That army, trained by the Americans, defeated al-Qaida in Iraq. This little detail seems to get left out. Al-Qaida in Iraq was defeated in 2009,” he said.

‘We Had No Strategy’

Bremer said the situation improved after President Bush sacked both Donald Rumsfeld, his secretary of defense, in 2006, and Gen. William Casey as commanding general of the coalition forces in 2007, and ordered a “surge” of U.S. troops in 2007. During his own time as CPA leader, Bremer said they “never had sufficient troops on the ground,” nor “robust rules of engagement,” hence widespread looting and the torching of government ministries was underway when he arrived, with no procedures in place to stop it. 

“Probably we had less than half the number of troops we needed to provide security to a country of 27 million people,” Bremer reflected. “And we had no strategy. The U.S. military had assumed before that we went in March of ’03, that it would be a quick in and out, 90 days there, and then we’re out. This was demonstrably wrong right away.” Iraq has “suffered from that,” he said. “And it’s not just the Christians, it’s not even primarily the Christians, it’s pretty much all the Iraqis.”

But when it came to ISIS, Bremer said in his view the “key problem” was President Obama’s decision to withdraw American forces at the end of 2011, although it is important to note that the Bush administration had agreed in 2008with the Iraqi government to complete the withdrawal by the end of 2011. “That led directly, within six months, to the attack of ISIS,” Bremer said. 

Archbishop Warda places the blame on a succession of failed interim Iraqi governments “without any strategy.” The withdrawal of the U.S., he added, “left a huge vacuum that was seized by ISIS, and they had access to all of the military equipment that was left behind without assignment.”

Leaving the CPA Order aside, was the Bush administration truly concerned about the wellbeing of Iraqi Christians? Bremer insists it was, and he said he personally made sure a Christian was represented on the governing council. But the main challenge at the time, he explained, was to reduce the ethnic and religious differences among the Iraqis by ensuring they felt engaged in the process of rebuilding the country. 

Bremer, a convert to the Catholic Church before his Iraq posting, insisted that John Paul II’s warnings “were certainly taken seriously by me and the CPA staff” and that his administration’s approach was “consistent,” not focused on internal Christian or Muslim divides but rather that “all Iraqis think of themselves as Iraqis.” 

But in today’s Iraq, religious freedom remains elusive. 

Rasche, a senior fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute in Washington, D.C., pointed out that the present Iraqi Constitution, ratified in 2005 when the U.S. was still in full control of the country and George W. Bush was president, makes Islam the state religion and “effectively gave away any meaningful chance at real religious freedom, such as exists in the U.S.”

“This has proven to be deeply harmful to the Christians and to Iraq as a whole,” Rasche said, and noted that scrapping “this entrenched religious sectarianism” was a central demand of large national protests in 2019 mostly led by young Shia Muslims “who are as opposed to the current sectarian constitution as the Christians” — a reference to the religious divide between the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam dating back to the death of the Prophet Mohammed in 632.

Rasche also contended that Iraq as a whole is “no longer a country in most meaningful respects” as its borders are “regularly violated, its government is thoroughly dysfunctional and largely controlled by Iran, its young people see little hope for the future, its religious minorities are on the edge of extinction.”

Signs of Hope

Signs of hope nevertheless exist, at least at the grassroots level. In 2015, with help from the Italian bishops’ conference, the Catholic University of Erbil (CUE) was founded, bringing hope and jobs to young people and thereby encouraging them to remain in Iraq. With 406 students, mostly Christian but also some Muslims and Yazidis, the institution also says it is fostering peaceful coexistence. 

But young Christians continue to be concerned about inadequate security and few jobs, permanent work prospects or opportunities in the public sector, especially in government. In Qaraqosh, a once predominantly Christian town in the Nineveh Plain, most young people are “thinking of migrating due to the high unemployment,” said Rahma Jacob, a Syriac Catholic and recent graduate of CUE. Corruption is also endemic and the standard of education generally poor.

“To me, a key issue since ISIS is that the latter destroyed the livelihoods of the minorities,” said John Neill of the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil. “The villages still have unemployment in excess of 70%. If people do not have jobs, they will head for the diaspora.” For his part, Archbishop Warda is providing over 530 jobs at the local Maryamana Hospital, CUE and four local schools.

But Neill, like many others, would like to see the international community take the situation more seriously and become focused on Iraq’s minorities, if they are to “survive long term.” Rasche said there are “many, many good people” who care in the State Department, USAID and other American agencies, but their “process-driven” approach has meant the “urgent reality of the situation” has been ignored, causing “tremendous harm, much of it regrettably permanent,” to the Christian and Yazidi minorities. 

Pope Francis’ March 2021 visit to Iraq helped draw attention to their situation. He praised the Kurdistan region for protecting Christians in Nineveh, and his trip provided a temporary boost for the faithful. But Christians continue to leave. “Christianity is disappearing within a two-hour drive from all the consulates in Erbil,” Neill observed, and at the current rate, Iraq will be without Christians “within 30 to 50 years.”

‘Needless Human Tragedy’

Father Benedict Kiely, founder of the charity, which assists persecuted Middle Eastern Christians, agrees that the international community needs to do more. “We see with sadness the prophetic words of St. John Paul warning of the decimation of the ancient Christian community of Iraq,” he said, adding that Iraq’s bishops are predicting the number of Christians could eventually fall to 50,000.

Bremer said the exodus of Christians has been a “sad outcome” of the war, but he pointed out that the Jewish community’s numbers are “more dramatic” having been almost totally driven out since the end of World War II. “My wife and I pray every night for the people of Iraq,” he said. “We don’t just pray for the Catholic people of Iraq, I have to tell you. We just pray for the people of Iraq.” 

Rasche, author of The Disappearing People: The Tragic Fate of Christians in the Middle East, concluded that in his opinion it is “very, very difficult” to find good fruit beyond Saddam’s removal and, even though the ISIS threat has gone for now, Christians are “being ground down daily.” 

“Iraq was a needless human tragedy on an enormous scale for the Christians and everybody else involved,” he said. “And its effects are still with us, including with the many service members from the U.S. and the coalition forces who fought there and now ask, rightfully, ‘To what end?’”

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Do Not Waste Your Suffering

What did Jesus say about suffering?
Jesus said: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) In other words, Jesus was saying that following Him would not always be easy but He showed us that He is with us in our times of suffering.

Suffering is the prerequisite for salvation because it detaches us from material things and reminds us of our destiny. Suffering, therefore, is part of the mix of good and bad we all experience in life. How much we suffer, however, is to some degree under our control. We can pick and choose. We can, as the saying has it, “make things easy for ourselves.” We can walk the broad, safe path of mediocrity, or we can take risks and opt for a more demanding trail. Greater suffering is the price we pay for choosing the more difficult route or—to abandon the metaphor—if we dare to love much, we will suffer accordingly. Suffer we must, whatever our choice. [CP&S comment]


[“Flagellation of Christ,” Peter Paul Rubens, 17th Century]

From “Exorcist Diary” by Msgr. Stephen Rossetti:

Late at night, one of our exorcists was attacked with a physical torment of the body. It felt like a kind of anxiety in which his body was being squeezed. He suspected it might have a demonic origin, especially given some of our intense cases. So, he said aloud, “I offer up this suffering for 20 conversions to the faith, 20 people liberated from demons, 20 conversions of witches, and for 20 priests, if it be God’s will.” Immediately, the physical attacks ceased completely. He thought, “Too bad. I was hoping for these graces and conversions!” I guess the demons weren’t willing to make the trade.

Similarly, I remember not too long ago, we were in the midst of an intense session and the possessed person spat in my face (there was a lot of saliva!). So I said, “I offer it for the liberation of this person.” Again, he spat in my face. I said again, “I offer this for his liberation.” A third time, he tried to spit but missed. I responded, “You missed. Try harder.” It stopped. Soon after, he was liberated.

One of our experienced exorcists came up with this approach– saying aloud that we offer up our little demonic-induced sufferings for specific intentions, especially for the liberation of the afflicted person at hand. It’s a good use of these little humiliations and demonstrates the truth that whatever evil is endured in faith, God transforms into a grace. This offering up of suffering is ultimately a reminder to the demons of their defeat on the Cross.

We have many people who come to us each day in torment. We feel very bad for them and offer what advice and help we can. But suffering is a part of everyone’s life. Archbishop Fulton Sheen once lamented that there is so much wasted suffering in our world. Why not, as many were taught so many years ago when faith was the norm, “Offer it up?”

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A Record-breaking Number of Participants Planning to go on the 2023 Paris to Chartres Pilgrimage

CP&S comment: This is wonderful news for all true Catholics! And what a snub to Pope Francis’ attempt to destroy Tradition! A massive tsunami of mostly young Catholics from all over the world have signed onto this tough 70 mile three day march between Our Lady’s two most famous cathedrals in France. Why? Because they love their Catholic Faith in all its sublime fullness, and they know that here modernist platitudes have no place. The only Mass celebrated on each day of the pilgrimage is the Mass of the Ages, the Tridentine Mass in all its traditional splendour. Confession, the Holy Rosary, beautiful hymns plus truly Catholic meditations given over microphones in each of the chapters of pilgrims participating on this long march through the lovely French countryside, all help lighten the challenge. The only bad news is that after 16.000 pilgrims had signed on the organisers of the pilgrimage have had no other alternative but to close registration.

Le Forum Catholique reports:

Notre-Dame de Chrétienté, the association that organizes a large pilgrimage to Chartres every year at Pentecost, has recorded a participation rate in 2023 that has never been equaled in the past. No less than 16,000 pilgrims are preparing to travel from Paris to Chartres on May 27, 28 and 29.

Neither the motu proprio Traditionis custodes, nor even the rescript published on February 21, 2023 restricting the use of the Tridentine rite to which Notre-Dame de Chrétienté is attached, are holding back the faithful. On the contrary, pilgrims walking from Notre-Dame de Paris to Notre-Dame de Chartes at Pentecost 2023 have never been so numerous.

“Never before seen!” says Odile Téqui, head of communications for Notre-Dame de Chrétienté. The association, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, is attracting more and more pilgrims. If for the last seven years, the ranks have grown by 10% each year, as explained last year by Jean de Tauriers, the president of the association, 2023 shows an increase of 33%, forcing the organizers to close registrations a fortnight before the pilgrimage. 16,000 pilgrims are preparing to join Chartres on May 27, 28 and 29, compared to 12,000 last year.

If the number of priests and religious (300 people) and foreign pilgrims (1,400 from 21 different countries) remains stable, it is mainly adults (10,000) and families that will swell the column of pilgrims, whose average age this year is 20.5 years. And this is without counting the chapter of “Guardian Angels”, pilgrims who are not walkers and who are spiritually united to the pilgrimage, who increase from 5,000 to 6,000 this year.

“A totally historic participation”, notes Odile Téqui. “The traditional liturgy seems to respond to a thirst — perhaps increased in recent times — for transcendence, for a consistent catechism, for calm and depth. The new converts or reconverts who come to the pilgrimage also testify to the joyful and welcoming reality they find there,” she confided to Aleteia.

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Love Letters to the Latin Mass 5: Incense and Bells


May this incense, which Thou has blessed, O Lord, ascend to Thee, and may Thy mercy descend upon us.  (from the Ordinary of the Mass)

The beauty, power, and majesty of our God and His creations are beyond our wildest imaginations and abilities. Even the greatest artists and musicians can only attempt to copy the magnificence of what we see, hear, and feel surrounded by His brilliant gifts. In the most solemn Latin Mass, we attempt to reflect and recreate some of that brilliance in two ways: the use of incense and the sound of bells.

Liturgical History of Incense

The burning of incense, made of dried herbs, aromatic wood, and ritual spices, has been practiced for thousands of years as part of various religious rituals. It is mentioned in the earliest Jewish Talmud and has been used extensively in Eastern religious rites. Its earliest use in the Catholic Church came from Eastern-rite Masses and then was taken up by the Western church as early as the 6th century.

The rituals of the Divine Liturgies of Saint James and Saint Mark dating from the 5th century include the use of incense. In the Western Church, the 7th century Ordo Romanus VIII of Saint Amand mentions the use of incense during the procession of a bishop to the altar on Good Friday. Documented history of incensing the Evangeliary (Book of Gospels) during the Mass dates from the 11th century. The use of incense within the liturgies continued to be developed over many years into what we are familiar with today. (Ordinary of the Mass)

The Meaning and Use of Incense

The use of incense has traditionally served four purposes: 1) to distinguish the ceremony as something separate and above the common occurrences of the day; 2) to remind us of the sweetness of our Lord; 3) to acknowledge the transcendence of the Mass as a link between heaven and earth; and, 4) to represent the burning zeal of faith which we Christians should always carry within us. Incense essentially serves to sanctify and consecrate, and we know instinctively that something different and special is occurring when incense is burned.

As stated by Fr. Roman Guardini, in his precious breviary The Sacred Signs:

The offering of an incense is a generous and beautiful rite. The bright grains of incense are laid upon the red-hot charcoal, the censer is swung, and the fragrant smoke rises in clouds. In the rhythm and the sweetness there is a musical quality; and like music also is the entire lack of practical utility: it is a prodigal waste of precious material. It is a pouring out of unwithholding love. (Op. cit., 33)

 Blessing With Smoke

During the high Latin Mass, incense is used when the priest and servers process up the center aisle, to bless the altar at the beginning of the Mass, prior to the reading of the Gospel, before and at the Consecration, and when the priest and servers process down the aisle at the end of Mass.

The most touching use of incense occurs prior to the Consecration. After the priest incenses the altar and the gifts, he blesses the deacon or server who is assisting him. Then he hands the thurible over to that server and accepts the blessing of incense from him. The server then steps away from the altar, blesses the other servers, and finally walks to the center spot behind the communion rail.

Facing the members of the congregation, who now stand to receive the symbolic purification of the incense, he bows and swings the thurible toward the people. They, in turn, bow back to him and cross themselves upon receiving the smoky blessing. This serves as another reminder that we are all in this together, participating in something holy and beyond our understanding—indeed, something utterly miraculous.

The Bells and the Eucharist

Similarly, the frequent use of bells during the Latin Mass is not just a meaningless embellishment (or an attempt to wake up those who are daydreaming, though it may have that effect). Like the incense, it is a human reference to the heavenly, in this case, like the songs of angels.

The bells have great spiritual power and alert our senses to what is unfolding before us. They not only provoke our attention but are also a “joyous noise” at the pivotal moments in the Mass when God comes down from Heaven and takes the appearance of bread and wine.

In the high Latin Mass, the bells are rung several times during the Consecration to signify each major and minor elevation of the bread and wine as it becomes the Body and Blood of Christ.


As with every aspect of the Latin Mass, there is a deeper meaning to each ringing of the bells and burning of the incense. We are reminded that this is not just a simple gathering, but a way for us to truly transcend the mundane and touch the immortal.

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Sunday Mass Readings

Sunday, May 21 
Seventh Sunday of Easter 

Roman Ordinary calendar

St. Cristobal Magallanes Jara

Acts of the Apostles 1,12-14.

After Jesus had been taken up to heaven the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 
When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 
All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. 

Psalms 27(26),1.4.7-8a.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; 
whom should I fear? 
The LORD is my life’s refuge; 
of whom should I be afraid? 

One thing I ask of the LORD 
this I seek: 
to dwell in the house of the LORD 
all the days of my life, 
that I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD 
and contemplate his temple.   

Hear, O LORD, the sound of my call; 
have pity on me, and answer me. 
Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks. 

First Letter of Peter 4,13-16.

Beloved rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. 
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 
But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer. 
But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name. 

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 17,1-11a.

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him. 
Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. 
I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. 
Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began. 
I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 
Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, 
because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. 
I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, 
and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. 
And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.” 

Blessed Columba Marmion (1858-1923) 
To seek God (Christ, the Ideal of the Monk, pub. Sands & Co., 1934 ; pp. 15-17)

With Jesus, to the Father

In this seeking after God, the principle of our holiness, we cannot find a better model than Christ Jesus himself., But, you will at once say, how is this? Can Christ be our model? How could he “seek God” since he was God himself? It is true that Jesus is God, true God come forth from God, Light arising from the uncreated Light, Son of the living God, equal to the Father (cf. Creed of the Mass). But he is likewise man; he is authentically one of us through his human nature. (…) And we see Christ Jesus, like a giant, rejoice to run the way in the pursuit of the glory of his Father. This is his primal disposition.

Let us hear how, in the Gospel, he clearly tells us so: “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (Jn 5:30). To the Jews, he proves that he comes from God, that his doctrine is divine, because he seeks the glory of him that sent him (cf. Jn 7:18). He seeks it to such a degree that he has no solicitude for his own (cf. Jn 8:50). He has ever these words upon his lips: “My Father;” his whole life is but the magnificent echo of this cry: “Abba, Father!” All for him is summed up in seeking the will and the glory of his Father. And what constancy in this search! He himself declares to us that he never deviated from it: “I do always the things that please [my Father]” (cf. Jn 8:29). At the supreme hour of his last farewell, at the moment when about to deliver himself up to death, he tells us that all the mission he had received from his Father was accomplished (cf. Jn 17:4). (…)

If, as God, Jesus is the term of our seeking, as Man he is the unique Exemplar, wherefrom we ought never to turn our gaze.

Traditional Latin Mass Readings for this Sunday

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