26 April 2014

'My Lord and my God!' Sunday Reflections, 2nd Sunday of Easter Year A

Jusepe Martínez, c.1630, Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest [Web Gallery of Art]

Second Sunday of Easter (or of Divine Mercy) Year A

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)                                  

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

  
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.


We can read the words of Jesus to Thomas as a gentle rebuke that has led to the nickname he may carry for all eternity: 'Doubting Thomas'. But I prefer to see him as the one who understood that the Risen Lord must carry the scars of his crucifixion and who made the most explicit act of faith in the whole of Sacred Scripture: My Lord and my God!

The First Reading today (Ats 2:42-47) opens with the words They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 'The breaking of the bread' is an expression used for the celebration of the Eucharist. We can see in this sentence the essence of the Mass as we celebrate it today: listening to God's word, praying and sharing in the Sacrifice of Jesus and sharing his Body and Blood.

Some commentators say that the failure of Thomas was not to listen to God's word as related by his companions. Maybe he did fail here but did the others have the same awareness as Thomas had that the Risen Lord must carry his scars for all eternity?

In Evangelii Gaudium No 7 Pope Francis writes: I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: 'Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction'.

Thomas had been a companion of Jesus for two to three years but what he experienced in today's gospel was precisely what Pope Benedict describes as the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.


Servant of God, Fr Emil Joseph Kapaun (20 April 1916 - 23 May 1951)
Celebrating Mass with American soldiers during the Korean War [Wikipedia]

In his general audience in St Peter's Square on 31 October 2012 Pope Benedict said: I cannot build my personal faith in a private dialogue with Jesus, because faith is given to me by God through a community of believers that is the Church and projects me into the multitude of believers, into a kind of communion that is not only sociological but rooted in the eternal love of God who is in himself the communion of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, it is Trinitarian Love. Our faith is truly personal, only if it is also communal: it can be my faith only if it dwells in and moves with the 'we' of the Church, only if it is our faith, the common faith of the one Church.

Pope Francis re-echoes this in Evangelii Gaudium Nos 264 - 268: We need to implore his grace daily, asking him to open our cold hearts and shake up our lukewarm and superficial existence . . . Sometimes we lose our enthusiasm for mission because we forget that the Gospel responds to our deepest needs, since we were created for what the Gospel offers us: friendship with Jesus and love of our brothers and sisters . . . The word of God also invites us to recognise that we are a people . . . Mission is at once a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people. When we stand before Jesus crucified, we see the depth of his love which exalts and sustains us, but at the same time, unless we are blind, we begin to realize that Jesus’ gaze, burning with love, expands to embrace all his people. We realize once more that he wants to make use of us to draw closer to his beloved people. He takes us from the midst of his people and he sends us to his people; without this sense of belonging we cannot understand our deepest identity.

What both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis are saying is that while our faith is in a person, Jesus Christ the Risen Lord, it can never be a question of 'Jesus and me'. Pope Benedict says, faith is given to me by God through a community of believers that is the Church and projects me into the multitude of believers and Pope Francis emphasises that He takes us from the midst of his people and he sends us to his people; without this sense of belonging we cannot understand our deepest identity.

In other words, I can only know myself as a brother or sister of Jesus, as a son or daughter of God the Father when I know myself as a member of their family, which I have become through my baptism.

And that awareness of who I am is strengthened when I join other members of God's family every Sunday as they devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.


British soldiers at Mass in the Netherlands during World War II. [Wikipedia]

Many Irish Columbans served as chaplains in the British Forces during World War II. One, Fr Patrick McMahon, died in action in Normandy, France, after rescuing a Canadian soldier on 14 August 1944.

In the Office of Readings, prayed by priests, monks, nuns and others as part of the Prayer of the Church, there are two readings. The first is from the Bible and the second usually from writers in the early centuries of the Church. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday of Easter Week the second reading is from Instructions to the Newly Baptized in Jerusalem also known as The Jerusalem Catechesis, written, as far as I know, by St Cyril of Jerusalem. The author says, Just as the bread of the Eucharist after the invocation of the Holy Spirit is no longer just bread, but the body of Christ, so when the Holy Spirit has been invoked on the holy chrism it is no longer mere or ordinary ointment; it is the gift of Christ, which through the presence of the Holy Spirit instils his divinity into us [Friday].


For the Saturday reading the author tells the newly-baptized: Do not, then, regard the bread and wine as nothing but bread and wine, for they are the body and blood of Christ as the master himself has proclaimed. Though your senses suggest otherwise, let faith reassure you. You have been taught and fully instructed that what seems to be bread is not bread, though it appears to be such to the sense of taste, but the body of Christ; that what seems to be wine is not wine, though the taste would have it so, but the blood of Christ

When I celebrate Mass with the Deaf here in Bacolod City, a group whose needs the late Columban Fr Joseph Coyle was the first priest to respond to and whose vision is being carried on now by many others, both Deaf and hearing, after the consecration of the bread and again of the wine, I hear from speaking people who are present the words of St Thomas, My Lord and my God. Just like St Thomas, they recognise the presence of the Risen Lord in the bread and the winde that have no become his Body and Blood.

Fr Emil Kapaun and Fr Patrick McMahon recognised the presence of Jesus in the bread and wine that became the Body and Blood of Christ each time they celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. They also recognised the presence of Jesus in the wounds of the soldiers they tended and in whose service they sacrificed their lives - following the example of St Thomas who, according to tradition, was martyred in India.



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Regina caeli is sung during the Easter Season at the end of the Church's Night Prayer (Compline).

 Velásquez, 1645, Museo del Prado, Madrid [Web Gallery of Art]


Regina cæli, lætare, alleluia:
R. Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia,
Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia,
R. Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.
Gaude et lætare, Virgo Maria, alleluia.
R. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.
Oremus.
Deus, qui per resurrectionem Filii tui, Domini nostri Iesu Christi,
mundum lætificare dignatus es:
præsta, quæsumus, ut per eius Genitricem Virginem Mariam,
perpetuæ capiamus gaudia vitæ.
Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. R. Amen.
Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
The Son whom you merited to bear, alleluia.
Has risen, as He said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.
V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Let us pray.
O God, who through the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
gave rejoicing to the world,
grant, we pray, that through his Mother, the Virgin Mary,
we may obtain the joy of everlasting life.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.



Our new saints

St John XIII, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (25 November 1881 - 3 June 1963)

St John Paul II, Karol Józef Wojtyła [2004] (18 May 1920 - 2 April 2005)

Photos from Wikipedia.



25 April 2014

ANZAC Day greetings to readers from Australia and New Zealand


Anzac Day Dawn Service, King's Park, Western Australia, 25 April 2009

I posted this three years ago

The Columbans arrived in Australia in 1919 and in New Zealand two years later. Our arrival in those two countries was only a few years after the event in the Great War, World War I, that had a huge impact on their people of European origin, mainly British and Irish at the time, the landing in Gallipoli, Turkey, on 25 April 1915. Many of my confreres are from these two countries and because of that, their history is part of mine.

I paid my first visit to Australia just after Easter 1990. I was there for the 75th anniversary of the landing of the first members of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, the 'Anzacs', in Gallipoli. That particular anniversary generated new interest in this event. The Australian government flew a group of Gallipoli veterans, some of them aged more than 100, to Gallipoli to mark the event. Since then many young Australians have been going there for the anniversary ceremonies.

The landing at Anzac Cove, painting by George Lambert

On one TV discussion while I was there a participant pointed out that the iconic symbol of the Great War and Gallipoli for Australians wasn't one of soldiers killing or being killed, but of one saving lives: Private John Simpson, a stretcher-bearer, born in England, who was with the first group that landed, and his donkey, which he 'recruited' in Gallipoli and which acquired the name 'Duffy'. He had worked with donkeys as a youth during summers in England.

Private Simpson, centre, with his donkey and a wounded soldier (a Turk?)

John Simpson died on 15 May from machine gun fire, less than a month after he had arrived. He was 22. He quickly became a legend In Australia and his exploits were somewhat exaggerated, rather like some of the legends about the Church's martyrs. But there's no doubt about his bravery and that he saved many men.

Australian director Peter Weir's 1981 Gallipoli is one of the most memorable and moving films I have ever seen. It is built around the friendship of two young runners, Archy Hamilton, played by Mark Lee, and Frank Dunne, played by Mel Gibson. They meet as rivals in a 100-yard sprint but quickly become close friends or 'mates' and acquire more mates when they enlist in the army. Part of the movie's power is the detail paid to characters with small parts, every one a real human being, some attractive, some not.

Another is the wonderful use of music, especially of the Adagio in G minor by Venetian composer Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni (1671-1751). It is used with poignant effect at the end of the movie, with Frank  running back from the general to tell the major in charge of the group to which he and Archy belong that he was 're-considering the whole situation', ie, that he didn't want to have the soldiers go 'over the top' just yet. However, before he can reach the major a colonel has ordered that the soldiers go into attack immediately. The ending is unbearably sad,  the realisation of Frank that he is too late and his friend Archy going to his death.

The scenes in the trench before the soldiers go 'over the top' show their fear and their bravery. It shows them writing final letters, sharing a last cigarette and one praying the rosary. Archy recalls the words of his coach, his uncle. Here is that final scene.



Here is a beautiful video of Albinoni's Adagio played by the Franz Lizst Chamber Orchestra and recorded in Pannonhalma Archabbey, Hungary:



Eric Bogle, a Scottish singer-songwriter, wrote And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda in 1971, two years after he emigrated to Australia. The interpretation of Irish singer Liam Clancy is the best I have heard. War is not glorious for those who are maimed for life.


This year ANZAC Day falls on Easter Friday, but this song is more of a Good Friday one, recalling the words of Isaiah read on that day: He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;  and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

23 April 2014

Kurt Carlsen, a captain who stayed with his ship, SS Flying Enterprise

MV Sewol, 16 April 2014 [Wikipedia]

The Holy Week ferry disaster has brought grief to the whole of the Republic of Korea, especially as so many lost were high school students. President Park Geun-hye described the actions of the captain and some crew members of the Sewol as 'akin to murder'. I wouldn't be inclined to so describe Captain Lee Joon-seok and his companions. What really happened will eventually come out in court or through official investigations. I'm certain that none of the crew intended that the ship would sink or that anyone would die as a result. But if the captain was among the first to leave the ship, as reported, that was inexcusable.


Costa Concordia during salvage operation [Wikipedia]

The trial of Captain Francesco Schettini of the Costa Concordia that foundered off the Italian coast with the loss of 32 lives on 13 January 2012 is still ongoing.


SS Flying Enterprise, 10 January 1952 [Wikipedia]

When I was in Grade 2, a time when few had telephones, Ireland had no TV, when the internet wasn't even a dream in someone's imagination, the national radio station broadcast only at certain times of the day and evening and people depended on newspapers as their major source of news, I along with everyone else was utterly enthralled by what was happening to the SS Flying Enterprise, a cargo ship that began to founder in stormy weather off the south coast of England.

On 21 December 1951 the Flying Enterprise left Hamburg, Germany, under Captain Kurt Carlsen, a Dane who lived in New Jersey, USA. It carried ten passengers. In those days many cargo ships were allowed to have up to twelve passengers.

On Christmas Night the ship ran into a storm as it approached England and and by 28 December was listing at an angle of 45 degrees. The crew and passengers were evacuated on the 29th, one passenger drowning but everyone else was rescued. Captain Carlsen remained on board. A number of ships came to accompany the distressed vessel. The tugboat Turmoil arrived on 3 January and its mate, Kenneth Dancy, who died last year at the age of 88, joined Captain Carlsen on the Flying Enterprise the following day.

The Turmoil took the distressed ship in tow on 5 January heading for Falmouth in the south-west of England, but five days later the cable broke at around 01:30 on 10 January. Captain Carlsen and Kenneth Dancy abandoned ship nearly 14 hours later. Within an hour the Flying Enterprise sank.

People, including children, were talking about nothing else. We waited anxiously for each bulletin on the radio, for each issue of our morning and evening newspapers.

Captain Carlsen became an international hero. He refused to let himself become a wealthy 'celebrity' and went back to sea. At a reception for him in Woodbridge, NJ, where he lived he said, My boss sent me out a few month ago with a beautiful ship and I come back without it.  He told the people that the warmth of their welcome had more than compensated for my little inconvenience out in the Atlantic the last three weeks. He died in 1989 at the age of 75.

Here is a contemporary newsreel of the saga of SS Flying Enterprise.


The Apostleship of the Sea, under the patronage of Our Lady Stella Maris, serves seafarers in many ports throughout the world.

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee
Rembrandt, 1633. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston [Web Gallery of Art]

19 April 2014

'He saw and believed.' Sunday Reflections, Easter Sunday

Passignano, 1600-25, Pinacoteca, Vatican [Web Gallery of Art]

The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

At the Mass During the Day

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)                                  

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


Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

From The Gospel of John 

I remember as a young priests, maybe in the summer of 1969 about six months after my ordination, celebrating Sunday Mass in the chapel of the Irish Sisters of Charity (now the Religious Sisters of Charity) in Stanhope Street, Dublin, where I had made my First Holy Communion on 20 May 1950. the beautiful chapel is no longer there.

I remember clearly that my mother was at the Mass and that I preached about the Resurrection, probably quite eloquently and certainly with conviction.

However, it was only when my mother died suddenly less that two years later that I got any real grasp of what the Resurrection is. Within hours of receiving the news at breakfast time in New York, where I was studying, I felt its truth in my very being.

I preached again about the Resurrection in the presence of my mother's remains at her funeral Mass, again with conviction and maybe with some eloquence as before. But my conviction, my faith in the Resurrection, was now rooted in my heart, not just in my head.

After the Mass my father, a man of deep quiet faith who went to Mass every day of his life right up to the day of his own sudden death in 1987, told me that he had felt utterly desolate going into the church but now felt at peace. A cousin's husband thanked me for speaking about what really matters. Nearly 40 years later a fellow Columban, who had been present
while a seminarian, told me that he still preaches in his funeral homilies in Japan whatever I had said at my mother's funeral Mass. I really have no idea what I said but I remember vividly the change in my understanding of the Resurrection during those days.


But the hope that the Death and Resurrection of Jesus is not only for us as individuals. It can bring hope and reconciliation to a whole nation. In 1994 in this overwhelmingly Christian nation, more than half of its then between seven and eight million people Catholic, between 500,000 and 1,000,000, mostly members of the minority Tutsi people, were slaughtered between 7 April and the middle of July.

In the video above a man who live through it, probably as a child, says outside a church in Kigali, the country's capital, Today's Mass was about Resurrection. And I believe that one day the souls of the people we lost will resurrect. Sister Mujawayezu Marie Anastasie, a survivor of the genocide,  says, I think now that things are like before, even better than before. People are good to each other, talking. People trust each other. For what I see it seems OK but I do not know what's inside a person's heart.

Sister Mujawayezu's words express some uncertainty but trust and hope win out. This is a fruit of the Resurrection, that God's love has conquered evil and death. And the Rwandan Genocide was the result mainly of neighbour killing neighbour. There have been reports and photos in the media in recent weeks of individuals who had killed other individuals not only asking forgiveness of someone they had widowed but working with that widow to enable her to have a livelihood.

It is acts such as these that remind us of the truth of the Resurrection, of the presence of the Risen Lord among us, still carrying the scars of his Crucifixion, as the people of Rwanda who have asked for forgiveness or who have forgiven their former enemies still carry the scars of 1994.


The civil war in Rwanda was short and brutal. That in Lebanon lasted from 1975 to 1990 with an estimated 120,000 deaths and about a million leaving the country. Today it is affected by the ongoing civil war in neighbouring Syria.

The people of Lebanon are Arabs, nearly 40 percent of them Christian. Most of those are Maronite Catholics who have always been in full communion with Rome. The vast majority of Christians in the Middle East are Arabs, in Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Syria. They are descended from the very earliest Christians. Islam originated nearly six centuries after the death and Resurrection of Jesus.

Like the people of Rwanda, the people of Lebanon carry the scars of their civil war. But the Christians there also carry the living grace of the Resurrection of Jesus. I have used the video below a number of times before but I know of no more joyful proclamation of the Resurrection than Jesus is Risen, sung here in Arabic in a shopping mall in Beirut three years ago at Eastertime.

No translation is necessary, though you can switch on the English captions. You can see the look of surprise on the face of a Filipina taking caring of a child and the look of delight on the face of a young Muslim woman.


Resurrexit sicut dixit, Alleluia!

He is risen as he said, Alleluia!

Happy Easter!

14 April 2014

The Stations of the Cross with the Masters; Reflections by Fr William Doyle SJ


Tintoretto, 1566-67, Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice


Around the judgement seat are grouped a motley crowd. Men and women of every rank, the high-born Jewish maiden, the rough Samaritan woman; haughty Scribes and proud Pharisees mingle with the common loafer of the great city. Hatred has united them all for one common object; hatred of One Who ever loves them and to their wild fury has only opposed acts of gentle kindness. A mighty scream goes up, a scream of fierce rage and angry fury, such a sound as only could be drawn from the very depths of hell. “Death to Him! Death to the false prophet!” He has spent His life among you doing good – Let Him die! He has healed your sick, given strength to the palsied, sight to your blind – Let Him die! He has raised your dead – Let death be His fate!


El Greco, 1600-05, Museo del Prado, Madrid


Away from the palace now a sad procession is winding. On the faces of the multitude a fiendish joy is written, they have had their wish and now issue forth to glut their eyes on the dying struggles of the suffering innocent One. Painfully He is toiling up the long narrow street, narrower still from the crowds that line the way; each step is agony, each yard of ground He covers a fresh martyrdom of ever increasing suffering. With a refinement of cruelty His enemies have placed upon His shoulders the heavy, rough beams which will be His last painful resting place.

Cruelly the heavy beam weighs upon His mangled flesh and cuts and chafes a long, raw sore deep to the very bone.


Raphael, 1517, Museo del Prado, Madrid


Bravely has our Lord borne the galling weight of His cross; bravely has He struggled on, tottering and stumbling, longing for a moment’s rest, yearning for a respite however short. But rest He will not, that He may teach us how unfalteringly we must press on to our goal. But nature will have its way. His sight grows dim; His strength fails and with a crash our Saviour lies extended on the ground. Oh! if you have not hearts of stone let Him lie even thus, poor, crushed and broken thing. If you have but one spark of compassion left, one tender feeling of sympathy urge Him not on awhile, so spent, so weary. On a poor maimed brute you have pity – think of the sorrow of Him extended there.

Fourth Station: Jesus meets his Blessed Mother

The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin: Mother of Sorrows
Albrecht Dürer, c.1496, Alte Pinakothek, Munich


To sensitive souls the pain they cause others is far worse than any sufferings they may endure themselves. They may have much to endure, but to see others in pain causes them deeper grief. Jesus and Mary meet. Alone He could have suffered with joy so that she, His dearest Mother, might have been spared the agony of seeing all He must endure. With one look of pity Jesus reads the anguish of that cruelly lacerated heart; with one long gaze of infinite love and pity Mary sees the depth of her Son’s woe, His long hours of torture, His utter weariness, His sorrow, His grief, His anguish. May she not help Him? At least lift for one moment that cross?

Master Thomas de Coloswar, 1427, Christian Museum, Esztergom

When God lays a cross upon us, some misfortune, some unexpected burden, instead of thanking Him for this precious gift, too often we rebel against His will. We forget that our Saviour never sends a cross alone, but ever sweetens its bitterness, lightens its weight by His all-powerful grace. With reluctance, with unwillingness, Simon bears the cross of His Master. At first his spirit revolted against this injustice, his pride rebelled against this ignominy. But once he accepted with resignation, his soul was filled with heavenly sweetness, he felt not the weight of the heavy beams, he heeded not the jibes of the multitude but pressed on after His Master, proud to be His follower.


El Greco, c.1580, Museo de Santa Cruz, Toledo

As the sorrowful procession moves slowly on, a woman, who with anxious gaze has watched its approach, steps forward and wipes the sacred face of Jesus. It is a simple action, yet reveals the kindly thoughtfulness of a charitable heart. Gladly would Veronica have done all in her power to lessen the sufferings of the Lord, to ease the dreadful burden which was crushing Him, to show some mark of sympathy and compassion. That little act of love touched the broken Heart of Jesus; He wipes the clotted blood and streaming sweat from His Face, leaving His sacred image stamped on the veil of Veronica; but deeper and more clear cut did He impress on her heart the memory of His passion.



Rubens, 1634-37, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

Jesus falls a second time, crushed beneath the weight of His awful sufferings which are fast draining His strength. Exhausted and spent He lies upon the rough-paved ground, a cruel resting place for His bleeding, lacerated body. Vainly He tries to rise, for love impels Him on to the consummation of the sacrifice, but His tottering limbs will not support Him and once again He falls upon the ground. Again the soldiers with fiendish brutality drag Him to His feet with coarse jibes and mocking laughter, with kicks and blows they drive Him on, pulling Him now forward, now back, striving if possible to add to the sufferings of the patient victim.


Jacopo Bassano, 1550-55, Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest

The disciples of Jesus have deserted their Master, and fearful for their own safety, have abandoned Him to His fate. Peter who would die for Him, Matthew who left all to follow Him, are far from Him now and dread to be pointed to as His friends. Yet Jesus is not alone. A few, a faithful few, remain beside Him still, poor, weak women, but strong with the courage of love. The brutal crowd surge round, inflamed with hate and lust for blood; but they offer Him the tribute of a woman's heart the silent tears of sympathy.

“Weep not for Me,” He says, “weep rather for those who unlike these My executioners will one day crucify Me again with full knowledge of what they do.”


Ninth Station: Jesus falls the third time

Christ Carrying the Cross
Hieronymus Bosch, Palacio Real, Madrid


The hill of Calvary is almost reached, the hour of the great sacrifice is at hand. Still the heart of Jesus thirsts for suffering to show His great, His all devouring love for us. Again He falls! With limbs all bruised and broken, with a body all one raw, red, quivering sore, each step He took was agony. But to fall thus helpless on the ragged ground, to be kicked and beaten as He lay with nerveless limbs all paralyzed with pain must have been to His high-strung, delicate frame a thousand-fold martyrdom. The executioners were alarmed. Was death going to rob them of their victim and cheat them of the joy they promised themselves as their victim writhed in the agonies of death?

Tenth Station: Jesus is stripped of his garments

The Disrobing of Christ (El Espolio)
El Greco, 1577-79, Sacristy of the Cathedral, Toledo


At last He stands upon the hill of shame to pay the price of our redemption. In the eyes of His Eternal Father, a sinner laden with the crimes of a wicked world; before men, the most abject and abandoned of creatures. A brutal soldier advances. He lays his hand upon the garment of Jesus and roughly tears it from His sacred shoulders. The cloth has sunk deeply into the gaping wounds left by the recent scourging, and driven deeper still by the weight of the cross and the oft-repeated blows. With a horrid, rending sound the wounds are torn open afresh, the sacred blood gushes forth anew and bathes His limbs in its ruddy stream. It is a moment of awful agony.

Eleventh Station: Jesus is nailed to the Cross

Christ in Agony on the Cross
El Greco, 1600s, Art Museum, Cincinnati


Upon His last resting place Jesus lays Himself down. No soft bed, no easy couch to ease the agony of His aching limbs, but a hard, rough beam must be His place of death. Meekly He extends His arms, those arms ever open to welcome back the repentant sinner, and offers His hands to be pierced as the Prophet had foretold. A long, blunt nail is placed upon the palm: a heavy, dull thud, the crunch of parting flesh and rending muscle, the spouting crimson blood which covers the face and hands of the hardened soldier and Jesus is fastened to the cross. Come, sinner, gaze upon your work for you have nailed Him there! Your sins it was which flung your Saviour down, your sins which drove the iron deep into His sacred flesh.

Twelfth Station: Jesus dies on the Cross

Christ on the Cross, with the two Marys and St John
El Greco, c.1588, National Gallery, Athens


Upon the cross He hangs now, the most abject and despised of all men, the butt for vile jests, a common mark for all to hurl their jibes at. There He hangs, in agony no human lips can tell, no mind conceive, an impostor, a vile hypocrite, a failure. “He came to make Himself a King! See, we have crowned His brow with a royal, sparkling diadem. He sought a kingdom! From that elevated throne let Him look upon the land which will never be His now. He threatened our Scribes with woes and punishments, let Him look to His own fate and if He has that power which some say was His, let Him come down now from the cross and we too shall believe in His word.”

Thirteenth Station: Jesus is laid in the arms of His Mother

Pietà (The Lamentation of Christ)
El Greco, 1571-76, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia


Mary stands at the foot of the cross to receive in her arms the lifeless body of her Son. Once more His head is resting on her bosom as it used to do long years ago when a little child He nestled to His Mother#s breast. But now that sacred head is bruised and swollen, stamped with the cruel mark of the mocking diadem; His hair all clotted with the oozing blood, tangled and in disorder. Even she, upon whose heart is stamped every lineament of her Son’s dear face, can scarcely recognise His features now. On every line is marked the anguish of long drawn agony, of torture and agonizing pain, of woe, unutterable woe, of sorrow, suffering and abandonment.

Fourteenth Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb

The Entombment of Christ
El Greco, 1560s, Alexandros Soutzos Museum, Athens


The final scene of the awful tragedy is drawing to a close. Reverently the faithful few bear the dead Christ down the hill of shame, that body from which all the care of loving hands cannot remove the marks of the cruel scourge, the rending nails, the lance’s gaping thrust. Into the tomb they bear Him, the burial place of a stranger, best suited to Him Who during His life had not where to lay His head. Reverently they lay Him down; one last, fond embrace of His own Mother before they lead her hence, and then in silence and in sorrow they leave Him, their dearest Master, to the watchful care of God’s own angels. Sin has done its work! Sin has triumphed, but its very triumph will prove its own undoing.
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All paintings from Web Gallery of Art

Reflections by Fr William Doyle SJ from Remembering Fr William Doyle SJ


Fr William Doyle SJ was finally appointed during World War I chaplain of the 16th Irish Division, serving with 8th Royal Irish Fusiliers, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, 9th Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 6th Royal Irish Rifles and the 7th Royal Irish Rifles. Having fulfilled his priestly duties in an outstanding fashion for almost two years, he was killed in the Battle of Ypres on August 16, 1917, having run “all day hither and thither over the battlefield like an angel of mercy.” This good shepherd truly gave his life for his sheep.
Fr Doyle’s body was never recovered.
Fr William Doyle SJ (3 March 1873 - 16 August 1917)
Many thanks to Pat Kenny, blogmaster of Remembering Fr William Doyle SJ.