The Litany of Saint Joseph

Last week I wrote a blog post about Our Lady’s month of May. This weeks blog follows a similar theme, this time reflecting on the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph.

We are currently celebrating a Year of Saint Joseph, which Pope Francis proclaimed in his apostolic letter Patris Corde. If you haven’t read this letter from the Holy Father about Saint Joseph, I highly recommend it to you. But as well as his letter, Pope Francis has (just this month) approved seven new invocations to the litany of Saint Joseph.

This gives us with an opportunity to become familiar with the spiritual gem that is the litany to the Patron of the Universal Church.

The official english translation of these new invocations has yet to be released, but they could be translated as: Guardian of the Redeemer, Servant of Christ, Minister of salvation, Support in difficulties, Patron of exiles, Patron of the afflicted and Patron of the poor.

So at this half-way point of the Year of Saint Joseph I would like to invite you to draw closer to Jesus’ father. If you don’t have much of a devotion to this wonderful saint, there could not be a better time to get to know him.

You can find the litany (which has yet to be updated with the new invocations) by following this link , and I commend to you the prayer Pope Francis has written to Saint Joseph:

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.

Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.

St Joseph, pray for us!

Mary’s Month of May

Within the Church’s liturgical year different aspects of our faith are given special attention. Most notably of course we have the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. Less well known is how the Church sees each month and week as an unfolding of the mystery of Christ.

You will know that each Sunday is a ‘mini Easter Sunday’ when we commemorate the resurrection. In a similar way on Friday we abstain from meat (or something else if you don’t eat meat) in memory of Christ’s saving death on Good Friday. But did you know that each day of the week has a theme?

Mondays – Most Holy Trinity
Tuesdays – The Holy Angels
Wednesdays – St. Joseph
Thursdays – The Holy Eucharist
Fridays – Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Saturdays – Blessed Virgin Mary
Sundays – The Resurrection

We are encouraged to consider these different aspects of our faith on these different days of the week. For instance, on a Saturday we may say an extra prayer to Our Lady or attend a Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin.

In a similar fashion, each month of the year has a theme (click here for the full list) with the month of May being dedicated to Our Lady. For centuries the Church has set aside this month to honour the Mother of God. This is a beautiful custom, after all, Mary is our spiritual mother and it is therefore fitting to have a good amount of time set aside in her honour.

Pope Francis has launched a prayer initiative for this month. He would like all Christians to join him in a marathon of prayer, asking the Lord for the end of the pandemic and the resumption of social and work activities. The Holy Father has coincided this initiative with Mary’s month of May, so that we can make these prayers through her, entrusting this intention to her.

The Holy Father has particularly entrusted the rosary to us for this month. If you regularly pray the rosary, I would invite you to unite your prayer with Pope Francis’ intention. And if you’re not a regular rosary prayer, why not consider taking it up for the remainder of the month?

In the words of Pope Francis: “The Rosary lays before our eyes the beauty of a simple contemplative prayer that is accessible to everyone, great and small.”

Finally, if you would like to hear a bit more about the rosary, I am including below a really good video I came across recently.

God bless you all during Our Lady’s month of May.

Divine Mercy Sunday

“My daughter, tell the whole world about My inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy.”

Jesus Christ to Saint Faustina Kowalska

Under the pontificate of Pope Francis we have seen the Holy Father place a great emphasis on the Mercy of God. In doing so, Pope Francis has been closely following the teaching of St Pope John Paul II, who in the Jubilee Year of 2000 named the Second Sunday of Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday.

By doing this St John Paul II fulfilled a request made by Jesus Christ himself during a series of mystical revelations to a polish nun named St Faustina. Divine Mercy Sunday focuses on the gift of mercy and love given through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. As Pope John Paul II stated, “Divine Mercy reaches human beings through the heart of Christ crucified.”

According to the vision, which has been approved by the Church, those who receive communion and celebrate the Sacrament of Penance (confession) on the Feast of Mercy receive total forgiveness of sins and receive a plenary indulgence.

Jesus also asked St Faustina to commission an image of himself, which you can see here. This image is connected to the gospel reading we hear at Mass this Sunday. The Divine Mercy image depicts Jesus at the moment he appears to the disciples in the Upper Room, after the Resurrection, when he empowers them to forgive or retain sins.

This moment is recorded in John 20:19-31, which is the Gospel reading for this Sunday in all three yearly Sunday liturgical cycles.

This reading is placed on this day because it includes the appearance of Jesus to the Apostle Thomas (in which Jesus invites him to touch his wounds). This event occurred on the eighth day after the Resurrection, and so it is used on the liturgy eight days after Easter.

There is so much which I could say about this beautiful feast. Let me conclude by offering you an invitation and recommending some further reading.

You are invited to join us at St Peter’s Church (Leamington Spa) for Eucharistic Adoration from 3pm – 4pm this Sunday. During adoration special Divine Mercy devotions will be prayed and I will be available to hear confessions. At 4pm I will celebrate Benediction. You can join us physically in church, or on the live-stream.

If you would like to find out more about this feast, here is a good article.

If you would like to watch a good video about the message of Divine Mercy, I can recommend this video.

I hope and pray that you are continuing to have a very Happy Easter and that you all have a blessed Feast of Divine Mercy.

An Invitation to the Paschal Triduum

This Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, when the Church celebrates the most sacred liturgies of the year.

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday are marked by three services which are in fact one liturgy. Through this three day liturgy we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist and Holy Orders (Maundy Thursday), Jesus Christ’s passion and death (Good Friday) and the Lord’s resurrection (Holy Saturday night).

This year these celebrations will be a little different. In the video below I discuss what will be different, as well as what it is that happens in each of these services.

You are very welcome to join us in Leamington Spa (St Peter’s) and Lillington (Our Lady’s) – service details are on the parish website: https://www.catholicleamington.org.uk/

If you are unable to come to church at this time you are invited to join Archbishop Bernard Longley at St Chad’s Cathedral through the cathedral’s livestream: https://www.stchadscathedral.org.uk/

I wish you a very peaceful and blessed Holy Week.

COVID-19: Why I chose to be vaccinated despite the ethical concerns

It is wonderful news that scientists have been able to develop vaccines for COVID-19, thereby helping to defend human life from this lethal pandemic in the very near future. Yet at the same time I have been concerned when reading that some vaccines have been developed using cell lines which were originally obtained from aborted unborn children.

When tissue samples were collected from these babies’ bodies (decades ago) it was a continuation of them being treated without the dignity due to them as human beings and it trivialised the fact they had been deliberately killed. The fact scientists continue to grow and use these cells in continues this injustice.

This is a very complex moral issue, which involves cooperating in a wrong that someone else has done.

We must bear in mind that using human tissue/cells is not wrong in itself and can be a great good (just think of voluntary organ donation). The Church’s teaching is therefore balanced: we can use vaccines which have been produced, developed and tested in this way with a clean conscience when there is no realistic alternative as it will provide a great social good.

Although our bishops encourage you to do you own research, they understand that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have only been tested (not developed and produced) using these illicitly obtained cells. In contrast the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has made use of them at every stage, making it the most problematic.

The Bishops Conference of England and Wales has really good information about all of this.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has also issued a statement.

I was recently vaccinated (as a hospital chaplain) and received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. I am delighted to have been vaccinated to protect both myself and everyone I come into contact with. However, I do not wish to ignore the ethical issue. I have therefore written to AstraZeneca to express my views and voice my opposition to the use of immorally obtained human cell lines. You can read this letter, I have included it below.

I welcome the arrival of the vaccines and thank God for them. I would personally encourage you to take up the offer of vaccination when you have the opportunity to do so. I also pray that in the future we will move towards more ethical means of vaccine production.