Homilies: September 2006 Archives


September 30
Saint Jerome, Priest and Doctor of the Church

2 Timothy 3:14-17
Psalm 118: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14
Matthew 13: 47-52

Meditating Day and Night

The liturgy presents Saint Jerome today as the “man who meditated on the law of the Lord day and night” (Ps 1:2). Thus did he bring forth “fruit in due season” (Ps 1:3). The “law of the Lord” in today’s Entrance Antiphon is the Word of God, “alive and active” (Heb 4:12). It is the Word that springs to life, rising from the pages of Sacred Scripture, so often as we listen to it proclaimed (lectio), repeat it (meditatio), pray it (oratio), and remain with it in an adoring silence (contemplatio).


Psalm 1 links the ceaseless meditation of the Word of God to fruitfulness. “He shall be like a tree planted near running waters, which shall bring forth its fruit, in due season” (Ps 1:2). The fruit promised in the psalm is fulfilled in the mystery revealed by Jesus while at table with his disciples on the night before he suffered: “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit” (Jn 15:8). Lectio divina is the secret of supernatural fecundity. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you” (Jn 15:7).


The fruits of the Holy Spirit — the evidence of a thriving, healthy inner life — flourish wheresoever the Word of God is proclaimed (lectio), repeated (meditatio), prayed (oratio), and held in the heart (contemplatio). It is an irrefutable fact of monastic history, demonstrated by our dear old friend, Dom Jean Leclercq, that whenever lectio divina was neglected, monastic life fell into a sterile decadence, losing its vitality; it is also an irrefutable fact of history that whenever lectio divina is practiced with generosity, devotion, and zeal, monastic life brings forth the fruits of holiness in abundance.

Acedia: Been There, Done That

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ACEDIA: A common malady of the soul manifesting itself in despondency, depression, listlessness, a particular distate for spiritual things, and a distaste for life in general without any specific reason.


Ecclesiastes 1:2-11
Psalm 89:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14-17
Luke 9:7-9

All Is Vanity

The beginning of the book of Ecclesiastes is dismal and pessimistic. “Vanity of vanities, vanity of vanities! All is vanity” (Eccl 1:2). Qoheleth looks around and sees the same old things interminably recycled. He sounds jaded, bored, and depressed. “All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing” (Eccl 1:8). Qoheleth —his name means “the preacher in the assembly”— is hardly a bearer of good cheer and glad tidings. “The fate of the sons of men,” he says, “and the fate of beasts is the same, as one dies, so dies the other” (Eccl 3:19).

Nothing New Under the Sun

In the monastic life, especially after thirty, forty, or fifty years, one begins to ask the same questions posed by Qoheleth. “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun” (Eccl 1:3)? One feels that nothing really matters, that nothing will ever change in others, in myself, or in the colour of the paint on the walls. “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1:9).

The Mission

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Proverbs 30:5–9
Psalm 118:29, 72, 89, 101, 104, 163 (R. 105a)
Luke 9:1–6

Live Wisely

The Book of Proverbs that we began reading on Monday is a practical guide to wise living. The wise person is one who orders his whole life — both the little things and the great — to the pursuit of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.

In today’s passage we are told that “ every word of God proves true,” and that God “is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (Pr 30:5). What are the implications of these sayings? The first assures us that one can rely on the Word of God, that one can depend on it, anchor one’s hope in it, and stake one’s life on it. The second tell us that in the midst of life’s tribulations and temptations the only safe place is in God. In both sayings we find the wisdom of Saint Vincent de Paul whom we remember today, and of all the saints.


Saints of the Roman Canon

From the end of the fourth century right up to 1970 the Mass of the Roman Rite was never celebrated without commemorating today’s martyrs, Saints Cosmas and Damian. The names of Cosmas and Damian are enshrined in the “Communicantes” prayer of the Roman Canon. For well over a thousand years, the Roman Canon was the only Eucharistic Prayer of the Roman Church. The fact that the names of Cosmas and Damian were pronounced in every single Mass celebrated from the time of Saint Gregory the Great to that of Paul VI has conferred on them an aura of venerable familiarity. They are inscribed in the collective Catholic memory.

Loved in the East

Looking Eastward, we see a similar attachment to Saints Cosmas and Damian. They are named explicitly at every Byzantine Divine Liturgy at the moment of the preparation of the bread and wine. Placing a piece of bread on the holy diskos, the priest says, “In honour and memory of the holy, wonderworking, and Moneyless Ones . . . and all the holy physicians labouring without pay.” Moneyless physicians labouring without pay! What a marvelous notion! One begins to understand why Saints Cosmas and Damian came to occupy a place of choice in the affection of the Christian people.

The Terrible and Glorious Passion

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O grande Passion,
O profondes plaies,
O effusion de Sang,
O mort soufferte dans toutes les amertumes,
donnez–nous la vie!

O great Passion,
O deep wounds,
O outpouring of Blood,
O death suffered in every bitterness,
give us life!


Wisdom 2:12, 17:20
Psalm 54:1-2, 3, 4, 6
James 3:16—4:3
Mark 9:30-37

A Walking Retreat

Did you recognize yourself in today’s gospel? I know that I did. It was something of a shock. I recognized myself not in Jesus, nor in the little child that He took into His arms, but in those who walked with Him, not understanding what He said, and afraid to ask Him about it. “He was teaching His disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He is killed, after three days He will rise.’ But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask Him” (Mk 9:31-32).

Jesus and His followers are passing through Galilee. Jesus wants to go unnoticed by the population so as to devote himself to those nearest to Him. He wants to use the journey through Galilee to teach His disciples, to draw them closer to himself. It is a kind of “walking retreat.”

Evviva San Gennaro!

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My wonderful friend Terry N. over at Abbey-Roads did an excellent post on San Gennaro. Here, a little late in the day, is my homily on every Neapolitan's favourite saint, and on Our Lady of La Salette as well. One of Barbara Pym's characters often exclaims, "Too much richness!" I love the richness of the Martyrology and of the Church's calendar.

September 19
Saint Januarius, Bishop and Martyr

1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 17-31a
Psalm 99:1-2, 3, 4, 5 (R. 3c)
Luke 7:11-17

This very morning in the cathedral of Naples in Italy, Crescenzio Cardinal Sepe lifted up the reliquary containing the blood of Saint Januarius and, as it was presented to the faithful, the dried blood of the bishop of Benevento, martyred under Diocletian in 305, liquefied and bubbled up. Once again the faithful had their miracle, breathed a sigh of relief, and expressed their joy as only Neapolitans can.

Saint Januarius, better know as San Gennaro, was very dear to the thousands of immigrants from Naples and the province of Benevento who poured into New Haven, Connecticut at the beginning of the last century. Today their descendents live not only in New Haven, but also in East Haven, Branford, Hamden, and Woodbridge. How many of them remember San Gennaro? San Gennaro was one of many heavenly friends who accompanied those emigrating from Southern Italy into a strange land far from their families. The emigration was not nearly so painful if one could take along one’s beloved saints and be assured of their protection.

Monday of the Twenty–Fourth Week of the Year II

1 Corinthians 11:17–26, 33
Psalm 39:6–7a, 7b–8, 9, 16 (R. 1 Cor 11:26b)
Luke 7:10

All four pieces of today’s Liturgy of the Word — First Reading, Responsorial Psalm, Alleluia Verse, and Gospel — converge in the mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Saint Paul admonishes the Corinthians for their disorderly way of celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Their common meal had given rise to abuses. He recalls them to what is essential, to the sacred tradition of the Eucharist. Already, Saint Paul speaks of the Eucharist as something “handed on” and “received.” The two essential components of the living tradition are reception and transmission. “I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes’” (1 Cor 11:23–26).


Twenty–Fourth Sunday of the Year B

Isaiah 50:5-9a,
Psalm 115:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9
James 2:14-18
Mark 8:27-35

By a happy coincidence, the Word of God today echoes Thursday’s solemn festival of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and carries us more deeply into its mystery. We listened, in the First Reading, to Isaiah’s mysterious prophecy of the Passion of Christ. Like a photograph developed in a darkroom, an image emerged from the sacred page: the portrait of One who goes forward into suffering, fully conscious of what awaits Him, totally abandoned to God who alone can save Him. “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (Is 50:6). The adorable Face of the suffering Christ came into focus, the Holy Face that, from the earliest preaching of the Gospel, captivated believers, drawing them irresistibly into the mystery of the Cross.

In the apse of ancient Christian basilicas, it was not uncommon to see an immense cross, worked in shimmering mosaic. The body of Christ was not depicted on the cross; instead, at the center of the cross, in a shining circle at the juncture of the vertical and horizontal beams, was an image of the Holy Face of Christ. The arms of the Cross converged in the Face of Christ, His most distinctive characteristic.

Twenty–Third Saturday of the Year II
Memorial of Saints Cornelius, Pope, and Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs

1 Corinthians 10:14–22
Psalm 115:12–13, 17–18 (r. 17a)
Luke 6:43–49

The Cup of the Lord

“You cannot partake of the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? (1 Cor 10:21–22). It was not uncommon in Corinth for food and drink offered to idols in pagan rituals to be consumed in the banquet that followed. Saint Paul makes it clear that idols, in themselves, are nothing; he also makes it clear that demons stand behind them. “What pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to become partners with demons” (1 Cor 10:20). One who partakes of food and drink offered to idols becomes an accessory to the sin of idolatry and opens oneself to the powers of darkness that lurk behind the idols fashioned by men.

September 14
The Exaltation of the Glorious Cross

Numbers 21:4b-9
Psalm 77:1-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38
Philippians 2:6-11
John 3:13-17

Glory in the Cross

“It is for us to glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ in whom is our health, life and Resurrection: through whom we have been saved and set free” (Introit). Celebrating today the mystery of the Cross, we fix our gaze not upon an instrument of torture and of shame but, rather, upon the Tree of Life whose leaves are for the healing of the nations (Rev 22:2). We lift our eyes to the royal throne of the King of glory, the sign of the Son of Man that will appear in the heavens at the end of the age (Mt 24:30). To the eyes of faith, the Cross shines like the sun over the eastern horizon.


1 John 3:1–2
Psalm 22
Matthew 11:25–30

A number of things coincide today to stir up our prayer and to make it more fervent, more confident, more pressing. First, we are praying for the happy repose of the soul of Sister Mary Xavier’s sister, Ellen Marie Norton. A wise old Father once said to me that when a monk is sick, he should be cared for in his own monastery with the same tenderness that his own mother would have for him, were she at his side. When the death of a loved one arrives for a Sister, the same thing is true: she should be surrounded with the same attention and affection that her family would have for her, were she at home among them.

Every time Our Lord calls one of our family to Himself, it is as if another one of the veils separating us from our own death is lifted. Our own mortality becomes more real. As we grow old, we begin to notice that fewer and fewer of our loved ones remain with us here below in this valley of tears. One by one, the persons whom we cherish the most — grandparents, mother, father, spouse, brothers, and sisters — pass from his life. With each death, our own hearts become more focused “on the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1).

The Lord of Glory

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Twenty–Third Sunday of the Year B

Isaiah 35:4-7a
Psalm 145:6c-7, 8-9a, 9bc-10
James 2:1-5
Mark 7:31-37

This morning a single phrase from the Epistle of Saint James dazzles me with its brightness. This is the phrase: “You hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory” (Jas 2:1). The Lord of Glory! These words illuminate everything else for us. This is the shining faith of Saint Peter on the morning of Pentecost: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Ac 2:36). This is the jubilant faith of Saint Paul: “God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Ph 2:9-11). In another place, Saint Paul adds: “None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:8). This is the faith of the Church confessing the sovereign lordship of Christ in the Te Deum at every solemn vigil: Tu rex gloriae, Christe!

The Cost of Spiritual Fatherhood

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Twenty Second Saturday of the Year II
Memorial of Saint Peter Claver

1 Corinthians 4:6b-15
Psalm 144:17-18, 19-20, 21 (R. 18a)
Luke 6:1-5

Your Father in Christ Jesus

“I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me” (1 Cor 4:14-15). Saint Paul speaks clearly of the grace of spiritual fatherhood. He recognizes that he has become the father in Christ of the members of the Church at Corinth, his beloved children. Spiritual fatherhood is realized through the Gospel, that is, through the “word of the Cross” (1 Cor 1:18). By planting the word of the Cross in souls, the priest becomes more than a “guide in Christ” (1 Cor 4:15); he becomes a father.

Romans 8:28–30
Psalm 12:5, 6 (R. Is 61:10a)
Matthew 1:1–16, 18–23

Unto us a little girl is born; unto us a daughter is given. “The Holy Spirit will come upon her, and the power of the Most High will overshadow her” (Cf. Lk 1:35). The Word will take flesh in her virginal womb and suckle at her breast. And her name shall be called Full of Grace, Glory of Jerusalem, Joy of Israel, and Mother of God. In Italy she has another name, one that the people love to give her; she is their Maria Bambina, the little Infant Mary.

It was in Rome, many years ago, that I encountered the image of Maria Bambina, for the first time. I didn’t know quite what to make of it. She looked rather like a doll, all dressed up in lace and satin, resting on her pillow. I knew only that old people and children came to pray before her, that Maria Bambina had stolen their hearts. She attracted the most extraordinary outpouring of tender devotion, and does to this day.


1 Corinthians 3:18–23
Psalm 23:1–2, 3–4ab, 5–6 (R. 1ab)
Luke 5:1–11

Today’s Gospel opens with the people pressing upon Jesus to hear the Word of God. Eagerness to hear the Word is a sign of spiritual vitality. So too is the desire to be close to Jesus. But already Our Lord is intimating that His Word and His presence will be mediated through His Church. “Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the people from the boat” (Lk 5:3). The fisherman’s boat becomes the pulpit of the Word; even more, it becomes an image of the Church called to bear the Word across the waves of history.
After preaching to the people, Our Lord addresses a personal word to Simon: “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Lk 5:4). Duc in altum! Put out into the deep! Simon answers the Master honestly, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!” — and then he obeys — “But at your word I will let down the nets” (Lk 5:5).


1 Corinthians 3:1–9
Psalm 32:12–13, 14–15, 20–21 (R. 12b)
Luke 4:38–44

Jesus has just left the synagogue of Capernaum. He was teaching the people on the Sabbath; the word of His mouth struck the ears of all by its indescribable authority. Joining to His word a wonderful action, He delivered a man from the unclean spirit who oppressed him. Today’s Gospel begins with Jesus leaving the synagogue and entering the house of Simon.
It would have been normal, at this point, for Our Lord to want to take some refreshment and there, away from the crowd, to enjoy a moment of respite after the exertions of His ministry. But upon entering Simon’s house what does He find? Simon’s mother–in–law is ill with a high fever. Those in the house — Simon’s wife and Simon himself, no doubt — “besought Him for her” (Lk 4:38).

1 Corinthians 2:10b–16
Psalm 144:8–9, 10–11, 12–13ab, 13cd–14 (r. 17a)
Luke 4:31–37

Today’s reading from First Corinthians dovetails beautifully with our monthly Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit,” says Saint Paul, “searches everything, even the depths of God” (1 Cor 2:10). What are these depths of God? The Apostle says, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him, God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (1 Cor 2:9–10). The deep things of God are the mysteries of the Kingdom concerning which Jesus said, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will” (Lk 10:21).


1 Corinthians 2:1–5
Psalm 118:97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102 (R. 97a)
Luke 4:16–30

In the Power of the Spirit

“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee” (Lk 4:14). Jesus, “full of the Holy Spirit” (Lk 4:1) after His baptism and fast of forty days, comes home to Nazareth. On the Sabbath day he returns to the synagogue of his childhood: a holy place, a place rich in memories of the man who raised him, the just man who taught him the psalms, the blessings, and His other prayers, Saint Joseph. He takes His place at the ambo: the Word is about to proclaim the word.
Jesus receives the book from the attendant, and opening the book to the prophet Isaiah, he begins to read “the things concerning Himself” (Lk 24:27). “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor” (Lk 4:18). This is, you will have noticed, the third time that Saint Luke names the Holy Spirit in this fourth chapter of his gospel. In verse 1, he presents Jesus as “full of the Holy Spirit.” In verse 14, he shows him returning “in the power of the Spirit into Galilee” (Lk 4:14). And finally, in verse eighteen, Saint Luke wants us to hear Jesus Himself saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me” (Lk 4:16).

Twenty–Second Sunday of the Year B

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Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27
Psalm 14:2-3, 3-4, 4-5
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8


Receive Humbly the Implanted Word

Today Saint James calls our attention to two attitudes of the heart fundamental to the Christian life: humility and poverty of spirit. “Receive humbly," he says, "the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (Jas 1:21). The Word of God comes to us with power in every celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. Whenever the Word of God is proclaimed — in the psalmody and readings of the Divine Office, in the readings and proper chants of the Mass, in the homily — it is implanted within us. “He who sows the good seed,” says Jesus, “is the Son of Man” (Mt 13:37). Only the humble soul is able to receive the Word of God because the humble soul is capacious and spacious. The humble soul is uncluttered with the elaborate furnishings of self-love and the accumulated debris of sin.

The Wisest Investment of All

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Today's Mass, honouring the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mediatrix of all graces, was originally granted by Pope Benedict XV in 1921 in response to a request from Cardinal Mercier of Belgium. Cardinal Mercier was a close friend of Blessed Abbot Marmion. These two Masters of the spiritual life were of one mind and heart in recognizing and in celebrating the mission of the Blessed Virgin Mary to administer the graces won for us by the passion and death of her Son. The Office and Mass of Mary Mediatrix were extended by the Holy See to dioceses and communities the world over, making the feast practically universal.

The feast was originally celebrated on May 31st. In 1956, when Pope Pius XII instituted the feast of the Queenship of Mary on that same day, the feast of Mary Mediatrix was moved to May 8th in some places and to August 31st in others. In 1986 a complete Mass formulary, graced with a remarkable Preface, was prepared for the collection of Forty-Six Masses in honour of the Blessed Virgin.

Mary is the new Eve, the Mother of all the living. Standing at the foot of the Cross and filled in that hour with the Spirit of her Son, she said “Yes” to the unique participation in the work of redemption that, from the beginning, the Father had reserved for her. She continues to participate in that work by dispensing “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8) to all of us, the old Eve's poor children exiled in this valley of tears.

The Mother of God herself offers us a commentary on today's First Reading.


Votive Mass of the Holy Face of Jesus

1 Corinthians 1:17-25
Psalm 32:1-2, 4-5, 10-11 (R. 5b)
Matthew 25:1-13
September 1, 2006

Hearts in Pilgrimage

Today our hearts are in spiritual pilgrimage as we follow Pope Benedict XVI to the shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello in the Abruzzo region of Italy. I got up at 3:30 a.m. to witness the event transmitted live via internet from Manoppello. Upon arrival the Holy Father knelt in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and then made his way behind the altar and up the steps leading to the back of the reliquary. A Capuchin Father opened the glass door for him and, in that moment, I saw Peter face-to-face with the precious image of his Master crucified and risen. The Holy Father looked intently at the Face of the Lord. The Pope's gaze was one of childlike wonder.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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