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Easter Vigil & Easter Sunday 2019

Reflection by Aidan Troy


Holy Week is sacred for all Christians and God’s gift to Creation. This is my 11th Holy Week at St Joseph’s. In those years I have not seen Palm Sunday Masses with such numbers. God is blessing us in a special way. In some places I have met fellow priests and the parishioners who are saddened by the sharp decline in numbers of worshippers at Mass. Let us remember their challenges and pray with them.

Why God is blessing us by the numbers who come to worship Him at St Joseph’s, is only known to Him. Also, there is joy and a sense of community at which I marvel all the time. You, dear parishioners are responding to God’s call in a most generous, holy way. What happens is not due to me; I am privileged to walk among you on the way to the Resurrection every day and especially this Easter weekend. The Tomb beckons. We breathlessly reach it, knowing it will be empty. He is Risen.

God’s ways are not our ways. Last Monday evening as the Pastoral Council began to assemble, images of Notre Dame on fire were emerging. I could not believe what I was seeing. It was hard for us to take our eyes off the phones in front of us. Yet, this Pastoral Council meeting continued and produced fruits that will benefit us as we move forward to live the Resurrection.

Late on Monday night, I went to Notre Dame while the fire was still burning. I stood on the bank of the Seine with my head bowed in homage. I was not alone; there were thousands of others gathered in a spirit of silence and disbelief.

As midnight drew close, I heard words of prayer as the only response to our shock. A young couple held each other as tears streamed from their eyes. The ground on which we stood is Holy Ground. For over 850 years, the church of Our Lady of Paris has been the seat of successive Bishops and the heart of the Catholic Church in Paris. On the return to St Joseph’s after midnight, the Metro seemed quieter than usual. The City was beginning to mourn.

That night I did not sleep well and I got up early the next morning. I offered Mass and then began to receive many requests from radio, television and newspapers to share what was happening as the church, the city and world began to absorb the burning of Notre Dame. Throughout the day, I was able to speak with audiences about the place of Notre Dame as I knew and loved it over the past ten years since coming to live at St Joseph’s.

Truthfully, I could say that Notre Dame besides being a place of worship and of prayer, is a place that welcomes people of all religions and none. There was never an entrance requirement or a payment. It provided, as Mary always does, a place of welcome, a refuge and a respite in the midst of the great city of Paris.

For me, Notre Dame was my church where I went to Confession, often prayed Evening Prayer before the Mass and sang the final hymn of the day in honour of Mary. Each year at Notre Dame class after class of Priests were ordained. Every year I looked forward on the first Saturday of Lent to going with our RCIA Candidates to the Appel Decisif. The reading of the Gospel in English was my privilege each year. On the 90th Anniversary of the foundation of Marymount School, Mass was celebrated there at which I was asked to preach; Our St Joseph’s Parish pilgrimage during a Year of Faith had Mass at Notre Dame. [Perhaps for the only time in its history, the microphone system was not working!]

Other great moments like last November when I led prayers at Notre Dame to mark the Centenary of the Armistice that ended the First World War; yearly Mass of Chrism and the sad funeral of our beloved Mgr. Francois Fleischmann who for nine years each Pentecost Sunday conferred the Sacrament of Confirmation on CCD and Marymount School Paris candidates.

This is my history of the past decade. The previous centuries are rich in great events at Notre Dame. But I believe that it was also in the little miracles of grace that are not recorded that made Notre Dame, Jesus and Mary’s gift to the World.

Palm Sunday of the Passion of The Lord 2019

Reflection by Aidan Troy


Holy Week is with us again. It is especially sacred for all Christians. It is also God’s gift to all Creation. At St Joseph’s, Holy Week is “our” very special week because of the gift of the Charism of St Paul of the Cross, our Father and Founder. Today, we begin to live more intensively God’s work of salvation in Jesus, both to remember and to renew.

How you see this holy week would be interesting to know. I find that the liturgies of this week “sweep” me along at a pace that is hard to sustain. Added to this, I find the “content” of Holy Week so rich that it takes a lot of prayer and some patience to digest it all. It is a great week as well as being a Holy Week.

Today, we leave our ‘comfort zone’ to take our first small steps with Jesus towards Jerusalem. There was a growing awareness which Jesus shared with the Apostles that they were on the way there and it was not going to be pleasant. This was not the scenario the Apostles wanted. In fact, a ‘jockeying’ for positions at the right and left hand of the Lord broke out on the way there. This can’t have been easy for Jesus as His heart was beating with love and fear.

Not only did those around Jesus not “get it”, how often I too haven’t “got it”? The revelation of the life and death of Jesus has been known for centuries. I have been around for many decades. Yet, I am still struggling during Holy Week 2019 to fall into step with Jesus on the way to Calvary. My temptation is to look at Jesus from the outside and even shed tears for Him. The truth is that I am called to be part of this world making its journey to Calvary.

We are blessed at St Joseph’s by having the charism of Saint Paul of the Cross to inspire and support us through Holy Week. Paul added of ‘the Cross’ to his name because it consumed him. He knew that the Cross never gets lighter or becomes more pleasant to carry.

The Passion of Jesus continues in the lives of some people whom we see on the front pages of the daily newspaper and on news bulletin. Not only can we look at what is happening but should ask what can we do? A few parishioners some years ago asked about feeding homeless who are often short of food. This has grown into a powerful force for good in our city and is a blessing on our parish. ACWO based at St Joseph’s have an outreach to various groups and people seriously in need. A parishioner regularly donates restaurant tickets for the hungry. People come daily to our door in need of help. Their eyes light up when they receive a ticket for food. On Holy Thursday you donate money for the poor which is spent on the urgent needs of poor families and individuals. Parishioners in a quiet and silent way help people who are in need. The Lenten Project each year shows St Joseph’s reaching out to the ‘crucified’ of the world. This touches the Crucified One.

But that is not all. St Paul of the Cross saw in a life of prayer a call to compare our manner of living with what is required by the Gospel. “We should continually ask ourselves whether our prayer life effectively influences our personal life, our community life, and our apostolic service.” [Passionist Constitutions, 40]

Saint Paul of the Cross challenges us to find the unity of life by looking at the Cross and in the same glance seeing around us those suffering. There is one Christ in Heaven and on earth.

At the Last Judgement, God will ask me if I saw Him down and out before my eyes or miss Him by thinking that he could only be in ‘holy’ places. Don’t get me wrong –the Eucharist is central for all believers and makes us whom we receive. What a pity if I don’t see the same Jesus on the streets, in prison, in hospital, depressed, lonely and lost. As I reach out to any of these, I touch the body of Christ, the same Jesus whom I receive in the Eucharist. How blessed are we having this daily contact?

5th Sunday of Lent 2019

Reflection by Aidan Troy, C.P.


This weekend, the parishioners of St Joseph’s will get a break from me! After all, you have had me a lot since last Summer. I have enjoyed the time spent with you at Mass, Sacraments chats, coffee, CCD, Marriage Course, RCIA, and all that makes this a specially blessed place. People online regularly making contact give encouragement. Celebrating our 150th year, we offer thanks for the past and look forward with hope.

This weekend it is my privilege to begin a parish retreat in Derry, Ireland. Passionists were founded by St Paul of the Cross in 1720, 300 years ago next year. He “entrusted us with a mission: to preach the Gospel of the Passion by our life and apostolate.” He wished that we would, “come together therefore in apostolic communities so that we can fulfil this mission of ours by working for the coming of God’s Kingdom”. [Constitutions No. 2]

St Joseph’s is known in the Church as the ‘Mission Anglophone’ in France. As a Passionist mission, it still retains all its force and authenticity. The genius of Saint Paul of the Cross was his unwavering conviction that, “the Passion of Christ continues in this world until He comes in glory.’ A glance at the daily news leaves us in no doubt that this is true.

Because of this conviction, he wished that his Passionist communities would, “share in the joys and sorrows of our contemporaries as we journey through life toward our Father.” To do this, St Paul of the Cross wished that, “our mission aim at evangelizing others by means of the Word of the Cross”. [No. 3] Whether it is in Paris or in Derry, the call is the same and the mission demands a humility to know that it is God’s work of love for all his people.

Today’s Gospel is graphic in revealing to us the tender mercy of our Lord and Saviour. To this day, people can be both shocked and surprised at how Jesus reacts. His advice is, “go away, and don’t sin any more’. He says this in the same breath as, ‘Neither do I condemn you’.

St Joseph’s has a long and hallowed tradition as a parish with people from diverse nations and cultures who find here a ‘home from home’. Nobody “owns” St Joseph’s. The mission is entrusted to Passionists to be with, “people of good will in pursuing all that is true, noble and just, bearing in mind the present needs of the Church and the World, our special mission in the Church, and the particular gifts of our religious.” [No. 69] I’ll let you, dear reader, discover what this last phrase might mean at this time!

Life of people at St Joseph’s is so diverse. Some are at home a lot of the time; others are travelling around the world between weekends and many of our great children and young people are engaged in full time education. But our life style or status is not what brings us together as a Passionist community of Mission in Paris.

Saint Paul of the Cross had an insight that, “we seek the unity of our lives and our apostolate in the Passion of Jesus. His Passion reveals the power of God which penetrates the world, destroying the power of evil and building up the Kingdom of God.” [No.6] This I find very powerful and challenging. We are not two groups or communities – Passionists and laity. We share our life together to live the dream of St Paul of the Cross at this time of enormous challenge for the Catholic Church and for our World.

This vision of St Paul of the Cross sustains keeps us focused on what matters. My prayer is that we grow in holiness and be strengthened by our being this Passionist Community in Paris, but with a mission to all nations. Of course, there are blocked toilets, a grille that refuses to work properly, lack of storage and many other such matters. These are just background to the main task in hand – to live, pray and witness to the Passion of Jesus, “the greatest and most overwhelming work of God’s love”. [St Paul of Cross]

Please pray for the people of Derry, sharing these days in their own Passionist Mission. May God bless them powerfully.

4th Sunday of Lent 2019

Reflection by Aidan Troy


“It is all God’s work”, Paul writes to the Corinthians. What good news. I just wish I had paid more attention to this all my life. Many times, I thought ‘it is all MY work’. How wrong could I have been? It is His. He started it and He will be there at the end – forever.

It is all His work, but He has chosen ‘Ambassadors’. True, most of us don’t get a diplomatic posting to a particular country. Our posting is to the world to be the presence of Christ and His agents of love, peace and reconciliation. If God had wished to do without you or me, then He would not have created us. You and I have been in the mind of God from eternity. He chose to want us for His work.

The tragedy is when I forget or wilfully ignore the right relation with God. I gradually ‘take over’ and begin to act as if this is really my work and not God’s. To become authoritarian, as if the beginning and end is ours. I know how easy it is to slip into this.

Pope Francis warns of destructive ‘clericalism’, by which some of us clergy, sharing Christ’s Priesthood, seek to be centre and the heart of church. This is a travesty of the truth. It is really all God’s work. A lifetime of apprenticeship can but pray, ‘that we may merit to be coheirs to eternal life.’ [2nd Eucharistic Prayer of Mass]

Recently, a video of Pope Francis not allowing people to kiss his ring went ‘viral’. A custom of kissing the ring of bishops long exists. Perhaps Pope Francis is not easy with this sign of ‘reverence’ or perhaps trying to avoid spreading germs! I’ve often expressed my own unease with being called ‘Reverend Father’. in fact, I’m your brother, and proud to be so!

Various businesses over the years have spent a lot of time writing their ‘Mission Statement’. Parishes spent time searching to set out their future. The universal church spent years at Vatican II (1962-1965) and Synods of Bishops spent time over the years searching for a way forward also. Such reflection is necessary, and statements of mission are good and necessary. Paul gives us a great guideline.

Paul cuts to the chase, “Christ gave us the work of handing on reconciliation”. Before this ‘mission statement’, Paul points out that, ‘it was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ.’ As a Passionist religious for many years, I have always felt that this ministry of reconciliation expresses the charism of Saint Paul of the Cross. 300 years ago, he founded our community to live and proclaim that Christ has already lovingly reconciled all people with God.

Our ‘mission’ at St Joseph’s as a Passionist parish and community is to live this, pray and proclaim this. It must start in our hearts and lives. Then we can reach out to people to give and receive reconciliation. One of my many failures over my eleven years at St Joseph’s, has been not creating a reflection and action ministry based on justice, peace and reconciliation. Mea Culpa. Please God, some day!

This reconciliation mission is a gift that God gave to St Paul of the Cross. His Passionist daughters and sons try to sow reconciliation in an alienated and seriously divided world. As St Joseph’s, Paris, celebrates 150 years on this holy ground, we could renew our mission with renewed favour. We are Ambassadors of Reconciliation to all people in the footsteps of Jesus.

 

3rd Sunday of Lent 2019

Reflection by Aidan Troy


The down to earth life of Moses, looking after the flock of his father-in-law, shows where God found him for an amazing revelation. My mistake can be to suppose that God reveals my next mission when I am removed from every day work. Not true for Moses. He was a shepherd close to the land. His wife, Miriam, was a priest’s daughter. He brought the flock to Horeb, the mountain of God, as a good shepherd would.

In this context, Moses meets an angel in the form of a flame of fire. A place apart is not always necessary for God to find us. While working, God comes to Moses. Inquisitive about a bush that was on fire but not burnt away, God sees him coming and stops him coming any closer. “Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.”

Holy ground is all around us. The church in which we worship stands on holy ground where for the past 150 years, praise and worship has been offered to God. Broken-hearted people have come to be absolved of their sins. Infants were carried to the baptismal font and couples sealed their love for each other in the sight of God who is love. From the rising of the sun to its setting, the Mass has been offered on this holy ground. There have been miracles taking place on this holy ground. God is active; this community of faith has a long history of faith and trust in God.

I marvel at the wonder of all of this. My life is both visible and invisible as to what is going on inside me. The mistake I make is thinking that God only comes when all is orderly and going well. Not true. “I have seen the miserable state of my people in Egypt. I have heard their appeal to be free of their slave-drivers. Yes, I am well aware of their sufferings.” Superb. God sees the scars both external and cutting into the spirit.

“I mean to deliver them”, says God to Moses and to us. When Moses led a people truly down-trodden, God was not asleep. God never sleeps. When the slings and arrows of life cut us in pieces, God sees the misery and damage that is done. God will deal with those who shoot these at others. God’s action is first of all to let us know that He is pained by our wounds and will heal them. The wounds of my own sins are self-inflicted. I have no one to blame but myself.

There are also wounds that reach the soul and lodge in the spirit and can drag you or me down. There is the whispered rumour and the ‘fake news’. God will come to deliver us from these. He will set us free with His Truth. Our wounds are His as well as ours. He will take us out of this pit and lead us into ‘a land rich and broad, a land where milk and honey flow.’

Moses wanted to name God – not possible. I have a name for Him – my Lord, my God, my Friend.

StJoeParis

Saint Joseph's Catholic Church
50 Avenue Hoche
75008 Paris, France
33(0)1 42 27 28 56
stjosephparis@wanadoo.fr

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