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50 Avenue Hoche, 75008 Paris

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32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2019

Reflection by Aidan Troy, C.P.


I’ll always remember the day when waiting at a bus stop, the only other person there asked me to tell him the destination of the next bus. We got into chatting and I asked him if it was his eyesight that gave him need to ask about where a bus was going. He replied with sadness in his voice, ‘I can neither read nor write’. The next bus was the one he needed and there we parted company. But I’ll always remember him.

When I don’t know a destination, I cannot know the way there. To cut to the end of my life, Heaven is my destination but will not be displayed on any bus, train or map. St Augustine’s much quoted words have it right, “our hearts were made for thee, O Lord, and will never rest until they rest in Thee’. How true that is. Nobody can blame the countless millions of people on earth and throughout history who were never aware of this as their ultimate destination.

This is not something that I can claim. We who believe have heard the Word who is Jesus telling us, “I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me.” [John 14:2-3] Nothing could be clearer. Yet, sad to say that often I live as if my destination was not in Heaven but some place on earth.

Some people I know are convinced atheists. They are utterly sincere in their outlook. Eternity is the surprise God has in store for them. This is not ‘pay you back’ time for their life of denial, but to welcome them to their true home. Every person is created in the image and likeness of God and has a trace of the Divine in them. The Jazz musician, Acker Bilk had a huge hit with ‘Stranger on the Shore’. In Heaven there are no strangers but only children of God finding together our true and lasting home. It will be great.

Those of us who have been given the Word of God, can mistake a halt on the way for arrival at the destination. I know that I have regularly done this. I am not proud of this but have tried to learn, even from my sins. God is patient with us.

Being honest, a temptation for a priest is to slip into the error of thinking that I have arrived at the destination for which I was created. Those of us in Holy Orders have received a most special gift. It is only when the priesthood as a gift, a privilege and a call to humble service are forgotten, that clericalism raises its ugly head. We are doing no more than God asks of us.

Likewise, it can be said that marriage will not be a feature in Heaven. This is not because it is not a divinely given vocation, but because at the destination, all will be changed. It is there that we will discover what no eye has seen, ear heard, or has it entered into our minds what God has prepared for those who love Him. Heaven will become the new normal for us.

At the bus stop all those years ago, a humble person admitted that he needed help to identify the way to his destination. Often, so do I! For us there is one way home – Jesus is the Way. He is always availabile to us at every turn on the way when we call to Him. In the Eucharist, in this beautiful world created by God, in the Church and always in the poor and those who have no voice in life, Jesus is with us.

The saving of many of us will be the poor and needy. At the end of life, they will be my ‘ticket’ into the Kingdom – ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did to one of these the least of my brethren, you did it to me.’ [Mt 25:40] Then, clerical titles or societal status will no longer matter; the ‘crucified’ of this earth will be my judges. Thank God, I will no longer be called, ‘Father’, but carry the magnificent title of a ‘Child of God’ basking in God the Father’s glory.

The arrested Mother and her seven sons revealed in the Book of Maccabees are a shining example of knowing where life is going and what matters in the end. That this bravery predates the Resurrection of Jesus, is even more impressive. They knew where they were going. God forgive me for the times I have mistaken a halt on the way for the one true Destination.

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time 2019

Reflection by Aidan Troy, C.P.


Supposing for a moment, that you are in a huge crowd for a visit of Pope Francis to your country or the place where you live. The motorcade of the Pope passes swiftly where you are standing. If fortunate, you will catch a fleeting glimpse of the Pope as he passes, perhaps imparting a blessing on the people there to greet him.

Then to your utter amazement, the police stop, the security guards open the door of the ‘Popemobile’ and Pope Francis steps out. He walks straight over to where you are standing and says to you by name, ‘Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’ Surprise, shock, confusion would not do justice to how you would now feel.

You walk forward into the open arms of Pope Francis and see that wonderful smile that he has. He clasps you to his breast and you can hardly believe that what is happening is not a dream. But it is really happening. Then you hear the voice of someone complaining, ‘Pope Francis has gone to stay at a sinner’s house.’ That would be a true statement – everyone, except the Pharisee in last week’s Gospel, knows that we all are sinners. The Pharisee looked down on all others as if he were the exception in sinful humanity.

If you let that Papal scenario sink in, you will get an inkling of what Zacchaeus must have felt. He had set out to find out ‘what kind of man Jesus was’. What he could not have known that while he was looking for Jesus, Jesus was looking for him.

Jesus shuts up the complainers by a simple truth that should never be forgotten – ‘this man too is a son of Abraham, for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what is lost’.

Zacchaeus would never be the same again. He was poorer because of giving away half his property to the poor and paying back four times what he had cheated from people. But now Zacchaeus is the richest man on earth. He had been found by Jesus and claimed back from sin to grace, from death to the fullness of life.

Pope Francis may never get out of a car and call you by name. He would be the first to say that Someone greater than he has called you by name. Jesus is the great seeker – for lost sheep, for lost coins, for lost children – for you and for me.

Zacchaeus was a small person and could not see Jesus for the crowds. He did not complain but did something about it. He climbed a sycamore tree and literally went out on a limb to catch a glimpse of Jesus. My sense of being unworthy of the attention of Jesus and certainly not to have Him come to stay with me is understandable. Apart from anything else, I know I’m a sinner and He is the All-Holy.

What I love is the promise from the Book of Wisdom at Mass today – ‘Yet you are merciful to all because you can do all things and overlook people’s sins so that they can repent’. I love it! For most of my life I have struggled to repent so that God could forgive my sins. Cart before the horse comes to mind! In fact, because God overlooks my sins, I can repent. If that is not good news, I don’t know what is.

All Zacchaeus wanted was to find out what kind of person Jesus was. No more and no less. But it was enough. Jesus doesn’t ask anymore. Once I know that I am a sinner and not worthy by my own right to approach Jesus, He approaches me and, in that moment, in His company sin cannot survive. When I see His beauty, holiness and love, I have no desire to hold on to my sins. That makes repentance possible. I spent a lot of effort doing it the other way. Trying to repent and then trying to find Jesus and His love.

St Paul faced people in Thessalonica who thought that Jesus had come back or that His Second Coming was just around the corner. They gave up working and living life to the full on this earth. We have no clue as to when He will come at the end of time. Today, He seeks you and with His arms wide open holds you. His heart is burning with love for you, just as you are.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Times 2019

This Sunday’s Mass calls us to examine our faith. From my childhood, I was very aware about right and wrong, about sin and grace. It was a solid beginning of what has turned out to be a long path as a believer. It started at Baptism and will end when I hope to see the face of God.

Never in my childhood did I dream that I would be a priest. Solid teaching at home and at school taught me that God is holy, and I should not presume to be other than a weak person wanting to please Him. I tried to live as well as I could.

When childhood merged into adolescence, I learned that being good and free from temptation and sin was not as simple as a child believes. With fear and some dread, I would go to Confession regularly because I did not want to be other than in the state of grace. Even in those turbulent years, I wanted to love God as best I could. I knew in my heart, that He loved me, but I did not share this with anyone.

It never crossed my mind that I was doing anything special for God or that He owed me thanks. I was honestly trying to be good and faithful. When leaving school at 18 years of age, I had to decide what to do next. I was very doubtful about trying to become a priest. Simply, I knew that I wasn’t worthy. I know that I am still not.

The decision to test if I had a vocation began with great uncertainty. Leaving home was sad – parents, sister, brother, relatives and school friends. But I set off to explore if this was what God wanted of me. My Mother told me the morning I left home, ‘if this does not work out, there is no shame in coming back home.’

This assurance was wonderful and has stood by me. Just as a marriage entered under duress is not a sacramental marriage, so becoming a priest to please a mother or another, cuts at the roots of the sacrament of orders. That was one issue I was spared. To this day, I treasure the freedom to choose. If the day comes when I can no longer freely choose to be a priest among God’s people, I will know what I must do. From Baptism to the grave, each human life is received on trust from God. There is nothing I can call my own – except my sins.

The Pharisee went to the Temple to pray. He was a good and observant man who loved God. He had learned the Law well and did all he could to observe it, even in its smallest detail. Growing up, I was a bit like that. Where I was and am fortunate is in knowing that what any good in me is God’s work as grace. The good Pharisee thought that he had achieved his goodness and holiness by his own efforts.

To add to his problems, the Pharisee thought he was better than others. The tax collector he saw as an example of sinfulness at its worst. He really believed that this was how God saw things also. He was wrong. Yet, I would not criticise the Pharisee. It is so easy in religious matters to lose a true perspective and to believe that I am my own saviour. Then the Cross is redundant.

Every Mass starts with the tax collector’s prayer, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ Looking down on others has no place among us. After all, Jesus started the first Mass on his knees looking up at others as He washed their feet. The only time He looked down, was from the Cross and that was to give us His glance of true Love.

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2019

 Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, Ireland

This weekend 50 parishioners from St Joseph’s will celebrate Sunday Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock. This will be an act of worship to God offering thanks for 150 grace-filled years of this Paris Passionist Church.

Besides looking back with thanks, we will look forward in hope. Two World Wars, other civil and religious threats were worked through with faith and in a spirit of love and care for all people.

In France a state of emergency for two years of the past four existed, now replaced by strong legislation. St Joseph’ saw civil unrest came close but never once caused the closure of our church. We remained open to all without exception who found Christ’s arms open in welcome. Passionists and Parishioners continue with a door wide open as in the past 150 years.

In recent years the Body of Christ has been wounded from within, leaving us sad and bewildered. Christ being betrayed from within challenges us to find a path to healing for all. “Healing comes through an awareness of our sickness and of our personal and communal decision to be cured by patiently and perseveringly accepting the remedy.” [Pope Francis to Roman Curia, 2014] The remedy is Christ, found in prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

A welcome “problem” now facing Saint Joseph’s in this our 150th year – the increase in numbers. This is not a problem but a great blessing. By God’s grace through the goodness of St Joseph’s parishioners, our welcoming community draws more people to meet Jesus in the Sacraments, along with a record number in CCD each Sunday.

The time has come, I believe, for an extra Sunday Mass to welcome all who wish to prayerfully worship in an atmosphere of peace and in safety. If God so wills, we will continue to invite more people to Mass in which God’s love for His people is shown.

A Passionist community is made up of 3 religious sharing life and ministry with laity. St Joseph’s even without these, is blessed by the service and generous commitment of its laity. Laity stand together with Passionists in a very powerful witness to Gospel values.

What will St Joseph’s be like in 5 years’ time? Only God knows. But we can help make His dream for us come true. After another 150 years who knows what God may have in store. My hope is that we lay foundations to ensure that prayer and worship will continue at avenue Hoche for as long as God wills.

Our Lady of Knock, pray for us

St Charles of Mount Argus, pray for us

28th Sunday in Ordinary Times 2019

Canonisation of John Henry Newman today in Rome by Pope Francis.

What a great occasion this celebration will be at St Peter’s in Rome and how I would love to be there. Taking place during the Synod of Bishops in Rome, a great cross-section of cultures will be participating.

John Henry Newman was born on 21 February 1801 in London, the eldest of six children. His father was a banker and his mother’s family were originally French Huguenot refugees.

One of his great sorrows in life was the death of his sister, Mary, at the age of 19 years of a sudden illness. Years later, he confided to his sister Harriet, ‘I don’t think that she ever knew how much I loved her.”

It is sad if we leave it too long to tell another of our love for them. In the Gospel, the Samaritan immediate goes back to Jesus to say, ‘Thanks’. Don’t leave it too long to tell a person that you love them and then live the rest of your life to regret it – do it today.

On 9th October 1845, an Italian Passionist priest, Dominic Barberi, now Blessed, received John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church from the Anglican Community.

Not everyone understood the personal cost of the journey John Henry Newman and two others received into the Catholic Church with him had made. We can, I’m sure, appreciate that his friends and family suffered a sense of loss at the change he made in his life. More followed two years later when he was ordained a Catholic priest. He founded the Birmingham Oratory in 1848.

Showing favour to the university where I studied – U.C.D - in 1851 Newman was appointed first Rector of University College Dublin. His Dublin lectures and articles published as, “The Idea of a University” give a relevant message on education. A visit to Newman’s Church, St Stephen’s Green, will not disappoint.

His poem on the afterlife, ‘The Dream of Gerontius’, published in 1865, later inspired Elgar’s masterpiece. But, let me finish with one the great poems of Newman – ‘The Pillar and the Cloud’, better known to us, ‘Lead Kindly Light’. On a visit to Sicily, he took sick and wanted to get back to England as soon as possible. He was stranded by a storm for one week on a boat from Palermo to Marseilles. That was when the great, ‘Lead Kindly Light’ was born.

Any regrets today? Blessed Dominic, C.P. not also being canonized today.

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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