Speak Lord: source of joy

Penance Rome

Praying the Responsorial Psalm tomorrow, Sunday, the 11th Sunday in Ordinary time, draws us toward a fresh knowledge of our sins and their consequences, and the glory of life redeemed.

Forgive, Lord, the guilt of my sin. 

Happy the man whose offence is forgiven,
whose sin is remitted.
O happy the man to whom the Lord
imputes no guilt,
in whose spirit is no guile.

But now I have acknowledged my sins;
my guilt I did not hide.
I said: ‘I will confess
my offence to the Lord.’
And you, Lord, have forgiven
the guilt of my sin.

You are my hiding place, O Lord;
you save me from distress.
You surround me with cries of deliverance.

Rejoice, rejoice in the Lord,
exult, you just!
O come, ring out your joy,
all you upright of heart.

Psalm 31:1-2,5,7,11

The movement from the heaviness and incumbrance of sin and guilt to joy and life is ours because of God’s mercy and love. When we remain mindful of that we live in joy – even if we live still with trial and tribulation. But if we forget and ‘just’ live, turned in on ourselves, life and liveliness drains from us.

Life comes as gift; joy when we embrace its giver.

  • When did you last celebrate the Sacrament of Penance and why?
  • When will you next celebrate the Sacrament?
  • How does it help you in your Christian vocation?

In the Year of Mercy there is especial encouragement for us to recover a sense of appreciation for the Sacrament as assurance, a  ministry which helps us receive and benefit from the healing mercy. Why not combine your next celebration of the Sacrament with a visit to a Holy year pilgrimage site and with a Year of Mercy Door.

Detail of the Sacraments Door, St Peter’s Basilica, Rome. (c) Allen Morris, 2016.

Speak Lord: Of mercy and reconciliation

Isaiah WolverhamptonThe Gospel reading on Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, speaks of reconciliation and wholeness. It speaks to a people, and to all people,  alienated from God, the land, themselves. It is a Laudato Si’ in miniature. It is a timely reminder of the Year of Mercy, which begins on Tuesday next, 8th December.

In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the lands of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrach of Abilene, during the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah:

‘A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley will be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low,
winding ways will be straightened
and rough roads made smooth.
And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.’

Luke 3:1-6

It is tempting to rewrite the opening of that reading  so as to highlight for our age the political and moral turmoil of the space in which God’s Gospel is now to be preached and made incarnate. But maybe that would be to over-localise our contemporary reading of the passage. And for those of us who live in the UK risk suggesting that THE place for the preaching of peace and reconciliation is the Holy Land and the Middle East.

Today, of course, there is challenge for us to know about how empires and regimes impact on the Holy Land and its neighbours: but there is challenge for us also to know how evil and its consorts impact on our own local situation too. And that is work not so easy to do, and it is work for us to do for ourselves.

Where is there alienation now, close to home? In personal and familial and eccelesial relationships, in the structures of society, in the to and fro of politics? How can we represent the Gospel to those situations?

  • Where do I first see need for healing and hope?
  • How might I play my part there?

Isaiah. F.J. Shields. Wolverhampton Art Gallery. (c) 2015, Allen Morris

Praying the Year of Mercy

Jubilee Year of Mercy- Final CoverA number of resources have been prepared for the Year of Mercy.

I’m sort of pleased to say that one of them remains somewhat distinctive.

It offers an oversight of the principal features of the year as can be seen from the contents page below. It will therefore serve as a useful companion to the Year, reminding of its key elements.


Most importantly though, the book especially focuses on the opportunity the Year offers for leading people into prayerful reflection on the Lord’s active and merciful presence in Scripture and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The Year of Mercy  is an invitation for the Church and the world to know afresh the mercy of God. Prayer – especially in response to the word of God, and in the celebration of the Sacraments – leads us into a deeper knowledge of the God of Mercy and Truth. They also help us to a more faithful and fruitful living, strong in love for God, strong in love for neighbour.

‘A Prayer Book’ seeks to sustain and encourage that process of renewal.

The book comes with a Foreword from Archbishop Bernard Longley, the Archbishop of Birmingham

The Jubilee Year of Mercy is rich with promise for the Church and for the world.

Pope Francis has reminded the Church that ‘We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it.’

This mercy, made known in Jesus Christ, is the source of our Christian identity. It is also the gift we are asked to share with the whole world. Pope Francis urges us to this also, to be effective signs of the Father’s action in our lives, living witnesses to others of the love God has for everyone.

This booklet helps us make the most of the Jubilee Year. It provides food for our private prayer, and support for times when we come together to pray with others. Used well, it will deepen our experience of God’s mercy, so that the Lord can make us more fit for mission, and strengthen our desire to share the good news of the mercy of God with our families and our neighbours.

+ Bernard Longley
Archbishop of Birmingham

Hopefully the book will be available from all good Catholic bookshops. Big discounts, however, are available if you go direct to the publisher…



Taste and See: Mercy

do906-misericordiae-vultus_370_296_150420021217The Collect for Sunday’s Mass highlights the power of God, a power made known in mercy and pardon.


O God, who manifest your almighty power
above all by pardoning and showing mercy,
bestow, we pray, your grace abundantly upon us
and make those hastening to attain your promises
heirs to the treasures of heaven.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Some months ago now, in the wake of Pope Francis’ inviting the Church to keep the next year as a Jubilee Year of Mercy, Cardinal Vincent Nichols made mention of just how very often the language of mercy features in our Eucharistic Liturgy.

I’m not sure he was surprised at this, but he thought it worth noting.

For me it did come something as a surprise to realise just how very often God’s mercy is mentioned in the prayers of the Mass. And, lex orandi lex credendi (the pattern of prayer establishes the pattern of faith), the Liturgy has since then been teaching not to take that mercy so much for granted, and to be ready therefore more personally and authentically to thank God for that mercy, not only for the patience and encouragement of God with regard to the little things that mar and challenge every day, but for the deeper and more profound gifts of salvation offered to me and us and all, always.

  • What blessings can you give thanks to God for today?
  • When and how did you last show mercy to others, And extend a pardon?
  • How will you and your community keep the Jubilee Year?

Singing mercy

King David

I have pleasure in attaching a copy of two Psalm settings composed by John Ainslie for use during the Year of Mercy. The psalm settings may be freely used, without copyright payment, provided that the given copyright ascriptions are included on all copies.

The two settings are of Psalm 102. Both have the same inbuilt response, so may be used repeatedly according to the liturgical requirement and musical resources available.

The text is a Common Psalm for Ordinary Time, so may be used as the Responsorial Psalm at any Sunday Mass in Ordinary Time.

Both keyboard and guitar accompaniments are provided. Although they are compatible, it is recommended that they are not used together. It may be more appropriate to use a keyboard accompaniment for the response to encourage vocal congregational participation. A guitar accompaniment might be particularly appropriate for the psalm verses in the Simpler Setting, where an initial strum at the beginning of each psalm phrase and wherever the chord changes may be sufficient accompaniment.

Thank you to John for making these freely available. (If you are not yet aware of the resources he has published promoting the use of chant for the English Propers at Mass, let me direct you to his website www.benedicamus.org.uk. The chants are being used very successfully in the English speaking world. He has also recently published a collection of responsorial psalms, using the translation of the Grail Psalter currently approved for use in England and Wales).


Photograph of statue of King David from Mount Sion, Jerusalem. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.