Palm Sunday: Sunday of the Passion

Commemorating both Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his passion, this feast begins Holy Week and points us toward ​the events of ​Good Friday​ and Easter. All of these themes can be found in the ​morning service of Lauds, which includes antiphons of praise, hymns of the passion, and text​s​ that point​ ​to our redemption through Christ’s ​death and resurrection. The liturgy of Holy Eucharist for ​this day begins with a “triumphant” procession​ accompanied by hymns of Hosannas, and then moves to a quieter meditation on Christ’s suffering​, concluding with solemn reverence as Holy Week begins.

Give God praise and see life from a heavenly perspective

“Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name” — Psalm 29:2

Excerpted from According to Your Mercy by Martin Shannon, CJ

Psalm 29 describes a violent thunderstorm with mountains and hills that shake and roll with a mighty power — and the psalmist unveils for us the deeper meaning behind the forces of nature.

The psalmist hears more than the clap of thunder and the strike of lightening in the storm. This is none other than the voice of God moving all through the land. In this “temple”, under the canopy of a blazing sky, everything cries, “Glory to God.”  So it is that our hearts and voices are in heaven with the angels, crying “Glory”.  Our trust is above the storm, where we know that this powerful God is in charge of our lives. There is no need for us to fear.

From the Church Fathers:
“The voice of the Lord is over the waters.” This verse forecasts the voice emanating from heaven at the Jordan River, “This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” The psalmist called it ‘thunder’ as coursing to the whole world through the sacred Gospels.     — Theodoret of Cyr

I think that I would prefer the still, small voice,
the gentle whisper,
the quiet sound.
But if the thunder is the only way to open my ears,
and thus to open my heart,
Then thunder is welcome.
Your silence is not an acceptable alternative.
I’d rather be shaken,
than left alone.


Feast of St. Joseph

Blessed St. Joseph, enkindle in our cold hearts a spark of your charity. May God be always the first and only object of our affections. Keep our souls always in sanctifying grace and, if we should be so unhappy as to lose it, give us the strength to recover it immediately by a sincere repentance. Help us to such a love of our God as will always keep us united to Him. Amen
— Excerpted from the “Novena to St. Joseph”

Quite ecumenical among the saints, St. Joseph is revered in the Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion and among both Lutherans and Methodists.

Joseph accepted the responsibility of protecting Mary and being a father to Jesus in the face of circumstances that would distress even a man of such faith and obedience as he was. He is honored for the nurturing care and protection he provided for the infant Jesus and his mother, in taking them to Egypt to escape Herod, and in raising Jesus as a faithful Jew in Nazareth. He is considered the patron saint of the working man, because he not only worked with his hands but taught his trade to his son.

Feast of St. Patrick

One of the most well-known saints to Christians and non-Christians alike, St. Patrick’s life, while often associated with shamrocks, beer, corned beef and cabbage included a number of challenges — including imprisonment, slander and other trials.

From St. Patrick’s Confessions
He said through the prophet: “Call on me in the day of your distress, and I will set you free, and you will glorify me. It is a matter of honor to reveal and tell forth the works of God.”

The general details of his life are well known, and we have learned many of these facts from Patrick’s own hand in his Confessions. He was captured by pirates at age sixteen and brought to Ireland where he worked as a slave and shepherd. He was converted during this time and credits these years as crucial to his spiritual journey. After returning home to Britain at age twenty one, he had a vision in which he received a letter from the people of Ireland crying out for him to come and walk among them.

He returned to Ireland as a missionary, but was turned away from the first community he visited. His difficulties did not end there…ancient manuscripts also document a trial where Patrick is accused of keeping gifts from wealthy women, and accepting payment for baptisms and ordinations.

Several other biographies of Patrick mention female converts and specifically royal and noble women who became nuns. Patrick himself writes that some of his converts became monastics in the face of family opposition. It may be that some of those who accused him were parents of nuns or monks who had a different kind of life in mind for their son or daughter.

Patrick’s life is truly a study of perseverance in the face of opposition. As he says in his Confessions “…so I’ll never stop giving thanks to my God, who kept me faithful in time of my temptation… He is the one who defended me in all my difficulties. I can say: Who am I, Lord, or what is my calling, that you have worked with me with such divine presence? This is how I come to praise and magnify your name among all the nations, wherever i am, not only in good times but in the difficult times too. He has shown me that I can put my faith in him without wavering and without end.”


Sing to the Lord a New Song – Praying the Psalms for Lent

“O Sing to the Lord a new song.” — Psalm 96:1

Excerpted from According to Your Mercy by Martin Shannon, CJ

Psalm 96 is among those relatively few psalms that contain only one theme. There is no prayer for deliverance from enemies; no lament for ones’ sickness or suffering; no cry for help in the midst of trial; no rehearsal of Israel’s history; no proverbial teaching about following in the way of the Lord. A single chord is insistently struck again and again. And though the word hallelujah never appears in the psalm, we hear its sound in virtually every verse–praise!

The biblical record tells us the Levites sang Psalm 96 in celebration as David brought the ark to Jerusalem. It is difficult for us to imagine the impassioned joy that would have accompanied this event. Its return signified God’s own return, and its placement within the city of Jerusalem signified God’s own enthronement as king over not only Israel but the whole world. “Say among the nations,” cries the psalmist, “The Lord reigns.”

From the Church Fathers:

When the whole earth sings a new song, it is the house of God. It is built by singing, its foundations are believing, it is erected by hoping, it is completed by loving.
St. Augustine (adapted)

Sometime today, Lord, I must praise you.
For the new creation that I now live in actually lives in me.
So, sometime today, Lord, I will praise you.


L.E.N.T. – Let’s End Negative Thinking

by Faithful Finch

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”- Philippians 4: 6-7

For Lent, one of the things I’m working on is negativity.

One of my co-workers told me a story of when he was traveling on Ash Wednesday, and went into the chapel at Logan airport for ashes. The priest there gave a little inspirational talk. He spelt out, “L, E, N, T” and went on to, “Let’s End Negative Thinking.”

I’m surprised how quickly negative thinking is turned around with gratitude and praise- what an easy remedy.  And really, when you think about this season and all God has sacrificed for us, there isn’t much to be negative about.

Praying the Psalms for Lent – Tuesday of Lent II

Say to my soul, ” I am your deliverance!” – Psalm 35:3

Excerpted from According to Your Mercy by Martin Shannon, CJ

As a prayer by Christ, Psalm 35 portrays Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, trial and condemnation to death. When we hear the voice of Christ in this psalm, we come alongside him in his suffering. As a prayer to Christ, this psalm gathers or own experiences of fear and pain, and brings them honestly before God. These words remind us that God is our salvation (Psalm 35:3), that he delights in our well-being, and that praise for his deliverance will always have the last word.

From the Church Fathers:

I will seek no salvation other than the Lord my God. Even in your temporal problems, it is God who helps you through human agency, for he is your salvation. All things are subject to him, and he undoubtedly supports our temporal life, differently in the case of each person. Let us all call on him, brothers and sisters — to open our spiritual ears so that we may hear him saying, “I am your salvation.” — St. Augustine (adapted)

Lord Jesus, you honor me
when you let me use your prayers.
But already you have honored me
when you let me live your life.
Blessings, troubles, peace, suffering, joy, sorrow
-death and resurrection-
My life is hid with Christ.
May my prayers be also



Feast of St. Polycarp

The life of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, bridged the time in the early church between the leadership of the apostles and the next generation. It is believed that Polycarp learned about the faith from John and was appointed as Bishop by the apostles. There were many disagreements at that time about interpretations of Jesus’ teaching, and Polycarp was often called to settle disputes as he had been so close to the apostle John. In addition, some believe that Polycarp may have been the person who compiled and edited the New Testament.

His one existing letter, which was sent to the church in Philippi, shows him to be a humble man.  Apparently, he had a sense of humor as well. At the time of his arrest, he engaged the Roman soldiers in witty conversation until they lost patience and told him that he would be burned at the stake — to which Polycarp replied that early fires would burn for a time, but fires of judgment (perhaps on those who were ungodly) would burn perpetually!

Tradition says that as he burned at the stake, the atmosphere had a quality of “baking bread or as gold and silver refined in a furnace.”





Praying the Psalms through Lent

During Lent, we’ll be sharing excerpts from According to Your Mercy, a journey through Lent and Easter with the psalms. On Ash Wednesday, Fr. Martin Shannon, CJ, author of According to Your Mercy shared about his own journey with the psalms in a short video. Many have called the psalms a ‘school of prayer’ and indeed St. Augustine in his Confessions wrote that the psalms could be a stepping stone to a deeper conversation with God. These ancient words from Scripture mirror our own thoughts and emotions—celebration and praise, suffering and lament, gratitude and asking for help—as relevant today as when they were first sung in the Temple.

Fr. Martin Shannon, CJ brings deep teaching as well as the personal encounter of someone who has chanted and studied the Psalms for years. Each reflection is on one psalm, offering a meditation on its meaning and how it connects to our lives, followed by a word from one of the ancient church fathers and a prayer.

For the Wednesday of Lent I
For his steadfast love endures for ever. Psalm 136:1

From the Desert Fathers
This psalm contains the praise of God, and all its verses finish in the same way. Although many things are related here in praise of God, his mercy is the most commended.
St. Augustine

Click to hear from Fr. Martin about his journey with the psalms



Bell Ringing in 18th Century Cornwall

If you have been following the PBS series “Poldark” you have learned a lot about Cornwall, but may not know that bell ringing towers abound in Cornwall, England, surrounded by a rich culture and history. The beauty, flow and precision teamwork of bell ringing was an important part of the culture of the time, and indeed the church bells signified the time to come to a service, a time to pray and were rung on special occasions of a wedding or funeral service. In in the 1800s, as today, bell ringing was also an enjoyable leisure activity and ringers would gather and practice just for the fun of it. Here is one famous song that was written about a ringing contest between 5 towers, all of which are in Cornwall, and which took place during the time of the Poldark story. Egloshayle is a village in Northern Cornwall. Eglos being the Cornish word for church, and hayle being the Cornish word for estuary. The ringers named in the song are all buried in the churchyard there, and their names can still be seen on the headstones. It is called “The Egloshayle Ringers”:

Come all you jovial ringers, and listen to my tale
I’ll tell you of, five ringers bold, that lived in Egloshayle.
For ring or ray, they bore away, wherever they did go,
The music of the merry bells, was their delight to show.

There was Craddock, the cordwainer, he rang the treble bell;
John Ellery was, the second man, and few could him excel:
The third was Pollard, the carpenter, and the fourth was Thomas Cleave;
And Goodfellow, the tenor man, that rang him round so brave.

Now Craddock was, the treble man, he stepped ‘long with his toe;
And casting of, his eyes around, commanded them where to go:
They pulled away, with courage bold, which did their hearts revive;
Sweet music then was quickly heard, with: “one, two, three, four, five.”

They went out to Lanlivery, they brought away the prize;
They came back, to St. Tudy, and done the same likewise;
Lanlivery men, St. Mabyn men, St. Tudy and St. Kew;
But those five lads of Egloshayle, did all the rest outdo.

This little corps, they played so sure, no changes did they fear;
No man did ever, miss his turn, ‘twas joy to see and hear:
And people all, for miles around, did tell o’er hill and dale;
The fame of those, five ringers bold, that lived in Egloshayle.