The Dominican friar, Blessed Humbert of Romans O.P. once said "First the bow is bent in study, then the arrow is released in preaching..." These are the sermons of fr. Lawrence Lew O.P., a Friar Preacher (Dominican), interspersed with art and some of his photographs.
The Holy Spirit is called the parakletos, the One-Who-Is-Called-Alongside you and me. He stands beside us, as our friend, but also as our counsellor and advocate. The language being used here is deliberately legal, and one calls to mind a courtroom situation in which we stand accused. Often, many people think that God accuses us of our sins, or we might blame ourselves and feel downcast because of what we’ve done, or it may look like the Church is pointing fingers at people to condemn them as sinners. But this cannot be; it’s diabolical. Because, quite simply, the one who accuses us, the one who blames us, and points fingers at us, and wants us to stand condemned of sin is not God, and not his holy Church, but the Devil. The Devil is the diabolos, the one who hurls his accusations across at us. It is he who attacks you and me with recriminations, and so, causes fear and troubles us. But Jesus says: “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (Jn 14:27). Because against the prosecution of the Devil stands the parakletos, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in Jesus’ name to defend us, to raise us up through his grace, to restore us to peace.
For the peace that Christ gave us, which he won for us through his death and resurrection, and which we have through baptism, had been disturbed through sin. We experience a kind of disintegration in ourselves when we listen to Christ’s words, hear his teaching and say we love him, but we do not keep his word; we do not love him enough. So, sin splits us apart, and that is what the diabolos, the one who throws things apart, always wants to do – divide, splinter, and disintegrate. Thus, we find that we might know something to be good and true, we want to behave as children of the light, redeemed by Christ, but we don’t. We use our human freedom to choose our older ways – those more familiar and comfortable sins that our wills are too weak to resist. St Paul describes the situation vividly: “ I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…” (Rom 7:15). And then, when we fail and fall, the Devil keeps us down, standing on our backs and telling us how rotten, how guilty, how hypocritical we are. It’s the kind of thing an unforgiving and judgmental Press metes out on public sinners, only far worse.
But in this darkness of sin and despair, as we’re being prosecuted and accused, we need to call out for our defence attorney; we just lack the ability to defend ourselves against so wily an Enemy. The Holy Spirit, we’re assured today, is the parakletos; we just need to call on him, and he will come alongside us as our defender. He comes to plead our case, to counsel and convince us. And what does he say?
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn 13:34). The last time we would have heard these words in the Liturgy would be on Maundy Thursday in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, just before the Gospel account of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. These words, then, re-enforce what was heard in the Gospel of Maundy Thursday: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (Jn 13:14). Hence, it is rightly understood that Christ’s commandment that we love one another is borne out in serving one another, in works of social justice.
Therefore, our parish embarked on a charitable project this Lent that sought to serve the needy and poor – not so much to wash their feet as to help provide feet, in the form of prosthetic limbs. We have raised about £3500 for Olivia Giles’ ‘500 Miles’ project through a variety of initiatives. And as Olivia suggested on Friday night when we presented a cheque to her, it is through such acts of generosity and love in a Christian community that we demonstrate that we are disciples of Jesus Christ. For the Lord says: “all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).
But this understanding of love as social justice is not new. It is already found in the Old Testament, and it is rooted in the Jewish prophets. For example, Micah 6:8 says: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” What is different is that the New Testament adds a mystical dimension to this because in serving the marginalized and oppressed it is our poor, naked, hungry God, Jesus Christ himself, whom we serve and love.
However, vital though it is, there is more to Christian love than just social justice. Hence, our Liturgy re-visits these words of Christ, his new commandment to us, in the light of the resurrection. What has changed? Christ has risen from the dead, and so, destroyed death. He has put an end to the hold that sin, evil, and death had over Mankind. He has made “all things new” (Apoc 21:5a), re-creating the heavens and the earth. Because of Christ’s resurrection, “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Apoc 21:4). The disciples of Jesus Christ, who touched and saw and heard the risen Lord, knew all this to be true. Through faith, we also experience the risen Lord and know his Word to be true.
With an Easter faith, then, how is Christian love expressed? What more needs to be done in addition to serving one another and doing justice? Love is expressed through bringing hope to others: hope in the resurrection; hope that comes from faith in the new creation brought about by the risen Jesus; hope in God’s mercies that are ever new.
Therefore, the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles shows us how we’re called to love one another as disciples of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. Love impels the first disciples to travel far and wide, risking the perils of the journey, to preach the Gospel. They could have been content to just keep the faith to themselves, or considered it too risky and imprudent to stand up against the Jewish authorities and the mighty Roman empire. And, as we’ve seen in previous weeks, after the Crucifixion, they were full of fear and confusion. But once the Holy Spirit had descended on them there was no stopping them.
There can be so many things that trouble and disturb us: exams, job prospects, relationships; worries about the future and about what we’re called to do. Many people wonder about what is the right thing to do, and about their vocation in life. In a sense, Thomas articulates our fears when he asks: “How can we know the way?” How can we know the way forward in a world that seems increasingly complex and fraught with difficulties?
Jesus’ response, if we’re weighed down with worry, is to broaden our horizon so that we can put our worries into perspective. He says to us with tenderness: “Let not your hearts be troubled”. We worry because we’re losing control, or because we feel helpless and lost, or perhaps because we experience a lack of security. But God assures us: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”. For God is our Father, which means that he loves and cares for our final good today. So, he is always providentially guiding all things to a good end, bringing us home to himself today, so that we can dwell securely in him for ever. Thus Jesus says to us, his disciples, his friends: “I go and prepare a place for you [and] I will come again and will take you to myself”. So, when we’re shaken by life’s uncertainties, we’re called to anchor our hope in God’s Word, and to be certain of Christ’s promise. Hence, Jesus says to you and to me: “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me”.
But you might well think, our faith does not take away our needs for finance, food, friends. No, it doesn’t, and we do need to work together and attend to these things, but faith in Christ does alleviate our anxiety over these genuine human needs. For, with faith, our perspective changes so that the ups and downs of life, its many unexpected turns and plateaus can be seen in Truth as part of the journey that we make to the Father, going along the Way to God’s house where Jesus has prepared a room for us. Life’s journey, with its many trials as well as beauty, as such, is a preparation for our homecoming when we shall be united in love to our Father, our God who is love and Life in the fullest.
Hence, Pope Francis said this morning, the Lord is preparing our hearts “with trials, with consolations, with tribulations, with good things”; preparing us and forming us to love God, to trust and believe in him, and to seek him, “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Cor 1:3). This, of course, is how Jesus lived his life among us, with complete trust and obedience in God, enduring all things for the sake of love. Thus, he is “the Way, the Truth and the Life”; he shows us the way forward, he lived the truth as he taught it, and his life gives us hope and new life.
All this is expressed in the simple act of the Mass and especially through Holy Communion. For it is here that we remember how Christ lived and loved; here that we look in hope to the resurrection and eternal life; and here that Christ, our food for the journey, comes to us. And, as he promised, he comes to take us to himself, to dwell in him and he in us. So, here, today, Jesus is saying to us: “Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me”. Then, as we receive him in the Host, let us wholeheartedly say: “Amen”.
A roaring lion is unlikely to successfully stalk and surprise its prey but lions do roar in the evening to proclaim their territory. So, in comparing the devil to a roaring lion, perhaps St Peter has in mind the devil roaring as he prowls around in the darkness of sin, proclaiming that sinful humanity belongs to him. After all, in St John’s Gospel, Jesus acknowledges the devil to be “the prince of this world” of sin (Jn 12:31). Or perhaps St Peter has in mind the devil roaring with fierce persecutions and difficulties so as to strike fear into our hearts and to shake the faith of men and women. For lions do roar so as to strike fear into the hearts of their prey and to stun them just before they pounce on them. Again, there is a suggestion of this in St Mark’s Gospel, that “Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which is sown in them” (Mk 4:15) or “when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away” (Mk 4:17).
But into a world darkened by sin, a wilderness in which we are fearful and suffer tribulations, another lion has roared.
For the traditional symbol of today’s saint, the evangelist Mark, is the lion. Because his Gospel begins with “one crying in the wilderness”, like a lion roaring and proclaiming its territory in the desert. This is the roar of the evangelist, of the herald of Christ, of any who would proclaim and preach the Gospel of salvation.
But the good news that St Mark proclaims concerns another lion, Jesus Christ, who is called the Lion of Judah (cf Apoc 5:5). This Lion roars to claim humanity for God. We belong to him, and are marked out as his, saved from sin and the lies of the devil, through baptism. Hence, St Mark’s Gospel opens with the baptism of Christ through whom we too are called God’s beloved sons and daughters, with whom God our Father is well pleased (cf Mk 1:11). And the Spirit descends upon the waters, just as he did at the dawn of creation, for the world has been redeemed by Christ, reclaimed from the devil, and re-created in grace by the Holy Spirit. And as a sign of this, right after Christ calls all to “repent, and believe in the gospel”(Mk 1:15), and after he calls the Twelve apostles, Jesus performs a series of exorcisms, driving out the devil.
For the Lion of Judah is stronger than the prince of this world, infinitely greater than that lion who seeks to devour us. St Mark says: “No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house” (Mk 3:27). Jesus has done this, binding the devil, conquering sin and death, and plundering his house. Hence, all evils and even death itself has no lasting hold over humanity; we have been set free and our persecutions and sufferings – frightening and terrible though they may be – are only temporary. For Christ is victorious and has risen. So, as St Peter says in our first reading: “[A]fter you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you” (1 Pt 5:10).
Therefore, today, we give thanks to God for St Mark and his Gospel. Through his writings, God, in his grace, has called us to his eternal glory in Christ. So, let the roaring of the lion of St Mark overcome our fears and difficulties, for armed with the Gospel, we can resist the devil, “firm in [our] faith” (cf 1 Pt 5:10), empowered by the Lion of Judah.
Today we’re faced with one of the most challenging responses of the apostles: they rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name” (Acts 5:41). Can we say the same? Would we rejoice to suffer insults, shame, humiliation etc for the sake of Jesus? Or do we try our best to avoid even being known as Christians, unwilling to suffer the ridicule and awkward questions that this could bring down upon us? But, we know that so many of our brothers and sisters around the world do indeed suffer terribly for bearing the name of Christ – in Pakistan, in Egypt, in Iraq and Syria, and in Nigeria, China, and Libya. Yet, in a quiet humble way, it seems that they bear their suffering with profound faith; with joyful hope in the vindication that comes through Christ’s resurrection.
But why is there such persecution, such antagonism between the world and the Christian disciple? Perhaps the best reflection on this can be found in Chesterton’s biography of St Thomas Aquinas. Chesterton said, “The saint is a medicine because he is an antidote. Indeed that is why the saint is often a martyr; he is mistaken for a poison because he is an antidote. He will generally be found restoring the world to sanity by exaggerating whatever the world neglects, which is by no means always the same element in every age. Yet each generation seeks its saint by instinct; and he is not what the people want, but rather what the people need”.
What our world needs is truth, but not an absolute truth that controls and that is used as a weapon; not an excuse for fundamentalist violence. Rather, the Truth we Christians believe in is a person, the God-Man who suffered and died for us. The truth is that we are loved, which means that Someone was willing to die for us, chose to sacrifice himself for our good and eternal happiness, so that we might live. The question, then, is, are we “worthy” of suffering and dying with Christ, of co-operating with him in the healing of our world, of being what the people need? This worthiness to mount the Cross with Christ and to proclaim the truth doesn’t come from a perceived superiority to others. Not at all. On the contrary, it can only come from humility; from emptying ourselves of our pride and need for worldly affirmation and praise; from being open to God’s grace so that we can share the mind of Christ who was “humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross” (cf Phil 2:5-8).
And if we are faithful to Christ in this way, and we bear witness to his sacrificial love, suffering with him for the love of our peers and contemporaries, then we can expect to be dishonoured and persecuted as Christ was. For “a servant is not greater than the Master” (John 15:20b). But, if so, then we can also be confident that we shall share in his glory. For Jesus promises: “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you…Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Mt 5:11f).
St Luke’s sequel to his Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles, is told with great momentum and energy. Because the main protagonist, although often invisible, is the Holy Spirit who inspires the first Christians. From the very beginning until today, it is the Spirit who directs the apostolic activities of the Church, and no physical obstacle or material barrier can constrain or imprison the Gospel and our faith. This is the witness that the apostles gave, and we still see this Spirit-filled hope and faith in our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world; in those Christians, too, who are in prison.
fr Timothy Radcliffe OP tells, for example, of the lay Dominican fraternity in a prison in Massachusetts, USA who are “preachers of hope” and joy in “a dark place”. And Cardinal Onaiyekan recounts a visit to a dismal and dirty prison in Nigeria where he suddenly heard singing, and in the gloom he saw the prisoners all had rosaries around their necks. “How come you are all Christians in here, he asked, a little taken aback, since Nigeria is fairly evenly divided between Christians and Muslims? Many of us were Muslims, he was told, but when we saw the Christians singing – even in a place like this – we asked for the secret of their joy and discovered how Jesus can bring peace out of even the deepest places of pain and suffering”. This is surely an experience of the resurrection, of Easter joy and hope, of new life coming from the tomb. So, those who are imprisoned, condemned by the world to sit in darkness, are nevertheless made truly free. Because, following the promptings of grace, of God’s angel, as it were, they believe in Christ, and so, “should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16b).
But although God’s Spirit and his Gospel is not constrained by physical bars and jails, it can be blocked by our human freedom, by spiritual barriers, so to speak. What I mean is that we can choose to refuse God’s grace, to decide not to believe. This is an obstinacy of the will and intellect that prefers, as the Gospel says, sin and “darkness rather than the light” (Jn 3:19).
But God never fails to knock at the door of our heart, sending countless actual graces, opportunities to repent, to be converted, to grow in understanding and love of his Word. His angel stands before the prisons we build for ourselves and says: “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life”. God’s Spirit comes to set us free by his grace, beckons us to faith in Christ, to hope in his mercy, and to rise from the darkness to live a new life in the light of the Risen Lord.
The Vietnamese Cardinal Van Thuan who was imprisoned for thirteen years once said, “You may tremble with fear, you may stumble and fall, you might meet with difficulties, misunderstandings, criticisms, disgrace, perhaps even a death sentence. But why forget the Gospel? Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered everything. If you continue to follow him, you will also have your Easter”. Thus, every day, when God renews his graces to us and his angel calls us forward into the light, let us freely choose each time to rise, and to follow him. By co-operating with God’s grace, we enjoy new life in Christ the Living One.
Redemption is allowing ourselves to be found by God. And he can only find us if we’re not hiding from him. Like the women who ran out of the tomb, we too, have to leave the cold dark tomb of doubt, of shame because of sin, of falsehood – all these entomb us and hide us from God. But when the women run out of the tomb, the risen Lord comes to meet them. With faith in our hearts and letting go of our false selves – the facades we build about our lives; letting go of our shame, and our rationalist restrictions, God can find us. God comes in search of us; the Living One comes to meet us.
But notice that although the women are filled with joy and believed the angel’s words, they are also fearful. Faith can be like this: we’re filled with joy, but the questions and fears do not cease. Each year at this time all manner of sceptical theories about the Resurrection of Christ are bandied about. And, as we heard in today’s Gospel, this is nothing new. From the beginning there were rumours that the Resurrection was a hoax, a concoction of the disciples of Jesus, and people still say such things. And perhaps we feel slightly swayed and uncertain ourselves when we’re questioned? We are full of Easter joy, we have faith, but we are a little afraid: what if it’s not true? What does faith in the resurrection demand of me?
Each of these claims against the truth of the Resurrection can be countered rationally and historically. However, what calms the women’s fear is an encounter with the risen Lord Jesus. He says to them: “Do not be afraid” and he says the same to us. This is a call to deepen our trust in him, to experience his divine mercy and forgiveness, to be transformed by his grace, and raised from death to new life, from doubt to faith. And we encounter Jesus – we meet him and he comes to us – in the Mass. Is it not here that we experience his boundless love and mercy? Hence, in the Gospel the women take hold of Jesus’ feet and worship him. We, too, are invited to not be afraid but to take hold of the Lord who gives himself to us in the Eucharist, and to worship him. Here, as we come to the Mass in faith and open our hearts and lives to God, we allow ourselves to be found. He, the Risen Lord, comes to us and finds us as we truly are – sins, fears, and all – and he loves us and redeems us.
Finally, a word about ‘Galilee’. This is the place of origin, of where the apostles had been called from their work and families. The risen Lord tells the women that he will meet the apostles there, which means that Christ comes to find us and meet us not only in the Mass but also in our daily lives as we get on with our work and our ordinary tasks. He is present there, too, in acts of mercy, in forgiveness for one another – relatives, colleagues, friends – and, above all, present in love. For all these works of God’s grace raise us from death to new life. They are a participation in the life of the resurrection. So, when the opportunity arises to love, to be merciful, or to forgive let us not be afraid, and take hold of the risen Lord.
- preached to the Edinburgh Cathedral Divine Mercy Group
Every instance of mercy in the world is a co-operation with God, a revelation of his provident activity and presence in creation. We don’t know, at the time, what will become of our response to the soft gentle promptings of God’s grace, but we get caught up in Providence, in the movement of God’s love and mercy that is bringing the world to its consummation, to final salvation. So, whenever we co-operate with grace, we are participating in some way in God’s work of salvation, co-labourers in his vineyard.
So it is that Joseph is saved from the jealous hatred and ruthlessness of his brothers by Reuben who was only just brave enough to step up and suggest a more merciful action on the part of his brothers: “Shed no blood”. Thus, Joseph would become God’s instrument for the salvation of Jacob and his sons from famine, and from this house of Israel came the Messiah, the Saviour of us all. Caught up in this great divine plan of salvation was Reuben and his small act of mercy. He didn’t dare to oppose his brothers outright, and indeed, he planned to deceive them, but this openness to grace, however small, was enough for Providence to act, and to bring good out of evil.
But as God brings good out of evil, then, out of goodness itself, out of a will totally given to God, which freely co-operates with the Holy Spirit, God does so much more – he transforms the entire world. This is what the life and death of Christ exemplifies, for from the total self-offering of Christ, from his perfect obedience, God raises up a new creation and breaks the reign of violence, sin and death. As the psalm quoted by Jesus says; “This was the Lord’s doing and it is wonderful to see”.
Hence, we can take heart this Lent. For, although we may feel that we often fail and are so stingy in giving ourselves to God, he can bring good out of the little that we offer him. He gives us freedom so that whatever we freely offer to God, however small, or even mixed in motive, he will purify, bless, and increase, associating us with his great work of salvation; of mercy and of love, which exceeds anything we can imagine. But if he can do such good with so little, imagine what God can accomplish if we give him our whole hearts, our life and our will?
“A blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope”. This line from the prophet Jeremiah (17:7) is echoed in our psalm response, “Happy the man who has placed his trust in the Lord”. But both these translations cannot capture a pun that can be found in the Latin text: “Benedictus vir qui confidit in Domino”, Blessed, or Benedict is the man who trusts or confides in the Lord”.
Today, as we come to the final hours of the pontificate of Benedict XVI, our dear holy father, perhaps we can keep these words of Scripture in mind, and hold them in our hearts in the weeks ahead. For, in what he does today, Pope Benedict shows himself to be a man who trusts firmly in the Lord, who knows that Christ is in charge of the Church and will protect and direct it. As the Pope said in his last General Audience yesterday: “At this time, I have within myself a great trust [in God], because I know – all of us know – that the Gospel’s word of truth is the strength of the Church: it is her life…” Thus, if we are rooted in the Gospel, planted firmly in Christ, the Word of God, we will draw divine strength and life.
This year of Faith is the Holy Father’s gift for us to be nourished by the Word, and, as always, this great teaching-pope, offers us clear teaching in this time through his own example of faith. He lays down the ministry of St Peter not because of fear of scandal or adversity, but because of trust in God, confident in faith that the Lord will give us a new pope with greater human vigour for a vigourous globalized world. Recognizing one’s own physical and mental limitations, as our Holy Father has done, takes great humility and courage – qualities he has shown throughout his life. So, as he said yesterday: “loving the Church also means having the courage to make difficult, trying choices, having ever before oneself the good of the Church and not one’s own”.
So, “blessed is the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope”, and this means us, too. For, we are also called ‘blessed’ if we share in the faith, trust, and hope of Benedict. This means to have a Christ-centred outlook, so that our eyes are ever focused on the Blessed One, on Jesus, until at last we enjoy the blessed vision of heaven. As we journey onwards individually and as a pilgrim Church towards that one true goal, our Holy Father leaves us with these final words: “Dear friends! God guides His Church, maintains her always, and especially in difficult times. Let us never lose this vision of faith, which is the only true vision of the way of the Church and the world. In our heart, in the heart of each of you, let there be always the joyous certainty that the Lord is near, that He does not abandon us, that He is near to us and that He surrounds us with His love”.
The 11th-century Japanese courtesan, Sei Shonagon, once said, in what is considered the world’s oldest novel, that a saint is one “who has really given up all thoughts of the world”. In a sense, she is right. Her compatriot, Paul Miki, who was martyred in Nagasaki in 1597, and the other twenty-five martyrs of Japan whom we honour today would have had to renounce the world, and focussed instead on Christ, and “the life of the world to come”. So, yes, the saint looks beyond this world and our present life. But, in another sense, the saint cannot be one who has really given up all thoughts of this world. Because the saint and martyr lives and dies for love of the world, for love of one’s own country, and for you and me.
As St Thérèse of Lisieux, who is patron saint of the missions, famously said “love was the true motive force which enabled the other members of the Church to act; if it ceased to function the apostles would forget to preach the gospel, the martyrs would refuse to shed their blood.”
It seems to me that Sei Shonagon’s characterization of a saint has to be seen from the context of the Buddhist ideals of self-denial, renunciation of the world, and self-immolation for one’s personal and individual transcendence; it is, essentially, auto-salvific. But there is no hint of this in the Christian understanding of sainthood. Rather, the act of Christian martyrdom is motivated entirely by love, that is, it is an act of sacrifice for the sake of others, in order to witness bravely and radically to the Truth of the Gospel so that others, too, might be saved through faith in Jesus Christ. As St Paul Miki said moments before his execution: “Having arrived at this moment of my existence, I believe that none of you thinks I want to hide the truth. That is why I declare to you that there is no other way of salvation than the one followed by Christians”.
So, the martyr sheds his blood in order to witness to the most important things in life, truths worth dying for, and his witness is an act of love for others, hoping that we might thus be convinced of the Faith for which he died – faith in the Crucified Christ, in the power of his resurrection, in the truth and necessity of his Word. Thus, the saint is paradoxically most world-embracing when he renounces the world by giving himself up to death, preaching with his blood. But if the martyrs’ witness, his “mighty work” is not to be in vain, then we need to beware our modern tendency to relativize truth, and to see another’s belief and conviction as merely a matter of individual conscience. That would be akin to the tragedy of today’s Gospel, where the people hear Christ’s wisdom and see his works, but they refuse to believe because they think they know better.
St Paul Miki’s dying words were: “I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain”. Such was his love for us that motivated his sacrifice. As we contemplate his witness today, let us do so with humility and open hearts, open to the Truth he loved and preached. Through his intercession, may we be roused to greater faith and hope in Christ and his promises.
Father Leon Dehon, founder of the Priestly Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Congregatio Sacerdotorum a Sacro Corde Iesu) also known as the Dehonians, celebrating Holy Mass. According to former privilege granted to the missionaries in China,