GALLERY: Welcoming those received into the Church

At last night's Easter Vigil, Archbishop Leo Cushley baptised those candidates from the RCIA programme, received nine people into full communion with the Church and confirmed 29 people. We welcome them all and keep them in or prayers!


All images Benedicta Lin.


Easter Vigil Homily: 'The Lamb of God once slain, now lives for ever'

Here is Archbishop Cushley's Homily from the Easter Vigil at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Our European Christian heritage is considerable, and one of the very greatest works of its art is to be found in a cathedral in Belgium.

It’s usually referred to as the Ghent Altarpiece, and it is a large and complex 15th century work made up of a number of separate paintings.

It is traditionally attributed to Hubert and Jan van Eyck and was completed in 1432. It is so celebrated that it has been the subject of 13 crimes and seven thefts in its long history.

It was stolen by French Napoleonic troops, then put back; then by the Germans in the First World War, then put back; and again by the Germans while on its way to the Vatican for safekeeping during World War 2, and then put back again.

During its lengthy existence, it has suffered from iconoclasm and even fire damage.

It has been restored many times over the centuries, and because it is considered so precious, if you go looking for it in Ghent Cathedral today, you will only get to see it through very thick, very secure, armoured glass.

The largest panel at the centre of the piece, is the one that interests us here.

It is usually described as the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, and it depicts a living lamb standing on an altar, with angels, prophets, women martyrs and men saints gathered into four groups, in a beautiful open green space.

Behind the altar are symbols of the Passion and the Crucifixion, and in front of the altar is a fountain of water.

Although the composition has many beautiful, detailed pictures - of God the Father Almighty, of the Holy Spirit as a dove, of Adam and Eve, of Our Lady and the saints, as well as a beautifully detailed depiction of angels - the only figure who does not appear to be represented is Jesus himself.  He seems at first glance to be absent.

But I wonder if that is the point.  What I mean is coming up, so bear with me for a moment.

Over the last three days, we have been reflecting on Jesus as the “Lamb of God”.

Both on Thursday at the Last Supper, and at our Good Friday celebrations, we saw elements of how John’s Gospel proposes Jesus as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world”.

We saw how John’s whole Gospel can in fact be seen as an arc that begins with Jesus’ first appearance at the Jordan and finishes at his death on the Cross.

The idea of Jesus as the Lamb of God marks Jesus’s life and continues even after his death.

Jesus is the true Passover lamb, put to death at the same time as the Passover lambs in the Temple, the lamb whose bones aren’t broken on the Cross, but whose destiny perfectly fulfils the Scriptures.

We are in his mystical presence, here and now at Mass, and we see him in the Eucharist, the Lamb of God.

John describes to us how Jesus is God’s own lamb, the unblemished sacrifice, the Lamb who has been slain.

We now stand at the empty tomb with those who stood there before us, and like them, we wonder just what has happened.

Jesus is nowhere to be seen.  But the tomb is empty and something dramatic has unfolded, unseen by those first witnesses, and unseen by us today.  Jesus is absent, his body is absent, and we and the witnesses to this are at a loss to explain it.

None of us here has seen the Lord risen from the dead.  Our faith must be based upon those who were there, like Peter and John.

It is based on the love of Mary his mother and of Mary Magdalene.

It is based on the bold declaration of Thomas, “My Lord, and my God”.

It is based on the anxious, affectionate faith of Martha, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living of the living God, the one who was to come into this world”. Our faith is that of the last and greatest prophet, John the Baptist.

And the Baptist was the first to declare, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world”.

My friends, we do not see the Lord as we see each other – but we do see the Lamb of God, in our Eucharistic sacrifice.

We are in his mystical presence, here and now at Mass, and we see him in the Eucharist, the Lamb of God.

We have all these assurances in our faith, and we have the added comfort of seeing in the Eucharist a living, visible link to the living Lord himself.

On Thursday, at the Last Supper, Jesus takes essential elements of the Jewish Passover, recasts them and points to his own death for us on the Cross.

He tells us to share in the Eucharist so as to have a share in his death for us.

He tells us that it is a share in his death for our delivery.

On Friday, he dies on the Cross as the lambs are sacrificed in the Temple.

And, tonight, as we peer into the empty tomb, we see no one, but with the eyes of faith, we see all: we realise that Jesus is risen, the Lamb of God once slain, now lives for ever.

And with the eyes of faith, we see him and know him alive among us, as we gather to offer him anew as the spotless Eucharistic Lamb, whom we can see and believe in, until he appears again among us in glory.

The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb in Ghent Cathedral has no picture of Jesus in this life or the next.  But it does have the icon of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, alive on the altar and pouring out his blood for us.

Worthy is that Lamb who was once slain, and who now lives for ever.  To him, our risen Lord, be glory and honour for ever and ever.  Amen.

All images Benedicta Lin.

Good Friday Homily: 'Called to faith in Christ crucified'

Here is Archbishop Cushley's Homily from Friday of the Passion of the Lord at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Today we stand again on Mount Calvary, empty and silent, as the dark but glorious victory of the Cross in accomplished.

Last night, at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, we began our journey by listening to a text from Exodus, that starts with the choice of a lamb that will be put to death in the Jewish Passover.

The lamb is to be drawn from among the people’s flocks of sheep or goats, but the lamb needs to be without blemish.

It is killed ritually at twilight, its flesh is eaten, and its blood is the sign that will deliver the people from death.

God will pass over people of Israel’s houses and they will be spared and given life.


In John’s account of today’s events, when Jesus is put to death, the Jewish Passover is still to be celebrated, in a few days’ time.

Jesus’s betrayal and trial and death are about to intervene, and he is not going to be able to celebrate the actual Passover with his disciples.  The lambs used at the Jewish Passover, weren’t yet ready.

They hadn’t been sacrificed.  Instead, at the last Supper, Jesus takes important elements of the Passover meal, recasts them using bread and wine, and the Eucharist – the memorial of his death - are born, in anticipation of today’s events and Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.

At the last Supper, the usual Passover lamb is absent, because they’ve not been sacrificed.  That will happen the next afternoon at twilight.

And so, Jesus dies as the very lambs to be used in the Passover are being put to death in the Temple, in preparation for the Passover.  Two important things flow from this.

First, that Jesus is crucified at the same time as the lambs are put to death for the Passover feast. Secondly, that Jesus is revealed as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

‘This is my body’

On the night before he dies, instead of sharing a roasted lamb, he takes the bread, and says, “This is my body, which is for you, do this as a memorial of me”.

He takes the cup after supper – again, an element of the Jewish Passover, but he says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me”.

These words are as close to the Lord’s own words as we can come.

And they show us how Jesus reveals himself the Lamb of God.

He is offering himself as the Lamb whose death will deliver his people from death in Egypt, whose life is given up knowingly, willingly, before the events today actually come to pass.

Today, therefore, on Good Friday, by a very ancient tradition, we listen to John’s account of the Passion, not that of the Synoptics.

John’s account differs in its timing, and is currently considered by scholars to be the one closest to the historic events themselves.

This is for a number of reasons that need not detain us here; suffice to say that in John we see that Jesus’s trial and execution take place in such a way that he dies on the Cross just as the lambs are being sacrificed in the Temple on the day of preparation for the upcoming Passover.

On Thursday, Jesus consciously takes the Old Covenant and updates it.

He recalls the liberation of God’s People from slavery in Egypt, and declares the New Covenant, our liberation from slavery to sin and death, and delivery into a new land, a new paradise for all God’s true assembly, the Church.

And on Friday, just as the lambs were sacrificed in the first Passover before the Hebrews fled Pharaoh, so Jesus indicates his own death as the new and definitive Lamb of God, and points to his own blood as the perfect saving sacrifice that liberates believers from sin and death.

Lamb of God

In fact, John’s whole Gospel can be seen as an arc that begins with Jesus’ first appearance at the Jordan and finishes at his death on the Cross.

Let’s recall how John the Baptist, at the very start of the Gospel, points to Jesus and, on two consecutive days, declares, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”.

This idea continues throughout John’s Gospel, and even after Jesus’ death: Pilate is asked to break the legs of Jesus and the prisoners so that their execution would be completed more quickly.

John recounts how Jesus was already dead and so his legs don’t need broken; but significantly he sees in this another sign.

In Exodus, there is a famous instruction that the lamb used for the Passover must not have its bones broken; and John quotes this injunction at Jesus’ death, saying, “For [this sign] took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled, ‘Not one bone of his will be broken’” (Jn 19:36).  John sees here a further clue to the identity of Jesus.

Jesus becomes God’s lamb, the unblemished sacrifice, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

From the very beginning, all the way through his own actions at the last Supper, his Passover, and his awareness of his coming sacrifice at the same time as the lambs of sacrifice, through to John’s own insight of Jesus dying on the Cross along with the sacrificial lambs, Jesus becomes God’s lamb, the unblemished sacrifice, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

As we all know, this little phrase of John the Baptist has also made its way into the Mass.  And today, when there is no Mass, the priest still lifts up the host and declares, “Behold the Lamb, behold him who takes away the sin of the world.”

We who have witnessed these events again today are blessed, because we are called not only to witness them, but to share in them through Communion with the Lord, above all in the Eucharist.

We are called to faith in Christ crucified; we are called to a share in Christ’s sacrifice; and we are called to a share in the delivery from sin and death that was won for all of us, by the true Lamb, the Lamb of God, sacrificed on the Cross for us today.

To him be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

All images Benedicta Lin.

Holy Thursday Homily: 'Going to his death for our life'

Here is Archbishop Cushley's Homily from last night's Mass of the Lord's Supper at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Tonight, we begin our journey into the three days of the Lord’s own Passover, the Lord’s passage, on our behalf, through death to life.

The great arc that will be described by the 15 scripture readings that we will listen to over the next three days begins with the first reading we just heard this evening from the Book of Exodus.

The text is about the preparations for the very first Passover of the people of Israel before they left Egypt, and the extract we read begins by describing the choice of the animal, the lamb, that will be put to death.

Without blemish

We learn that the lamb may be drawn from among the people’s flocks of sheep or goats, but the lamb needs to be without blemish.

It is to be killed ritually at twilight, its flesh is eaten, and its blood is used to deliver Israel from the death of the firstborn, and ultimately to Israel’s deliverance from Pharaoh himself.  God will “pass over” the houses of the people of Israel, their first born will be spared and they will all be given liberty and life.

Our second reading then builds on this picture, as it takes us to just a few years, a very few years, after Jesus’s death.

What St Paul tells us with the greatest care concerns the Last Supper, a moment that we know is very similar to the Passover just described, but not quite the same thing.

We believe that what Paul describes here goes back to as early as the 30’s AD, and it puts us practically into immediate touch with what Jesus’s very first disciples did in his memory, and from the very earliest days after his death.

These few sentences bring us within a whisker of Jesus himself, and what he said and did on the night before he died, and they are very precious to us.

As I just said, what Jesus does tonight is not quite a Jewish Passover as such.


The Passover of the Jews that year is to be celebrated in a few days’ time.  Jesus’s betrayal and trial and death are about to intervene, and so he knows he is not going to be able to celebrate the actual Passover with his disciples.

Instead, he will die as lambs are being put to death in the Temple, in preparation for the Jewish Passover.

And so, this evening Jesus takes important, meaningful elements of the Passover and respectfully and meaningfully, “retasks” them or redirects them.

He does something recognisable to his disciples, but at the same time, he tells them – and us in our turn - that this is not the renewal of the old Covenant; rather it is a new Covenant in his blood.

Instead of sharing a sacrificed lamb with them, he takes the bread, and says instead, “This is my body, which is for you, do this as a memorial of me”.

He takes the cup after supper – again, an element of the Jewish Passover, but says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me”.

These are as close to the Lord’s own words on this night as we can come.  And they show us how Jesus, on this night, becomes the Lamb of God.

He is offering himself as the Lamb whose death will deliver his people from death, whose life is given up knowingly, willingly, before the events that we know so well, just before they come to pass.


As to our Gospel passage tonight, it is completely consistent with St Paul, but it adds something unknown and unlooked for to the elements of the old Passover that have been transformed by Jesus’s action this evening.

The passage starts by confirming for us that “it was before the festival of the Passover, and [that] Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to pass from this world to the Father”.  John tells us that they were “at supper” - not at the Passover meal; and he confirms that Judas is getting ready to betray Jesus.

Into all of this context, we then see Jesus kneel down and wash his disciples’ feet.  It is a gesture of friendship, of humility, of self-emptying, an understated indication of the supreme service he is about to render all humanity in his willing self-emptying on the Cross.

Seen as an ensemble, then, our three readings come together perfectly to let us see Jesus as the Lamb of God, who has come into the world to take away our sins.

His Supper, the Last Supper, evokes the Passover and the old Covenant, and yet Jesus transforms it into an everlasting memorial of himself and of his death.

In it, he becomes our Lamb, the one who will be sacrificed on the Cross for our liberation from sin and death.

And he does so with the greatest tenderness, meekly, willingly, and consciously, going to his death for our life, and the life of all his friends.

Chrism Mass Homily: 'What unites us is Christ'

Here is Archbishop Cushley's Homily from last night's Chrism Mass at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

A very warm welcome to the Chrism Mass in this, the Year of Grace 2023.

There is an unusual old story from the First World War, that a very significant number of soldiers on both sides of the Western Front were for a time reading the same book and, seen through the eyes of the world today, it appears at first glance to be the most unlikely material.

The book was the autobiography of a French Carmelite who had died a few years before and, at only 24 years old, was a young woman when she died.

St Therese of Lisieux.

We can all see quickly how much the West has changed, for such a thing is practically unimaginable today. The world is no longer very Eurocentric, or very Christian, or very devout; and yet, in those days, the Carmelite writer in question went on to become an immensely popular figure.

Her name, as many of you will have guessed by now, was Marie-Françoise Thérèse Martin, better known now as St Therese of Lisieux.

For my own part, I have a quiet suspicion that the book I’m talking about, the 'autobiography' that we have from her, was not particularly unique: I suspect that many young Carmelites were asked over the ages to write down a spiritual diary, as an exercise, or a penance, or as a guide to greater self-knowledge and personal growth.

What makes Therese’s journal extraordinary is that it has survived, and that the world at large knows about it.

I also suspect that it was originally something that was never meant to be seen or read by anyone outside her convent, let alone published and translated into dozens of languages before a date that would have been around her 40th birthday, had she lived.

Therese was canonized in 1925 and she was named the 33rd Doctor of the Church by Pope St John Paul II in 1997.  Her feast is on 1 October and, as usual, there is a selection of readings in prayers in the Roman rite associated with her day.

She writes with humanity, faith, simplicity and great love for the Lord and for her sisters in religion.

She manages to be both innocent and wise.  She is accessible to many readers and yet she is also poetic and profound.

One passage that my fellow priests and I read that day is from the autobiography we’ve been talking about.  We must presume that it was chosen to capture in a nutshell something central in her person, her outlook, her vocation, her theology, her appeal – the reason she was raised to the altars.

In the passage, she mentions Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, and how all the members of the Church are part of one body.

Expanding beautifully on the Apostle’s idea, she illustrates how each of us has a unique role in Christ’s Mystical Body - but how we all need each other too.

We remain individuals, but we give up voluntarily something of ourselves in order to belong to Christ and to each other.

There is a wonderful tension between what we share – the life of grace, our radical equality before God and the offer of redemption in Christ; and what distinguishes us – the complementarity of the services and ministries we give each other: many distinct services, but always bound together in the one love, and in the one Mystical Body of Christ.

We remain individuals, but we give up voluntarily something of ourselves in order to belong to Christ and to each other.

Therese’s insight regarding herself was her desire to be the love in the heart of the Church.  It is a striking, simple, pure idea, and it is placed before us as an encouragement to consider our place in the Church as individuals.

The Church is not a business; it’s not an ethnicity; it’s not exclusive; it’s not of any special place or time.  On the other hand, the Church is open to all; its message of salvation is for everyone of all ages; and all humanity can find a place here, because all of us together form part of the Mystical Body of Christ.

As individuals, each of us has an equal dignity and worth, but as members of the Body of Christ, we give way to each other in charity.  As individuals, each of us is made in God’s image and likeness, but as members of Body of Christ, it is in union with each other in Christ that we are saved.

One example of this in our time is our Holy Father Pope Francis’s intentions for the upcoming Synod, which he tells us principally is about listening to each other: learning, or learning again, to give each other the respect due to each and every one in charity, that is, in communion with Christ and with each other.

And today, when our thoughts turn to the blessing of the oils, and our prayers turn to the ministerial priesthood and the priesthood of the whole People of God, we are reminded of this tension, of the balance between the component parts of the Mystical Body of Christ, and the children of God who make it up.

Let’s all aspire to a greater love of Christ and of each that is worthy of our Saviour who unites us all in His own priesthood on the Cross.

To paraphrase St Paul, some are called to one kind of service, and some are called to another.  But what unites us is Christ and our service to each other, and our service to the one Lord, who is over all, through all and within all.

There is one love that binds us all together.

As St Therese puts it, “I saw and realised that […] love is everything, [and] that this same love embraces every time and every place. In one word, that love is everlasting”.

My dear friends, as we continue on our pilgrim way in this life, and as we reflect tonight on the importance of the common priesthood and of the priesthood of particular service to God’s people, let’s all aspire to a greater love of Christ and of each other, one that is real, unalloyed, nourishing, unifying, and one that is worthy of our Saviour who unites us all in His own priesthood on the Cross. Amen

HOMILY: Funeral Mass of Canon Bill Conway

The funeral Mass of Canon Bill Conway took place today (Friday 27 January) at St Machan's in Lennoxtown. May he rest in peace.

Homily of Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

A very warm welcome to you all on the sad occasion of the funeral of Canon William Conway.

I’d especially like to greet Bill’s sisters and brother, Anna, Maureen and Laurence, and the members of their families who are with us here today.

I am grateful to Canon Bath and the people of St Machan’s for their welcome here, and to Canon Holuka who has done so much to prepare today, and who will continue to look after Bill’s affairs until everything here is concluded.

Canon Richard and the family chose the readings that we’ve listened to, and they are chosen to remind us of something of the man that Bill was, of his faith, and of his life of service to the people and future clergy of St Andrews & Edinburgh.

The first reading from the prophet Isaiah evokes eternal life in a calm and reassuring scene on a hilltop, and as an eternal banquet.

The joy of a festive banquet is a theme found quite often in both the Old and New Testaments.

The image more specifically of a wedding feast is something that is used more than once by the Lord Himself, and it lets us see and feel the anticipation of God’s welcome to us, the great joy in the occasion, and the super abundance of God’s love for us.

All are welcome here, even if death and life are intertwined in our human condition, along with love and loss, and there is the gentle suggestion that, if we never lost someone or something precious to us, we might never learn to love, and never grow into the fullness of our humanity that God wishes for us.


Bill lived a long and, I believe, a happy life, but we know it was not without its losses.

As many of us are aware, one of the things Bill was to lose for a long part of his later life was the natural and very human pleasure of eating and drinking normally.

He had to feed himself in a way that practically meant tasting little or nothing of what nourished him, from before I came to know him some ten autumns ago.

He bore illness with remarkable stoicism and forbearance

This happened due to an illness that he bore with remarkable stoicism and forbearance, at least in what I saw of him.

He wasn’t able to eat and drink as most people do, but he nevertheless had the forbearance and the goodness to continue to attend meals, and the humility to let his food be prepared in a different way while others around him enjoyed the normal pleasures of such things.

He never omitted to join the senior clergy when we gathered for dinner or indeed the luncheons for retired priests, and was of good cheer among us, enjoying what he could of the moment and camaraderie of his old friends, without fuss or fanfare.

It is, therefore, at least a small comfort to picture him, beside the Lord, at the great banquet of life and love and comfort that await those who are faithful to Christ, the Bridegroom.

The second reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans is a reminder of our baptism into Christ’s death and our connection to the Lord through word and sacrament.


Those connections, initiated and fostered, not here in Lennoxtown, but in New Stevenson, brought Bill into the orbit of the Church from his youngest years and set him, gradually, eventually, on the path to the priesthood.

Ordained in 1968 for St Andrews & Edinburgh, he served all over this Archdiocese: from Falkirk to Jedburgh, from Loanhead and Edinburgh to Denny and Lennoxtown.

A significant time in his ministry was his 14 years teaching Sacred Scripture to the seminarians of St Andrew’s College, Drygrange.

All of this took place, starting with the faith of his family and godparents and the journey of conforming himself to Christ crucified that begins for all believers in Baptism.

St Paul adds, “If in union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection.”

He was surely imitating the Lord and his sufferings with the greatest patience and simplicity.

The last time I saw Bill, in Glasgow Royal Infirmary a few hours before he died, he was surely imitating the Lord and his sufferings with the greatest patience and simplicity.

When the wonderful staff there had finished readying him, we had a slow and difficult conversation, and when we had finished, he asked for my blessing.

Those were my last words to him, and I left him to continue the last few paces of his journey.

As Bill imitated the Lord in his death, may the Lord likewise grant Bill to rise with him in life.

The Gospel reading from St John chapter 5 is one that we don’t hear very often, but it holds several lessons for us from the Lord Himself.

There are two I want to pick up on here: the first is that whoever listens to the Lord’s words and believes in them, will have eternal life.

The second lesson is those who did good will rise again to life.

Scripture scholar

Bill was a scripture scholar, someone with a privileged insight into the Word of God.

He spent much of his life listening to that Word, studying it, deepening his knowledge of it, and not for his own sake, but “doing the good” of sharing it with his students, those who would eventually become his brother priests.

The good that we learn from our teachers and the good we pass on from them surely counts not only in our favour but in theirs.  And a way of paying our debt to our teachers is to pass on the best of whatever we learned from them.

It ensures the tradition of the faith down through the years; but, more importantly on this occasion, it reminds of the good they did.

The Lord assures us today that those who listen to His voice, and who do good as a consequence, will rise to eternal life.

This is what we pray for our brother Bill, as we commend him to almighty God and to the mercy of the risen Lord.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.

Archbishop Cushley's message on Feast of St Joseph

Archbishop Cushley has highlighted the quiet strength of St Joseph as a model of imitation for Catholics.

In his homily at Mass for the Feast of St Joseph he says his acceptance of the will of God along with the Virgin Mary, "ensures that God’s great plan of salvation will be fulfilled."

Homily - Feast of St Joseph, Spouse of the Virgin Mary

My dear friends, a very happy feast day to you!

Today we celebrate the Feast of Joseph, in a year dedicated to him by our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

The Pope was inspired to write a letter to accompany this year, Patris Corde ('with a Father's Heart'), which I recommend to you.  Also, on this, the fifth anniversary of his other letter Amoris Laetitia, the Holy Father has also decided to launch a year on the basis of it, entitled The Amoris Laetitia Family, which will lead up to next year’s World Meeting of families in Rome.

You may also have seen that here in Edinburgh we composed and published our own St Joseph Family Prayer Book, for use in our diocese, especially in this time when we are unable to come to Mass.  Let me recommend it to all of you.

Devotion to St Joseph and curiosity about him has certainly been around a long time.  We know that ancient Christians wanted to know more about Jesus and his early life and that led to a curiosity about St Joseph. You’ll notice what I said there: curiosity about Jesus led to curiosity about St Joseph. This is true about both Mary and Joseph.

We are Christians; by definition, we are focused on Christ; we want to know the Lord better, and in doing so, we are naturally drawn to Mary and Joseph.

As to Our Lady, we know many things about her through the Gospels, how she talked, how she prayed, her relationship with God and with her son, and they have led to a great affection for her through the centuries and the generations. But the details concerning Joseph are few and far between.

This leads to a great temptation – to fill in the blanks and even to exaggerate the little we do know when it comes to Joseph.

So, our best guide to St Joseph and to why we have grown over the centuries to love him is to look at what is actually there in the Scriptures. And the passage from the Gospel of Matthew that we hear today tells us a lot, although in quiet a short space.

Today (Mt 1:16,18-21,24) we hear a conversation between an angel of the Lord and Joseph. Now, the angel says, “Joseph, do not be afraid; take Mary home as your wife; her son is from God; you shall give him his name, Jesus; and he is destined to save God’s people”.

In hindsight, we know that all of this is about to take place. We know that Joseph will not be afraid; that he will accept Mary’s conception of Jesus; and that he will put God’s plan into action. We notice in particular that God gives him the duty of naming the child – the father’s duty – but that God names Jesus, as God is the true father. But Joseph is deputised to act by God Himself. This is, after all, the Son of God that we’re talking about.


What we also notice here is that Joseph is completely silent.  We must presume he articulated some kind of reply, but we’re not told if it was in actual words.  But what does happen, is that he does the will of God. Matthew says, “And he did as the Lord commanded him”.

Without fuss, without a ton of words, he accepts the will of God for him, for Mary and for Jesus, and he makes sure it happens, as God wills.

And this is the great example of Joseph: he loves the Mother of God, he loves Jesus perfectly as a father, and he ensures that God’s great plan of salvation will be fulfilled.

Joseph is a man of faith; he is a man of few words; he listens for the will of God to be revealed to him; and he acts without fuss to fulfil God’s plan for the protection, the safety, the happiness and the salvation of all whom he loves.

This is an example of quiet, manly faith, for all of us to imitate, but especially in the family context.

May St Joseph, the great and noble patron of the first domestic church, the Holy Family, protect us always with his prayers and example.

Have a happy feast, and keep each other safe!

Archbishop: prepare for Christmas with confession

Archbishop Cushley has encouraged Catholics to get to confession as part of preparing for Christmas.

In his homily at today’s Sunday Mass, he said: “(Today) we listen to Isaiah and John the Baptist telling us to wake up, to rekindle our hope and get ready for what’s coming next.

"Valley’s filled in and mountains laid low, cliffs become plains and ridges valleys! In other words, it seems that everything is going to be the opposite of what it is right now - a complete turnaround.

"And how does that happen? Because, Isaiah says (and later John the Baptist), “the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all mankind shall see it”.

Get radical

"In other words, when the Lord appears, everything is going to be changed radically. And if he is about to appear soon at Christmas, we need to get radical ourselves as well.

"We need to turn our lives upside down, recognise our sins, change our lives and then we’ll be ready to look the Lord in the face, we’ll be ready to welcome the Lord with a full heart when he comes.

"So let’s take Isaiah and John’s advice to heart: repent, make a good confession and, with the Baptist, wait with renewed hope and humility to greet the Lord at Christmas."

Confession at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh is on every day from 1.15pm until 2.00pm (weekdays) and from 10.30am-12noon and 5pm-6pm on Saturdays.


Going to confession

If you are nervous about coming to confession either because of what you have on your conscience, or because it has been a long time since your last confession, have no fear; what awaits you in the confessional is the joy and peace of God’s loving mercy and the priest will gently help to discover that.




HOMILY: Mgr Brian Halloran, an enthusiastic pastor of souls

Homily of Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh, Funeral of The Very Rev Mgr Brian Provost Halloran, Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Leith, Monday 9 March 2020.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

A renewed word of welcome to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Leith, as we offer holy Mass for the repose of the soul of Mgr Brian Halloran.  Our first thoughts go to Mgr Brian’s brothers and sisters along with our sincere condolences.  Brian, his goodness and his energy will surely be missed.

I’m also grateful to the Fr Martin Moran, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the people of St Mary’s Leith for their warm welcome and their condolences on this sad occasion.

In the Gospel passage we have just heard (Luke 12: 35-40), chosen with Brian in mind, we hear the Lord urging us to be like men dressed for action, with our lamps lit. “Be like men waiting for their master to return […], ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes”. To me anyway, that sounds like Brian Halloran.

Brian was a kind man; a godly man; a gentle man; frank, loyal, affectionate; a tireless and enthusiastic pastor of souls. He was “old school”: he knocked at doors, he brought people back to their faith, and he did so with great good humour.  The members of the other churches in North Berwick recognised him as a friend too, and have expressed their dismay at his death.

But above all, Brian was ready; he was a man of action until the day the Lord called him. The day he died, he had said Sunday Mass for his people, and he had prepared his people for Lent.  He was still working when he started to feel not well.  It’s only now that we realise he had a serious heart problem that was threatening to slow him down, but he was not someone who slowed down easily.  On the contrary, he was someone who was always enthusiastic, willing to work, in a bit of a hurry.  Even when he took a sabbatical at about 70 years of age, he didn’t actually take a break: instead he travelled to China and to Africa to visit the churches there: these weren’t holidays, but an opportunity to roll up your sleeves and improve yourself.

He was proud to be part of the first intake into St Andrew’s College, Drygrange, and he was among the first of those to be ordained from it.

He went on to complete doctoral studies and became quite an accomplished writer on Scottish Catholic history. He wrote his thesis on the Scots College in Paris, and he loved to visit Scalan, the little clandestine seminary hidden in Glen Livet during the exclusion of Catholics from society in Scotland.


But one of the things I will always remember Brian for was his description to me of the “golden thread” of Catholic clergy who, through the whole Reformation period and beyond, kept the old faith alive here, who never let it die, but passed it on to the succeeding generations with courage, tenacity and patience, and in spite of civil and political exclusion and occasional persecution.  Brian made a study of those men and was very proud of them, and he saw himself – and all of us - as standing on their shoulders.  I’ll always be grateful to him for that insight.

Even in later life, he was never very far from his books. In his sitting room in North Berwick there still hang today two big maps, of the first century Holy Land and of the earliest days of the Church as it spread through the Mediterranean.  And, not so long ago, Brian gave me a manuscript of his latest book. Among many other things, he was fascinated by the Book of the Apocalypse, and yesterday some of the parishioners at North Berwick were telling me that he had been going into it with them in some depth. I wonder what that was like! But I read the manuscript of it over Christmas; I enjoyed it and learned a few things from it too. I looked again at the title the other day. It’s entitled “The Book of the Apocalypse: Encouragement for All.

'A man of hope'

Brian was a man of Christian purpose, of energy, and ready to meet his Lord when he called him. He was good man and an exemplary priest. He was a man of hope. As he goes to his rest, perhaps we may imagine him as leaving us with a word of encouragement and hope, like his beloved Apocalypse. If, like him, we are dressed for action, ready and waiting for our master to return, the Lord will put on an apron, sit us down, and wait on us at the heavenly banquet, just as we hope and pray the Lord in His goodness will now welcome Brian.

Eternal rest, grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May he rest in peace.  Amen.

The Very Rev Mgr Brian Provost Halloran, 19 July 1935 - 1 March 2020. Requiescat in pace


HOMILY: The humility of the Lord's incarnation

The homily of Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrews & Edinburgh, Christmas Midnight Mass, 2019, St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Edinburgh.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Allow me to start first of all by wishing you all a very peaceful and happy Christmas for you and yours. A special thank you goes to Mgr Burke, my Vicar General, to his assistant Fr Jamie McMorrin, and to all of you who make our cathedral a place of welcome and a sacred place, one that you have readied, that we might celebrate the birth of Our Saviour worthily. Many thanks indeed!

St Francis of Assisi is the one who gets a lot of the credit for putting up the first crèche or crib, some 700 years ago.

His biographer, Brother Thomas of Celano, wrote two different biographies of Francis, and a treatise on miracles associated with him, such was the popularity and the fascination in the man, during his lifetime and well beyond.

Tucked away at the end of the first version St Francis’s biography, Thomas inserts a lovely little story, almost, apparently, as an afterthought. It tells how St Francis “always” kept two things before his mind eye: the “charity” of our Lord’s Passion on the Cross, and the “humility” of our Lord’s Incarnation at Christmas. We are told that, for Francis of Assisi, these were “foremost in his mind, so that he rarely wanted to think of anything else”.

Putting aside the “charity of the Lord’s Passion” for another time, and concentrating on the “humility” of the Incarnation, we then read the story of the very first crib scene ever put together. Francis goes to the small town of Greccio, in Italy, and he asks a man to “portray [for me] the Child born in Bethlehem” so as to see “somehow with my bodily eyes the hardship He underwent, because He lacked all a newborn’s needs, the way He was placed in the manger, and how he lay on the hay between the ox and ass”.

So, on Christmas night in 1223, Francis’s brothers and the local people gathered with him, bringing torches and candles. They brought in an ox and an ass, and then laid some hay down between them. And that was the first crib. That was it. No statues of any kind. No further decoration. Thomas comments approvingly: “There, simplicity was honoured, poverty exalted, humility praised - and Greccio was virtually transformed into a new Bethlehem”.

A stark, but beautiful, scene. We also note that, visually, the first crib was very simple indeed: but this was what Francis wanted, because he was struck profoundly by the Incarnation, God becoming one of us, as an act of the utmost humility.

God becomes Man

Jesus Christ, God from God and Light from Light, becomes an infant in all simplicity and poverty and, above all, humility. The very act of God becoming one like us is an act of humility that is almost beyond description. Here is the Word of God, Christ Himself, the Mercy of God, coming down like the dawn from on high to visit us, and yet in the humblest of ways and the simplest of circumstances.

For modern, city folk like ourselves, its poverty is almost inconceivable. And yet, the point is well-made, and I think we understand it immediately. And it is a gesture of profound humility that is ours to imitate, in deep gratitude, for the consequences that will flow from God becoming one of us.

Looking again at the poverty of the first crib in Greccio, we see only an ox, an ass and some hay. There were no statutes to remind Francis and his friends of Mary or Joseph or even the infant Jesus. And yet we are also told St Francis dearly wished to see for himself, with his own eyes, the humility of God. He didn’t need much to do it. There is even something very poignant about the absence of statues, so that we have to make an effort to “see” for ourselves and to give birth to Christ in our own hearts.

And yet, there in Greccio, in spite of any further visual aids, we are told that St Francis and all who were with him “were gladdened with new joy over the renewed mystery”, and that the woods resounded with people’s voices, and the cliffs echoed their hymns of joy.

The second thing we notice in the story is how Greccio was “virtually transformed into a new Bethlehem”. How wonderful it would be to imagine that, wherever we place our crib and the manger, in our churches, in our homes, or in the city centre, that such a corner might briefly become a “new Bethlehem”, a corner near us here, helping us to make present again the presence of God-with-us in the simplicity, the poverty, and the humility of the birth of the Son of God among us.

The story of Greccio and the first Christmas crib is the last part of the story of St Francis’s life. So, the first version of the Life of Francis come to an end, not with his Francis’s death, but with the story of this little Christmas in Greccio. The book then finishes like this:

“The place [where the first crib was laid out] has now been consecrated to the Lord and an altar has been built [there]… so that in the place where the animals once ate hay […] men can now eat the flesh of the […] Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us with infinite and inexpressible love”.

This lets us understand the wonderful connection between what we celebrate in mystery in the Incarnation at Christmas, and the Eucharist, where our Living Lord, God made flesh, is present among us until He returns in glory. This also leads us joyfully to celebrate the Birth of our Lord above all in the Eucharist in our Christmas Masses, together with our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world.

Everywhere, may the Christ child’s simplicity be honoured, may His poverty be exalted, and may His humility be praised. May our cribs and our very hearts be transformed into a new Bethlehem; and where the Christ child appears absent, may we be the ones to make him present in the flesh by our own love and charity.

A very joyful, happy Christmas to you all, and a Good New Year when it comes. God bless you all!

All pics: Benedicta Lin.