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Contents: Volume 2 - Pentecost Sunday of EASTER & Ascension (A) - May 31, 2020


 

 Pentecost

Sunday

2020

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Pentecost Mass during the day 2020

Our readings this Pentecost Sunday tell of the mighty deeds of God through the Holy Spirit. We read/hear in the Acts of the Apostles how the Holy Spirit empowered the disciples to spread the Word by speaking in tongues. In the first Letter to the Corinthians, we learn about being the body of Christ with its many parts and that the abundant gifts of the Spirit have been given to all of us. The Gospel according to John recounts Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and sending them forth to forgive or retain sins.

Wow, the Holy Spirit was certainly busy! Then, as in our day and time, the multi-faceted work of the Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary. Each of us have different needs and it is the Holy Spirit with the many titles and "jobs" of Comforter, Advocate, Guide, Sanctifier, etc. who helps to fill those needs. It is also the Holy Spirit who empowers each of us to use the gifts given to us to help one another.

The multiplicity of the spiritual gifts, the many forms of service, and the amazing workings of the Spirit within us provides us with an immense array of opportunities to nurture the faith within us and also to spread the faith. In our world today, there is no one whose life has not been altered in some way by the pandemic. That means that we all need to be redirected once again by the power of the Holy Spirit. Each of us needs to be healed in some way to feel truly whole again and to move forward and assist others get through this dreadful time.

This process may take some time, but the Holy Spirit is most willing and able to continue working in us for the long run. Where is it that you need "refilling" to be truly willing and able once again? Where is it that the Holy Spirit wants to use your gifts, both established and new, to "renew the face of the earth"? Let us pray loudly, fervently, and with one accord the Sequence in today's Mass or simply "Veni, Sancte Spiritus/ Come, Holy Spirit!"

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

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2.

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Vigil of Pentecost May 30, 2020

Genesis 11:1-9 [or Exodus 37:1-14 or Joel 3:1-5) ; Responsorial Psalm 104; Romans 8:22-27; Gospel Acclamation – Prayer to Holy Spirit; John 7:37-39

As the Church celebrates the greatest, the most important commemorations and rememberings of the Spiritual life of its members, the importance of those most important celebrations have an "opening act." In a manner of a great concert venue or before a speech by an important person, there is an act, a person, or a presentation that prepares the audience for what is about to happen. So, it is with this magnificent celebration of Pentecost following the Ascension of Jesus to the Father. This is truly a big deal, an event that shapes the future of the Church. In shaping that future of the Church, it shapes the entire trajectory of human history as well. So, this weekend we start our remembering of the coming of the Holy Spirit by a vigil, a watching in the evening hours of the day preceding Pentecost.

One other point, the experience of the Hebrew people might be helpful for understanding religious celebrations. The Jewish people celebrated and continue to celebrate three major festivals and three lesser festivals. The three great festivals were occasions of pilgrimages to Jerusalem, the City where God dwelt among humanity. Those feasts were: Passover, the remembering of the liberation from the culture and enslavement of Pharaoh; Pentecost, fifty days after Passover and a remembering of the covenant at Mount Sinai; the Feast of Tents at the end of the year, a celebration of the harvest and a remembering of the forty years in the desert during which time the Hebrew tribes were welded into a nation of People Chosen by God.

The lesser feasts are also rememberings of events in the history of the Chosen People. The Day of Atonement was a day of complete rest, penance, and fasting. It became a day dedicated to turning away from failures against the covenant with God. It was the day when a "scape goat" was burdened with the sins of the people and sent out into the desert to Azazel as a return of evil to the source of evil. Another goat was sacrificed as a sin offering to Yahweh. The feast of Hanukkah is a celebration of renewal. Its origin comes from the purification of the Temple by the Maccabees after the desecration of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century before the birth of Jesus. It came to be a celebration of rededication to the covenant of faithful Jews. The feast of Purim is a celebration of the events in the story of Esther. The hatred of one man was such that he acquired the permission and authority to exterminate all Jews in the Babylonian Empire. Purim is a celebration of salvation of a God’s Chosen.

These celebrations are not merely holidays for parties and freedom from work. The Jews were/are aware of their histories and these days are days of remembering. In most cultures, the origins and meanings of celebrations get lost by activities celebrating days off and opportunities for partying. While partying was clearly a part of these festivals, there was much more. For the Jew, remembering the interventions of God was the occasion for reminding God of his interventions. As God remembered, and the people remembered, that intervention was once again present. When God remembers, that remembering is not a thing of the past, but a current day reenactment of the event itself. This reminds us of Eucharistic celebrations, when the liturgy of the Eucharist is a remembering and reenacting of the sacrifice of Calvary, the empty tomb, and the Ascension of Jesus which makes us One Body in the Lord.

Knowing the ancient and present events of our faith gives meaning and intention to our remembering and to celebrations of the festivals of our liturgical year. The readings for the Vigil of Pentecost set the scene for the coming of the Holy Spirit. If we have ever doubted the need for an infusion of the Holy Spirit, it is clearly now. The pandemic has drawn people of good will together in a communal effort to save citizens of the world from terrible death. Yet, it has also divided individuals and nations from each other. Those whose health and youth make death by virus improbable, defy science and rational thought to pursue their own desires in opposition to necessity for others. Clearly, increasing conflicts and violence are an indication of the shallowness of character that comes from selfishness and ego-centric rantings. We have an urgent need for the Spirit – "Come, Holy Spirit, and renew the hearts of the faithful!"

Most churches and liturgies, attended online, will focus on the readings for Pentecost and dismiss without mention the vigil readings. However, the vigil readings set the scene for the necessity of Christian Pentecost.

There are four suggested readings for the first presentation. The reading from Genesis explains the fourth iteration of sin in Genesis. The first is, of course, humanity’s choice for the "apple of the knowledge of good and evil." The second is Cain’s murder of his brother Abel, setting the environment of violence of those different than us. The third is the Noah and the flood story where the evil unleashed by the prior sins causes chaos and terror and violence in the world. The fourth story our reading regarding the Tower of Babel. When the people decided to make a name for themselves, they came to rely solely on themselves for meaning, purpose, and destiny. In that pride they increasingly fail to communicate effectively with each other. Their very language separates them and disperses them to the four winds. They are no longer one people, but enclaves of national interests, subdivided into personal interests. Ever since, it has been the game plan of despots to divide people into manageable followers and enemies. In our day of expanding technology which ties us to the entire world in seconds, we more and more focus on telling others about ourselves in place of listening to others and sharing with them. Come, Holy Spirit, and open our ears and hearts to others so that we come to know ourselves more fully!

The second choice is from Exodus and describes the liberated Hebrew Tribes learning about the God who saves. They commit to living out in practice God’s will. Moses is called to the top of Sinai and there, as we know, received the commandments of God. For the Jews, Pentecost – fifty days after the Passover liberation from Egypt – is the remembering of God’s giving the guides for the path of human life lived in truth. Those commandments teach what is necessary to live fully and truthfully as a human. Truth lived is the way to abiding happiness and peace.

The third choice is from that firebrand prophet, Ezekiel. His time of prophecy was near the end of the Babylonian Captivity. It was a confusing time, a time when the extraordinarily successful Babylonian Empire was challenged by the Persians. There was uncertainty; there was fear; there was no path to the future. The terror, the uncertainty, the difficulties experienced by the exiles are in parallel with our own times, if we think about it. In the reading from Ezekiel, we hear a story that was taken up as a song we know as "Dry Bones." All that is dead, all that is without hope, all that has no pathway to a future is scattered over the earth. As Ezekiel follows God’s instruction to prophesize over those dead bones. As Ezekiel does so, the bones rejoin, sinew and muscle bind them together, and a great crowd of living persons rises out of the dust. God instructed Ezekiel to shout over the dry bones: "Hear the Word of the Lord." As the bones comes together, Ezekiel is told to shout, "Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man, and say to the Spirit; Thus says the Lord God: From the four winds come, o spirit and breathe into these slain that they may come to life." And so, it was then and so it will be now – if we hear the Word of the Lord. Are we not suffering a sort of death by the events of our time? Are we not overwhelmed by a virus we are yet to understand and conquer? Are not the political environment, our economic and social structures, the conflicts within our Church indications of the dryness of our bones and the absence of our spirits? Come, o Spirit, and recreate our lives with the Word of the Lord our God.

The fourth choice is from a minor prophet, Joel. Joel promises that the spirit of God will be poured out on all flesh. Old men, hardened and discouraged by life’s challenges, shall dream dreams and young men shall see visions. Young men are the dreamers. Old men are those who foresee what will come about because of the events of the day. In the darkest of days when the sun loses its power and the moon turns to blood, all will be rescued. Even in the darkest of time, the Spirit of God will bring hope and a return to a vital and active living. Come, o Spirit, and lift up our hearts and firm up our wills to live the Word you have given us.

The responsorial psalm begs God to send us his spirit and to renew the face of the earth. The verses are a shout of joy at the presence of God and God’s works. It is a prayer that we open our eyes to see what God has done and is doing: that we open our ears to hear: that we open our hearts to the love of God.

The reading from the Apostles is from Paul’s letter to the Romans. Paul describes creation as groaning in labor pains, bringing forth a recreated world. It is in hope that we are saved. When we hope, we wait and are expecting something, for the completion of God’s creation. The Spirit, Paul tells us, makes up for our weakness, our timidity, our lack of energy as we seek adoption as children of God in spirit and in body. It is the Spirit that carries us through the rough spots of our cultures, our works, our families, and our communities. The world is becoming a new creation! Would that the Spirit bring it about, now!

The gospel for this Vigil is short. Jesus compares himself to living water – that is water springing up from the earth, falling from the heavens. That living water brings life to all that is dry, all that is dormant, all that lacks vitality. This living water is Jesus, the Word of God. How well this flows from the readings regarding the Tower of Babel where words confused and divided! How well this fits the Word of God given Moses at Sinai! How wonderful is this Word of God that is spoken over our dry bones raising us back to fullness of life! How healing is the Word of God spoken in times of great distress when even the sun and the moon fail us. How encouraging is the Word of God that lifts us up as we groan in labor pains to bring about the Kingdom of God!!

In that hunger, we will watch for the coming of the Spirit as the watchman on the wall waits for the dawn. May our hearts discover the hunger in our hearts with us till we are fulfilled in the Lord!


Pentecost Sunday May 31, 2020

Acts 2:1-11; Responsorial Psalm 104; 1st Corinthians 12:3-7 & 12-13; Sequence "Veni Sancte Spiritus"; Gospel Acclamation – Prayer to Holy Spirit; John 20:19-23

There are two distinct and seemingly contradictory presentations of the coming of the Holy Spirit. The event in the first reading from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles places the coming of the Spirit on the fiftieth day after the Apostles experienced the empty tomb on that awesome first day of the week. That is significant as the fiftieth day after Passover for the Jews was the celebration of the gift of the Law of Moses from God at mount Sinai. Luke’s intention is to tell us that the Law of Moses reaches its fulfillment in the Law of the Spirit. Luke reaches back to the book of Genesis to describe the coming of the Spirit. In Genesis, the spirit of God, literally in Hebrew, the breath God, hovers over the chaos of waters unfettered and sweeping without boundaries over the entire earth. Chaos is replaced by ordering of light from darkness, waters from the earth, emptiness to plant life, lack of life from living beings, and no caretakers to the caretaking of humanity. Luke envisions with the coming of the Spirit of God as a new creation.

Luke adds an additional symbolism. Fire is a source of energy that quickens. It brings water to boil, it brings light to darkness, it purifies and cleanses. Tongues of fire appearing over the heads of the disciples still clinging to the safety of the upper room, purifies their understanding of the ministry, preaching, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Luke continues, erasing the failure of the Tower of Babel – communication is reestablished. The languages of the many Jews living in various nations of the world, those many and varied languages, are heard and understood by the Jews. The communication of man to man is enriched and all hear the good news in their own language. The mystery of the Christ is available to all persons from whatever part of the world they come.

What response can we give to this great news from Luke? What is an adequate answer to this strange, unexpected sudden change in the future of humanity? But, then, why should it have been unexpected? Did we not hear of this future in the four options of first readings from the Vigil? Perhaps we just were not ready to hear it? Perhaps, more to the point, our experience had yet to lead us to the necessity of the coming of the Spirit. It takes experience, both personal and communal, to discover the need for the Spirit. The wonder of the Scriptures – both Hebrew and Christian – is that its stories, its message, and its words apply to all times and all places. The more we know, the more we search for truth and the meaning and purpose of human life, the more likely we are to hear the Word of the Lord. May the Spirit we celebrate today pass over us as the breath of God. May the chaos of the events of our days be ordered to the good of all God’s creation. May our efforts allow and encourage all and everything to thrive and flourish as is the Will of God.

In response to the narrative of the Tower of Babel, Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians tells us that the divisiveness of language and culture is overcome and we become in fact One Body in the Christ. We are enlivened by the drinking of the Spirit in all the moments of our living. The Spirit of God is present if we listen, if we open our hearts to that Spirit, if we understand we share in human life and necessarily depend on living together in peace and harmony bound by the Love of God. Even though this may sound like so many of the sound bites on TV commercials, this "we are all together" is never more apparent than in times of terror, of distrust, of violence, of efforts to break up our unity for the purposes of conquest. Let us not be seduced into condemnation, into violence, into self-centered actions that are potentially harmful to others.

The sequence for Pentecost is a wonderful poem describing our faith. That poem is copied at the end of this reflection for your convenience.

In the gospel, we hear John’s narrative about the coming of the Spirit to the disciples. The time of this coming is the day of Resurrection. The disciples are gathered in fear in the upper room. Jesus comes to them, unannounced, without doors being opened, without invitation. He just comes among them and greets them with a blessing of peace. That peace is a removal of guilt, of fear of the Jews and the Romans, and a hope for a future that is beyond terror, beyond fear, beyond despair, and isolation. We are no longer reliant solely on our personal strength. "Peace be with you!" is Jesus’ greeting to us as well. The Spirit, sent by the Father and the Word, is the person of the Peace and Unity of the Trinity. The disunity espoused by the powerful of the world is revealed as a lie disrupting human life. The Spirit brings unity of all to one another. That is how we discern the activity of the Spirit: when we are united in care, concern, empathy, and love, that is evidence of the Spirit’s presence.

In John’s account of that evening of the first day of the week, Jesus breathes on the disciples. John is reaching back to the first verses of Genesis in a parallel with Luke’s account in the Acts. This is a new creation: a new order has been established. The very life of the Trinity is made present; the energy that unites, that enlivens, that is the vitality of the Trinity is available to those willing to accept the message of God. To share in the life of God is to live with the energy, inspiration, and unifying energy that is God’s. If we wish to share in the eternal life of God, then we will invite and embrace the Spirit of God within our faith that will lead to the movements of our hearts which will lead to the enriching of the rational potential of our minds.

May that Spirit come to be among us.

Here is the Sequence for Pentecost Sunday:

 

Veni, Sancte Spiritus

Come, Holy Spirit, come!

And from your celestial home

Shed a ray of light divine!

Come, Father of the poor!

Come, source of all our store!

Come, within our bosoms shine.

You, of comforters the best;

You, the soul’s most welcome guest;

Sweet refreshment here below;

In our labor, rest most sweet;

Grateful coolness in the heat;

Solace in the midst of woe.

O most blessed Light divine,

Shine within these hearts of yours,

And our inmost being fill!

Where you are not, we have naught,

Nothing good in deed or thought,

Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;

On our dryness pour your dew;

Wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will;

Melt the frozen, warm the chill;

Guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful, who adore

And confess you, evermore

In your sevenfold gift descend;

Give them virtue’s sure reward;

Give them your salvation, Lord;

Give them joys that never end. Amen.

Alleluia.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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SHARING THE SPIRIT’S GIFTS: PENTECOST SUNDAY 2020

A philosopher and writer named Jean-Paul Sartre wanted to explore the agony of people who feel trapped and stuck in their lives. He saw this as being hell on earth. So he wrote a play about hell and called it No Exit.

Three people arrive in hell. It consists of a living room with mirrors around its walls. There is no exit in the room, and there is no interval or intermission in the play. The three characters stay on the stage the whole time, since they can never leave the room and must stay together getting on one another’s nerves. While they keep talking about the past, there is nothing they can do now to change it. As they remain locked in the room, the final line spoken is ‘Let’s go’. But they don’t go anywhere and they can’t go anywhere, because they cannot change anything in the past or the present. All they have are mirrors that keep reminding them they are trapped and stuck in their past. It’s sheer hell for them, but that’s the way things are.

It’s one thing to be locked in a room with no exit. It’s another thing to lock yourself in a room because you believe that the world outside your door is hostile, and that if you leave your room you will be killed. In our First Reading today, this is the situation of the first followers of Jesus, his apostles. Ever since he was crucified they have retreated to a room and locked themselves in. They are so scared of those that killed Jesus and may come looking for them that there is no exit, no way out. They are trapped, and they feel they are in a kind of hell.

But there is an exit after all. The risen Jesus comes and stands among them and says to them: ‘Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so am I sending you [sending you out].’ He also breathes upon them the Holy Spirit, ‘the Lord and giver of life’. When they breathe in the Spirit, they breathe in the Spirit’s gifts of courage, confidence, and conviction. The Spirit’s gifts change their darkness into light, their sadness into joy, and their fears into freedom. The Spirit empowers them to give fresh meaning to the past and to look to the future with fresh hope. So the Spirit, in fact, is their exit from their feelings of frustration and hopelessness, and their exit from the room itself into a brand new life of generous and loving service.

So they walk out bravely into the streets outside the Upper Room. There they meet hundreds and even thousands of people. There are Parthians, Medes and Elamites, visitors from Rome, Crete and Arabia, etc., etc., all waiting to hear the message from the Apostles. So, filled with the Holy Spirit of wisdom, understanding, courage, confidence and love, the preachers begin telling all and sundry, the good news about Jesus. Wonder of wonders, every person there hears in their own language the marvellous things that God has been doing in the person and life of Jesus!

Here in our gatherings today, however small because of Covid19, that same powerful Pentecost Spirit of God is in our midst. Every one of us is a human being, and it’s likely thaevery one of us is a baptised Christian, a follower of Jesus. We share that much together. But none of us in our shared space is exactly the same as any other person. Thank God for that! Hell is where everybody is the same, and in the same boat. No! There is a variety of personalities, and the Holy Spirit has distributed to us a variety of gifts. And that same Spirit of God, as St Paul insists in our Second Reading, is ‘working in all sorts of different ways in different people’. Our task is first of all, then, to identify, recognise and respect, just what gifts the Holy Spirit has given us, and just what gifts the Holy Spirit has given to other people in our lives.

What are your outstanding gifts and what are theirs? Is it a loving, joyful, and peaceful heart? Is it patience, kindness, friendliness, or generosity? Is it a willingness to forgive the hurt and harm someone has done to us, to let go of the past and move on? Is it loyalty? Is it fidelity? Is it an ability to organise? Is it an ability to teach? Is it skill in reading, writing, or speaking? Is it expertise with figures, statistics, and accounts? Is it shopping for the family? Is it cooking? Is it catering? Is it sewing, cleaning, or gardening? Is it simply answering the phone or the doorbell particularly politely? Is it sport, drawing, painting, music, singing, dancing, taking photos? Is it telling jokes and making others laugh? Is it welcoming strangers and making them feel at home? Is it making friends? Is it comforting the sorrowful, seeing and acknowledging the good in others, looking at the bright side of life, or starting helpful conversations? Is it visiting poor, sick, or lonely people? Is it giving food, money, or other material assistance to needy people here or overseas? Is it being ready to drive a neighbour to the station or the hospital, or take a ‘shut-in’ person to church or an outing?

The great thing about the special gifts that the Holy Spirit of God has given to you, to me, and to all others in our lives, is that they have not been given to us just for our own satisfaction, enjoyment, and fulfilment. They have been given to us for the benefit, service, enrichment and joy of others. So our second task today is to re-dedicate and re-commit ourselves to serving others with whatever gifts have been given to us.

Therefore, before we say today ‘Let’s go out’, let us also give thanks to God for the huge variety of gifts that the Holy Spirit has given to us personally and individually, and to all the other people who make up our community. In the words of St Paul, may we thank God that ‘there is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people…’! And let us put our thanks for those gifts into our individual and shared prayer today!

Only after we have given thanks to God today for all the rich gifts that the Holy Spirit has distributed among us, can we go out to proclaim the good news of Jesus, and to keep serving the Lord in all the others who come into our lives, into our hearts, and into our homes!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Year ABC: Pentecost (Asparagus)

"When the Spirit of truth comes He will lead you to the complete truth"

Not everyone likes asparagus.

I know this because Glen - an American friend of mine - has recently "come out" as an asparagus hater after many years of silent suffering, false smiles and little white lies. But his thin veneer of civilization finally cracked last Thanksgiving at the family dinner (for Brits, think Christmas dinner, but with more patriotism). And he still believes that the whole disaster would never have happened if his dad hadn’t insisted on a second round of bourbon before dinner. (Again for the Brits, that’s whiskey, Jim, but not as we know it).

But when the main plate arrived, there it was - ASPARAGUS!!! - in all its horrid dark green mushiness - the colour of aliens and stinging nettles. And somehow, it just caught him at the wrong moment. Emboldened by four units of Jack Daniel’s finest, (other brands of life-changing inspiration are available) he turned to his mother and said. "Mom, I’m really sorry, but I just can’t eat this. I’ve always hated asparagus and now I don’t live here any more - I’m effectively a guest - I just can’t bring myself to do it any more. I’m sorry but I just can’t eat it."

There then followed the longest and worst two-minutes silence of his life.

And then Steff, his sister, held their mother’s hand and spoke quietly: "Mom, I’m sorry, I love you very much, but I’m with Glen on this one. I actually can’t stand asparagus either."

There was another - shorter - pause and Glen’s father spoke. "Mary, I’ve never talked to you about this before, but actually I hate asparagus too."

Glen looked back towards his mother and saw the tears form in her eyes. In that instant he wished he had never had a drink in his life. And as the first drop fell on her cheek, he wondered where he could go to sign the Pledge. And when she spoke, it was the first and only time he had ever heard her swear.

"But I only cooked it because I thought you liked it - I hate the f $#*%ing stuff!"

There is a terribly unfair stereotype that all American family stories end up with a tearful and emotional group hug. I apologize that this story fulfils that stereotype.

And so, next Thanksgiving, Glen will go home to celebrate with his family.

A special plate of asparagus will be cooked.

It will be placed with great ceremony in the middle of the table.

And absolutely no-one will eat it!

And Glen will celebrate with his family that they have learned to live in Truth and Love.

I know that human beings cannot bear very much reality, but the next time you feel tempted to that little white lie of social complaisance, think of Glen’s family and just ponder whether or not the Truth might actually be the most truly loving thing.

"When the Spirit of truth comes He will lead you to the complete truth."

Let us pray that it may be so with us.

Paul O’Reilly, SJ <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to jboll@opsouth.com.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

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Volume II Archive

We keep up to six articles in this archive.  The latest is always listed first.

PENTECOST Ascension/7Easter 6 EASTER A 5 EASTER A 4 EASTER A 3 EASTER A


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