Pastoral Letter on the Occasion of the Bishop’s Five-Year Tenure
Dear Brothers and Sisters in our Diocese.
Exactly today, on October 31, five years have passed since I was consecrated and ordained Bishop of the Diocese of Reykjavík. It is not a long time but still it gives reason to make a brief assessment.
The first word that comes to mind when I look back on those five years is gratitude. Gratitude to God and to all of you, priests, nuns and everyone in the Diocese of Reykjavík. When I started as a Parish Priest in East-Iceland in the Parish of Saint Thorlak in Reyðarfjörður in 2007, all the formal papers I received from the community of Fjarðabyggð had the motto: “You are in a good place”.
From my experience after five years as Bishop, I can say with gratitude, “I am in a good place. God gave me good people!” May God help us to continue on this good journey.
Maybe you know that we hold a priest-meetings in Landakot almost every month, and as we advise our parishioners, so we also discuss the main task of the year at our January meeting.
This year the task was that in all our Parishes in this country we want to establish a Parish Council. It is not just because Church law mentions it, but because we feel it is necessary to give parishioners the opportunity to influence the life of the Parish and it can improve our Christian life in this country. Thank God, it worked! I am happy to say that I have approved the list of Parish Councils in all the Parishes. I wish all the Parish Priests and members of the Parish Councils that this be not just a formal appointment, but that it will be a fruitful service to the brothers and sisters in our Parishes.
It would be good for us all to participate in the life of our parishes. It is not just an offer but a vocation as we see in the first part of Christifideles Laici, the exhortation of Pope St. John Paul II of December 30, 1988:
“The lay members of Christ’s Faithful People … are those who form that part of the People of God which might be likened to the labourers in the vineyard mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel: “For the Kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard” (Mt 20:1).” (Christifideles Laici 1).
Dear Brothers and Sisters, take this call seriously. Let us continue to be close to our Church, our Parish and to the Priests. Let us actually show our physical and spiritual closeness. Let us raise enough money for the maintenance and development of all that is in the Parish and our Diocese and take good care of our Priests and ask God for his blessing for all our projects.
We are in a good place and in a good Church community. Our Parishes and Diocese in this country are waiting for the help of us all. Let us find our place in the “vineyard”. Maybe we are not able enough for the hardest work, but someone also needs to gather branches from the earth to lighten the work of the other workers.
Let us ask her for help, who was always close to her Son and is called the Mother of the Church:
“O Virgin Mother, guide and sustain us so that we might always live as true sons and daughters of the Church of your Son. Enable us to do our part in helping to establish on earth the civilization of truth and love, as God wills it, for his glory.” (Christifideles Laici 64). Amen.
I myself humbly ask for your help, your prayers and patience with me and I promise you the same.
With blessing, your Bishop and Brother,
29 and 30 August 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in our Diocese,
Many things are strange now because of our uncertain situation, but today we want to start a new school year in our Church with “Veni Sancte Spiritus” (Come, Holy Spirit). It means we ask the Holy Spirit to direct our lives, both students, parents and teachers.
Public rules may force us to do things in a different way than before, but our lives continue in God, because “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Our purpose is, as we read at the beginning of our Catechism (1): “To know God and to love him.”
God is our Saviour and our goal, and He wants “… everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth” (1Timothy 2:4). God Himself is Truth, “And eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent“ (John 17:3). This is the correct answer if someone asks us: “Why do you believe, why are you Catholic, why do you go to Catechism” and so on. But what exactly does it mean to “know God”?
A famous theologian died. When he came to the gates of heaven, the doorman asked him, “Do you know Jesus?” “Yes, yes,” he replied, “I have taught about him in college for over 50 years, formed new priests, and I have written many books about him.” “Well, my dear, you must first go to the purgatory and wait a while, and purify your heart, and then hopefully you can get in.” So he did. After a while, a priest came, and the doorman asked him the same question: “Do you know Jesus?” “Of course, I have been an ordained priest for over 40 years, celebrated Mass every day, baptized children in his name and preached about him every day.” But the doorman was not pleased with it and said, “You have to go to the purgatory and pray for your eyes to be opened so that you can see properly.” So he left. But wait a minute, an old peasant woman has arrived at the gates of heaven, very tired after all the hardships of life. When she wanted to enter, the doorman stopped her with the same words as before: “Do you know Jesus?” Her face lit up, a smile appeared on her face and she replied: “Oh, what if I did not know you, my Jesus. You are my best friend from my childhood, and you have always been my companion in the difficulties of my life.”
Dear Brothers and Sisters, we are going to start our catechism with full vigour and come together regularly to receive good religious instruction along with other instruction as well. That’s why we’ve prepared it and you can see on our website the catechism program and most of the material, and if something is missing, we will do our best to finish the work. But, please do not forget at all what was the main part of the story and is really the goal of our lives, to know Jesus, not as the main character in a novel, but as a personal friend and helper. This is “sapientia vera”, “the real wisdom of life”. Welcome to the formation of the Holy Spirit!
Mary, you who are called Virgin Most Prudent, show us, or better yet, guide us on the way to your Son.
With blessing and confidence, that you pray also for me,
Bishop David, your companion.
Ascension of the Lord, May 21, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
the Ascension of Christ brought great changes in the life of the apostles and the Church. Then there were questions like: How will it be now? Is it possible to continue under such circumstances? Maybe there is the same uncertainty at this time with us.
But thanks to God, the corona virus is almost gone. We are grateful to God, but we are also grateful to all who have helped. Among others, we would like to thank Víðir, Þórólfur, Alma and their people, that they were able to handle the circumstances responsibly, but with care. They found a balance between what was necessary and what would have caused unrest.
We want to show our gratitude to all health care professionals who put themselves at risk and faced difficulties without looking for extra payments and not even extra gratitude from the community. God sees it and He does not forget!
Show gratitude to our priests and to all who work in the Church because they listened to me, did not close the churches, and did not shut themselves away, but sought new ways with great creativity to be even closer to their parishioners and community. Don’t forget this precious experience!
Life goes on and in some way it will be different and new. But yes, I also talk about the life of the Church. That’s exactly what I wanted to talk about. What do I see as the most important experience for this “new” future of the Church? A small example can help us understand it better. It was a comic picture that appeared on social media. In the picture there was God almighty and opposite him sat the devil who says, “Look, I managed to have churches in many countries closed on Sundays.” But God replies laughingly: “Not at all, precisely because of your wickedness I could be present in the everyday lives of my children in their homes, and much more so than before!”
We all understand this because we have experienced it. Is it not a good experience that in our computers and giant tv-screens on which we are not used to watching Masses, that now many of us do it every day?!? Newspapers, usually not interested in religious life and the Church, publish some daily news about our gatherings and position. Some people criticize it, others respect it, but the result is the same: God came into our everyday lives and became a permanent member of it. May that be so from here on.
Brothers and Sisters, we are going to come back and take part in all the ceremonies in our churches. Church life is gradually returning to its normal condition but let us not lose the experience of God who came and became the God of our daily lives. Let us participate in solemn ceremonies, sing hymns to honour him, but let us also talk to him at the same time each day in private, like our best friend and partner.
The Virgin Mary, you who were closest to God – and it was your most important everyday task to love him – help us to continue to be closer to him in our daily lives. Amen.
Pray for me as I do for you every day.
Your bishop David
March 23rd, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Everyone knows that today, March 24, new restrictions because of the Corona virus will take effect, which also seriously affect our Church life. Of course, we understand how much danger we all face and that is why we want to follow all the rules as best we can, and if we need to go out, anytime and anywhere, we do our best to protect ourselves and others.
The most serious and difficult decision is that all public Masses will be cancelled until April 13. But what does that mean? That means that priests only celebrate private Masses and pray for people in our parishes and worldwide for God’s protection. But our churches will continue to be open for private prayer, and people always have the opportunity to ask priests for personal confession, to receive the Eucharist, and for other services they need.
We priests want to be even closer to you during these difficult times, and because of that, all our parishioners are invited to stay in touch with God and His Church as much as they can. For example: On Sunday, when we are accustomed to attend a Mass, it is good that we quit all our work at home and unite with our priest spiritually, who comes to the altar to pray for us and that “we celebrate” Mass with our families. And if it is not in our power, we at least devote this time, one hour, to praying with the family.
Of course, it is very helpful to watch Masses online or do something similar, and to do everything as if we were at Church, that is, pray, kneel, stand, and especially when the time of Holy Communion comes, we sincerely pray for Jesus to come into our hearts as He really does in the Eucharist. Of course, cooking or vacuuming is not right, and so on, at the same time, and I’m sure everyone understands it.
Of course, this is not the same as being in Church, but I am sure that God is bringing his blessing to us because he knows how difficult these times are for us.
Several times I’ve seen people thinking, “Well, this is God’s punishment.” I am absolutely against formulating it that way. I found another word for this and it’s called “time of changes”, because when the Corona virus is gone, things will be so much different. But the best word I found in the breviary, which all the priests regularly attend, and many Religious and lay-people too. In a hymn that we repeat every day during Lent, before the so-called reading time – officium lectionis – which says: The time of grace has come, which God gives us to heal us – to wake us up from our sins and our weaknesses.
Brothers and Sisters, we continue to pray that when all this is over, we can return to our Churches and praise God with a happy heart. Mary, Health of the sick, pray for us.
Your Bishop David
November 17th, 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters.
A Pastoral Letter always gives a Bishop an opportunity to speak to all the members of the Diocese at the same time, which is why Bishops use this opportunity to talk about something that concerns everyone in the Diocese. And now it is, and if I had to say in just one word, what I wanted to talk about and what is so important, then I would use the word GRATITUDE.
We may be very grateful to God because these days we have completed the 50th Jubilee Year of the Diocese, but we have something more that we can thank God for, because from September to January we commemorate that 15 years ago three Congregations came to Iceland to serve here. On September 9, 2004, Mother Pentecostes came with Sister Reyna del los Cielos and Sister Assumption, they were called the Blue Sisters or the Servants of Jesus Christ and the Virgin of Matará. On November 15, the Capuchin brothers also began their work here, and I can say that I had the grace of being the first of them. And then on January 6, the following year, in 2005, brothers of the Verbo Incarnado Congregation came here, and they were séra Lucio Ballester and séra Gabriel Grosso.
We are very pleased to have all these Congregations in this country. Our gratitude should be the only answer to all this. Old Chesterton wrote in his book, Orthodoxy, “The test of all happiness is gratitude; and I felt grateful, though I hardly knew to whom. Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful when he put in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs? We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth?”
We are not only grateful to God, but also to the people we mentioned earlier. A Catholic priest reads Holy Mass every day, and in 15 years that is over five thousand Masses. Many confessed to them, they baptized many children, and prepared them for the First Communion, Confirmation, and the Sacrament of Marriage. They watched over many sick people in difficult times during their illnesses and they buried many and continued to pray for the deceased. Should I continue? Can you even imagine life at St. Joseph’s Parish in Hafnarfjörður or St, Francis in Stykkishólmur without our Blue Sisters? Those who come there sees that immediately and the answer can be those words of a little boy who took the Sister’s hand and said to me very seriously, “I love her!” Or an old woman who said in passing: “They are our angels.”
Should I continue? Yes, I would like that because now is the opportunity to thank all the other priests and nuns in our Diocese who came to the country to live with us and die in their work here. Brothers and Sisters, let us pray with gratitude for all those who work for the Church in this country and let us hope that many of our adolescent followers will take up their duties when they depart. Please pray for me, too, and I myself will call upon the blessing of God for you all.
With gratitude, your Bishop, David.
18th and 19th of May 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
When we talk about Saints, we usually use the past tense, but thinking of the distant past, as holiness is something that is not fashionable today. But that is not so.
Today, we want to commemorate the anniversary of the visit of Pope St. John Paul II, whom many of us have seen with our own eyes or were at least born during his lifetime. What emotions does it evoke to think that this holy man has walked in our country!
In Hollywood there is a path of fame decorated with more than two thousand stars, imprinted with the names of actors and directors, and others famous people in film, television and music. If we wanted to take that as an example, the first star should be at Keflavík Airport, where Alitaliaʼs plane landed with Pope John Paul on board on the third of June nineteen hundred eighty-nine. The star should be placed where the Pope kissed the Icelandic ground as he always did when he arrived in another country.
Continuing on the path of his holiness, the second star we should find in our Cathedral where he met with the bishop and priests of the country, the nuns and Catholic lay-people, and spoke of the Eucharist, which is and should be the centre of our lives.
The third star is at Thingvellir, where the history of Christianity in Iceland began, the place we can call the heart of the country. And right there, the Pope not only met Catholic people, but also the Lutheran Church leaders, the President of Iceland, and many politicians and all those of good will. And he called upon everyone to think of the words of Thorgeir, Chieftain from Ljósavatn: “We shall all have one law and one custom,” and he also said that the unity of Christians is a gift from God for which men should work together.
The fourth star should be beside the entrance to the Landakot Hospital, where the altar was erected and the Sunday Mass was celebrated, which was attended by several thousand people. It was there the Pope spoke of these words: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and then my soul shall be healed.” These words were once spoken by the Roman centurion whose servant Jesus had healed, and the Church repeats these words worldwide. What an experience it was for all those who participated, especially for the children of the Landakot-school and other children, who had their first Communion and received the Eucharist from the Pope!
Brothers and Sisters, we have followed in the footsteps of Pope St. John Paul II and you notice that we again used the past tense. But it is time to use the future tense! What awaits us in the future? Today, in the power that is invested in me, I would like to inform you about a jubilee-year of Pope St. John Paul II, that begins today and ends next year, on the 18th of May, his birthday. We shall commemorate his visit with a travelling exhibition that will visit all our parishes together with the relics of his blood, which is kept in the Parish-Church of St. John Paul II in Ásbrú. Festive Masses on this occasion will be read at 6.00 p.m. on June 1st in our Cathedral, and at 10.30 a.m. on June 2nd in the Church of St. John Paul II in Ásbrú. In this festive year there will also be a competition among youngsters about the life and teachings of St. John Paul II, a pilgrimage etc.
Brothers and Sisters, a holy man was here and walked about in our country. Let us follow in his footsteps, or even better, let us invoke his help in our daily life. On this journey may almighty God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit bless us all. Totus tuus, Maria, – Mary, we commit ourselves to your protection. Thank you for also praying for me.
Your + Bishop David
23rd and 24th of March 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
on Monday we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. The main character in the story of this Solemnity is God, who so ‟loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal lifeˮ (John 3:16). He was looking for a person who wanted to volunteer him or herself to fulfill his plan. He found that person in the Virgin Mary when she answered: ‟Let it be done to me as you have said,ˮ and was ready to accept everything that God wanted. With this acceptance by the Virgin Mary, she fully realized her calling. And then her life continued, confirming all the things she had promised God in those words.
Brothers and Sisters, God continues with his plan and he is still looking for men and women who by their free will offer themselves to him. God is looking for people who accept their calling, but not as if they are making a great sacrifice. He is looking for men and women who receive the calling as the greatest gift in their lives, the gift they are prepared to pay anything for, also with their physical life, if necessary. How wonderful it is to see those who accept their calling in this way!
Let us take one example which also applies for everybody. It is about the Blessed Noël Pinot, a French priest who died during the French Revolution. At first, he was forbidden to serve as a priest, but he knew he couldn’t accept that because God had called him to do it. The enemies of the Church captured him just as he had put on his vestments to celebrate Mass for some believers. They dragged him in his vestments through the streets and threw him into jail.
After twelve days, they pulled him out of jail and led him to the guillotine. None of them noticed that Pinot was still dressed for Mass, as he had been when they had arrested him. Everybody heard that when he walked up the stairs to the guillotine, he prayed the so-called preparatory prayers that all priests prayed before Mass. In fact, this was his last Mass. In it, he thanked God, not with bread and wine, but with his body and blood. Thus, he fully confirmed his irrevocable calling.
And God finds men and women like that at all times and in all countries. All the priests and all the nuns serving in Iceland answered to the same God and received the same calling as Virgin Mary and Noël Pinot: ‟Behold, here am I, let it happen to me as you have said.ˮ
My Brothers and sisters, now I’m going to surprise you. I would like to ask a priest or a nun that you know and who serves in Iceland, to come forward. Listen to him/her tell you about how God called him/her. Now, a priest/nun speaks about his/her calling.
And now I, your Bishop, speak again and I would primarily like to say thanks for this testimony. I would like to say thanks for the witness of everyone who responded to their calling and devoted their lives to God and to the Church. Also, I would like to thank God for all of you who are interested in doing so. Especially you, the young people, who have either completed their matriculation or are planning to do so and are thinking about the future. Listen carefully whether God is calling you to become a priest or a nun in this country. Do not be afraid to answer: ‟Behold, here am I, let it happen to me as you have said.ˮ
And my prayer and my blessing will always and everywhere accompany you.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Pray for me too.
Your Bishop David.
4th Sunday of Advent 2018, the Feast of St. Torlac
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Advent, the preparation time for Christmas, is about to end. On our Advent-wreath all four candles have been lit and everything is ready for the arrival of our Saviour. This is also a picture of our lives because all our time we should really be preparing ourselves for His second coming into the history of the world. And, of course, we all think about it, but gradually gold loses its lustre, and the time comes to renew a house that was once brand new, and new asphalt must be set on the road that was once a shiny highway. In our lives it happens this way: Do not be ashamed of saying: Yes, everyday things have closed my eyes to the most important things, or as we sometimes say: We do not see the forest for the trees.
But thanks to God, those moments come that help us to look on life as it is and should be. One of the helpers I would like to talk to you about today is our Patron Saint, St. Torlac. He was born in Hlíðarendi in 1133 and he died in Skálholt on December 23rd, 1193, so that today it’s exactly 825 (!) years since his death.
He was very famous for showing the people in his time how to live a Christian life, both through his conduct and his teachings. How wonderful it is to read in his biography, how he helped those in need, healed the sick with prayer or contact or saved those who were in mortal danger, both at sea and on land. After his death, everyone agreed on this: ‟Sainthood is possible.ˮ And therefore, the Althing in the year 1198 confirmed what everyone had known long before: ‟Yes, he was a saint!ˮ
Furthermore, Pope Francis published his Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, on March 19th, 2018, with the subtitle ‟on the call to holinessˮ. And everything that he writes there indicates that holiness is not just a possibility but a calling – our goal! From our lives the world should see how life should be.
On Facebook I saw a beautiful, short video about colour-blindness, which means that a person cannot see all the colours in his environment. He lives like everybody else and it does not matter much, but however he lacks something that makes our lives considerably more beautiful and enjoyable. Those who are colour-blind, for example cannot become pilots or captains of a ship. But scientists have created special glasses for the colour-blind and the video shows a few individuals who used those glasses for the first time. They were young and adult, men and women, single people or grown-ups with a family, and some old people too. They had lived their everyday life with this handicap, but when they first used the glasses for the colour-blind, the reaction was the same: Everyone began to cry out in joy and said, ‟Has the world really always been so colourful and wonderful?ˮ And this is understandable, when people see for the first time that balloons have different colours, roses can be yellow or red, my grandchild is blond and has blue eyes… Do you understand what I am talking about? This is what the life of St. Torlac has been helping us to understand in the last 825 years. This is what Pope Francis was writing about in the letter we mentioned earlier, when he said that holiness was ‟the most attractive face of the Churchˮ (No. 9).
This month we had the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which draws our attention to the nature of man as it was before the original sin. And the idea of the Church with this Solemnity is to strengthen in our hearts the longing to regain this holiness.
Brothers and Sisters, everything is ready for Christmas, everything is clean, the Christmas tree is in its place, the cakes have been baked and the lamb roast is waiting to go to the oven. But we must also attend to our spiritual preparation. If we have not been to confession, let’s do it, if we still need to reconcile us with somebody, let’s get in touch with him today. Let us light the candle of grace, which is in our hearts, so that holiness can shine in renewed colours. May God, through the intercession of Our Lady and St. Torlac, give us a happy Christmas.
With my blessing, Brother David, Bishop
For Good Shepherd Sunday, 22 April 2018
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Everyone knows that the Sunday today is called Sunday of the Good Shepherd, and it is also the Sunday when we pray for vocations to the Church’s work as nuns, monks and priests, who want to work in the Catholic Church in Iceland and come from the Icelandic society.
I was recently sent to a conference in Fatima in the name of our Bishops’ Conference, together with bishops from Europe and Africa. Of course, I visited all the places where Mary appeared to the three children, Lucia, Frans and Jacinta. It was such a deep and great experience that at the same time I need to discuss vocations, I cannot stay quiet about this experience and have to discuss it too. These two points are really well connected.
What happens to the person whom God calls? Normally he or she knows nothing, or very little about it. The person asks, “Is this really God calling me?” This was very similar regarding the children in Fatima. First, an Angel came three times to them and they could not tell anything about him except that he was very beautiful and seemed to be made out of glass. And when Virgin Mary appeared to them, they had no idea who she was, and just spoke of a very beautiful woman. “The beautiful lady invited us to come here regularly and pray the Rosary.” And that is how it is, the person who is called does not always know how the vocation works. There is no need to have many words about it, but it is still good to have someone with whom one can discuss the calling. For the children in Fatima those were their parents and priests. And that might also apply to others, talking to someone we trust, such as a parent or a priest.
Thus, the seeds of a calling start to grow in our hearts. But we are not strong enough at the outset to do all that we are asked to do. The Angel said to the children, “You should pray daily for the conversion of sinners and say 50 times, the Hail Mary-prayer” (i.e. the whole Rosary). The children were not very good at praying, and they just said 50 times: “Hail Mary,” and then continued playing!
But with them, their calling to pray for the sinners gradually developed, and they also understood that they should pray the whole Rosary. The same can be said about our own vocation, it must have time to develop and then we will understand that it is not just a flimsy idea, but a calling for the whole life.
Of course, we can get into difficulties. We can call that a “test”. That is how it was with the children too. The freemasons knew that the children always had to be in Fatima on the 13th of the month to pray, and there Virgin Mary appeared to them. So, they put the children in jail on the 13th of August, and what happened? The children could not go the place of apparition in Fatima, but Our Lady did not appear on the 13th but on the 19th of August, when the children were released from prison, and then she appeared to them as if nothing had happened. God always finds a way to protect our calling.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, dear young people, do not fear to answer God’s call. We do not respond perfectly at the beginning but are on the right track. With confidence, we put our calling into the hands of Virgin Mary. The experience of many Portuguese who come to Fatima in their thousands can be of great assistance to us. Many of them do not even attend Church regularly, and one of them explained why he is does not go to Church regularly, but still goes to Fatima. He said, “I do not even know my parish priest by name and am not sure if he cares for me. But I like coming to Fatima because I am convinced that Virgin Mary is always waiting for me like a good Mother who loves me.”
Brothers and Sisters, an old saying says, “The best beginning is to begin.” Do not fear to begin, even if we do not know whether it is right or not, whether the calling is from God, etc. Just start with confidence and God will help us to follow our calling. Mary, the mother of all vocations, pray for us.
First Sunday of Lent, February 18, 2018
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Sometime ago, we heard the news that Pope Francis wanted to change the Lord’s Prayer, or the words: “Lead us not into temptation”. Some people were positive, others were opposed, and some used this to criticize the Pope, but few realized that the Pope really did not want to change it so much, but rather to draw our attention to think more about what we say.
Naturally, we start thinking after hearing the gospel of the day, when the Spirit of God sent Jesus out into the wilderness and he was “… being tempted by Satan” (Mk 1, 12-13). Obviously, it was not the Spirit of God who was tempting him, but Satan, as James says in his letter: “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1, 13-15).
And in our Catechism is written: “This petition (i.e. “Lead us not into temptation”) goes to the root of the preceding one, for our sins result from our consenting to temptation; we therefore ask our Father not to “lead” us into temptation. It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word; the Greek means both “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation”. God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one; on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil. We ask him not to allow us take the way that leads to sin” (CCC 2846).
Perhaps someone could say, “Yes, so God does not tempt us, but why does he allow Satan or our own desires to tempt us?” The famous Dominican, Thomas Aquinas, gives us the answer: “We do not have to bring our wishes before God to inform him of our prayers or wishes, but to realize that in these matters we must pray for divine help” (STh. II-II 83, 2 ad 1).
Now I’m going to say something that may not sound very nice, but I want to do that because we sometimes use such phrases in the Church, for example in the liturgy of Easter, when we say, “O happy fault, O necessary Sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a redeemer!” What I wanted to say is that we “need” temptation. And why? It is because we see that we are too weak to conquer the devil, but the same does not apply to God, however. For his is “the kingdom, and power and glory, for ever and ever,” but it is not ours nor Satan’s.
Dear brothers and sisters, we are well off today, but then also the temptations increase, for example to possess more, such as changing husband or wife, abusing nature or various other things, such as alcohol or drugs, or just misusing our prosperity by forgetting that it is God who is in control. The temptations show us what our position is. We are strong enough to be good and holy because, and only because, God Himself holds our hand, even in times of temptation. Let us pray today with all our hearts: “Do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Amen.
Pastoral Letter of the Bishop for Advent 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It’s good that today we start a new liturgical year together. And during advent we think about the coming of Jesus our Savior. But in connection with his arrival we often refer to Virgin Mary as the little handmaid. Sometimes, both in our Church and in other Christian denominations, people ask: Why? The answer is simple, if Virgin Mary had not wholeheartedly accepted her role, the history of the world would be different.
I think it is necessary to talk about Mary’s role and I want to explain it by pointing to the story of Jón Sveinsson, Nonni. I remember him well because last month I was invited to a celebration in Cologne in Germany on the occasion of the 160th anniversary of his birth. I was very happy to meet all these people, among other from the Nonni-Society and the Icelandic Association in Germany, and listen to the Ambassador of Iceland, Martin Eyjólfsson, Msgr. Georg Austen, Secretary of the Bonifatiuswerk and Günter Assenmacher, the Director of Ansgar-Werk in Cologne, who discussed the influence of Nonni on themselves and on young people in general, and Nonni‘s books have been published in over 50 languages. They mentioned the name “Nonni” more than 100 times.
During all of this, I remembered another person’s name, who helped Nonni become as famous and influential as he was. By that I mean Father Jean-Baptiste Baudoin (1831-1875). I think most of you here have never heard of him at all. He was a French priest who came to Iceland and worked for a while with the French fishermen here. He also tried, together with another French priests, Fr. Bernard Bernard, to restore the Catholic faith in this country. Here Baudoin had great difficulties, and in his preserved diaries, we read the following: “My God, I’m happy to be here and I would love to sacrifice my life for these people.” But shortly afterwards, he writes: “It was the biggest mistake of my life to come to Iceland, the weather is bad and the people here reject me.” But it was Fr. Baudoin who met a poor widow on his trip to Reykjavík, and offered to pay for her son’s education in Denmark. And this boy was Nonni. Séra Baudoin died without reading Nonni’s books, and Nonni himself did not often mention his name, but yet it was Fr. Baudoin whom God used to put Nonni forward, so to speak.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, this example should help us all to entrust ourselves to God. We do not know how and where God wants to use what we do with a pure heart. But we can be sure that this same God, who told Fr. Baudoin in eternity: “Look, thank you for your help in making Nonni known,” will say to us: “Thank you for all the good things you have done without knowing it.” We do not always have to understand everything, it is simply enough just to trust in God.
All of this, therefore, should teach us all to personally accept this role of “the handlittle maid” in our lives.
Mary, you were the little handmaid of the Lord, help us to do what God invites us, and only us, to do. Amen.
Pastoral Letter of the Bishop on the Occasion
of the 50th Anniversary of the Diocese of Reykjavík
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
When someone reaches the age of fifty, we say that the person has grown up and has acquired a lot of experience and maturity, and he or she perhaps has a big family and grandchildren. But in the life of the Church, half a century is not a great milestone. In this sense, she is like a young girl full of life and beauty or a boy who has not achieved much in life, but is full of potential and desire for action. Next year, our Diocese is 50 years old, and it is like that girl or the boy, who has no great experience, but still has achieved quite an amount, and still has the longing to achieve success.
If we want to find a word that characterizes this historical milestone, then gratitude comes first to my mind. Gratitude for all that has happened, not only in these fifty years, but to all those who helped on this road. With joy and gratitude, we think of Fr. Bernard and Fr. Baudoin, who offered themselves for the Church, working here in the 19th century. We do not want to forget about any Christian who gave a helping hand that the Catholic faith could take root again in Iceland. How could we forget Gunnar Einarsson, Nonni, the Montfort Fathers, Martin Meulenberg, and Jóhannes Gunnarsson, the St. Josephʼs Sisters and many faithful who lived, worked and prayed in the Church and for her? It came to the point that Paul Pope VI established the Diocese of Reykjavík on October 18th, 1968.
But our gratitude would not be complete if we wanted only to thank men. It would be a big mistake to forget that all good comes from God, or like G.K. Chesterton puts in his book Orthodoxy: “Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Should I not be grateful to God for giving me two miraculous legs? We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Have I not then to thank God on my birthday for giving me life?”
As I said, 50 years are not a long time in the history of a diocese. Perhaps someone says we are like a child that is learning to walk. Of course, there are a number of failures and falls, and we have truly experienced this in our Diocese. But the child always stands up again, thanks to God, and continues his journey.
In the coming year, we will prepare for the 50th anniversary of the Diocese. And what are we going to do?
- Perhaps it would be right to compile a travelling exhibition so that all who see it can find out how God built up our Diocese in the course of time.
- We will go to Rome for a pilgrimage to thank God in the place where the announcement of the establishment of the Diocese was first made.
- We will have a Mass of Gratitude in the Basilica of St. Peter and meet with Pope Francis in his audience, because we are pilgrims there.
- Again, we will hold a Mass of Gratitude in our Cathedral on November 4, 2018, together with all the Nordic bishops and Cardinal Arborelius. In the same Mass we are going to dedicate the Diocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
And many other things will be on the agenda.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the next year there will be a variety of events and celebrations, and we can look forward in anticipation. Thanks to God and to all of you who intend to participate.
With gratitude, Bishop David
August 20th, 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters.
Now the new school year is approaching. In many countries, students at all levels of education, teachers, parents and staff of the schools go to a “Veni Sancte-Mass”, i.e. to pray for the Holy Spirit to come to those who work in this field. We also want to do this in Iceland at the beginning of the school year, because a beginning with God is a good beginning.
One thing we sometimes forget, and it is therefore necessary that we remind us of that from time to time. We need to learn again to start each day with a prayer, because a beginning with God is a good beginning. We should start the meal with a prayer and do so publicly, such as in the dining hall, at school, in the restaurant or at work, because a beginning with God is a good beginning. Whenever we start an important work, we need to pray to God for help, because a beginning with God is a good beginning. All good students know that before they take an exam they should pray to the Holy Spirit for help, because a beginning with God is a good beginning.
All of us who drive cars, know that it is both good and useful to ask God for help and protection before starting, because a beginning with God is a good beginning. Some may say, “We are not used to doing this, it’s not part of our culture.” That is not a big problem, we can just start this today, because a beginning with God is a good beginning.
Let us remember, that not so long ago toothbrushes were not commonly used and maybe some of you still remember this time. But the situation improved gradually, and now all sensible people know that their use is not only good and useful, but also necessary. Now everyone uses a toothbrush as a matter of course, and nobody doubts if it is good or not.
The same applies to starting with God. In this school year, students at all levels of the school system in Iceland will probably be around one hundred thousand. Among them are probably 2000 Catholic children and adolescents. Over 150 Catholic children will begin in the first grade, about 150 will receive their first Holy Communion, and another 150 will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Many Catholics should continue their studies at a higher level, like the three seminarians in Płock in Poland, who are now beginning their studies at the Theology Department for our Diocese. To all these young people I say in a loud voice: Beginning with God is a good beginning!
Brothers and Sisters.
Let us find time to get together in the Veni Sancte-Mass, which will take place next Sunday, August 27, and pray that the Holy Spirit help all students and teachers in the school system, that they recognize that the issue is not just about education but that their studies should help us to get ever closer to God.
Holy Virgin Mary, you who are called “Virgin most prudent” and “Mother of good counsel”, help us on our journey from a good beginning towards our meeting with God.
With a blessing and wishes for a good beginning,
+ Bishop David
May 7th, 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today is the Good Shepherd Sunday. This is the 54th time the Pope has urged us to pray in all Catholic churches for new vocations to the priesthood. We see that there is a great need for new priest, also here in Iceland, since only one Icelandic priest is active in Iceland today, one in the Diocese of Liverpool and one seminarian in the Augustinian rule. Therefore, it is clear that the need is urgent.
Then someone might ask, “We need more priests, but are there still young people who want to become priests?″ The answer is: “Yes, for sure!” I can say that because of my recent experience. In January, I was traveling in Poland seeking support for our Diocese. The bishops in Poland, whom I visited, complained that few are willing to become priests and the number of seminarians is decreasing. In the same trip, I stayed in a Capuchin Monastery, where I spoke with the Provincial in Warsaw. He had the same story to tell. Then I met Brother Mikael. He had a quite different opinion. His view was that if we wish to get more men to work as priests in our country, we need not only to pray but we also need to do more. He did more than just talk, and immediately made me an offer: “I’m good at making short videos. Should we make one together?” I decided to accept the invitation, because I had nothing to lose. That same evening we made a five minute long video. In it I told about our Diocese and introduced those who work here and gave various numerical information. Then Brother Mikael finished the video and put it on Facebook at ten o’clock that same evening. And what happened? In one day, over twenty thousand people had viewed it. Seven priests and three deacons sent a message and offered to come to work in Iceland, if they got permission of their superiors. More than thirty young men answered the call and said, “We want to become a priest for your Diocese, ” and thousands of people “liked” it or wrote that they were willing to support us in a variety of ways. Does anyone think that there are not young men out there with an open heart, willing to dedicate their lives to God’s service? But it is still understandable that someone asks, “Why do not any such people live in Iceland? ” “We have been praying for it for a long time, David, haven’t we? ”
The answer to that is the same as Brother Mikael gave me that evening in Warsaw: “Praying is not enough, because it’s necessary to do something concrete.” It would be a shame if the shepherd did nothing but pray for his flock. His role is to lead the flock to good pastures, to defend it from attacks and fight off the wolves, lions and bears, and to kill the predators. And if it is unavoidable, the shepherd must sacrifice his life for the flock.
Then you might ask, “What should we do?” My answer is: Yes, we have to pray, but it is also necessary to do more. Here are a few suggestions: 1. For example, you could adopt a priest or a religious brother or sister. That means that you support and motivate that person. 2. This year, it looks like up to six seminarians might begin to study for our Diocese, in Poland and Slovakia. Then you have the opportunity to welcome them, to pray for them, to be kind to them, and to support our Diocese with donations to help paying for their studies and for their support. 3. Also, you can serve the Church by doing some work, for example by singing in church choirs, by helping a priest, taking care of flower arrangements, reading in Mass, etc., or 4. By becoming a priest or nun or to take over some other service within the Church.
Well, my dear Brothers and Sisters, now we know what we can do: Should we pray? Yes! But we should also let our actions talk. Mary, Mother of All Vocations, help us find and cultivate our calling. Amen.
With a blessing
+ Bishop David
April 14th, 2017
Brothers and sisters,
We are used to getting a pastoral letter at Easter, usually on Easter Sunday. But this year I will have a different approach, because today we listen to the Passion of Christ. We see that mankind does not change much, listening to this, no one was shouting or weeping, as if this was simply a fictional narrative. In 2007, a moving story started circulating on Facebook. It was published by doctor Jim Clark. It reads:
“Today I operated on a little girl. She needed O-blood. We didn’t have any, but her twin brother has O-blood. I explained to him that it was a matter of life and death. He sat quietly for a moment and then said goodbye to his parents. I didn’t think anything of it until after we took his blood and he asked, “So when will I die?” He thought he was giving his life for hers. Thankfully, they’ll both be fine.”
Thousands or even millions of people were touched, and many thousands of people “liked” the story. I myself found it to be very beautiful, but I was hesitant to tell it to others, in case it was not true. I dug around online and found out that the story is not true. In other words, Jim Clark didn’t exist, nor did the little girl and her brother. Therefore this is a beautiful story, but a fake one.
But today I want to say it publicly and with a loud voice, that the Passion of Jesus is neither false nor a fiction. Jesus died on the Cross for us, but at the same time he knew exactly what would happen to him. If anyone thinks that he did not know that, it is best to open the Bible and read in the Gospel of Matthew, the twentieth chapter, verses 17 to 19:
“Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, and on the road took the Twelve aside and said to them, ‘Look, we are going up to Jerusalem. Son of Man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and scribes. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised up again.’” Jesus knew what was waiting for him, but he accepted it all, because it was in the first place the will of the Father, whom he loves the most, and also because of the great love he has for us. For him it was not a matter of yes or no. He saw this as the only way to save us.
Brothers and sisters, after a short while we will worship the Holy Cross. The Cross is a symbol of the love of Jesus. Let us do this today with the assurance that we are not simply kissing the feet or wounds on the crucifix, but rather as if Jesus himself was there alive. And if we do that, I’m sure that this experience will never be taken from us. Then this is no fiction, but a real sacrifice of Jesus to us, that we receive the deepest gratitude.
To all of you who come together in the Easter season, let me say this: I would not only wish that this experience of yours on Good Friday would affect you, but also that the resurrection of the Lord may be lasting within you. Amen.
Brother David, Bishop
January 29th, 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Now the feast of Candlemas is fast approaching. We see before us the young couple, Mary and Joseph, as they enter the temple to present the child Jesus to the Lord, as the custom of the Law required. And because the old Simeon and Anna and everyone present, saw that this was not just an ordinary child but the Saviour of the world that God had promised, it is our habit to bless the candles on this day to confirm it. Yes, He is this light of the world. Precisely this sign, the candle, that carries light to us all, burns at the same time. This symbol was the inspiration for Pope St. John Paul II to say that this should be the day of all those who had consecrated their lives to God. And this day is quite unique.
Recently, I was on tour in Warsaw, Poland, and close to the Capuchin monastery where I stayed, is the Pilsudski Square. There we can, among other things, see the grave of the unknown soldier, where four lights burn constantly, day and night, all the year round. Two soldiers in full armour are always standing guard. By this the people show their respect, not just for this single soldier, but for all those who have sacrificed their lives for their homeland and nation. I think this is quite appropriate, because they paid for this with their lives.
But wait, since this was the case at Pilsudski Square, then I am sure that the same flame should burn in the cemetery behind our Cathedral. The flame should burn at the graves of all three Bishops who rest there, of all the Montfort-priests and all the priests of our Diocese, who worked and died in this country! And the same soldiers should also stand at the grave of every Sister of the St. Joseph Congregation! Because all of them devoted their lives to serving the Church and the people of Iceland. But that is not enough, the same flame should burn in the cemetery at Munkaþverá, at the grave of Fr. Hákon Loftsson. And let us not forget the Carmelite monastery in Hafnarfjörður, where nuns from both the Netherlands and Poland are buried, who relinquished their life with their families and devoted themselves to the consecrated life in the Church in this country. There should be present both soldiers and flame!
But should we think that they themselves are asking for this? No, not at all. But we should do something better and more reasonable instead.
Firstly: Let us pray for those who have sacrificed their lives in service to God and to us.
Secondly: At Candlemas we should do our best to attend Mass and have candles blessed, that we will use at home.
And thirdly: We should think about this, now it is up to us to continue the work that they started, to do something for the Church and the people. And if we can, let us not be afraid of dedicating our lives to God and the Church in this country, as priests, monks or nuns. Young people, do you hear that?!
Lord, accept the sacrifice at our hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good and the good of all his holy Church, and may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, come upon us. Amen.
Brother David, Bishop
November 27th, 2016
Brothers and Sisters,
The word of the day is “Caritas”. This word reminds us mainly of collections and not much else. But it is not that simple. What does the word Caritas mean? It means affection, love or charity. But what kind of affection, love or charity is that? Is it the love between man and woman? No, not at all. That is what we call Eros, which is the love where the main purpose is bodily union with another person. In some ways it also involves the desire to possess that person. Perhaps Caritas could mean the love of a mother, which can be so strong that the mother does not care about herself and is prepared to sacrifice her life for that of the child. This love can be seen in the Syrian woman who could not herself get aboard a boat of refugees but paid a man 5,000 Euros for taking the child and asked him to leave it in the hands of someone who could take care of it in the future, because at home it was in mortal danger. Such love, which may be described with the words: “I love you more than my own life,” we call Amor. That is the love of Jesus, who loved us so much that He died on the cross so that we could live forever.
So then, what is Caritas? What kind of love is it? Caritas is the love that shares with others. The word itself derives from the Greek charis, which means gift of love. This kind of love means that we share what we have with others. For example, Caritas is offering someone else to take part in a meal that we have prepared for ourselves, or when we give away the half of our packed lunch or help someone else by giving them of our own money, etc.
You know that in our Diocese there is an organization called Caritas Iceland. Many remember the concerts that have been held on its behalf in the Advent-time, or collections for those who are less fortunate and in need of financial assistance. Today I want to thank all those very much who have sat on the board of Caritas-Iceland in recent years and I also want to announce here that a new chairman for the organization, Mike Frigge, has been appointed.
Today is the beginning of a new liturgical year and today there is also a collection for Caritas. All of this should help to remind us that we ought to take up a new “Caritas-policy”. We should remember that Caritas is not primarily an establishment but the concept concerns ourselves: We need to change our way of thinking and reconsider why and how we can help, because money does not help always, but our thinking has to change. It means that deep in our hearts and minds there should be a strong desire which can be described by those words: How can I help you, what is best thing that I could do for you?
Brothers and sisters, I ask you not only to collect money or to pray for Mike Frigge and his colleagues in Caritas Iceland, but also to think more and more about how we ourselves can operate in the best way for the people in this country living in need and poverty. May Mary, the Mother of God, the first and best handmaid of God, help us to follow her son, Christ, in his charity and Caritas.
God bless you all.
+ Bishop David
August 9th, 2016
Pastoral Letter of Bishop David Tencer at the Beginning of the School-Year
I want to begin by thanking for all that has been done this summer regarding work with children and youngsters, for although the children have been on summer-holiday, that has not always been the case with priests, sisters and lay-people. Many of them have participated in this work, for instance by preparing the pilgrimage to Maríulind, at which around 140 people took part. Others assisted with preparing the youngsters who took part in the World Youth Day in Poland this summer (altogether around 30 participants). Finally we should be grateful to those that accompanied the pilgrims round the country, visiting all the churches and chapels in this Year of Mercy.
Now a new school-year is beginning and with it the catechism. Our aim is of course to teach the children about God and his Church, such as the ten commandments and some prayers. But that is not enough! We want to do more than to offer them the necessary instruction. We want to form a very strong bond between the youngsters, God and the Church. Of course this bond is based on education and doctrine, but it also has to touch the heart profoundly. That is so important!!! But why?
It is because man is sometimes like the arctic tern that we know so well in Iceland. Not everyone knows that the arctic tern stays in Antarctica during winter and undertakes the longest travel of all the creatures in the world. Scientists followed a tern that flew 91 thousand km. in a year. It sounds unbelievable, but it went from Iceland to the Netherlands, from there south across Europe and Africa, over to Australia and Tasmania, and flew from there to Antarctica, thereby flying almost around the whole continent. And it went the same route back to Iceland, all in less than a year to hatch and to bring up its fledglings here!
Some people are like the white-tailed ptarmigan, they grow up in the Church and never leave her. But life can be more complicated for others who have grown up in faith, but later distanced themselves from the Church, but because of the connection in their youth, they return to her, just like the arctic tern. Therefore we all, priests, sisters, teachers, parents and those who work with children and youngsters, have to think carefully about our need to not only deliver the doctrine, but also to create and strengthen the bond between the heart, the Church and God.
I do not worry about the future of the church if our children are either like the white-tailed ptarmigan, that never leaves the country, or the arctic tern that flies to the end of the world and then returns to our country, to Church and faith, because the bonds between them are so strong.
May God bless all those people that strengthen these bonds in the coming school-year, 2016-2017.
+ Bishop David
November 29th, 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In union with the Catholic Church around the world, with joy we begin the Holy Year of Mercy, which Pope Francis proclaimed in his letter, MISERICORDIÆ VULTUS, on 11th of April 2015. The Year of Mercy begins in Rome with the opening of the Holy doors on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary on the coming December 8, and on the Sunday after that, the third Sunday of Advent, the bishops around the world will officially begin the Holy Year of Mercy in their dioceses. The Holy Year of Mercy lasts till November 20th, 2016.
The Year of Mercy is first and foremost an invitation of the Church to all people to open their souls for the mercy of God and also to be merciful … as our Father is merciful … (Lk 6,36).
The main door to our houses of God in the country, parish churches and other selected holy places, give us access to the grace and mercy of the Lord and seem to tell us: “This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Gen 28,17).
In the power of my apostolic ministry, which was assigned to me as your Bishop, I have decided that a plenary indulgence can be achieved at the following locations:
- The Basilica and Cathedral of Christ the King in Landakot, Reykjavík (Túngötu 13).
- The Church of Our Lady Stella Maris in Breiðholt, Reykjavík (Raufarseli 4).
- St. Joseph᾿s Church in Jófríðarstaðir, Hafnarfjörður.
- The Church of St. John Paul II in Ásbrú, Reykjanesbær (Keilisbraut 775).
- St. Peter᾿s Church in Akureyri (Hrafnagilsstræti 2).
- St. Thorlak᾿s Church in Reyðarfjörður (Kollaleira).
- The Chapel in Karmelklaustur, Hafnarfjörður (Ölduslóð 37).
- TheChapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Stykkishólmur (Austurgata 7).
- St. John᾿s Chapel in Ísafjörður (Mjallargötu 9).
- The Corpus Christi-Chapel in Egilsstaðir (Lagarási 18).
- Church of the Holy Family and St. John Mary Vianney in Höfn in Hornafjörður (Hafnargötu 40).
12 It will also be possible to obtain the indulgence of the Holy year at Maríulind in Hellnar (Snæfellsnes).
To obtain this plenary indulgence one must:
- go to one of the above-mentioned locations,
- have an attitude and desire to win indulgences (e.g. through invocation: Holy God, holy Mighty One, holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world),
- be in God᾿s grace,
- receive the Eucharist on that day,
- confess ones faith (e.g. by reciting the Creed) and to pray Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be to the Father for the prayer intentions of the Holy Father, Pope Francis.
It would be very interesting if we in one year could visit all the places of mercy in the country. The booklet called Passport to Mercy, which is available from your priests, can at the same time be an encouragement and of comfort on our pilgrimage. The grace of God is given to those who sincerely believe and strive to obtain his mercy, and in addition to that, those who have visited all the places, will get an extra sign of appreciation at the Bishop᾿s Office.
Mother of mercy, pray for us!
In joy and in the hope that the Holy Year of Mercy will bring new life and new power to our diocese, I give you my Apostolic Blessing.
… And pray for me! I really need it.
+ David, your Bishop