11th Sunday in Ordinary Time


We are blessed to live in such a beautiful place and as we walk or drive through the New Forest we see the miracle of growth taking place all around us in flowers, trees, plants and shrubs, not to mention the foals of New Forest ponies gambolling along the lanes.  Many poets have tried to describe the miracle and beauty of nature; one of my favourites, William Wordsworth came close, but words can’t really capture the magnificence of the scene as the cycle of nature blossoms in all its beauty.  We don’t have to be professional gardeners or farmers to appreciate that growth is a gradual process.  Many plants and flowers have their origins in tiny seeds being buried in the earth and they demand time, tender care and patience for them to blossom and bear fruit.

The readings of today’s Mass are concerned with growth, not physical growth but spiritual growth.  They speak of the importance of us coming to God in prayer and good works in order to grow in God’s favour and friendship.  God is at work in every age and in each of our lives.  The seed of God’s word was first planted in our hearts at baptism.  Our task is to water and tenderly care for that word so that it can work powerfully within us.  As most of us were baptised as infants, parents have a vital role in nurturing the seed of God’s word in their children.  The example good parents set by prayer and good Christian living in the home will go a long way in determining their children’s attitude to life and to God.

The mustard seed reminds us of an important truth of the Christian life: the seed of God’s life within us grows slowly and invisibly.  We can’t rush the growth of seed in the earth and neither can we rush God’s growth in our hearts.  There’s nothing we can do to hurry it along.  Because our path to perfection seems so frustratingly slow at times we may be tempted to lose heart.  Some of us may have the uneasy feeling that after years of struggling with the Christian life, we are no nearer to God.  There appears to be no mastering of our personal shortcomings.  The same old sins keep recurring and prevent our progress on the path to perfection.  And yet, how easily we forget that God rewards our smallest efforts, he rewards our ability to keep trying.  We fail to realise that God’s grace can work best through our human weaknesses and limitations and can accomplish what is beyond our wildest dreams.  We are not going to be able to measure it, but we can be certain that it will happen provided we play our part and are intent on pleasing God.

We tend the seed of the Word of God that has been planted in our hearts by prayer and by the faithful and frequent reception of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, and these, in turn, dispose us to perform good works and acts of loving kindness.  In this way we make ready the earth in which the seed of God’s word can blossom.

There is no age at which we cannot grow in God’s grace.  So let us realise that life is but a passing shadow and the few years given to us here below are for soul-making.  If we don’t grow in moral and spiritual stature while on earth, there will be lots of growing up to be done in purgatory.  This is why we should pray for the Holy Souls, for we will be counted among their number when we die.  As we pray for them we ask them to pray for us when they find themselves kneeling before the Throne of Glory for all eternity.  May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.



10th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The mysterious beginnings of evil in the world and its consequences are poetically described in the familiar story of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden.  It’s a striking account of the way in which sin corrodes the relationship between God and his people.  God called out to Adam: “Where are you?”  Adam hid because he was guilty and felt ashamed and embarrassed for what he had done in eating the forbidden fruit.  Instinctively he shifted the blame onto Eve, saying: “It was the woman you put with me: she gave me the fruit and I ate it.”  When Eve was confronted she accused the serpent.  The whole sorry episode is typical of the way we, as human beings, go about things and try to avoid accepting responsibility for our actions.   We have an urge to shift the blame and profess our own innocence because we feel ashamed of our actions and don’t want to own up to them.

Sin, as we all know, is an offence against God.  It’s our doing, and it distances us from him.  When sin is uncovered it sits uncomfortably on our shoulders.  Deep down there is an unwillingness to admit that we are wrong and to express penitence for our offence.  The consequence of not admitting our sin is that we cannot receive God’s forgiveness.  Like Adam and Eve, we hide.  Even though Adam and Eve sinned, God, we are told, continued to walk in the garden, which means that he did not reject them.  Though fallen from grace they did not remain beyond the reach of God’s mercy.  God’s forgiveness is there for us also, but unless we reach out to him in sorrow and admit our guilty behaviour our sins remains unforgiven.  The ability to say ‘sorry’ in words and actions is an integral part of any relationship.  It is important to have a sense of sin and a realisation of its consequences so that we can reach out for forgiveness.

To have a clear vision of what our present life means, God’s call: “where are you”, must echo in our own hearts.  Otherwise life becomes a hiding game of avoiding responsibility for our actions, and for the persons we are.  The conflict between good and evil will continue for as long as humans live on the earth.   Many of us do go into hiding throughout life because of sin.  We lack the courage to face our situation and to admit that we are drifting and lost, naked in the sight of God.

The Gospel paints a picture of our Blessed Lord offering us healing, strength, forgiveness and a way out of our difficulties.  The entire life and mission of Jesus was a renewal of the dialogue between God and his people.  So, let us not be afraid to turn to him for help in our lives.  If we confess our sins with sorrow, we will know with faith that we are forgiven, and travel on life’s journey with our minds and hearts set on heaven.




In all the years I’ve been here I don’t think I’ve ever set you any homework.  On this Feast of Corpus Christi, it would be a very good thing, if at some point during the day, we could all read the sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel.  It won’t take very long and yet it will take us to the very heart of the Church: everything and anything ‘Catholic’ flows from the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  Christ’s Presence among us in the Blessed Sacrament is the summit and the source of our lives together in the Church.  Everything else we do, all the good works we perform, all our apostolates and activities, all our acts of charity, flow from what we do here right now.  In the Collect for today’s Mass we prayed these words: O God, who in this wonderful Sacrament have left us a memorial of your Passion, grant us, we pray, so to REVERE the Sacred Mysteries of your Body and Blood so that we may always experience in ourselves the fruits of your redemption.

It’s true that a single word can jump out at you as you read something; and in today’s Collect the word that jumped out at me is REVERE.  In this Mass we are asking God to help us so REVERE the mysteries of His Sacred Body and his Precious Blood.

Those of us with a few grey hairs on our heads will remember participating in Forty Hours Devotions, Eucharistic Adorations, Corpus Christi Processions, reciting the prayers of Thanksgiving after Mass, genuflecting to Our Lord’s Presence in the tabernacle, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, fasting from midnight prior to receiving Holy Communion the next morning, and a host of other ‘Catholic’ practices; all built up from and pointing toward our contact with Jesus Christ truly and really present in the Eucharist.  We were careful always to refer to the consecrated host as the Body of Christ; we never spoke of it simply as ‘the bread’, and never did we touch the sacred host with our grubby hands.  The Sisters begin their annual Retreat this evening, and one of the few gems I remember from retreats in years gone by, is one friar saying that when we receive Our Lord in Holy Communion we let him feed us; he suggested that we shouldn’t take the Host in our hands and feed ourselves.  Now, you may say, and rightly so, that we have a choice in the manner of how we receive Holy Communion, on the tongue, or in the hand.  But which is the more correct and profound choice?

I remember when Catholic men in the North passed by a church and they tipped their cloth caps to acknowledge and reverence the Presence of Christ in the tabernacle.  Women covered their heads while in church.  People driving by a church in their cars would make the sign of the cross out of reverence and respect.

It wasn’t all that long ago when everyone dressed up for Mass.  Going to Mass in T-shirts, tank tops, jeans and shorts was UNTHINKABLE.  Church was special, not ordinary.  Church was supposed to be extra-ordinary.  The inside of a Catholic church was holy space; it was sacred space.  God in His holiness dwelled there and people dressed up accordingly.

But all that was years ago.  We’re living in the 21st century now, times have changed and now anything goes.  But today’s feast should cause us to consider whatever happened to reverence? Do we reverence anything today?  As a nation we no longer kneel to anything, let alone anybody.  There are those who advocate that we abolish kneeling in church and during the Canon of the Mass.  And yet when you think about it, kneeling during worship is the only thing left for us by which we can express our profound reverence for God’s presence among us.  For those of us who physically can kneel, kneeling is our last remaining experience of reverence and awe in God’s closeness to us.

Few things are revered nowadays, except perhaps famous footballers and celebrities.  On the whole, human life itself is no longer revered.  If human life gets in the way, we kill it.  Abortion has become part and parcel of everyday life.  What a dreadful indictment on our society when a human child is not even safe in its own mother’s womb.

Again, on the whole, we no longer respect each other; we’ve lost reverence not only in the way we live but for human life itself, and now we seem to be losing reverence and respect for the Presence of God Himself in the Blessed Sacrament.

So whatever happened to sacred space?  Just witness what goes on in many of our parish churches on a Sunday morning.  The commotion and cacophony before and after Mass, and sometimes during, will remind you of a railway station or a market place.  Remember when the interior of a church was regarded as sacred space?  The lingering smell of incense and highly polished furniture inspired us to speak only in whispers.  Now our parish churches have become talking shops.  Some parents even treat the church as a sort of playpen, allowing their children to wander up and down the aisles and scream and shout until they’re blue in the face.  I’ve seen people eat and drink in church, listen to the radio or simply sit there bored out of their minds with absolutely no awareness of God’s Presence in this sacred space.  I’ve even known people come to receive Holy Communion while chewing gum.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve become an old fogey, but all this seems so odd to me because most, if not all of us, will still pull out the proverbial stops if we were invited to a party or a wedding, or if we were to visit some distinguished person.  Haircuts, manicures, polished shoes, perfectly pressed clothing.  And yet how is it that many of us no longer dress up for Mass?  We’d be appalled if someone turned up at a wedding in a dirty tee shirt, shorts and pink plastic flip-flops.

The communion of the Mystical Body of Christ flows from the Holy Communion we share in the Eucharist.  But we need to reverence God’s presence in a whole lot of different ways, not just in church and at Mass.

Reverence of God takes many forms.  Yes we need to reverence the Son of God, present for us here in the Eucharist.  We need to reverence the presence of the Holy Spirit in other people, along with the Presence of God in all of His creation.  Many people have lost reverence for the presence of God in our world; in the trees and natural resources, in nature’s pure waters clogged now with discarded plastic and other human waste, in animals, in all of God’s creatures.  We regard them today merely as useful, as things to exploit for profit.  We’ve handed most of the earth and its natural resources over to multi-national corporations who are only interested in making money out of them.  We’ve lost our reverence for nature.  Perhaps if we recovered a sense of reverence, then our world may be a better place in which to live.

There was a time when the things of nature, water, trees, and natural resources were seen as given to us by God as His stewards, to be used to accomplish His work.  Nowadays water, resources and the environment are only useful for their owners, as things to be sold for profit, as things to be exploited.  A sense of reverence perhaps would return balance to the way in which we treat our environment and our natural resources.

It seems to me that the recovery of reverence ought to be one of our chief goals in life during the 21st century, particularly in the context of the increasingly secular and materialistic culture that surrounds us.

I believe the Feast of Corpus Christi has a lot to teach us about that.



Way back in 1983, Walker Percy wrote his book Lost in The Cosmos in which we find an extraterrestrial being persistently signalling these questions to earthlings: “Do you read?  What do you read?  Are you in trouble?  How did you get in trouble?  If you are in trouble, have you sought help?  If you did, did help come?  If it did, did you accept it?  What is the character of your consciousness?  Are you conscious?  Do you have a self?  Do you know who you are?  Do you know what you are doing?  Do you love?  Do you know how to love?  Are you loved?  Do you hate?  Do you read me?  Come back.  Come back.”  (Come Back = CB lingo: A request for someone to acknowledge a transmitted message or reply to a question).

Humanity has spent billions on space exploration and will spend billions more.  We devote enormous resources to our communications industries.  We have built and will continue to expand an information highway that has radically changed the way we live.  But when it comes to discussion about whether or not there is a personal God, we are quite skittish.  Many of our contemporaries are actively sceptical that God has anything to say to us.  Others say we shouldn’t take God seriously.  Still others want to remove all references to God from our schools and away from all public discourse.  Any number of intellectuals inform us that when it comes to the cosmic stage upon which we act out our lives there is no author, no director, and no text.  They suggest that it is man’s task, not God’s, to bring order out of chaos and to create things out of nothing.

It is in this context that the Church puts us today in contact with that Being upon which all realities find their purpose and meaning.

Is religion based on myths and lies?  The author of The Da Vinci Code and many books like it would have us believe that.  Others tell us that humans have constructed a God for themselves.  What they are telling us is that God is fiction.

And yet, when you sit down and think about it, no human intelligence would have ever fabricated a God that was three Persons in one God.  Such a depiction of God would have been beyond the wildest imaginings in any human’s mind, if not now, then certainly two thousand years ago.  It is, at least to me, absurd to think that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was invented by monks in the Middle Ages or created by otherworldly priests incarcerated in some impregnable citadel in Spain.

The teaching that God is Three Persons in One comes to us only from Jesus Christ.  It’s a doctrine found nowhere else in any other known religion, past or present.  It is totally unique.

We’ve just heard how Our Lord commissioned His Apostles and sent them out into the world to baptize believers in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Our Lord is asking His followers to live in the life of the Triune God and to share that life with others.

Those first followers were Jews, children of the Faith of Abraham.  Their view of God’s presence was magnificent.  God was everywhere and in everything.  For example, when it rained, they didn’t complain, because they saw rain as a blessing, rain made things grow and gives us life.  When the harvest was good, God was caring for them, feeding them with the stuff of life.

When the Jewish converts to Christianity met Jesus, their vision of God took on another dimension, one requiring a stupendous adjustment.  In Jesus of Nazareth they discovered that God lived among us.  They observed how He behaved, how He cared and loved, how He lived his life with an inner authenticity, an integrity, and an authority that gave His humanity powers never before known in any human being.  Saint Peter announced Him to be the Messiah.  Saint Thomas, when he encountered the risen Christ declared “My Lord, and my God!”

After Our Lord’s Ascension these same followers experienced God’s Presence in yet another way.  They realized that Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, was personally present to them in His Spirit-filled, resurrected humanity.  They experienced God’s Presence in the Eucharist and the other Sacraments, they experienced God in moments of special and great human significance, in suffering, and even in death.  They came to know and experience the Holy Spirit who comes to us now and forever in His Mystical Body, the Church.

Christ gave these people courage.  He gave them joy. He gave them love.  He gave them power to face the world.  He gave them God’s Presence.  Filled with God’s personal Presence, they entered into our world.  We, their successors, do the same as we carry on their mission.

That same Holy Spirit is present among us to empower us, to heal us, to love us, and to lift us up.  That same Holy Spirit invites us into God’s life.  He is like Walker Percy’s extraterrestrial who persistently signals these questions to us: “Are you in trouble?  How did you get in trouble?  If you are in trouble, have you sought help?  If you did, did help come?  If it did, did you accept it?  What is the character of your consciousness?  Are you conscious?  Do you have a self?  Do you know who you are?  Do you know what you are doing?  Do you love?  Do you know how to love?  Are you loved?  Do you hate?  Do you read me?  Come back.  Come back.”

Come back to me with all your heart.


5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In many households and families, the late afternoon and early evening hours are especially critical.  These are the hours when all the hopes, the disappointments, the energy and the fatigue of the day all converge on the home.  Adult members of the family come home from work and must immediately put all the day’s tensions out of their minds as they greet one another and the family.  The children come home from school to a meal, homework, perhaps a bath and then bedtime.  These evening hours become an important transition period from the distractions of the working day to the focus of the home.  And depending on the way in which these hours are treated they can lead either to the disastrous break-up of the family or to its growth.

The readings for today’s Mass lay special emphasis on the evening time.  In the first reading the suffering Job looks forward to the evening as a time of rest and peace and quiet.  And in the gospel, we are given a picture of how, after sunset, the sick are brought to Our Lord to be cured.  In the Scriptures the twilight hours are regarded as an important time to be touched by God.

And, of course, the Scriptures don’t only have in mind the final hours of the day.  They also refer to a deeper reality.  They refer to those twilight hours of our life when suffering, or sickness, or advancing age force us to set aside the preoccupations of daily life and focus instead on the home which is offered us by our heavenly Father.  These are the hours that are especially critical: when we have to face up to the hopes and disappointments of our life and ask ourselves where our energies have been directed.

These twilight hours of our life when we face advanced age, perhaps suffering, illness, or even death, these are the most difficult and the most important hours of our life.  We perhaps feel like Job and we cry out with him: Is not man’s life on earth no better than pressed service, his time no better than hired drudgery?  And as we search for an answer to suffering, especially when we face suffering ourselves, like Job we fail to find a satisfactory solution.  And the truth is that there is no easy answer.  Like Job we come to realise that suffering must be part of God’s mysterious plan for us.  And we need to trust in God, for there is no other way to face suffering in our lives and in the lives of others.

And yet unlike Job we have witnessed the work of Christ whose healing ministry in Saint Mark’s Gospel began with his cure of Simon’s mother-in-law.  By identifying himself with the sick and the dying, even to dying on the Cross for our sins, Our Lord revealed that suffering is indeed part of God’s mysterious plan.  And yet this doesn’t explain suffering, nor does it make suffering easier.  But it does reassure us of what Job was only able to glimpse: that if we unite our suffering with Christ’s own suffering then it brings forward and helps to accomplish God’s plan of salvation.

And it is, first and foremost, in the Sacrament of the Sick that this union with Christ is clearest.  In the twilight hours of our life when everything seems darkest, Our Lord comes to us, just as he came to Simon’s mother-in-law, to raise us up.  As Our Lord raised her up and as he himself was raised up to new life, so he raises our spirits in the forgiveness of our sins, in the strength we receive to face God and, if he so wills, in the restoration of our bodily health.  In the Sacrament of the Sick we always receive new life.

Just as the evening hours in the family make or break the home, so do the twilight hours in our life make or break the family of the Church.  We must never allow suffering to lead us to resentment or anger.  Rather, we must view suffering as a vital transition period between the distractions of daily life and the focusing of our attention and our energies onto our heavenly home.  Accepting suffering in the right way builds up God’s family, it builds up the Church in a right way.

And the secret to our right attitude to the mystery of sickness and suffering lies in the way Christ revealed himself in the gospel.  Saint Mark tells us that he went off to a lonely place and prayed there.  It’s only when we have reflected on our life during the day that we can learn to cope with the difficulties and even the collapse of our earthly life in the evening.  We need to set aside some time each day to be with God.  And there is no better way to prepare for our own suffering than to pray for others who suffer: and here there is no shortage of material for private prayer.

When we suffer, then, let us call on Christ to touch us in the Sacrament of the Sick and to raise our spirits: so that, like Simon’s mother-in-law, we can serve Christ and wait on him for all eternity.


4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

On Sundays we don’t hear the Entrance Antiphon because we sing a hymn, but the Entrance Antiphon for today’s Mass provides a theme in itself for the homily: Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, to give thanks to your holy name, and make it our glory to praise you.  This line from psalm 105 summarises, I think, the nature and mission of the Catholic Church.

As we all know, the Church is a community of people redeemed by Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  We are people who have come to believe in Him as our only Saviour and we profess and proclaim our faith in word and deed, giving glory to God by living upright and holy lives, as best we can.

For the past two Sundays the liturgy has spoken of the call of all Christians to holiness and mission and on the need for repentance and conversion of life with a commitment and a will to become conformed to the image of Christ.  But Christians are not called to be individuals (although we are each called by name), rather we are called to be members of the Church – the community of God’s people, called together in particular to worship and to evangelise.  One cannot be a Christian without belonging to the Church.

The Church continues the life and mission of Jesus Christ himself, in fulfilment of his final command to the Church when he said: Go and make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; and teach them to observe all the commands I have taught you.  It was Our Lord’s will and purpose to gather people from all nations and cultures into the community which is now his Body: the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, united intimately and integrally with him just as a body is with its head.  Our Lord came to gather into one all the scattered children of God, to draw everyone to himself, so that all may be one.  This is what we continue to pray for each year during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Each Sunday we commit ourselves to come together to worship and praise God.  The liturgy, the Mass, is central and essential to our being the Church.  And we are most fully the Church when we assemble to participate in the Eucharistic liturgy.

The Church is also called to continue Our Lord’s teaching function in the world.  Jesus taught with authority; in fact, he taught with such authority that his audience was astonished.  He was truly a prophet like Moses, raised up from among the Jewish people, but far exceeding Moses or any of the other prophets.  They too, had spoken God’s word and the people disregarded them at their peril; but Jesus was the final and complete Word of God.  The voice of God the Father himself warns the disciples and others to listen to him, for Jesus speaks not his own words but what the Father has told him.

The Church must teach if it is to be faithful to Jesus and to his mission.  The Pope and the bishops, assisted by scholars and theologians, are entrusted with authoritative teaching: others like priests, deacons and catechists also share in this teaching function.  But all of us, no matter who we are and what we do, we are all sent out at the end of Mass to proclaim Christ to the world and to the people with whom we share our lives.  At the end of every Mass we are sent out to give an account of our faith and our hope.

There are all sorts of catechetical programmes available today – some of the best are offered here by the Sisters – aimed specifically at helping people to evangelise.  Our task is to encourage and practically help more and more Catholics to be Active Catholics – to be active in worship and active in evangelisation – proclaiming God’s holy name and glorifying Him in word and deed.


The 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s readings speak about the shortness of human life, and the importance of repentance, and the need to prepare for the life to come.  You may have heard the story of the parish priest who tried to make this very point one Sunday morning, and announced to his congregation that: “Everyone in this parish is going to die!”  The people shuddered, all except for one man standing at the back who started chuckling.  The parish priest then repeated: “Everyone in this parish is going to die!”  Again, the congregation squirmed, but the same man chuckled a little bit louder.  The parish priest said it a third time and once more the man laughed.  Frustrated, the priest asked the man why he was laughing.  “Father,” he said, “I’m not from this parish!”

Now, let’s be honest.  Most of us have a similar attitude towards death.  It always happens to someone else, so why worry?  Most of us don’t really take death and judgement seriously.  Saint Paul recognised that human tendency; and for that reason he spoke directly to the Corinthians and told them point blank that: “Our time is running short.”  Saint Paul had a great sense of urgency regarding the end of the world and the end of our own lives.  I believe we need to recapture some of that realism.  And as a help to doing that, I’d like to tell you about a man who had a dramatic experience of time running out.

You have probably heard of the nineteenth century Russian novelist, Feodor Dostoevsky. He wrote The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, Crime and Punishment and other interesting novels, most of which I read at school.  As a young man, Dostoevsky got involved with a group of soviet subversives who were arrested and imprisoned.  One day the prison guards led them out of prison and into the main square of Saint Petersburg.  At first they thought they were being released, but when they arrived they saw an execution platform.  The officers selected three prisoners, blindfolded them and tied them to posts.  Dostoevsky watched in horror as the firing squad loaded their rifles and pointed them at his comrades.  He turned to the nervous man standing next to him and even though he knew him to be an atheist, told him to ask God for forgiveness and to be brave.  They waited, but the guns didn’t go off.  The Tsar had reprieved the condemned men and just wanted to give them a scare.

In his novels Dostoevsky often refers to that experience which had such a profound influence on the remainder of his life.  What struck him wasn’t how short a time he had to live, but what he would do with the final five minutes of his life.  In his mind he divided the remaining time: one minute to observe his surroundings: to drink in the colours, shapes and sounds; two minutes to think about what he had done with his life, and two minutes to consider what might await him after death.  Parcelled out in that way, he considered the time left to be sufficient, even generous.

Saint Paul had something like that in mind when he told the Corinthians that: “Time is running out.”  It’s not just that time goes by quickly; everyone knows that, but the real question is: What will you and I do with the time that remains?  And that question is so urgent that Saint Paul tells husbands and wives to refrain from the marital embrace. They have something even more vital to attend to.

In reminding people that time is running short, Saint Paul follows Our Lord’s example. In today’s gospel we hear the first words of Our Lord’s public ministry; and they provide the keynote for his subsequent teaching: “The kingdom of heaven is near.  Repent and believe in the Gospel.”  In just over three weeks you will hear those words again when a priest will mark your forehead with blessed ashes.  Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return; repent and believe.  Lent is just around the corner and will arrive sooner than we think.  Time is running short.  Now is the time to attend to what matters most: consider where you are at this moment in time and how you got here.  Repent, turn away from evil and embrace the Kingdom of God.

Feodor Dostoevsky 1821-1881