16 September 2014

Virtual choir of Carmelite nuns sings St Teresa of Ávila's 'Nada te turbe', 'Let nothing disturb you'.

St Teresa of Ávila, Filippo della Valle, 1754
St Peter's Basilica, Vatican [Web Gallery of Art]

St Teresa of Ávila, who lived from 1515 to 1582 in Spain, could never have imagined the internet, though if she were around today I'm certain that she'd be involved in this digital continent, as Pope Benedict calls it, and as a woman who travelled considerably, despite being a contemplative nun, she would certain journey along the digital highways - las 'calles' digitales - of Pope Francis.

Eighty-three followers of St Teresa, Discalced Carmelite nuns from 24 countries, recently created a virtual choir to sing and record the saint's poem Nada te turbe - Let nothing disturb you. Sr Claire Sokol of the Carmelites in Reno, Nevada, wrote the music.

Nada te turbe   Let nothing disturb you

Nada te turbe,
nada te espante,  
todo se pasa,
Dios no se muda;
la paciencia
todo lo alcanza;
quien a Dios tiene
nada le falta:
Sólo Dios basta.

Let nothing disturb you,
let nothing frighten you,
everything passes,
but God stays.
Patience reaches it all;
he who has God
nothing lacks:
God alone suffices.

Eleva tu pensamiento,
al cielo sube,
por nada te acongojes,
nada te turbe.

Lift your thinking,
raise up to heaven,
let nothing anguish you,
let nothing disturb you.

A Jesucristo sigue
con pecho grande,
y, venga lo que venga,
nada te espante.

Follow Jesus Christ
with an open heart,
and, no matter what may come,
let nothing frighten you.

¿Ves la gloria del mundo?
Es gloria vana;
nada tiene de estable,
todo se pasa.

See the glory of the world?
It's vainglory;
it is not everlasting,
everything passes.

Aspira a lo celeste,
que siempre dura;
fiel y rico en promesas,
Dios no se muda.

Yearn for the celestial
that lasts forever:
faithful and rich in promises,
God doesn't change.

Ámala cual merece
bondad inmensa;
pero no hay amor fino
sin la paciencia.

Love it the way it deserves
immense kindness;
but there is not fine love
without the patience.

Confianza y fe viva
mantenga el alma,
que quien cree y espera
todo lo alcanza.

Confidence and alive faith
let the soul maintain,
that he who believes and hopes
reaches it all.

Del infierno acosado
aunque se viere,
burlará sus furores
quien a Dios tiene.

Although harassed by hell
one may see himself,
he who has God
will defeat its rage.

Vénganle desamparos,
cruces, desgracias;
siendo Dios tu tesoro
nada te falta.

Come abandonment,
crosses, misfortune;
God being your treasure,
you lack nothing.

Id, pues, bienes del mundo;
id dichas vanas;
aunque todo lo pierda,
sólo Dios basta.

Go, then, wordly goods
go, vain happiness;
even if everything is lost
God alone suffices.

Copy of an original painting by Fray Juan de la Miseria when St Teresa was 61.

My thanks to Sr Mary Carmela OCD of the Carmel of Vilvoorde, Belgium who sent me the link to the video. Sr Carmela belonged to the Carmel of Cebu and has written in MISYONonline.com, the magazine of the Columbans in the Philippines of which I am editor, of how three Filipino nuns left their communities to join that in Vilvoorde, founded in 1469 and the oldest existing community of Carmelite nuns in the world. Another article she wrote for MISYONonline.com, Touches of God, led Sr Marie Paul Thérèse From Iligan to Vilvoorde (via the Carmel in Cebu).

Sr Marie Paul Thérèse kneeling on right with Sr Mary Carmela standing behind her


15 September 2014

Our Lady of Sorrows, 15 September

The Crucifixion, El Greco, 1596-1600
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Gospel: John 19:25-27

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

Alternative Gospel: Luke 2:33-35

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, Adriaen Isenbrant, 1518-35
O.L. Vrouwekerk, Bruges, Belgium

Paintings from Web Gallery of Art.

12 September 2014

'So must the Son of Man be lifted up.' Sunday Reflections, The Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Art Museum, Cincinnati, USA [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa) 

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
NicodemusUnknown Master, Flemish
Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent, Belgium [Web Gallery of Art]

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has designated the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross this year as National Day of Prayer for Peace in Iraq and Syria. Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, President of the CBCP, wrote to his fellow bishops: In all our Masses on the feast of the Holy Cross, let us unite ourselves with our suffering brothers and sisters, commending to the God who is our hope their pains, their shattered lives and dreams, their bereavement and their loss. He also asked for a special collection at all Masses, the money to be sent by the CBCP to the charity aid of the Apostolic Nunciatures in Iraq and Syria.

Fr Ragheed Aziz Ganni
(20 January 1972 - 3 June 2007)

For me the face of the suffering Christians in Iraq and Syria, Catholic and Orthodox, is that of Fr Ragheed Ganni. This article by Ed West published in the Catholic Herald, a weekly in England, on 20 December 2013 and that has a very personal dimension, gives as good an account of Father Ragheed as any I've read.

Ed West writes: Fr Ragheed was one of 1,000 Iraqi Christians murdered during the pogrom that began after the Coalition invasion of 2003. The persecution culminated in October 31 2010, with the massacre of 52 worshippers at a Catholic church in Baghdad. In the words of one Chaldean bishop, this is a 'Calvary' that has largely been ignored in the western media, outside of the Christian press . . .

It has been a shocking and horrific ordeal for one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, which has been all but driven out of its homeland. A pre-war population of a million is now somewhere in the region of 150,000, many of them elderly, and more than 60 churches have been bombed.  That figure has got smaller in recent months and the ancient city of Mosul, in many ways the heart of the Christian faith in Iraq and Syria, has been emptied of its Christians by ISIS.

The article describes First Holy Communion day in Father Ragheed's parish in 2006: The atmosphere in Ragheed’s home town had become terrifying. On 4 August 2006, when 80 children of his parish of the Holy Spirit received their first Holy Communion, battles broke out in the street outside, and the children cowered from the sounds of guns and rockets.

The good shepherd helped them through. He told AsiaNews: 'Although people are used to it and remained reasonably calm, they started to wonder whether they were going to make it back to their homes or not. I was aware of the immense joy of the 80 children receiving their first Communion so I turned the subject into a joke and said to them: "Do not panic, these are fireworks. The city is celebrating with us." And at the same time I gave them instructions to leave the church quietly and quickly.'

The author further notes: Friends later recalled that he had become increasingly weary and broken by the demands of the priesthood amid such terror. After an attack on his parish, on Palm Sunday 2007, he wrote: 'We empathise with Christ, who entered Jerusalem in full knowledge that the consequence of His love for mankind was the cross. Thus while bullets smashed our church windows, we offered up our suffering as a sign of love for Christ.'

Shortly before his death Fr Ganni wrote in an email: 'Each day we wait for the decisive attack, but we will not stop celebrating Mass; we will do it underground, where we are safer. I am encouraged in this decision by the strength of my parishioners. This is war, real war, but we hope to carry our cross to the very end with the help of Divine Grace.'

This young Iraqi priest of the Chaldean Catholic Church, an engineer by profession, was murdered on Trinity Sunday, 3 June 2007, along with three subdeacons, Basman Yousef Daud, Gassan Isam Bidawed and Wahid Hanna Isho after he had celebrated Mass in Mosul, the city of his birth.

At a Eucharistic Congress in Bari, Italy, in 2005 Father Ragheed said, There are days when I feel frail and full of fear. But when, holding the Eucharist, I say ‘Behold the Lamb of God Behold, who takes away the sin of the world’, I feel His strength in me. When I hold the Host in my hands, it is really He who is holding me and all of us, challenging the terrorists and keeping us united in His boundless love. He also said, Without Sunday, without the Eucharist, the Christians in Iraq cannot survive.

To put some time perspective on the Christian faith in Iraq and Syria: in 2021 the Church in the Philippines will celebrate 500 years of the Catholic Christian faith in this country, a great occasion for thanking God for that precious gift. The Christian faith has been lived in Iraq and Syria for four times as long as that, since the time of the Apostles. Mass was celebrated for 2,000 years in Mosul until a couple of months ago when Christians were driven from their ancestral homeland by ISIS.

Father Raqheed's words, But when, holding the Eucharist, I say ‘Behold the Lamb of God Behold, who takes away the sin of the world’, I feel His strength in me, reflect the words of Jesus to Nicodemus in today's Gospel: And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

A Muslim friend of Fr Ragheed, Adnam Mokrani, professor of Islamic Studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, said that on his ordination day, 13 October 2001, recalled that the new priest said, Today, I have died to self. St Paul in today's Second Reading tells us, Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God has something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave and that he became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.
As we celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and as we pray for persecuted Christians, particularly in Iraq and Syria, may we thank God for the gift of our Christian faith and ask him for the courage to live it as Father Ragheed and countless others have done, becoming obedient to the point of death.

From what I understand, this hymn to Our Blessed Mother in Arabic is sung by Father Ragheed and was played during his funeral procession. This is  the translation given with the video: We honor you with hymns O Mother of God, you are the pride of the whole earth, because the Word of God whom the Father sent, chose to take His human body from you. The generations call you blessed, all nations and people's honor you and ask for mercy by your prayers. You are a generous earth in which plants of joy always grow.

Calvary, Karel Dujardin, 1661
Musée du Louvre, Paris  [Web Gallery of Art]


le/by Pádraig Ó Croiligh

Ag barr na gcéimeanna
In Eaglais an tSlánaitheora
Tá séipéal tógtha ar rian na croise.
An dara stáisiún déag dearaithe ar a chúl
Agus poll sa talamh faoi
San áit a mbíodh an chrois
Ag an am ar tharla an crith talún.

Ach níl an tarlú féin ná na daoine
I láthair anseo anois,
Ach in áiteanna bruIte buartha
Ár fud na cruinne
Agus i láthair an uaignis.

An fear a fuair bás anseo,
Den bhás a rinneadh anseo,
Tá sé beo agus aiséirithe.
Tá Íosa ina Chríost go fóill!

At the top of the steps
In the Church of the Saviour
There’s a chapel built on the site of the cross.
The twelfth station painted at the back
And a hole in the ground underneath
In the place where the cross was
At the time of the earthquake.

But the event itself and the people
Aren’t here now,
But in crushed sorrowful places
Throughout the world
And in the midst of loneliness.

The man who died here,
From the death that was wrought here,
He is alive and risen.
Jesus is still the Christ!

The poet is a priest of the Diocese of Derry, Ireland. The non-poetic English translation from the Irish (Gaelic) is my own. The poem is taken from Brúitíní Creidimh (Mashed Potatoes of Faith) by Pádraig Ó Croiligh, published by Foilseacháin Ábhair Spioradálta, Dublin, 2006.

Antiphon ad introitum     Entrance Antiphon  Cf Galatians 6:14
Nos autem gloriari oportet
We should glory 
in cruce Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, 
in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
in quo est salus, vita et resurrectio nostra,
in whom is our salvation, life and resurrection, 
per quem salvati et liberati sumus.
through whom we are saved and delivered.

10 September 2014

'Incremental genocide of a generation': statement by three Catholic bishops in northerm Myanmar/Burma

Mother and child in a camp for displaced persons at Kutkai in Lashio

This article appeared in the 31 August 2014 edition of Sunday Examiner, the English-language weekly of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong and is used with permission. The dioceses of Myitkyina ["MITCHinah"] and Banmaw cover the Kachin State, where Columbans first went to work in 1936. Bishop Zahawang of Lashio, in the neighbouring Shan State, was formerly Auxiliary Bishop of Myitkyina.

HONG KONG (SE): “This incremental genocide of a generation has not attracted the needed attention of concerned people, raising doubts whether there is a deliberate attempt to destroy the youth of our lands,” the bishops of three dioceses in the Union of Myanmar say in a statement issued on August 20. [Full statement here.]

Bishop Francis Daw Tang, from Myitkyina; Bishop Raymond Sumlut Gam from Banmaw; and Bishop Philip Zahawng, from Lashio; say in their statement, “The prevalence of human trafficking and drug trafficking is an undeclared war on our people.”

Lashio [Wikipedia]

The bishops are pointing out that a silent war has been raging in their dioceses for over three years, since a ceasefire agreement with the Myanmese Army broke down and hostilities resumed in 2011.

“We have seen the hundreds of innocent people killed and buried in unknown graves, thousands displaced to inhuman camps, destroying their dignity and raising serious questions about their future,” the bishops continue, calling the interludes of peace nothing but an illusion bringing frustrating disappointment.

A former drug educator with Caritas in Myitkyina, Peter Nlam Hkun Aung, told the Sunday Examiner in 2011 that he believes that drugs are one form of artillery being used by the Myanmese Military against the Kachin people.

“Soldiers offer cigarettes and candy laced with drugs to primary school children,” he said. “The children do not know what they are, they just take them. This is part of the war being waged by the military, they just want to turn our people into a mob of zombies.”

Banmaw [Wikipedia]

Apart from the drug war, the bishops believe that human trafficking is another weapon used to break up the cohesion of the social structure of the Kachin as a people.

“Poor and innocent Kachin women are commoditised by human traffickers and hundreds are forced into modern day slavery and sold across borders,” the three bishops say, adding, “War has wiped out the livelihoods of our people, forcing our young men to seek risky livelihoods.”

Father Cirineo "Dodong" Matulac witnessed the wholesale rape of the Kachin economy during a visit to the city of Muse, just across the porous border from the Chinese city of Ruili in Yunnan province. [Editor's note: Fr Matulac is a Filipino Columban priest who worked in China before and is now based in Quezon City, Philippines.]

Myitkyina [Wikipedia]

“Thousands of people and hundreds of trucks cross the border every day to trade,” he explained. “Hardwood like teak, precious gemstones like jade and rubies come from the Myanmar side of the border in exchange for cheap and non-durable manufactured goods from China.”

He also visited a camp for displaced people in nearby Manhkan, near the border with the Shan State and the controversial Dapein Hydroelectric Power Plant.

When the government began an expansion of the power plant in 2011 the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) intervened and the government moved against them, bringing an end to the fragile peace that had survived for some 17 years.

Father Matulac said that in the camp he met 56-year-old Hpadau Brang Mai, who talked freely with him as he remembered Father Matulac’s fellow Columban priests who were in the area when he was young.

“He is only one of hundreds of people in the displaced persons’ camp,” Father Matulac explained. “He has five children, but his 23-year-old son was killed by the military when he was working in the field on their farm.”

Brang said that he and his family fled, as they were afraid of the military as they shoot at the people indiscriminately.

Brang has been in the camp for two years and wants to go home, but the war situation prevents him.

Father Matulac said that Brang introduced him to a woman who told him, “There are many families here in this camp who have lost their sons and daughters to the army,’ and Brang added, ‘We don’t know the reason why they shoot us. I think they want to kill us because we are Kachin’.”

Kachin traditional dress [Wikipedia]

Father Peter Maran Tawng, from Caritas Myanmar, says that all up there are over 100,000 people living in displaced persons’ camps, but nobody knows the real number of people driven from their homes, as many parts of the country are inaccessible.

Father Maran said that the mega projects of the Chinese are certainly one reason for the tension with the government. He cited the partially completed Myitsone Hydro-Electric Dam, construction of which is currently on hold, but the people are upset because over 90 per cent of the power generated will go to China.

Gas pipelines into China and a railway line from Yangon to Kunming are also on the planning board and, Father Maran commented, “It seems that the Myanmar government has launched a campaign to slowly wipe out any opposition to these projects.”

Pagoda in Banmaw [Wikipedia]

Father Matulac added that on a visit to the pristine mountain resort of the Stone Village with seminarians, he was told that in November 2011 the army sent troops there and hundreds of local people died.

“The seminarians told me that some of these young soldiers are taken by force and enlisted in the army and sent to the Kachin state to fight,” Father Matulac said, adding that international agencies estimate that there are as many as 70,000 child soldiers used by the Burmese army and ethnic freedom fighters.

He added that records show a systematic recruitment and even trafficking of children as soldiers by the Myanmese military.

He explained that the seminarians told him, “The young soldiers are only trained to shoot. They fire at anyone, if they see a Kachin man, they think that he is KIA. The soldiers strafe the houses and rape the women, even pregnant women.”

Father Matulac added, “A young man named Columban told me his friend was also killed by the army. He was riding his motorcycle when he happened to pass by a troop of Burmese soldiers and he was shot in the head. Another young man said that his house was strafed by the soldiers. All of them had a similar story.”

Rural scene, Banmaw [Wikipedia]

The three bishops believe that the rape of natural resources is the reason behind the genocide. “Colonial era laws are enacted to usurp traditional ethnic lands,” they say. “Land questions may ultimately decide the future of peace in this land.”

They add, “We note with great concern attempts to grab the lands of those who are displaced.”

They insist that peace based on justice is the only way forward, but Father Matulac says that a new military vision will be necessary to achieve this.

He points to a sign posted on the military headquarters in Mandalay, which reads, “Tatmadaw (military) and the people cooperate and thrash all those who are harming the union.”

The Filipino missionary says that the operative word is union, as ethnic groups like the Kachin are not regarded as being an integral part of it.

“The silent war in the Kachin villages rages on, while the ordinary people are caught in between,” he concludes.

One of a number of songs celebrating in 2011 the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Columbans in Banmaw (Bhamo) and the 50th anniversary of the building of St Patrick's, now the cathedral of the Diocese of Banmaw.