18 June 2018

Columban Fr Martin Ryan RIP

Fr Martin Ryan
23 January 1929 - 15 June 2018

Fr Martin Ryan was born on 23 January 1929 in Wildfield, Muckalee, County Kilkenny, Ireland. Educated at Muckalee National School and St Kieran's College, Kilkenny, he entered St Columban's, Dalgan Park, Navan, in 1947 and was ordained priest on 21 December 1953.


St Kieran's College, Kilkenny [Wikipedia]

Father Martin was assigned to Mindanao, Philippines, in 1954 where he would work in various pastoral assignments over the following fifty years. He served in Gingoog City (Misamis Oriental, Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro), Dumalinao (Zamboanga del Sur, Diocese of Pagadian), Mambajao (Camiguin, Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro), Maranding, Linamon and Maigo (all in Lanao del Norte) and in Corpus Christi, Iligan City (those four in the Diocese of Iligan).


Mambajao, Camiguin [Wikipedia]

Around the mid-1980s Father Martin became acutely aware that he had a drinking problem. After amny fruitless attempts to keep sober by his own efforts, he eventually requested that he be sent to Guest House in Rochester, Minnesota, USA. He then returned briefly to parish work in Iligan City. 

He then went to Ireland where he joined a recovery group. By the grace of God, and with the help of such groups, Father Martin enjoyed continuous sobriety from then until the end of his life. With typical frankness he wrote of his alcoholism in his memoir Muckalee to Mindanao and Back: A Missionary Round Trip, 'My sobriety today is a precious gift which I cherish'.


Sr Regina 'Inday' Bernad SSC [Columban Sisters]

Once he was sober Father Martin went to extraordinary lengths, travelling long distances to hold meetings with fellow alcoholics. He was very aware that alcoholism was causing great suffering and damage to many Filipino families. finally, with the help of Filipina Columban Sister Regina 'Inday' Bernad and trained therapist Rene Francisco he founded a treatment centre in Ozamiz City called 'IT WORKS'. (More about IT WORKS here).


It Works, Ozamiz City [FB]

In its first ten years 800 Filipinos graduated from the centre and 75 per cent of them continue to be sober. Father Martin built up the centre, sought funds for its maintenance, and when he was sure that ti could continue its work without his presence he returned to Ireland.

Father Martin was blessed with a child-like directness and simplicity. He gave himself unstintingly to the task in hand. The accidental death of his brother and fellow Columban, Father Laurence, 'Lar', in October 1995 was a very heavy blow which he bore with courage and patience. He had a passion for hurling and was always anxious for news about the fortunes of Kilkenny and of his local club, St Martins, which was named in his honour. (He had convinced the three clubs attached to the three churches in his native parish that they would be much more successful if they combined. This proved to be correct).

Father Martin died at St Columban's Retirement Home in Dalgan Park. He will be buried on Wednesday 20 June in his home parish of Muckalee in the grounds of the church of St Brendan.

May his great soul rest in peace.


St Brendan's, Muckalee [Diocese of Ossory]


Obituary by Fr Cyril Lovett.



In County Kilkenny one sport is supreme: the ancient Irish game of hurling. The clip above shows the great skill of a friend of Father Martin, Henry Shefflin (No 15 in the black and amber stripes of Kilkenny and known as 'King Henry'), considered one of the greatest ever hurlers and who retired from senior hurling in 2015. These players are all amateurs.

The Rose of Mooncoin is the anthem of Kilkenny hurlers. It is sung here by Johnny McEvoy who in his introduction mentions his childhood hero Ollie Walsh, the Kilkenny goalkeeper from 1956 till 1972. 

13 June 2018

'Ag Críost an síol, ag Críost an fómhar - To Christ the seed, to Christ the crop.' Sunday Reflections, 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

The Sower (after Millet), Van Gogh [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)

Gospel Mark 4:26-34 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

Jesus said to the crowds: ‘The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.’
He also said, ‘With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.’
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.


Reaper with Sickle (after Millet), Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

Below is what I posted three years ago and part of what I posted six years ago for this Sunday.  It is now (2018) 76 years since my parents married and 'the youngest born last month' is now aged six. His father came through the medical procedure successfully, thank God.

The parables in this Sunday's gospel remind us that the faith has had many small beginnings. Perhaps the greatest is the Twelve Apostles. 

As a Columban priest I'm very conscious of our history. Fr Edward Galvin from Ireland went off to China with Canadian Fr John Fraser in 1912. Fr Fraser went on to found the Scarboro Missionary Society in Canada and Fr Galvin, with Fr John Blowick, was to set up the Missionary Society of St Columban within a few years, both societies working to bring the Gospel to the people of China.

The Columbans, along with all other Christian missionaries, were eventually driven out of China after 1949 but have a presence there again, in a different way. And a year ago, as I wrote for last Sunday, the first two Chinese students came to Manila to prepare to be Columban missionary priests. Another small beginning in the service of the mission that Jesus gave to the Church. [Update: Those two students have since left but another, Peter Dong Lichun, was ordained deacon recently and will be ordained priest, God willing, later this year. He will be the first Chinese Columban priest.]

70 years ago my parents were married. Another small beginning in faith, a faith nourished, at least in part, by the Eucharistic Congress ten years earlier in their native Dublin. Without that beginning I would not be here. 

Today, Friday, I visited a friend in Cebu City whom I hadn't seen in more than twelve years. When we last met she was single. Today I met her husband and seven children, the youngest born last month. She and her husband have both lost their mothers in the last couple of months. Her husband will be going into hospital on Saturday for a procedure on one of his kidneys.The house they were living in before was burned down and they are now in a very small temporary house from which they will have to move soon. Yet I saw a house filled with love, the older children when they came home from school giving the mano po, the hand to the forehead, a sign of respect in the Philippines and in Timor Leste (East Timor), to their parents and to me - and then going to kiss their two youngest brothers. And we shared bread together, pandesal, small pieces of bread that are very popular for breakfast and for snacks.

The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.

We just don't know where the seed will be scattered and where it will bear fruit. I once met a young woman from Japan in Manila. She was moving towards the Catholic faith and the seed was being nourished in the predominantly Catholic Philippines. But the seed of her faith came to fruition in Thailand where she was baptised during an Easter Vigil. Thailand, like Japan, is a country where only about one person in two hundred is a Catholic. 

May we be aware of the many 'seeds' that the Lord has scattered in our lives, that he nourishes through the Eucharist and that he brings to fruition in the most unexpected ways.


Sheaves of Wheat, Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]


Ag Críost an Síol


Words written in 1916 by Fr Micheál Ó Síocháin (later Coadjutor Archbishop of Sydney), music by Seán Ó Riada in 1968. This hymn in the Irish language is often sung at weddings and at funerals. Though intended by Ó Riada as an Offertory hymn it is more often sung during or after Communion. 




Ag Críost an síol, ag Críost an fómhar;
i n-iothlainn Dé go dtugtar sinn.

Ag Críost an mhuir, ag Críost an t-iasc;
i líonta Dé go gcastar sinn.

Ó fhás go h-aois, is ó aois go bás,
do dhá láimh, a Chríost, anall tharainn.

Ó bhás go críoch, ní críoch ach athfhás,
i bParthas na ngrást go rabhaimid.

To Christ the Seed

Translation by Thomas Kinsella.

To Christ the seed, to Christ the crop,
in barn of Christ may we be brought.

To Christ the sea, to Christ the fish,
in nets of Christ may we be caught.

From growth to age, from age to death,
Thy two arms here, O Christ, about us.

From death to end, not end but growth,
in blessed Paradise may we be.

06 June 2018

'Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’ Sunday Reflections, 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Young Jew as Christ, Rembrandt [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)

Gospel Mark 3:20-25 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

Then Jesus went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.’ And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
‘Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’— for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’
Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’

Beggar Resting, Giacomo Ceruti [Web Gallery of Art]

The note that goes with this painting on Web Gallery of Art - a wonderful website - says: The stick of the sitting figure of about seventy years of age, the knapsack on his shoulders, and the wicker basket all identify him as a pilgrim rather than as a beggar seeking alms.

Pilgrims often are beggars in the sense that some depend entirely on the goodness of others for food and lodging along their way. The Columban seminarians in the Philippines usually go on such a pilgrimage as part of their spiritual formation as Kurt Zion Pala, now ordained and serving in Myanmar, describes in The Road to Agoo.

But sometimes we can see individuals simply as beggars and, in a sense, dismiss them from our thoughts, never knowing their stories, never knowing their humanity. That has been my experience a number of times down the years.

One such experience was during my seminary years, in the summer of 1964, while working for two weeks at The Morning Star Hostel, run by the Legion of Mary, about ten minutes' walk from where I lived in Dublin. It was a place of refuge for 'down and out' men. It was far from being a luxury hotel but was a place where every man, whether short-term or long-term, was respected. The facilities have improved since then. 

While at the Morning Star I had a couple of long chats with a man I knew by sight. I'll call him Michael. He was a street singer, going around different parts of the city singing popular songs and hoping that people would give him a few pennies. Anytime I saw him he was just another beggar to me. 

But in our conversations I met in Michael a man who had a spirituality that in a real sense was beyond me. He was highly intelligent and reflected on life. He wasn't from Dublin and didn't tell me how he had ended up in the Morning Star. But I got sense of a person for whom God was very real. I wondered if he was somewhat out of his mind or if he was some kind of mystic. I felt blessed by knowing him and figured that more likely he was a mystic, certainly a man close to God. And I saw his dignity as a person made in the image of God, the serene dignity of the beggar/pilgrim that Giacomo Ceruti captured in his painting, the serene dignity of the young Jew expelled from his native country captured by Rembrandt.

When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’ These words in today's Gospel remind me of Michael. It is clear that the perception of some of those who knew Jesus was that he was somewhat 'off-centre'. Jesus is here identifying himself with every person who is, in some way, 'off-centre' or perceived to be such. Such persons are not always taken seriously by the rest of us. They are on the margins.

The note that goes with Rembrandt's Young Jew as Christ says, The sitter of the painting is a young Jew evicted from Spain and settled in Amsterdam in the neighbourhood of Rembrandt. Another person on the margins, evicted by followers of Jesus from his native country because he was ethnically the same as Jesus and his mother. 

I once showed a very poor black and white copy of this painting during a Sunday homily at a Mass in a home for girls in the Philippines where most of the girls had been sexually abused. One, aged 14 or 15, asked if she could keep the copy. I later had a proper print made and framed and gave it to her. I asked her what had drawn her in Rembrandt's painting. She replied, 'He looks so human'.

In today's gospel we see the utter humanity of Jesus, God who became Man. We see his utter vulnerability, allowing himself to be dismissed by some as one who has gone out of his mind.

And then the extraordinary statement by Jesus: Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.

Whatever our nationality, our ethnic origins, our social standing, our level of education, our intellectual or physical abilities, our language, Jesus calls us his brother and sister and mother. His own Mother is the only one, apart from Jesus himself, who carried out God's will perfectly. Nevertheless he considers all who desire, with God's grace, to carry out the Father's will his brother and sister and mother

Jesus showed himself to me 54 years ago through Michael, whom I had seen only as a beggar before I met him. He shows himself to me through Ceruti's Beggar Resting, through Rembrandt's Young Jew as Christ. And Jesus, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, showed his humanity to my young friend in the Philippines who had been so badly treated through a very poor print of Rembrandt's painting!

Jesus reveals himself to us in the words of St John the Apostle in the hymn below, composed by a Pole and sung by a church choir in Indonesia in the ancient Latin language that is the heritage of all Roman Catholics.

May the words of Jesus and his presence among us in so many ways fill us with courage and hope!


Antiphona ad communionem  Communon Antiphon  1 John 4:16

Deus caritas est, et qui manet in caritate in Deo manet et Deus in eo.
God is love, an whoever abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

The setting above of extracts from 1 John 4:7-21 and 1 John 3:1 is by contemporary Polish composer Henryk Jan Botor and is sung by Cappella Victoria Jakarta. This Sunday's alternative Communion Antiphon is used as the refrain. The text is from the Nova Vulgata Latin translation of the Bible.

Deus caritas est, Deus caritas est; et, qui manet in caritate, in Deo manet, in Deo manet, in Deo. 

Diligamus invicem, quoniam caritas ex Deo est; et omnis, qui diligit, ex Deo natus est et cognoscit Deum. [Let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.]

Deus caritas est, Deus caritas est; et, qui manet in caritate, in Deo manet, in Deo manet, in Deo. 

In hoc apparuit caritas Dei in nobis, quoniam Filium suum unigenitum misit Deus in mundum, ut vivamus per eum. [In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.]

Deus caritas est, Deus caritas est; et, qui manet in caritate, in Deo manet, in Deo manet, in Deo. 

Si sic Deus dilexit nos, et nos debemus alterutrum diligere, et nos debemus alterutrum diligere. [If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another, we also ought to love one another.]

Deus caritas est, Deus caritas est; et, qui manet in caritate, in Deo manet, in Deo manet, in Deo. 

Si diligamus invicem, Deus in nobis manet, et caritas eius in nobis consummata est. [If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.]                                                                                                                                                                
Deus caritas est, Deus caritas est; et, qui manet in caritate, in Deo manet, in Deo manet, in Deo.                                                                                                                             Nos diligimus, quoniam ipse prior dilexit nos. Et hoc mandatum habemus ab eo, ut, qui diligit Deum, diligat et fratrem suum. [And this is the commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also. We love, because he first loved us.]

Deus caritas est, Deus caritas est; et, qui manet in caritate, in Deo manet, in Deo manet, in Deo. 

Videte qualem caritatem dedit nobis Pater, et filii Dei nominemur et sumus. [See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God.]

Deus caritas est, Deus caritas est; et, qui manet in caritate, in Deo manet, in Deo manet, in Deo. 

Deus caritas est, Deus caritas est; et, qui manet in caritate, in Deo manet, in Deo manet, in Deo. 


31 May 2018

'The body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Sunday Reflections, Corpus Christi Sunday, Year B

Corpus Christ Procession, Carl Emil Doepler [Wikipedia]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Mark 14:12-16, 22-26 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, Jesus’ disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’

Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

In countries where  Corpus Christi is celebrated as a holy day of obligation on Thursday 31 May the Mass for the Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, is celebrated this Sunday.

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

The Institution of the Eucharist, Federico Fiori Barocci 

A friend in Dublin whom I have known for many years is going on a pilgrimage to Fatima this week. She is a grandmother and was widowed last year. She told me that she is the only adult member of her wider family never to have gone on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. But she added, 'There's really no need to go on a pilgrimage since the Lord is present in the Blessed Sacrament in the parish church'.

My friend goes to Mass every day but during the last two years of her husband's life was unable to go to church. However, a neighbour who is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion brought her the Body of Christ every day. That sustained her in very difficult times.


Some years ago while visiting Canada I was invited to give a talk to a prayer group in Hamilton, Ontario. During coffee afterwards one of the members told me how she finally decided to become a Catholic. She was originally from Germany and grew up in the Lutheran Church. She had been thinking of becoming a Catholic for many years but could not take the final step. One weekday when she was feeling somewhat down she happened to be passing a Catholic church and decided to go in and pray. While she was there a small group of teenage boys came in, went up to the front of the church, genuflected to the Blessed Sacrament, prayed silently for a minute or two, genuflected again and left.


That was the moment of grace for her, the quiet faith of those boys, their faith in the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church, No 1374, states: The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as 'the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.' In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist 'the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.



St Norbert, Martin Pepijn [Web Gallery of Art]

St Norbert is kneeling in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance. At a slightly higher level is a sanctuary lamp that reminds us of the presence of the the Risen Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. When we enter a church and see that lamp burning - it is usually an electric lamp these days - we genuflect in adoration because we are in the presence of Jesus Christ body and blood, together with the soul and divinity.

During the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, through the power of the Holy Spirit acting in the priest, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. When we approach the Lord to receive him in Holy Communion we should be prepared, with no grave unconfessed sin, and with reverence and silence. We are not receiving a symbol of Christ the Risen Lord, we are not receiving just a piece of bread but the Lord himself coming to us in the form of bread and wine.

So often when I tell people at parties, for example, and mention that I don't drink alcohol someone will say, 'But you drink wine at Mass!' I try to gently remind them that I don't 'drink wine at Mass' but the Blood of Christ himself.

The late Columban Fr PJ McGlinchey visiting a sick person in Jeju, Korea

A poem can often help us see something ‘ordinary’ in a new way or it may help us see something quite extraordinary from the vantage point of ordinariness – bringing us to see a new aspect of its extraordinariness.
Such is a poem in Irish by Seán Ó Leocháin published in 1986 in Aithrí Thoirní and which I came across in an article in Comhar in May 1992. It is appropriate for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.
I’ve never had the gift of writing poetry but will attempt a translation of the poem.

Nuair a tháinig an sagart
chuig m’athair inniu,
mar a thagann de ghnáth
i dtús na míosa,
le lón na beatha
a thabhairt d’fhear
nach bhfágann an chlúid
in aon chor le tamall,
ní hé an gnás
ab ait liom féin.
Ní hé ba mhó
ba bhun le m’iontas
fear dá chlú,
dá chleacht, dá éirim
ar cuairt na sean
i dtús na míosa
le comhairle a leasa
a chur ar dhream
nach bhfágfadh clúid na haithrí choíche,

ach Críost a theacht
i gcarr athláimhe
a cheannaigh an sagart
ó fhear i Ros Comáin.


When the priest came
to my father today
as he usually comes
at the beginning of the month
with the food of life
to give to a man
who’s been bed-ridden
for some time now,
it wasn’t the rite
that was strange to me.
What really
caused my wonder wasn’t
a man of such repute,
such experience, such intelligence
visiting the old
at the beginning of the month
with wise counsel
to give to those
who would never leave the corner of penance again,

but Christ coming
in a second-hand car
the priest had bought
from a man in Roscommon.


Antiphona ad communionem  Communion Antiphon  John 6:57

Qui manducat carnem meam
     et bibit meaum sanguinem,
in me manet et ego in eos,
     dicit Dominus.

Whoever eats my flesh
     and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him
     says the Lord.

The choir in the video is from Japan, the Kobe Camerata.