16 January 2019

'Love is always fruitful, were it only because it transforms those who love.' Sunday Reflections, 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

The Marriage at Cana, Marten de Vos [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 John 2:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)   

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom  and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Feast of the Santo Niño

On the third Sunday of January the Church in the Philippines celebrates the Feast of the Sto Niño, the Holy Child. These Sunday Reflections focus on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C. You will find Sunday Reflections for the Feast of the Sto Niño here.
Wedding of King Baudoin and Queen Fabiola 
15 December 1960

I have used this material before. I truly believe that the lives of King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola can speak to all Christians no matter what their state of life or social positions may be.

Last Sunday I featured the late King Baudouin of the Belgians. This week I feature him again, with Queen Fabiola, who died on 5 December 2014. The King died suddenly on 31 July 1993. In his spiritual biography of the King, Baudouin, King of the Belgians, The Hidden Life, the late Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, tells the remarkable story of how Baudouin and Fabiola met. The matchmaker of the marriage of Baudouin and Fabiola was an Irish woman, Veronica O'Brien. 

Veronica was envoy of the Legion of Mary to France and some other European countries. Much 'cloak and dagger' work was involved in finding a wife and queen for the young king. Much more importantly, much prayer was involved too, prayer that was basically a searching for God's will. They became formally engaged in Lourdes, France, King Baudouin travelling incognito, as he always did when he went there. (There are references online in obituaries of the King and elsewhere to Veronica O'Brien as 'Sister Veronica'. She was not a religious but a lay person. Members of the Legion of Mary address each other as 'Brother' and 'Sister' only during Legion meetings, not elsewhere).

The couple were married in Brussels on 15 December 1960. The video shows part of the church wedding, which took place immediately after the civil wedding. In a number of European countries a separate civil ceremony is required by law and takes place before the church celebration. The King wrote in his spiritual diary for that day: Normally we are awake by day and dream at night, but this time it's as if I'm in a dream all day.

On 8 July 1978 Baudouin wrote in his diary: My God, I thank you for having led us by the hand to the feet of Mary, and every day since then, I thank you, Lord, that we have been able to love each other in your Love, and that that love has grown each day.

And Queen Fabiola wrote to Veronica: I knew Our Blessed Lady was a Queen and a Mother, and all sorts of other things, but I never knew that she was a Matchmaker!

Quoting the Queen led Cardinal Suenens to quote a Spanish verse:

Cristo dijo a su Madre 
el dia de la Asunción 
no te vaya de este mundo 
sin pasar por Aragón.

Christ said to his Mother 
on the day of the Assumption: 
do not leave this world 
without passing through Aragón.

Before her marriage the Queen was Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón.

King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola, 1969 [Wikipedia]

The Cardinal quotes freely from Baudouin's diary about Queen Fabiola.

Fill Fabiola with your holiness. May she live her life in your joy and your peace. Teach me to love her with your own tenderness . . .

Fabiola is so loving; she warms my heart. Her silent, yet active presence is a source of great joy to me. My God, how you have spoiled me!

Thank you, Jesus, for having nurtured in me an immense love for my wife. Thank you for having given me a spouse whose love for me is second only to her love for You. May we both grow in you, Lord.

When Veronica O'Brien met Fabiola in Spain she asked the young woman, who had no idea where things were leading, why she had never married. She replied, What can I say? I have never fallen in love up to now. I have put my life into the hands of God. I abandon myself to Him, maybe he is preparing something for me.

Veronica recounted all of this in a letter to the King and concluded, It was utterly astounding, because I knew exactly what God was preparing for her.

Thirty years later the King wrote in his spiritual diary: Mary, show me what I should do so as not to miss an opportunity of loving, of denying myself for your sake, of living the present moment to the full, as if it were my last, and of loving my darling Fabiola infinitely more. Yes, Mother, teach me to love her with tenderness, gentleness, thoughtfulness, respect, and teach me to have faith in her . . .

And Baudouin, addressing the Lord, wrote, Teach me too to respect her personality with its differences and its inconsistencies. Jesus, I thank you for having given me this wonderful treasure.

Both King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola in these extracts reflect the spirituality of a book that Cardinal Suenens had given the King before he met his future queen and wife, Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade SJ. One English translation of this masterpiece has the title The Sacrament of the Present Moment, which captures the essence of the book, that God's will is in the present moment.

Shortly before he left for Motril, Spain, in 1993, where he died suddenly, King Baudouin confided to Cardinal Suenens and Veronica O'BrienI love Fabiola more and more each day: what an inspiration she is to me!

This led the Cardinal to quote Jean Guitton, the first lay person to be invited to Vatican II as an observer, Love is always fruitful, were it only because it transforms those who love.

Children's Games (detail), Pieter Bruegel the Elder 

One of the great sorrows in the life of Baudouin and Fabiola as a married couple was that they had no children. The Queen had five miscarriages. Reflecting on this, the King said to a group visiting the Palace, We have pondered on the meaning of this suffering and, bit by bit, we have come to see that it meant that our heart was freer to love all children, absolutely all children.

In a letter to a young mother the King wrote about a children's party that he and the Queen had hosted at the Palace: In one corner there was a group of handicapped children, several of them with Down's syndrome. I brought over a plateful of toffees to a little girl who had scarcely any manual control. with great difficulty, she succeed in taking a toffee but, to my astonishment, she gave it to another child. then for a long time, without ever keeping one for herself, she distributed these sweets (candies) to all the healthy children who could not believe their eyes. What a depth of love there is in those physically handicapped bodies . . .

One by one the children left. We really felt as if they had become in some sense our children. I think they felt it too. It was a very special afternoon; the presence of the Lord was really tangible. There was such peace and joy. That was pure gift!

I have read Baudouin, King of the Belgians, The Hidden Life, a number of times and each time I am moved by it. I see in it a reflection of what's in today's gospel: his gratitude to God, like the gratitude of all at the wedding feast, not mentioned explicitly but clearly there; his and Fabiola's submission to God's will through Mary: Do whatever he tells you; and the extraordinary generosity of Jesus, God and Man, turning water into  the equivalent of about 500 or 600 bottles of the best wine, a generosity that led Baudouin and Fabiola, who couldn't have children of their own, to see that our heart was freer to love all children, absolutely all children.

When we allow him, Jesus can turn the very ordinary in our lives into the extraordinary, just as a little girl with physical and mental disabilities revealed the presence of God to the King of the Belgians, just as Fabiola, his wife and queen, was a daily revelation of God's loving presence to him.

God has the same desire to reveal himself to each of us every day, specifically in the present moment. And He has given us his Mother, who is our Mother also, to guide us with her words of absolute faith, do whatever he tells you.

Antiphona ad introitum  Entrance Antiphon Ps 65 [66]:4

Omnis terra adoret te, Deus, et psallet tibi;
All the earth shall bow down before you, O God, and shall sing to you,
psalmum dicat nomini tuo, Altissime.
shall sing to your name, O Most High!

Iubilate Deo, omnis terra, psalmum dicite nomini eius: date gloriam laudi eius. 
Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.

Omnis terra adoret te, Deus, et psallet tibi;
All the earth shall bow down before you, O God, and shall sing to you,
psalmum dicat nomini tuo, Altissime.
shall sing to your name, O Most High!

The text in bold is for the Entrance Antiphon as used in the Ordinary Form of the Mass, though the longer form may also be used. The latter is used in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (the 'Traditional Latin Mass') where this Sunday is the Second Sunday after Epiphany.

10 January 2019

‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’ Sunday Reflections, The Baptism of the Lord, Year C

Baptism of Christ, El Greco [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)

Note: In each of the above you will find an alternative First Reading, Responsorial Psalm and Second Reading that may be used in Year C. The Gospel below is always used in Year C.

Gospel Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)   

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,  John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened,  and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’

The Baptism of Christ, Francesco Mochi [Web Gallery of Art]

The Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.

At our baptism the Father spoke the same words to each of us, his beloved sons and daughters. At Mass last Tuesday these powerful words of St John were read: God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:9-10).

At our baptism, as at the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan God's love was revealed among us. What greater assurance can we have of God's love?

In 1984 a young person in Belgium full of anger towards everything connected with religion wrote a letter to an older person, a layman, expressing his feelings. The older man replied, in part:

When I was still a teenager, I discovered that God, in the person of Jesus, loved us and loved me with a love that is foolish, but very real. He suffered the most excruciating torture in order to save us, to save me, to save each one of us personally from the grip of evil, and to enable us to share, if we so will, in his divine life. That, if we accept him, his Father will become our Father, my Father. That Mary, his mother, will also become my mother, our mother.

From that day on my life changed. By that I mean my way of looking at things, because I'm afraid I'm still the same poor chap, with the same faults as before. But my weaknesses don't discourage me any longer: on the contrary, they provide me with a reason for trusting totally in the all-powerful strength of my Father who is also your Father

The ‘same poor chap’ who wrote that letter was the late King Baudouin of the Belgians who died suddenly in 1993. In it he was taking to heart the words of the First Letter of St John: In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

And in recognising that he himself is still the same poor chap he is acknowledging that Jesus is not ashamed of him, no more than Jesus was ashamed of the sinners he lined up with to be baptized by John, even if he himself was utterly sinless.

King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola, 1969 [Wikipedia]

King Baudouin wasn't ashamed of his subjects or of those who came to his country from elsewhere. The London newspaper, The Independentcarried an astonishing story about his funeral (I've highlighted some parts):

A former prostitute paid an emotional homage to King Baudouin at the funeral Mass. One of a handful of people chosen to deliver orations, Luz, a Filipino, praised the King for his fight against the international sex trade. She stood in silence as a writer, Chris de Stoop, read aloud the words she had written. She had met the King when he paid a highly-publicised visit to a brothel in Antwerp, and De Stoop said both the King and Queen had wanted her to address the funeral. This was her homage:

Now my friend passed away, who else can help us? I come from Manila. My family is very poor. I was promised a nice job in Europe. But Belgian men put us in a sex club. Belgian men put us in prostitution. We cried and we refused. But nobody could help us. We were forced. We were treated like slaves. When I could run away, I was arrested by police. I had many problems. 

Last year the King came to see us in Antwerp. We were five girls thereWe cried again but it was different tears. The King was holding my arm. He listened to me. Only the King listened to us. He was shocked. There are too many victims here. From Manila. From Bangkok. From Santo Domingo. From Budapest. From eastern Europe. All looking for a better life in the West. All pushed into prostitution. The King was fighting against this sex trade. He was standing up for us. He was a real king. I called him my friend.

Mary Magdalene in Penitence, El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

King Baudouin, living his faith in Jesus Christ, brought hope into the lives of people on the margins, the hope that Jesus brought into the world by standing with us sinners in the River Jordan. The King himself had suffered much in his lifetime. His mother, Princess Astrid of Sweden, died in a car accident when he was only five. He, his sister and brother, with their father King Leopold III were under house arrest during World War II and spent part of it in Germany. In 1951 Leopold, a cause of bitter division in Belgium because of his surrender to Nazi Germany in 1940, abdicated and his elder son took over, not yet 21.

In 1960 the young king married Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón from Spain. To their great sorrow, they had no children. Queen Fabiola had five miscarriages.

In 1990 King Baudouin asked the government to declare him temporarily unable to reign so that he wouldn't have to sign a bill legalising abortion. The government agreed. The King's stand was one of principle, though he was unable to stop the law coming into force.

King Baudouin went to Mass every day and to confession regularly. The baptism of Jesus by St John the Baptist might spur each of us on to avail of the sacrament of reconciliation often and to us priests to make ourselves available for it. The King would write a 'thought for the day' in his pocket diary, a text from the Mass.

And in that diary, after his death, this prayer was found:

Lord, make us suffer with the suffering of others. 
Lord, let us never again keep our happiness to ourselves. 
Make us share the agony of all suffering humanity. 
And deliver us from ourselves, if that is in accordance with your will.

Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens [Wikipedia]

The king’s biographer, Cardinal Suenens, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and close friend of the king, writes that Baudouin once confided to a friend his purpose in being King:

To love his country, 
to pray for his country, 
and to suffer for his country.

King Baudouin lived out his baptism as a disciple of Jesus, knowing that through baptism he was a brother of Jesus and of the Belgian people he was called to serve. He lived out the sacrament of matrimony by his great love for his wife and queen, Fabiola. He truly believed that Jesus loved him with a deep personal love.

Though none of us is a king or queen, Jesus, the beloved Son of the Father, loves each of us with that same personal love and draws us into the love of his Father as our Father. And we can adapt King Baudouin’s words in expressing his purpose in being king as our purpose in living out our baptism:

To love our family, community, country, 
to pray for our family, community, country, 
and to suffer for our family, community, country.

Baptistry, Basilica di San Marco, Venice [Web Gallery of Art]

Leis An Athair Pádraoig Ó Croiligh

Nuair a chaoineann páiste ag an Bhaisteadh
Deirtear go bhfuil sé sona.
An é go dtuigeann an páiste ag an aois sin
An bhaint idir Eaglais agus céasadh Chríost?
Nó an dtuigeann an páiste an chiall
Atá le sagartacht, ríogacht and fáidheoireacht
An uair a chuirtear an ola ar a cheann?
Éide bhán, ola agus coinneall,
Ní mó iad ná an t-uisce a dhoirtear ar a chloigeann.
Agus is comhartha cinnte arís é
Pobal na clainne atá bailithe timpeall.
Umar an bhaiste a aontaíonn an páiste
Le Corp Chríost agus le saol na hEaglaise
Tionchar an phobail agus críonnacht na muintire
A chuireann fás faoin saol úr i gCríost.

From Brúitíní Creidimh published by Foilseacháin Ábhar Spioradálta, 2005.

By Fr Pádraig Ó Croiligh
My non-poetic, literal translation from the Irish.

When a child cries during Baptism
It is said to be happy.
Is it that the child at that age understands
The connection between the Church and the Crucifixion of Christ?
Or does the child understand the meaning of
Priesthood, kingship and prophecy
When it is anointed on the head?
A white garment, oil and candle,
None more important than the water poured on its head.
And again, a sign that is certain is
The family community gathered around.
The baptismal font that unites the child
With the Body of Christ and the life of the Church.
The influence of the faithful and the wisdom of the community
Bring growth to this new life in Christ.

Kyrie eleison, Mass of John Paul II
by Polish composer Henryk Jan Botor