21 July 2016

'Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy,' WYD Krakow 2016. Sunday Reflections, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Man Praying, Van Gogh, April 1883, The Hague
Private Collection [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 was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
    Your kingdom come.
     Give us each day our daily bread.
     And forgive us our sins,

        for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
    And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’  And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’  I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish?  Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Responsorial Psalm (NAB Lectionary)

Fr Patrick Ronan, from County Kilkenny in Ireland, was one of four Columbans jailed in China in 1952 by the Communist authorities for 'subversive activities'. Another Columban, Fr Aedan McGrath, spent nearly three years in solitary confinement in China between 1950 and 1953 because of his involvement in the Legion of Mary. All five were expelled in 1953.

Fr Ronan, known to his fellow Columbans as 'Pops', and his three companions, Frs Owen O'Kane, John Casey and Patrick Reilly, were called Four Felons in a book published in 1958 that told their story. They were in the same prison but in separate cells and were often interrogated in the middle of the night, never knowing when they might be called out.

Unlike his three companions, Father 'Pops' always managed to sleep soundly, no matter how often he was awakened for an interrogation. When the four were eventually released and told to leave the People's Republic he learned why when they arrived in Hong Kong. The woman who had been principal when he was in kindergarten had been praying every day of his captivity for one specific intention: that he would sleep soundly.

Like the wonderful bargaining prayer of Abraham on behalf of his people in the First Reading today that woman's prayer was very down to earth and, like Abraham, she saw God as being down to earth too. Her prayer was also very focused, as was that of Abraham. And, like Abraham, our father in faith, she had a deep faith-filled hope that God would answer her prayer.

The 'Four Felons' have all gone to their reward now. I was blessed to have known two of them here in the Philippines, Fr Ronan and Fr Reilly. I happened to be in Ireland when Father 'Pops' died there in 1991 and his great friend and fellow 'felon' Fr Patrick Reilly told us a story at the funeral Mass that reminded us of the power of the very specific prayer of Fr Ronan's former teacher, though from a somewhat humorous angle. The four travelled home by boat from Hong Kong. The other three often had difficulty trying to waken Fr Ronan in the morning and suggested that he contact his friend in Ireland and ask her to stop praying for him!

I am often deeply touched by friends in the Philippines who ask me to pray for some particular intention, very often for a family member who is sick. When that person gets better they make a point of thanking me for my prayers. There's an reminder in this that, like Abraham, I'm called to pray for the people I serve.

And Pope Francis on the evening he first spoke to use as Pope reminded us of the importance of our prayers for him.

I truly believe that it is impossible for God to refuse to listen to prayer that is in harmony with his will. So many of us older people these days have family members and friends who seem to have fallen away from the Church and, in many instances, from the faith itself. There are two things we can do: live as followers of Jesus as intensely as possible and pray that their faith will be renewed.

St John Paul II singing the Our Father in Latin

Old Woman Praying, Matthias Stom, 1640s
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York [Web Gallery of Art]

Antiphona ad introitum   Communion Antiphon Matthew 5:7-8
[Alternative Communion Antiphon with New Testament text] 

Beati misericordes, quoniam ipsi misericordiam consequentur.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Beati mundo corde, quoniam ipsi Deum videbunt.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.

The first verse of the alternative Communion Antiphon is the theme for WYD 2016 Krakow: Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the Merciful is the title of the theme song for the event. The official English version, with audio only, is here. Below is another version, produced in California.

I rather like the version below produced by the Aizawl Diocese Catholic Youth. The diocese is in India, has a population of 4,600,000 or so and maybe 40,000 Catholics. The Mizo people live in north-western India, western Myanmar and eastern Bangladesh. They are nearly all Christians, though only a minority are Catholics.

It doesn't really matter what language the song is sung in as long as we keep this in mind and heart: Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.

'God, merciful Father,
in your Son, Jesus Christ, you have revealed your love
and poured it out upon us in the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, 
We entrust to you today the destiny of the world and of every man and woman.' 
We entrust to you in a special way 
young people of every language, people and nation:
guide and protect them as they walk the complex paths of the world today
and give them the grace to reap abundant fruits 
from their experience of the Krakow World Youth Day.
Heavenly Father, 
grant that we may bear witness to your mercy.
Teach us how to convey the faith to those in doubt,
hope to those who are discouraged,
love to those who feel indifferent, 
forgiveness to those who have done wrong.

18 July 2016

Columban Fr Edward Quinn RIP

Fr Edward Quinn
(25 June 1928 - 12 July 2016)

After a brief illness, Fr Edward Quinn ('55) died peacefully at the Bellevue Medical Center in Nebraska on the evening of 12 July.

Fr Ed Quinn was born on 25 June 25 in Minneapolis, MN, USA.  His parents were Edward I. Quinn and Mary Frances Graham.

In his early elementary school years he attended public schools in Iowa. From the sixth through eighth grades he studied at Our Lady of Lourdes School, Omaha, NE, 1939-42. His high school years were spent at Creighton Prep 1942-46, Omaha, NE. For college he studied at Creighton University, Omaha, NE, 1946-50 where he received a Bachelor of Science in Biology. He was a gifted athlete who played on the basketball and track teams at Creighton Prep and Creighton University.

St John's Church, Creighton University [Wikipedia]

He studied for the priesthood at the Columban seminaries at St Columbans, NE, Bristol, RI, and at Milton, MA. Father Ed was ordained to the priesthood on 17 December 1955 in the Milton seminary chapel.

Fr Quinn in Korea, c. 1960
'This article, circa 1960, is about my uncle caring for those in leper colonies in South Korea. He lived in Korea until 1972. He then worked in Fiji until he returned to Omaha about a decade ago. He did much good for humanity in his 88 years.' [From Facebook of Fr Quinn's nephew, also Edward Quinn.]

He served in Korea from 1956 to 1968 doing parish work.

Later in 1968 Father Ed was assigned to the USA for vocation work in Chicago. While there he started the Korean Catholic Center.

Fr Quinn in Fiji

In 1973 he was assigned to Fiji where he did parish work for ten years. While he mainly served in Fijian-speaking parishes, Father Ed also spoke Hindi which he used in Indian-Fijian parishes. While Regional Director in Fiji 1983-87 he periodically visited and spent several months in Vanuatu, where the Columban Region of Fiji had a mission at that time. From 1987 onwards he  served variously in formation, vocations, hospital chaplaincy and parish work before starting the Lay Missionary program in Fiji. 

Father Ed with Korean Columban Lay Missionaries Yean Sin, Bok Ja and Yean Han in Fiji, 1994
Yean Sin died of hepatitis in Fiji on 4 November 1994.

In addition, he was Regional Bursar from 1987 to 1991 and House Bursar/Manager from 1990 to 2007. He was periodically elected as a Regional Councilor throughout his years in Fiji.

From 2007 to the present, he was assigned to St Columbans, Omaha, NE. While he was still able to drive, he chose to be a chauffeur for many Columbans on trips to and from the local airport. He had a low key, unassuming way about him with a wry sense of humor. He is sorely missed.

Crucifix, St Columbans, Nebraska

Obituary by Fr Tim Mulroy, Columban Regional Director, USA.

Christ JyotiAshram - Christ the Light Ashram
Near Nadi, in western Viti Levu

The only time I met Fr Ed Quinn was two or three weeks after Easter 1990 when I paid my only visit to Fiji. The late Fr Martin Dobey met me at Nadi International Airport and took me to the Ashram above where the Columbans were on retreat. They greeted me with the traditional yaqona (kava) ceremony. I spent two nights there, as far as I can recall, and then travelled with Father Ed in his vehicle to Suva, a journey of about two hours. Fr Mulroy's description of him above: He had a low key, unassuming way about him with wry sense of humor, is how I remember him. As a fellow Columban missionary priest I was inspired by his quiet, joyful presence. 

Coral reef below the Ashram

An abiding memory I have of my stay in the Ashram is the sound of the waves breaking on the coral reef in the photo above, a sound that brought a sense of peace.

May Father Ed rest in the eternal life-filled peace that Jesus has promised to those who follow him and do the will of the Father.

15 July 2016

'There is need of only one thing.' Sunday Reflections, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, 1656
The Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia [Web Gallery of Art]
[First Reading, Genesis 18:1-10a]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;  there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh [Web Gallery of Art]

Perhaps the poorest man I've met in my life was Billy Smith. Despite his name, he was a Filipino, though as far as we Columban priests knew his father was an American. He was known to all the Columbans in northern Mindanao where in the 1970s we had many parishes, now staffed by Filipino diocesan priests. Billy would do his rounds of the parishes over a period of months and in each would get some food, some clothing, a little money and a place to sleep. He was tall and thin and in his latter years was going blind. He had a number of illnesses. He carried a sturdy staff. Sometimes children would make fun of him and even throw stones at him.

One afternoon more than 35 years ago in a place where I had been parish priest for a couple of months, the last Columban to serve in that role, but was in charge of a spiritual pastoral formation year for seminarians from five dioceses, I heard the 'clump, clump, clump' of heavy boots coming up the stairs to the living quarters. It was Billy. At the time I had a visitor, a young friend named Patricia who was in Grade 5. She never knew her father as he had died when she was an infant. She 'adopted' me as a father and called me 'Tatay' (Dad) and often dropped by after class before heading home. (She is now a widowed grandmother and still calls me 'Tatay'.) The family lived in a small house built on stilts that looked as if it might fall over at any minute. Her mother managed to make a living. 

When Patricia saw Billy she immediately went over to him, took him by the hand, sat him down at the table and brought him something to eat and drink. I doubt if Billy had ever received such service in his life. My young friend was unaware that I was taking all of this in.

Patricia had little in life and Billy had even less. But the young girl showed respect, kindness and hospitality to this man of the roads. She did this spontaneously, from the heart. When I told her about this incident years later she couldn't remember it.

The story in the First Reading of Abraham's welcome to the three strangers and the story of the welcome Martha and Mary to Jesus in the Gospel show us how blessed we may be by hospitality. Abraham didn't know that the strangers were visitors from God, who blessed him and Sarah, childless and well beyond the normal age for having children, with a son, Isaac, within the year. It is through Isaac that we can refer to 'Abraham, our father in faith' in Eucharistic Prayer I (The Roman Canon).

God blessed Billy through the hospitality of Patricia, a child, and he gave me a lifelong blessing through that incident.

Very often what a visitor looks forward to is something to eat and drink. And in the Scriptures when it gives us stories of hospitality such as in the First Reading, there is more than enough. Vincenzo Campi's painting below emphasises the extent of Martha's hospitality and the amount of work that faces her. We can understand her frustration with her sister Mary. The painting also shows us something of the generosity of God.

However, there are times when the hospitality needed is simply someone to listen. From what we read about Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus in the gospels of St Luke and St John it would seem that Jesus felt very much at home with them and quite possibly had many meals with them. But on this occasion he simply wants the ear of Mary and Martha. Mary senses this. 

There is need of only one thing, Jesus tells Martha. That, basically, is to know what God wants from us at a particular time and then to do that. In the last chapter of St John's Gospel Jesus is telling us the same thing in his conversation with St Peter when he asks him three times 'Do you love me?' When Peter says 'Yes' on each occasion Jesus tells him, 'feed my lambs, feed my sheep'. But the basic question is Do you love me?

There is need of only one thing.

Galleria Estense, Modena, Italy [Web Gallery of Art]

Responsorial Psalm
NAB Lectionary (Philippines, USA)

Oak of Mamre [Wikipedia]
[First Reading, Genesis 18:1-10a]

12 July 2016

'You forgot to genuflect!'

I came across the video above last week while looking for a version of the hymn O, Sacrament Most Holy to include in an article I was editing for MISYONonline.com, the Columban magazine here in the Philippines of which I am editor.

In the article, Saving the Blessed Sacrament, a young Filipino, John Lambert Minimo, tells how he was able to take the Blessed Sacrament to a safe place after a fire at University of the East (UE) Manila, from which he had just graduated, had badly damaged the chapel.

I presume the video above was made somewhere in North America, though most of the scouts are clearly of East Asian ancestry.

There's  a scene at 0:13 that reminds me of something that happened to me shortly after my First Holy Communion in 1950. It was probably a First Friday, when we would be brought to the semi-public chapel pf the Irish Sisters of Charity, Stanhope Street, Dublin, for confession. Fr Henry Cunningham, one of four curates (assistant priests) in our parish, Holy Family, Aughrim Street, was usually the priest who heard our confessions.

Most of the boys had already gone back to our classroom and only five or six of us were left. When we were leaving the chapel, for some reason I genuflected towards the door, not towards the tabernacle. As we were walking back to the classroom the other boys told me that they would report me to Sister Stanislaus, the principal of the Boys' Kindergarten School. She had prepared us for our First Confession and First Holy Communion. Not wishing to be reported, I went back to the chapel and genuflected to the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. 

I had learned an important lesson.

In the video a young scout coming from the direction of the altar sits down on the pew without genuflecting. His companion says something to him and the youngster then genuflects before they exchange places. I take it that the older one said to him, You forgot to genuflect!

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, UE chapel before fire

I have noticed over the years that fewer and fewer people bother to genuflect even some who go to daily Mass. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal describes genuflection this way: A genuflection, made by bending the right knee to the ground, signifies adoration, and therefore it is reserved for the Most Blessed Sacrament, as well as for the Holy Cross from the solemn adoration during the liturgical celebration on Good Friday until the beginning of the Easter Vigil (No 274).

But it is the centuries-old practice in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, to which most of us belong, to genuflect when we come into a church or chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is present, and to genuflect when we leave. This is an act of adoration, a profound expression of faith in the presence of Jesus the Risen Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. (In Japan, in some other countries and in the Cistercian Order a profound bow is made instead of a genuflection.)

St Norbert in Adoration, Marten Pepijn, 1637. 
Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp [Web Gallery of Art]

08 July 2016

'Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”' Sunday Reflections, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, Netherlands [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 Luke 10:25-37 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii,  gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Samaritans' Passover Pilgrimage, Mount Gerizim [Wikipedia]

Fr Kevin McHugh, a Columban confrere in Our Lady of Remedies Parish, Malate, Manila, sent me the following by the late Monsignor Thomas Waldron (1929 - 1995) of the Archdiocese of Tuam, Ireland. Father Kevin transcribed it from a cassette tape.

NB When posting this yesterday I omitted the last part of Monsignor Waldren's reflection. It is there now.

Instead of a homily I am going to take a risk . . . I am going to tell the story in the words of the lawyer who asked Jesus the Question that you just heard in the Gospel ‘Who is my neighbour?’

So, I am the lawyer.

We lawyers make our living by asking questions . . . especially when in the court room. Well, I was one of those standing in the crowd that day . . . and I asked a very basic question.

‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

I admired him . . . I liked him . . . but I just wanted to test him. He didn’t answer me! Like any good lawyer he shot back the question . . . two questions.

'What is written in the Law? What do you read there?'

I gave the standard answer: ‘Love God with all heart etc . . . and your neighbour as yourself.’

He said: ‘Exactly! Do this and you will live!’

I suppose I could have left it there but I wanted to show off . . . to show the others how smart I was . . . so I asked, ‘But who is my neighbour?’

He gave me a little look as if to say, ‘You are a clever one alright . . .but listen to this!’

And then he went on . . . you know the story . . . Jewish priest . . .. sacristan went down the road . . . passed the man lying at side of road. Samaritan came along and helped to save his life.

It was a beautiful answer to my question.

But he wasn’t finished with me.

‘Which of these three,’ he said to me, ‘would you think was neighbour to the man?’

Made his question personal!

Now the roles were reversed. Jesus was not my witness . . . he was my judge? I was more like a defendant!

‘The one who took pity on him,’ I said.

A few bystanders approached him so I took my leave. I had certainly met my match!

But later on that day I met Jesus in the Market place; he came over to me and said: 'Good Question!'

And I said to him, ‘Great Answer!’

Lawyer: 'I presume that the part you yourself would have played in the story would have been that of the Good Samaritan?’

Jesus: ‘Well, actually, no. I think I would have been the man who was injured and beaten . . . lying on the road. It was from that point of view that I told the story:
·        with the ears of a man who heard people pass by when I shouted out for help;
·        with the eyes of a man who saw feet walk by him - on the other side – when he needed some one on his side;
·         and I told the story with the thanks of a frightened man . . . thanks for the fellow who stopped.
·        The man on the ground – that’s me – is grateful for anyone that stops . . . man, woman or Samaritan.

When you’re down, you don’t care what colour, class, creed or nationality is the hand that helps you up.

And he looked at me . . . and he looked at us all gathered here this evening when he said: ‘Go . . . and do likewise.’

Antiphona ad communionem  Communion Antiphon.. Cf Ps 83[84]:4-5 

Passer invenit sibi domum et turtur nidum, ubi reponat pullos suos.
Altaria tua, Domine virtutum, Rex meus et Deus meus!
Beati qui habitant in domu tua, in saeculum saeculi laudabunt te.

The sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for her young:
by your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

Blessed are they who dwell in your house, for ever singing your praise.