31 October 2009

30 October, Day 19: update on kidnapping of Fr Michael Sinnott

Our Lady of Ransom

This morning I celebrated the Mass of Our Lady of Ransom, associated with the Mercedarians who were founded in the early part of the 13th century to ransom impoverished Christians held by Muslims. Fr Pat O'Donoghue in one of his reports earlier this week mentioned that the Mecedarians in Argentina were praying for Father Sinnott's safe release. And many Muslims have been praing too for his release. Muslims hold Mary the Mother of Jesus in great esteem. May the prayers of Christians and Muslims, united with those of Mary obtain the release of Father Mick very soon.

30 October 2009, 10:14pm Philippine time, 2:14pm GMT
Fr Patrick O’Donoghue, Columban Superior, Philippines

Today is Father Mick’s 19th Day of captivity. ‘How long O Lord, how long?’

Today’s (Columban) death anniversaries remind us of the long years of dedication to mission of another Columban, Bishop Tommy Stewart, who was in Chunchon, Korea, for over 40 years. But they also remind us again of our vulnerability. Fr Thomas Flynn is also remembered on this day. He had been a priest of the Archdiocese of Dublin who joined the Society in 1948 and came to the Philippines. He was abducted from his convento in Labrador parish (Pangasinan, Diocese of Alaminos, and now the only parish in the province with a Columban parish priest, Fr James Sheehy) and killed. This day in 1950 is the day that he is thought to have died. And Fr William O’Flynn, one of the first batch of Columbans to go to China in 1920, died of unknown causes on this day 1929 in Kiangsi. He was 36.

Fr Thomas Flynn kidnapped and killed in Labrador, Pangasinan, Philippines, 30 October 1950

Brother Roger of Taizé said that you don’t see the word ‘success’ in the Bible. What you do see, repeated again and again, is ‘faithfulness’. What the Bible also clearly shows us is the vulnerability of this faithful God to our refusal to accept his coming and his call. God’s overwhelming love, which knows no limits, and his endless thirst for us to be reconciled and in communion with him, is at the heart of Paul’s words today: ‘my sorrow is so great, my mental anguish so endless, I would willingly be condemned and cut off from Christ if I could help my brothers of Israel’. They are extraordinary words of loving forgiveness and longing for the true good of others. There is a ‘selflessness’ in them that is truly Godlike, but which is, perhaps, beyond our comprehension. But then, as Paul himself tells us, it is Christ who is living in him. And it is in this intimacy with Jesus that Paul is willing to have made up in his life what still needs to be surrendered to God for the sake of mission – bringing about the communion of reconciliation between God and creation.

God reaches out but human stubbornness resists. The Gospel has Jesus showing the Father’s concern, especially for the ‘little ones’, as he heals the man with dropsy. Passive resistance clothes the Pharisees who remain unmoved even when Jesus appeals to their own natural compassion. God’s love for us exceeds even the most heroic love of a parent for a child. Or to put it more accurately, parents’ unquestioning love for their children is a ‘participation’ in and an ‘image’ of God’s love for us his children. Do we allow the truth of who God is to penetrate our minds and hearts? Or is it too demanding, too unsettling, too unmanageable? I ask the question of myself first. And I did this morning as I was led to reflect on the fact that God’s providence, which we believe is watching over and sustaining and consoling Father Mick in these days of uncertainly and suffering, is also reaching out to his captors. God loves them just as much. I had to pause here for a while and examine my own heart. Yes, God longs to have them back in the communion of his heart as much as anyone else. That they have sinned in what they have done to Father Mick and to those who love and depend on him is unquestioned. They have trampled on compassion, goodness and justice. But God still loves them as his children and wants them reconciled. He will not cease speaking his word to their hearts, no matter how much they resist or refuse or ignore. We need to continue to pray that his love will ‘outwit’ them ultimately. Could it be that Father Mick’s surrender to God in these days is part of God’s way of capturing their hearts? As God’s kingdom comes more and more into his life through the events of these days, may it radiate to those around him so that they, too, may have freedom – the freedom of the Kingdom.

Today was a relatively quiet day in which some other concerns of the region took my time and indeed my attention. Not a bad thing at all. We are approaching All Saints’/All Souls’ Days and people are readying themselves to get to their home places. Another typhoon threatens Luzon. Life continues. I have no further information as to what arrangement, if any, has been agreed on cooperation between the government and MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) in the effort to have Father Mick released safely. Some more bits of information received would all tend to suggest that he has at least some medication. That relieves some of the worry.

There were reports today coming from the Irish media that there were negotiations going on between his abductors and some intermediary. Gerry Kelly of Sinn Féin (an Irish political party) was the source. (Report in Belfast Telegraph ). The internet is down since early afternoon today (as is the phone line connected with it) and so I have not been able to check out exactly what this is about. Nobody here seems to have picked up the story. A reporter in Rome, whose agency calls me everyday, asked me about it. Nobody here on the ground seems to know anything about it. It is obvious, of course, that we won’t know all that might be going on. If I am not mistaken that was the case when Fr Des Hartford was abducted (for 12 days in 1987 when he was Apostolic Administrator of Marawi). For my own part, I don’t need to know all that is going on. I will be joy-filled and grateful to see Father Mick released and in good health once more. And that will be enough.

Again I thank all those who are continuing their vigil of prayer for Father Mick. And as this day ends and he enters into his 20th night of captivity, may we pray that his vigil bears fruit in the hearts of his captors and in other hearts known to God alone.

Fr Thomas Flynn

He was taken from his parish in Labrador, Luzon, on 30 October 1950 by Huk Communist guerrillas. His body was never found. He was 42 years old. Born on 5 November 1908 in Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, Ireland. Educated Kilkishen N.S. 1912-1920; Ardnacrusha N.S. 1921-1922; Kilkishen N.S. 1922-1923; Sacred Heart College, Limerick, 1924-1926; St. Flannan's College, Ennis, Co. Clare, 1928-1931. Educated for priesthood Clonliffe College, Dublin, 1928-1931; Maynooth 1931-1935. Ordained for Dublin diocese 1935. Served as British Army chaplain during Second World War. Joined the Columbans in 1947. Went to the Philippines in 1948.

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