This is the end of day 4 and we are still waiting for reliable news of Father Mick. There continues to be reports in the media (quoting top level officials) that he is being held in Lanao. This morning there was a report on the local media that he had been seen, that he was not well and that he did not want a ransom paid. This upset our staff very much. I raised with them how unlikely it was that this was true, asking who had seen him and who had reported it etc. Some of the things reported would fit with Father Mick's 'character' but my question was: is this the thinking of someone who knew him or the report of someone who did see him? If that were so how did they manage to get these feelings and statements from him? It would seem that in the absence of any real facts, imagination can take over. The 'certainty' and the repetative nature of some of these reports had me believing that there were most likely true - and they may be - but without confirmation, it may just be that many are accepting this to be true without it being verified and so it grows in its own credibility. As the day wore on I had reason to doubt at least some of the assertions that were being made in the media. And as other information was given to me, I also had reason to be cautious in accepting all that seems so credible. And so I began to wonder once more: what really are the facts and who really knows them? And this is the tension - waiting in a sea of reports without the ability to truly verify most of what is being said. I had to remind myself that in these circumstances confusion and misinformation and peoples' 'agendas' all get into the mix and that has to be accepted as part of the journey towards his release. Yet in the midst of that confusion things are being done and the journey towards his release continues. We simply pray that it will not be a long one.
One such report that increased my scepticism was a 'breaking news' report on Inquirer.net which said: 'The abductors of Irish priest Michael Sinnott had made a call to his colleagues at the Columban Society in Pagadian City, Major General Ben Dolorfino, Western Mindanao Command chief, said Thursday'. I was alerted to this when Fr. Reno texted me from Dumalinao (he had been in the house earlier) happy that at last we had some definite news and some way to dialogue with the kidnappers (or more likely those who are holding him, who may well be another group from those who actually abducted him). I checked the report and then got into action. Some of the contacts with the media over the last few days were helpful now. One thing I know for certain is that there was no call here from the abductors and no contact has been made as far as I know. I got word to the reporter and to her source. And I was able to forestall this on some media outlets by getting to them before they saw the report. If some of the other reports are anything like this you would wonder about the accuracy of much of what is written. And this is not to criticise or blame reporters, who have been very helpful, but simply to point out that inaccuracy can get magnified if the facts are neglected. We all desire good news but it cannot be forced or fabriacated.
So at the end of this day, I am still waiting, like all of us - wondering and hoping and praying that Father Mick is not suffering too much and longing that the captors would have a change of heart and allow him come home. As the prayer from Saint Columban College puts it: 'We also pray for the captors. Awaken the seed of Your Divine Goodness in their hearts'. May it be so dear God!
I met with the Bishop this afernoon for about an hour when we discussed what we knew and what we did not know and brought each other up to date on what we are hearing etc. I was very happy to hear that at a meeting last night with very high level officials, 'saving lives' was at the top of the priorities. And this is not only Father Mick's life but those of the soldiers and his captors. Both of us feel a little more reassured now given that there has been an increase of military personnel in the Lanao area in the last couple of days. Prayer groups continue to be formed to pray for his release and the Bishop is agreable to a suggestion put to him today that there should be a prayer vigil in the next couple of days - most likely at the weekend. Some banners are appearing across the city calling for Father Mick to be released and the local news is constantly talking about him. The calls for his release are now focusing on his age and his fragility. My own concern continues to be how much his health can hold up in difficult circumstances and the captors must surely know this. I can only pray that they would not want him to die while they are holding him and so might be willing to release him sooner rather than later.
I also had a phone call from the Nuncio who was anxious to know if we had any news of him. And Vatican Radio also wanted a statement from me - gave a brief one on the spot!
Please find attached [below] a description of a little prayer ceremony we had at the house this morning in which we lit the 'vigil candle' that will remain lit in the window till Father Mick comes home to blow it out.
Thanks again for all your emails and prayers - they are genuinely appreciated and mean a lot in these times.
A Simple Ceremony Filled With Love
October 15, 2009
This morning the four staff in the house together with Auring Luceño of the Columban Lay Missionaries, and Fr Pat O’Donoghue gathered in the ‘parlour’ of the Columban house in Pagadian to light a candle and place it in the window where it will remain until Mick Sinnott comes home. The idea was inspired by a similar candle being placed in the Columban house in Patag, Cagayan de Oro.
A simple cloth, the crucifix from his room and the candle were arranged on the table, next to where Father Mick sat and read the papers. Auring lit the candle and began with her own prayer for him. Then, one by one, the four female members of staff offered their prayers, filled with their pain and their questions and there heartfelt petitions as they begged the God of Compassion to bring Father Mick home quickly and safely. Father Pat was the last to pray – asking the crucified Jesus to uphold Father Mick with his trust and strength. We finished with the 'Prayer for Father Sinnott' which we received from the Campus Ministry of Saint Columban College.
In the bleak and troubled time, we ask you, dear Lord, to
keep Fr Mick Sinnott safe from harm. Guide him every
minute of his way and every minute of his journey.
In the morning light, O God, may he always have a glimpse
of Your image deep within him, the threads of glory woven
into the fabric of his consciousness. May he touch sight of
the mystery of love fashioned in Your likeness, deeper than
knowing, more enduring than time.
We also pray for the captors. Awaken the seed of Your Divine
Goodness in their heart. Make them realize that the pain they
may cause Father Mick is also the pain they cause to humanity.
Make them compassionate to the needs of Father Mick leading to
his speedy release.
This we ask through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
There were copious tears during the prayers and more afterwards as the pain of remembering what had happened on Sunday night all came back and 'sat' beside the grief and anxiety of what might be happening to Father Mick at this very moment, the awful circumstances that we fear he must be in if the news of where he is being held is true. The questions poured out, together with the confusion and the darkness that comes when good people seem to be abandoned by God. The recurring question was: how could God allow such a thing to happen to a man who was so close to Him? One of the staff, in between her sobbing, spoke of how much time Father Mick spent in the chapel – listing off the many times a day he would go to the chapel to pray. 'He was your friend, Lord! Where were you that you did not watch over him on Sunday night!' Another asked: 'Were you asleep Lord?' The words may not be exactly those of the psalms but the sentiment is. The great mystery of suffering, the ‘silent’ God. The famous words of St. Teresa of Avila, whose feast day it is today, also sprung to mind: 'If this is how you treat your friends, Jesus, is it any wonder you have so few?!' The mystery that we all need to comtemplate again and again if we are ever to glimpse its depths.
The tears shed today are precious – tears of love that burst out in grief. I have no doubt that they are precious to God too, who collects them in God’s mysterious way, and who will use them to soften the hearts of those who are holding Father Mick in captivity. May those tears and the many other tears and prayers bring him home quickly and safely. May our sorrow turn to resurrection joy.
Fr Pat O’Donoghue.