05 November 2009

5 November, Day 25: update on kidnapping of Fr Michael Sinnott

County Wexford is one of Ireland's 32 counties and is in the south-east. Fr Sinnott is from near the town of Wexford.

5 November 2009, 10:40pm Philippine time, 2:40pm GMT

Fr Patrick O’Donoghue, Columban Superior, Philippines

Today is Fr Mick Sinnott’s 25th day in captivity. The time continues to grow longer. But God’s faithfulness remains unchanged and the Responsorial Psalm in today’s Liturgy once again focuses our minds and hearts: ‘I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Hope in him, hold firm and take heart. Hope in the Lord!’ [Ps 26]. We are to be people of hope at all times.

Today’s Gospel [Luke15] is also filled with hope. Using the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, Jesus tries to convince us of the intensity of God’s desire to hold all of us safely in his embrace. Jesus told these parables in response to the complaint of the Pharisees and Scribes that he ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them’. God does not just forgive; God goes in search of the ‘lost’ with determination and does not give up till he has found the one he is searching for.

Reading the Gospel I immediately had the image of God going off into the mountain area where Father Mick is being held and bringing him back with rejoicing. I feel that God is indeed doing something like that. But as I re-read the parable about the lost sheep I began to see it differently. ‘What man among you . . . would leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one?’ I don’t know how many would. The word wilderness struck me forcefully. The ‘good’ sheep were left in the wilderness while the Shepherd goes after the straying one. They are not left in pleasant pasture lands but in a ‘wilderness’ and they have to wait for the return of the Shepherd with the ‘lost’ one on his shoulders. And they don’t know how long the search will last. One might reasonably question the shepherd’s sense of responsibility. But the shepherd knows what he is doing.

People all around the world continue to pray earnestly for Mick. He is in the ‘wilderness’. But he is not the ‘straying sheep’. He is safe in God’s heart even now. Is God leaving him in the wilderness while he goes in search of those who are ‘astray’, who are ‘lost’ in all kinds of ways? And if he is, how do we feel about it? Is God ‘using’ Father Mick’s trustful waiting to go and find others who need him ‘more’ at this time? What is the ‘greater good’ in God’s scheme of things? If Jesus’ parables turned his hearers world ‘upside down’ in that they challenged the prevailing ‘wisdom’ and practice of those times, we should not be surprised that our ‘wisdom’ will be equally challenged now. We, rightly, want God to hear our prayers and bring Father Mick safely home. God is, I believe, hearing our prayers and is holding him safe in his heart. If we allow God to draw us into his heart, he will assure us of that; God shares our hearts’ desires, he shares our longing. But does God want us to share his heart’s desires too? And is God, this day, asking us to enter into his longing to seek out and find his ‘lost ones’? And, if so, how? It is at least worth pondering as we wait for God to bring Mick, and all those others whom he seeks, safely home.

It has been a relatively quiet day and the internet was again out of action for the afternoon. There were few phone calls from the media – not a bad thing in itself. Father Mick is still very much in the news, however, as the on-going ‘exchange of words’ between some government people and the MILF continues. It is to be hoped that this will not delay the efforts to have Father Mick released quickly. Some diocesan priests called today offering their support. Father Mick is the Spiritual Director of one of them. I also had a conversation with the bishop. We continue to do what we can. Everything counts in these efforts. I am reminded of a song that Fr Frank Nally (a Columban based in London who has worked in Mindanao) included in an email today called the ‘The Power of One’. Part of it is as follows: ‘One vote can change a nation, one sunbeam lights a room. One candle wipes out darkness, one laugh will conquer gloom . . . One voice can speak with wisdom; one heart can know what is true’. Yes, everything counts, especially the little, and not so little, efforts of many anonymous people, and the multitude of prayers from so many others whom Father Mick or we will never know. But God knows all and that is enough for now.

Wuhan, China

Fr Kevin O’ Neill emailed me to tell me about their Special Day of Prayer last Wednesday in Wuhan, China, the ‘cradle’ of the Society. Frs Gerry Neylon, Dan Troy and Kevin did a full fast. They also used the chapter on the ‘Spirituality for Columban Mission’, from the 2006 General Assembly, as part of their prayer and reflection. Fr Eamon Sheridan (a member of the Columban General Council, based in Hong Kong) also emailed me from Fiji, where he is on visitation. I quote:
This morning I visited the local Catholic Primary and Secondary schools attached to the Parish. Fr Frank Hoare was bringing me around. All of the Children where aware of Father Mick's kidnapping and at their assembly they always pray for him. Last night I was welcomed by the companions in Mission here and all were asking about Father Mick. He is in the prayers of many people in many parts of the world.’

A shrine in Fiji

God does hear all these prayers gladly. Many thanks once more to all of you who continue to hold Father Mick in your hearts and prayers with unflagging energy. Thanks also for your prayers for us here.

And so, Father Mick is now in his 26th night of captivity. Good Shepherd, may you come to him in his weariness this night, may you raise him on your shoulders and bring him safely back to us. May we all rejoice in your goodness and love.

Processional crucifix standing to the right of the altar in Mariukirkjan, Torshavn, Faroe Islands

Your editor today had an email from Sr Maria Forrestal FMM, based in the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic, where I worked in the summer of 2000, who , like Father Mick, is from County Wexford, Ireland. The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary and the small Catholic community in the Faroes are praying for him.

And so Pagadian, Wuhan, Fiji, the Faroe Islands and Wexford are all caught up in prayer for a man who is living his missionary priesthood to the full.