06 November 2009

6 November, Day 26: update on kidnapping of Fr Michael Sinnott

Fr Michael Sinnott in a recent photo

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

Today is Father Mick’s 26th Day of Captivity. It is also the feast of All the Saints of Ireland, his native land. We ask all those saints, including St Columban our Patron, to join with the chorus of prayers for his safe and speedy release.

Today also marks the beginning of the Fiesta Novena in honor of Our Lady of Remedies at Malate Parish Church, which has been served by Columbans for over 80 years. We began our ministry there about eight months before Michael Sinnott was born. There is a particular ‘resonance’ between Father Mick’s captivity and Our Lady of Remedies. Under the title of ‘Our Lady of Good Remedy’ she is associated with the efforts of the Trinitarian Order (founded in 1198) to help free people who were captured and later sold into slavery. Surely there is aprovidence that we begin our novena to Our Lady of Good Remedy while Father Mick, who many times celebrated Mass in Malate, is himself being held captive. Can we not have absolute trust that she will obtain for him now the same freedom she won for so many others? Let us ask that she does so now and that the remaining days of this well-loved novena will be days of joyful gratitude

Pagadian City Hall
Father Sinnott was kidnapped in Pagadian City on Sunday 11 October around 7:20pm

Today’s Gospel [Luke 16] is about the ‘dishonest steward’, who, when called to account by his master, used his astuteness to make sure that he would have friends to ‘care’ for him when he was dismissed. He lessened their debts to his master in the reasonable certainty that there would be ‘payback’ for him later. The master commends his astuteness, but does Jesus, who makes the remark that ‘the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light’? The ‘wheeling and dealing’ that often characterizes the way business is done in our world seems to depend on mutual gain, not on truth or honesty. And that happens in our relationships, too. We can all be manipulative and sometimes in very subtle ways. We put others in ‘debt’ to us in one way or another. And in difficult circumstances we put ourselves in ‘debt’ to others. In either case this often creates a real ‘unfreedom’ – the debt is paid on the terms of the creditor and those terms can compromise us as well as justice.

The ‘children of light’ are not astute in this way. Neither are they naïve. It’s simply that their guiding principles are different – honesty, truth and love, which promote the true good of the other (and of society) and not our own advantage. This is what Paul is urging in today’s first reading [Romans 15]. He has already told us [Wednesday] that ‘love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbor’. When we act from love, our concern is the other (individually or collectively), not what we might be able to gain from it. True, we delight in the return of love, but we wait for it to be freely given and whenever. And, in a moment when we might have hoped for the return to be shown us, we will, even if disappointed, continue to act for the good of the other. At other moments we will be joyfully surprised by the little gestures that ‘come without reason’. Love begets love and we must continue to love and wait for the love begotten to blossom in its own time. That is what ‘children of the light’ strive to do. I have seen a lot of this love in the weeks since Father Mick’s abduction. There have been many people, sometimes in hidden ways and at some risk to themselves, who have seen how they could help and have done so. There is no ‘reward’ other than the joy of doing something good. For some it is a ‘debt of love’ to Mick. They were not ‘asked’. The present circumstances have given them an opportunity to do what they can for someone who has been good to them and whom they love. And they do so freely and willingly and with love. The children of light have their own ‘wisdom’.

Father Sinnott is from County Wexford

It’s been another one of those days when the ‘urgency’ to get something done is tempered by the reality that you can’t hasten what you do not control. A lot is going on, even if it may not seem that way. The ‘headlines’ in all the media continue to focus on the verbal exchanges between some government officials and the MILF. There are political realities and, as I pointed out before, this is the context in which all efforts to have Father Mick released are carried on. One might be forgiven, however, for thinking that he has somehow been side-lined. I still believe that the Crisis Management Committee (CMC) itself is focused on him. I did, however, emphasize today that we should not forget that he is the ‘center’ of all that is happening. I once more drew attention to the state of his health, as I outlined the multiple problems he has. I also suggested that perhaps we could focus on what is uniting us – the common desire to have him released safely and quickly – rather than on the very real issues that cause disagreement. I believe that people here do want to do that, even if, at times, it is not that easy.
Mandalay Hill, Myanmar (Burma)

There is no question, however, as to who is the focus, not only among the ‘people of light’ I mentioned above, many of whom would regard themselves as ‘insignificant people’, but also among the many groups of people across the world who continue to pray fervently for Father Mick. That is a great encouragement to us as well as a strength to him. Our continued gratitude to all of you. I quote from another email today, this time from Columban Fr Neil Magill.

‘Here in Myanmar Father Mick has not been forgotten. Every morning at Mass the 81 students pray for his health, safety and release. On Sunday evening they themselves decided they wanted to do a Holy hour for Father Mick and they organized it themselves using some readings from Fr Pat O'Donoghue's emails. The three Columban Sisters here in Mandalay, Kathleen, Teresa and Margaret, and I have got together on a number of occasions to offer Mass for Father Mick, for Fr Pat O'Donoghue and all Columbans, especially those in the Philippines. At the seminary we have a large candle burning at the entrance to the seminary beside a picture of Father Mick which appeared in one of the Burmese papers. Prayers are offered in many parishes by the local clergy. We are a small link in a long chain of prayer across the world. “Be not afraid”.’

As Father Mick goes into his 27th night of captivity and I find myself praying that his ‘living conditions’ are not too primitive, I listen to those last words of Father Neil: ‘Be not afraid’ – repeated 365 times in the Bible! Let trust banish our fears and may Our Lady of Remedies hold Mick to her heart and move other hearts to set him free quickly.

Our Lady of Remedies, Malate, Manila

(From the Saturday Perpetual Mass Novena)

Our Lady of Remedies, Mary Our Mother, I come to you today to seek your blessing and your help.

Look with pity on me, your unworthy but devoted and loving child. I desire to be faithful to you in everything I think, do, and say.
Yet, you know my weaknesses and my sins and my many failures to live a faithful life.

I trust that you, Our Lady of Remedies can be truly a remedy for all my needs.
And so I come to you in this novena as your child and your servant, confident that you will intercede for me with your Son, Jesus Christ, and obtain for me all that I need for a better and more fervent life.
My Queen, My Mother, please intercede with your Son for me that He may grant the petitions that I present to you.
I pray that all will know and love Him.
I pray for the Church and all God’s people that we may live our lives faithful to His commandments, lives of practical love and justice for all. I pray for all poor sinners who in weakness or obstinacy do not follow Him.
[I pray for Fr Mick Sinnott that you may obtain his freedom now.]*

I pray for our country that people will be Christian in fact as well as in name.Grant to all of us hearts that love the poor, that care for and console the sick and dying, that will approach every person as God’s chosen one and as brother or sister to each of us.
Look upon this world for which your Son died with great pity, and lead all nations to strive for peace and justice so that the kingdom of God may
flourish here and in the whole world. Amen.

* Inserted by Fr Pat O’Donoghue.

Malate Church, Manila. Columbans have been there since 1929.

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