07 November 2009

7 November, Day 27: update on kidnapping of Fr Michael Sinnott

Blessed Sacrament Chapel, Dublin

Filipinos in Dublin Pray for Father Sinnott

I received this email yesterday from Fr Renato M. Esoy SSS:

Dear Fr. Sean,

I am Fr. Rene, a Filipino priest who is now based in Dublin, Ireland. Tomorrow (Sunday) a group of Filipinos are going to have a special gathering to pray for Fr Michael Sinnot's safe release. I was asked to do the closing prayer during this occasion. I think the prayer for Fr Sinnot which is on your Misyon online would be the appropriate prayer for me to say. In this regard, may I ask your permission that I be allowed to use the said prayer.
Daghang Salamat.
Fr. Rene, SSS

For some years now there has been a Mass once a month, on the third Sunday, I think, for Filipinos in Dublin in the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers and Brothers, which is right in the center of the city. Fr Patrick O'Connell CSsR, who worked for many years in Davao, Dumaguete and Cebu, is usually the celebrant, as he is the chaplain to Filipinos in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

After a Mass for Father Mick in Sáo Paolo, Brazil. Sent by Regina to Fr Pat O'Donoghue.
Photo by Marial Silene da Silva Alves

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

Today is Father Mick’s 27th Day in captivity. Psalm 119 (Morning Prayer) expresses well what is in our hearts: 'I call with all the heart; Lord hear me . . . In your love hear my voice . . . Those who harm me unjustly draw near . . . But you, O Lord, are close.' We continue to call with all our heart and on this First Saturday of the month we ask Our Blessed Mother to hold Mick safe in her Immaculate Heart and under her title of 'Our Lady of Remedies' may she obtain his safe and quick release.

In the first reading [Romans 16] Paul reminds us where we need to keep our focus, especially these days: 'God alone is wisdom'. Jesus, too, calls our attention to this: 'No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money'. Jesus has already told his disciples to use money – wisely! Everything has its value. The issue is the ‘right ordering’ of what we consider to be ‘of value’ in our lives. The Pharisees laughed at Jesus because, Luke tells us, 'they loved money'. There are many like them. What Jesus is teaching is that when we love anything more than God, we will make bad judgments; we will not be able to see the ‘true good’ when we have to make decisions. We will, in Gospel terms, end up being ‘dishonest in small and great things’ alike.

The ‘order of importance’ that Jesus proposes is summed up in the two great commandments: love of God and love of neighbour. This implies that God is first, people are next (no relationship is to subordinate our relationship with God) and lastly come ‘things’. This is the ‘order’ of the Kingdom, proceeding from loving hearts. When we seek to live in this way, God’s Kingdom is taking hold in our lives and that of the world. But this order is a fragile one and gets easily upturned. When this happens people suffer. Love is what sets it right again – a new reaching out in compassion and trust. God is the God of reconciling peace and we are called to live this way in the power and wisdom of his Spirit, especially when it calls for struggle. Then the kingdom is really ‘breaking through’. We hold fast and don’t allow another ‘order of values’ ‘reshape’ us.

Father Mick’s abduction is a ‘fruit’ of ‘wrong ordering’ – when ‘things’ take priority over people and God. A ransom has been demanded; today’s newspapers suggest he may be a ‘pawn’ in other conflicts. It is hard to know the full truth. But, whichever, he has become a ‘commodity’ – his value is in his usefulness to those who have ‘power’ over him. That is how they see him, their perception. But he has not changed except, perhaps, in a deepened surrender to the One who calls him to ‘follow’. The people who pray for him, those who are active in many ways to try to ensure his safe release, those who are on the streets of Pagadian again today asking for his release, all these people know this – they see his truth, his true value, his dignity as a human being, his goodness as a man who has given his long life for others. And that is why they grieve and set aside other concerns because he is of more value. Compassion, that fundamental value of the kingdom, is alive in their hearts and urges them not to forget but to pray/do what is possible for them to have him released. And one very important part of this is our continued prayer that the ‘seed of Divine goodness’ will be awakened in the hearts of all those who are enslaved in a ‘wrong ordering of values’. May they, too, be enlightened and as compassion sets them free may it give Father Mick his freedom as well.

There was another rally in Pagadian today organized by the 'Federation of Drivers and Operators in Pagadian City' (those in ‘transport’). The Governor attended as did some Provincial Board members and City Councilors and Hangop Kabataan. One of the staff of Hangop Kabataan spoke about Father Mick’s life of service here in the Philippines. All the speeches were demanding the same thing – his release. There has been frustration building among a lot of people here who cannot understand why he is still in captivity after four weeks. The rally helped people to express some of it.

People don’t know where to focus their impatience and frustration – on the abductors, the government or government agencies. The sense of vulnerability is palpable – everyone is in some sense being held captive. Life goes on and yet it doesn’t. People’s sense of security has been undermined. And as long as Father Mick is not freed, that sense of insecurity dominates. It gets expressed in the concern for myself and other missionaries here in the diocese, the warning about not going out without security or not letting people into our property unless we ‘really know them’ etc. They are afraid for themselves as well as for us. One ‘target’ of this diffuse anxiety is the perceived ‘failure’ of those tasked with releasing Father Mick, something that safely gets expressed in humour. One tricycle driver, upon hearing the call, directed at them specifically, to help in the efforts to have Father Mick released, remarked wryly: 'Why us? Do they not have enough soldiers? Or maybe they think we would know better where to look!' Trust is one of the real casualties in all this. Effort is not enough; success is demanded. It is understandable. When those tasked with protecting us do not seem to be able to do it, fear and anger take over. But, while it might be understandable, it is also unfair, particularly towards all those in the government, government agencies (and others) who have been putting so much time and effort into trying to have Father Mick released.

More worrying for some of us are the reports in the newspapers today on the ‘readiness’ of the security forces to ‘rescue’ Father Mick ‘if that should be necessary’. This is being said in the context of the exchange of words between the government and MILF. It’s as if this suggestion is being 'talked up'. The statement by General Ibrado, Armed Forces Chief of Staff, that they would not attempt any rescue without 'the instructions of the Crisis Management Committee [CMC], headed by Governor Cerilles' should reassure us. I know for certain that the CMC believe in a peaceful and negotiated solution. Personally, I believe that it would be better not to talk about ‘rescue’ as it can so easily be misunderstood.

In and through all of this so many people continue to 'call with all their hearts' in prayer to the only One who can truly ‘rescue’ us. And I am convinced that this is what will bring about Father Mick’s release. People continue to get in touch to offer their support and tell me about what they are doing. I have received two reports from Peru. Today I would like to share what the Columban seminarians from Chile and Peru in the Spiritual Year ['novitiate'] sent me:

Greetings from the Latin American Spiritual Year in Lima, Perú. We here in the Spiritual Year have been offering prayers and join in the fast of 28th of October. Today is the biggest feast in the Peruvian Catholic Church, El Señor de los Milagros (Our Lord of Miracles). There are many processions, prayers and the like. We here ask for Our Lord for the safe return of Father Mick. I am short to say to ask for a miracle because it sounds like we are asking for the impossible, yet, as time has gone on and no word as to why Father Mick was taken or by whom, we are asking for something that is beyond our control. So in a way, a miracle. We have told many of our contacts here, religious groups and friends, about Father Mick's condition and they too are praying for him. Today, I have the pastoral with the lads at The Little Sisters of the Poor Elderly. They have been praying for him, and today being the solemnity (in Perú) of Our Lord of Miracles, there will be Eucharistic Adoration, rosary and other prayers with the Sisters and the elderly. So we will join our petitions for Father Mick today. Today we fast with the rest of the Columban Society. It will be a trial today because the sisters often offer us dessert or food at the pastoral. Yet, we can overcome such temptations in solidarity with Father Mick, a greater cause than a temporary bodily needs or wants. I just wanted to inform you of our solidarity in the house. Take care. '

Parishioners, Lima

Yes, there are many miracles as people move out of themselves in compassion and solidarity with Father Mick, who tonight has entered into his 28th night of captivity. May Our Blessed Mother put her protection about him and hold his heart and ours in peace as she reminds us of Psalm 34: 'The Lord is close to the broken-hearted; those whose spirit is crushed he will save. Many are the trials of the just man but from them all the Lord will rescue him'.

I will be going to Manila tomorrow and will have meetings late into the evening, so I do not expect to be able to send an update tomorrow. Perhaps, this one is long enough for two days!

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