10 November 2009

10 November 2009, 10:40pm Philippine time, 2:40pm GMT
Fr Patrick O’Donoghue, Columban Superior, Philippines

Wexford Town, Ireland. Fr Michael Sinnott's native place.

Today is Father Mick’s 30th Day in captivity. Ifit were a 30-Day Retreat - in which total silence is the norm – we would beexpecting him back tomorrow. Would thatit were so and what a joy it would be. But we continue to wait and to hope andas always in this vigil the psalms continue to encourage us: ‘On the day I called, you answered; you increased the strength of my soul’[Ps 138]. In these days God is surely increasing the strength of our souls. Iam sure that the Spirit is giving Father Mick the strength he needs each day,enabling him to be the ‘presence’ of Jesus, as God’s wisdom desires, to allaround him and those with whom he comes in contact. But I believe that all our souls are beingstrengthened as we continue to wait with him and for him. One of the gifts of the Spirit isperseverance and I believe that is being abundantly given in these weeks – toall ‘on the ground’ who continue to work quietly and tirelessly for his releaseand to those who continue to pray with expectation and hope in the ‘unknowing’.Our prayers are being answered even as we wait for the ‘fullness’ of the answerwhen we will have him safely home.

The first reading from the Book of Wisdom proclaims thereality of eternal life. We were madefor life ‘in the image of [God’s] own nature’. Death may seem like a disaster, an‘annihilation’ or a defeat. The realityis the opposite: ‘those who trust in himwill understand the truth, those who are faithful will live with him in love’. In theface of suffering, God calls to perseverance, trust and confident hope. It was a timely reminder. Gabriel Cañizares, the 36-year-old principal,who was beheaded in Jolo, was in my mind and heart all day. I prayed that in the minutes leading up tohis death the Archangel Gabriel strengthened his heart with peace andtrust-filled surrender. ‘The souls of thejust are in the hands of God’. Gabriel had spent ten years in that school dedicated to the children hetaught – a just man. Goodness againvictimized. His goodness will live oneven as we believe that he, ‘accepted asa holocaust’, is in the bosom of God. As I sat in the airport, and later on the plane returning here, I prayedfor his family who must be anguished beyond imagination. It takes great faith and courage to proclaimthe goodness of God in such circumstances. May they experience the closeness of the God who weeps with them intheir pain and may that faith and courage be theirs now and grow into thefuture. I intend to try to write to thefamily tomorrow if I can find some way to get a letter to them.

Jolo, southern Philippines, where Gabriel Cañizares was murdered

I have to admit that I was very unsettled by the news as Ithought of Father Mick. Some others seem to echo my thoughts when they asked: ‘doyou think he is safe?’ I do. I havealready made the point that Father Mick, Gabriel and all the other kidnapvictims, are ‘commodities’. The sin inwhat happens to all of them is that their dignity and truth are ignored andthey are turned into ‘assets’. My contention has always been that Father Mick’sabductors will care for him for this reason alone. But beyond all that kind of reasoning, I havea deep conviction within that God is holding him safely through all this. It isa faith conviction and I am grateful that it continues to hold me and others inhope. It is, I believe, one of the fruits of all the prayer that calls out toGod day and night for him. And, yes,many were calling out to the same God for Gabriel and I have no answers for whyGod would allow that young man to die and save Father Mick. I don’t look for‘answers’, I listen to what is in my heart that seems to assure me and Icontinue to pray for Father Mick’s safe return and that of all othercaptives. Knowing that you are allpraying similarly is a further strength. We are still very much in the ‘mystery’ of God’s providence.

I returned to Pagadian today. I found the journey tiring,even if it was straightforward. I just wonder how tired Father Mick must be,especially if he has been moved again. People here were hoping that I would have some good news. I did not havethe news they wanted - that he was to be released. But there is good news –that people continue to do what is possible and keep trying. Then one day we will all have the good news welong for because of that perseverance. And more and more people join theirprayers to ours, as they hear about Father Mick. Some spontaneously add theirvoices to ours; others do so when invited by friends. All this is good news.

I am attaching the account of the prayer vigil in AgusanParish, Cagayan de Oro, (see post for 31 October) another example of people’s creativity and prayerfulness.Fr Dick Pankratz sent me photos also but I have no way to scan them to thecomputer. There are some good ones of the coconut shells with the candlesinside floating down the river. Thanksto all of you again.
Father Mick is now in his 31st night incaptivity. The Magnificat antiphon at Evening Prayer speaks for us: ‘Do great things for us, O Lord, for you are mighty and holy is your name’.

Yes,Lord, do great things for Father Mick. Andwith your mother, under her title of Our Lady of Good Remedy, keep him safethis night and lead him safely home to us in time for her Fiesta.

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