18 January 2013

'Do whatever he tells you.' Sunday Reflections. 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

The Marriage at Cana, Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen, c.1530
Rijksmuesum, Amsterdam  [Web Gallery of Art]


Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa) 

Gospel John 2:1-11 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples. When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine." And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, "Now draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast." So they took it. When the steward of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, "Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now." This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed in him. 

Feast of the Sto Niño

On the third Sunday of January the Church in the Philippines celebrates the Feast of the Sto Niño, the Holy Child. These Sunday Reflections focus on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C. But you may want to read an article by a good friend in Cebu, Judge Simeon Dumdum, Jr, which I featured on this blog in 2009, The Sleeping Sto Niño.

To complicate matters for me, here in the Diocese of Bacolod, as Sunday is 20 January, we celebrate the Solemnity of St Sebastian, patron of the Cathedral, of the Diocese and of the City, and will observe the Feast of the Sto Niño the following Sunday.

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B


Last Sunday I featured the late King Baudouin of the Belgians. This week I feature him again, with Queen Fabiola. The story of how they met is quite remarkable and the late Cardinal Suenens tels the story in his biography of the King, Baudouin, King of the Belgians, The Hidden Life.

The video above has as background music and Irish song that I learned in Grade Three, The Dawning of the Day, in Irish Gaelic Fáinne Geal an Lae, the version I learned. An Irish song is not at all inappropriate as the matchmaker of the marriage of Baudouin and Fabiola was an Irish woman, Veronica O'Brien. 

Veronica was envoy of the Legion of Mary to France and some other European countries. Much 'cloak and dagger' work was involved in finding a wife and queen for the young king. Much more importantly, much prayer was involved too, prayer that was basically a searching for God's will. They became formally engaged in Lourdes, France, King Baudouin travelling incognito, as he always did when he went there.

The couple were married in Brussels on 15 December 1960. The video shows photos of both the civil and church ceremonies. In a number of European countries a separate civil ceremony is required by law and takes place before the church celebration. The King wrote in his spiritual diary for that day: Normally we are awake by day and dream at night, but this time it's as if I'm in a dream all day.

On 8 July 1978 Baudouin wrote in his diary: My God, I thank you for having led us by the hand to the feet of Mary, and every day since then, I thank you, Lord, that we have been able to love each other in your Love, and that that love has brown each day.

And Queen Fabiola wrote to Veronica: I knew Our Blessed Lady was a Queen and a Mother, and all sort of other things, but I never knew that she was a Matchmaker!

Quoting the Queen led Cardinal Suenens to quote a Spanish verse:

Cristo dijo a su Madre 
el dia de la Asunción 
no te vaya de este mundo 
sin pasar por Aragón.

Christ said to his Mother 
on the day of the Assumption: 
do not leave this world 
without passing through Aragón.

Before her marriage the Queen was Doña Fabiola de Mora y Aragón.


The Cardinal quotes freely from Baudouin's diary about Queen Fabiola.

Fill Fabiola with your holiness. May she live her life in your joy and your peace. Teach me to love her with your own tenderness . . .

Fabiola is so loving; she warms my heart. Her silent, yet active presence is a source of great joy to me. My God, how you have spoiled me!

Thank you, Jesus, for having nurtured in me an immense love for my wife. Thank you for having given me a spouse whose love for me is second only to her love for You. May we both grow in you, Lord.

When Veronica O'Brien met Fabiola in Spain she asked the young woman, who had no idea why where things were leading, why she had never married. She replied, What can I say? I have never fallen in love up to now. I have put my life into the hands of God. I abandon myself to Him, maybe he is preparing something for me.

Veronica recounted all of this in a letter to the King and concluded, It was utterly astounding, because I knew exactly what God was preparing for her.

Thirty years later the King wrote in his spiritual diary: Mary, show me what I should do so as not to miss an opportunity of loving, of denying myself for your sake, of living the present moment to the full, as if it were my last, and of loving my darling Fabiola infinitely more. yes, Mother, teach me to love her with tenderness, gentleness, thoughtfulness, respect, and teach me to have faith in here . . .

And Baudouin, addressing the Lord, wrote, Teach me too to respect her personality with its difference adn its inconsistencies. Jesus, I thank you for having given me this wonderful treasure.

Both King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola in these extracts reflect the spirituality of a book that Cardinal Suenens had given the King before he met his future queen and wife, Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade SJ. One English translation of this masterpiece has the title The Sacrament of the Present Moment, which captures the essence of the book, that God's will is in the present moment.

Shortly before he left for Motril, Spain, in 1993, where he died suddenly, King Baudouin confided to Cardinal Suenens and Veronica, I love Fabiola more and more each day: what an inspiration she is to me!

This led the Cardinal to quote Jean Guitton, the first lay person to be invited to Vatican II as an observer, Love is always fruitful, were it only because it transforms those who love.

Children's Games, 1560, Peter Bruegel the Elder

One of the great sorrows in the life of Baudouin and Fabiola as a married couple was that they had no children. The Queen had five miscarriages. Reflecting on this, the King said to a group visiting the Palace, We have pondered on the meaning of this suffering and, bit by bit, we have come to see that it meant that our heart was freer to love all children, absolutely all children.

In a letter to a young mother the King wrote about a children's party that he and the Queen had hosted at the Palace: In one corner there was a group of handicapped children, several of them with Down's syndrome. I brought over a plateful of toffees to a little girl who had scarcely any manual control. with great difficulty, she succeed in taking a toffee but, to my astonishment, she gave it to another child. then for a long time, without ever keeping one for herself, she distributed these sweets (candies) to all the healthy children who could not believe their eyes. What a depth of love there is in those physically handicapped bodies . . .

One by one the children left. We really felt as if they had become in some sense our children. I think they felt it too. It was a very special afternoon; the presence of the Lord was really tangible. There was such peace and joy. that was pure gift!

I have read Baudouin, King of the Belgians, The Hidden Life, a number of times and each time I am moved by it. I see in it a reflection of what's in today's gospel: his gratitude to God, like the gratitude of all at the wedding feast, not mentioned explicitly but clearly there; his and Fabiola's submission to God's will through Mary: Do whatever he tells you; and the extraordinary generosity of Jesus, God and Man, turning water into  the equivalent of about 500 or 600 bottles of the best wine, a generosity that led Baudouin and Fabiola, who couldn't have children of their own, to see that our heart was freer to love all children, absolutely all children.

When we allow him, Jesus can turn the very ordinary in our lives into the extraordinary, just as a little girl with physical and mental disabilities revealed the presence of God to the King of the Belgians, just as Fabiola, his wife and queen, was a daily revelation of God's loving presence to him.

God has the same desire to reveal himself to each of us every day, specifically in the present moment. And He has given us his Mother, who is our Mother also, to guide us with her words of absolute faith, do whatever he tells you.



4 comments:

Jackie Parkes said...

Wonderful post Fr Sean...

Laura Strait Caligiuri said...

This absolutely glorious couple have so much inspiration in their story. This blog entry is beautiful. Thank you.

LauraC said...

Came back to check some information and I noticed you have their wedding date incorrect. They were married on 15 December 1960. Regards, Laura

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Thank you, Laura, for your correction. I've updated the post. I'll also make the correction in two other places where I posted this. God bless you.