19 August 2023

'Let all the peoples praise you.' Sunday Reflections, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A


Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Fahey (née Phelan)
14 February 1945 – 2 August 2023

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Matthew 15:21-28 (English Standard Version Anglicised, India)

Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Christ and the Canaanite Woman
Juan de Flandes [Web Gallery of Art]

But she came and knelt before him, saying, 'Lord, help me' (Matthew 15:25; Gospel).

On Friday the fourth of August I concelebrated at the funeral Mass of my friend Betty in the Church of the Holy Family, Aughrim Street Dublin, the parish in which we both grew up. Betty and I lived on the same street, though both our families moved to different streets in the area in the late 1950s. Betty spent her whole life in the parish. We were just friendly neighbours until one summer's afternoon when I was home from St Columban's seminary where I'm living once again, though there are no more seminarians here but mostly retired Columban missionary priests. We happened to be on the same 72 bus from Dublin city centre to the area where our families lived. From that conversation on the bus I became a good friend of Betty and her family rather than just a friendly neighbour.

Houses in Finn Street, Dublin

We lived in the house on the right while Betty’s family lived on the other side of the street. These houses had two bedrooms upstairs and one room downstairs with a small kitchenette and an outdoor toilet. They were built by the Dublin Artisans’ Dwellings Company.

When Betty and I were young our parish had five priests. Now it has two, the curate (assistant priest) being from Romania, Fr Coriolan Rumesan, known as 'Father Corri'. He is also chaplain to the Romanian-Greek Catholics in the Archdiocese of Dublin. Back in the 1950s we could not have imagined that there would be only two priests in our parish by the 2020s. Nor could we have imagined that a priest from Romania would be the celebrant at Betty's funeral Mass.

Betty was very much involved in the parish for many years and was an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. This sometimes involved bringing Holy Communion to the sick. She and Jerry were both involved in the chaplaincy in McKee Barracks, very near where they lived and within the parish. Jerry had been in the Defence Forces for many years.

When Father Corri arrived in Ireland eight years ago, a stranger, Jerry and Betty befriended him, helped him get settled into his house beside the parish church and adjust to life in Ireland. He became a close family friend. Betty sometimes accompanied him on his Communion calls.

Father Corri tended to Betty during her last illness, bringing her the sacraments and helping her family cope with the situation. In his homily at the funeral Mass he pointed out aspects of Betty's life that were a living out of the Scripture texts read at the Mass. His homily wasn't a eulogy but a call to the congregation to faithfully follow Jesus Christ. He pointed out some of the ways in which Betty had done this while asking us to pray for her soul and the souls of all who had died.

The friendship of Jerry and Betty with Father Corri has been a precious gift for him. Such a friendship is a grace from God for any priest, as I know from happy experience with married couples.

Holy Family Window
Holy Family Church, Aughrim St [Source]

A central theme running through the readings in this Sunday's Mass is welcoming the foreigner. In the First Reading Isaiah tells us: And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants . . . these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

One of those 'foreigners' was offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in our parish church at Betty's funeral and it was truly a house of prayer for all peoples.

It is only in the last 25 years that immigrants, some of them refugees, have been coming to Ireland in large numbers. Before that the percentage of people from overseas in the country was negligible. Recent censuses in both parts of Ireland show that around twelve per cent of people living in the whole of Ireland are from other countries. 

The Sanctuary
Holy Family Church, Aughrim St [Source]

The altar is the original one, moved forward. I celebrated my First Mass on this altar in its original position on 21 December 1967, the old feast of St Thomas the Apostle.

The Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 66 [67] and the response is taken from it: Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you. It is a very joyful psalm, foreshadowing the universality of the Church.

Knock Shrine

I had a very personal experience of that as June turned into July this year. I spent a weekend at Knock Shrine in County Mayo, Ireland, where our Blessed Mother appeared in 1879. ('Knock' is an anglicised form of the Irish word cnoc, meaning 'hill'. The place is now known in Irish as Cnoc Mhuire, 'Mary's Hill'.) With me were William and Nina Cimafranca, a Filipino couple whom I have known for many years and who now live in Sydney, Australia. While there I went to confession in the Chapel of Reconciliation to an African priest, probably a Nigerian. Again, this is something I simply could not have imagined when I was young. 

William and Nina went back to Dublin on Sunday afternoon while I stayed on to make a retreat for priests to be given by Fr Eric Lozada, a priest of the Diocese of Dumaguete in the Philippines. Father Eric has been a friend for many years and is currently the International Responsible of Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests, a movement inspired by the spirituality of St Charles de Foucauld. William, Nina and I were able to have lunch with Father Eric before they left and the retreat began. It turned out that he knew some of William's relatives in Dumaguete. 

During my stay in Knock I met members of a large contingent of pilgrims from the African Chaplaincy in Dublin and Syro-Malabar Catholics from Kerala, India. Knock is a place that lets all the peoples praise you.

Chapel of Reconciliation, Knock Shrine

The feisty Canaanite woman in the Gospel, an 'outsider' whose faith in Jesus and love for her sick daughter touched his heart, foreshadows that our fundamental identity comes from our baptism through which we become sons and daughters of our loving Father, brothers and sisters of Jesus and, through him, of one another. Betty and Jerry welcomed Father Corri as a brother in Christ. They supported him in his ministry as a priest in what was initially for him a strange land. Father Eric in his retreat talks repeatedly addressed us as Brothers.

Let all the peoples praise you.

Laudate Dominum
Composed by Jacques Berthier
Sung by Bethlehem Choir, Catholic Church of the Nativity, Festac Town, Lagos, Nigeria

Laudate Dominum omnes gentes  (Latin) - Let all the peoples praise you.

Traditional Latin Mass

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 08-20-2023 if necessary).

Epistle: 2 Corinthians 3:4-9. Gospel: Luke 10:23-37.

The Good Samaritan
Théodule-Augustin Ribot [Web Gallery of Art]

But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine (Luke 10:33-34; Gospel)).


Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Father Seán,
Glad that you were the concelebrant at the funeral of your former neighbor and friend Betty!
The Laudate Dominum sounds beautiful.
Saturday, August 12 I was the lay Reader after 3.5 months...
Being in excruciating pain all during Mass but I did it.

Manny said...

Eternal rest in peace for dear Betty. And may perpetual light shine upon her face. Bless you Father.