14 October 2021

I thank God for the 'Yes' of my parents. Sunday Reflections, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Call of the Sons of Zebedee
Marco Basaiti [Web Gallery of Art]

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

Readings(New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Mark 10:35-45 or 10:42-45 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

[James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.] 

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Christ in the Carpenter's Shop
Georges de la Tour [Web Gallery of Art]

In May 2008 I unexpectedly received an email from Michael in Australia whom I hadn't met or heard from since the summer of 1967 when we were working together on a building (construction) site in Dublin. I had just been ordained subdeacon and was to be ordained priest in December of that year. The general foreman on the site was my father, John.

In a later email Michael said, Your father was a great role model for me to try and emulate. I remember the first job that I met your father on, as he was the general foreman. It was the first job for me as a journeyman carpenter and it was a pleasant experience coming to work with such a pleasant gentleman giving the instructions.

My father a week before his sudden death on 11 August 1987

I wasn't at all surprised at Michael's words as I had heard others who had worked with my father say similar things. And when I worked under him myself that summer I could see what I had known before: he led by example. He never swore, never shouted at anyone and was most helpful to young workers and to young architects. He sometimes would laugh at home at the lack of experience of the latter in practical matters. But he also knew that you can only learn through experience - and with the help of mentors. And he was a real mentor to the same young architects. 
Many times before I took an important examination or was about to do something for the first time Dad would say, The experience will be good for you. There was never the hint of a demanding expectation. And I still find his words to be true.
But I often heard him speak with gratitude, respect and affection of general foremen under whom he had worked as an apprentice and as a young carpenter. One was Mr Grace, whom I never met. Two of his sons became Capuchin priests and three of his daughters religious sisters. Another was Mr Boyle, whom I did know. He and his wife in their old age were a handsome couple.
Dad was the same at home as he was on the construction site. He never raised his voice to his two sons or to our mother. He was courteous with everyone he met and was just himself in every situation.
His authority came from within. He was responsible and loving in everything he did. Every morning, after returning from a very early Mass, he prepared my mother's breakfast before heading for work. He started work on time and ended on time. But he wasn't a slave to the clock.

With my parents John and Mary and my brother Paddy after my ordination in St Mary's Pro-Cathedral Dublin, 20 December 1967

October os Mission Month in the Church  and next Sunday, 24  October, is Mission Sunday with the theme We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20). In 2018, when the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, fell on Mission Sunday the theme was Christian Families are Missionary Families

I don't think that my parents, or any of their contemporaries in Ireland, saw themselves as missionaries. But they passed on the faith without being aware of it. When I was a child it was my father who took me to Sunday Mass. My mother went to a later Mass as she had to take care of my brother when he was still very young. My Dad used to take me to Solemn High Masses on days such as Easter Monday and Whit (Pentecost) Monday in the churches of the Dominicans and the Capuchins in Dublin. I didn't appreciate this at the time.
My mother used to take my brother and me to visit seven churches on the afternoon of Holy Thursday before the changes in Holy Week ceremonies in 1955 when they were moved from the morning to the afternoon/evening. There was solemn adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in each church or chapel we visited. Again, I didn't appreciate this at the time.
When I went to the Philippines in 1971 I was astonished to discover that this same practice, known there as Visita Iglesia, was very much alive in the larger cities, on the night of Holy Thursday, with many young people walking from one church to the next. Again, I thanked God for what my mother had invited me to do every Holy Thursday up to 1954 when I very reluctantly joined her.
Among the gifts I received from God through my parents was the living out of the words in today's gospel, whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant. They served each other and they served us their two sons. They did this day in and day out, whatever their feelings might have been at any particular moment. As I grow old I just marvel at this as I marvel at newly-married couples willing to take on the same responsibilities with the children God will grant them.
I can see clearly now that my parents and so many others like then were missionaries in a very real sense, living out the promises they made when my brother and I were baptised. (Our Dad wasn't present at my brother's baptism because he was attending his mother's funeral that same day. In those days baptisms took place within a few days of birth, a commendable practice.)

In the current rite of the baptism of a child the priest asks the parents: You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him (her) in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him (her) up to keep God's commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?

In responding with Yes, we do, parents undertake to be missionaries to their own children. I thank God for the Yes of my parents.

Bishop Edward Galvin, Columban Co-founder, baptising an infant in China

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
Composed by Johann Sebastian Bach
Played by Daniil Trifonov

Thanks to The Catholic Thing for drawing this to my attention.

07 October 2021

It is only St Mark who writes, 'Jesus, looking at him, loved him.' Sunday Reflections, 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B


Jesus and the Rich Young Man
Beijiing, 1879 [Wikipedia

He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions (Mark 1o:22).

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Mark 10:17-30 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

Jesus was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honour your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life".


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

This Sunday's Gospel in Filipino Sign Language

This incident is also recounted in the gospels of St Matthew and St Luke. It is St Matthew who tells us that the man who approached Jesus was young. Luke describes him as a ruler or aristocrat, depending on the translation. But it is only St Mark who writes, Jesus, looking at him, loved him . . .

John Profumo in 1960
(1915-2006) [Wikipedia]

During my summer vacation in 1963, my second since enering the the seminary, the biggest story in Britain and Ireland was that of a senior member of the Conservative Party and of the British government, John ProfumoHe had served with distinction in the British army in World War II, reaching the rank of Brigadier (General). He was independently wealthy. He became involved with a prostitute, Christine Keeler, who also had relations with  the senior Soviet naval attaché in London. Profumo denied in parliament that he had an improper relationship with Keeler. This was later shown to be untrue. He was later forced to resign for having lied to parliament. Before resigning from all his positions he confessed to his wife, Valerie Hobson, and she stood by him.

John Profumo disappeared from public life and spent many years as a volunteer washing dishes and cleaning toilets in a place called Toynbee Hall, a charity in the East End of London. As time went by he was able to use his skills to raise funds for the charity. I do not know anything about the faith of John Profumo, whose paternal ancestors were Italian aristocrats. He had the inherited title 'Fifth Baron Profumo', though he didn't use it. But Lord Longford (1905 - 2001), a Labour politician and social reform campaigner whose Catholic faith - he was a convert from Anglicanism - was the bedrock of everything he did, was quoted as saying that he, felt more admiration [for Profumo] than [for] all the men I've known in my lifetime'.

Unlike the man in the gospel, John Profumo had sinned. He lost his reputation but regained it as  people came to know what he had been doing after his downfall.

(1858-1916) [Wikipedia]

Last May Pope Francis approved the canonisation of Blessed Charles, usually referred to as 'Brother Charles' by those with a devotion to him. However, the date hasn't yet been set.

Fr Charles de Foucauld, was assassinated in the Sahara on 1 December 1916 when John Profumo was almost two. Like Profumo, he was born into wealth. Unlike the man in the gospel, he became a notorious playboy and was thrown out of the French army because of his behaviour. He went through a conversion experience at 28 and, again unlike the man in today's gospel, gave up everything. His subsequent journey in the Catholic faith led him to the priesthood and to the Sahara to live the life of Nazareth as he understood it.

Brother Charles, as he was known, died alone. He had drawn up a rule for a religious congregation to live the life of Nazareth in the desert. I once read that one person joined him for a short while. But in the 1920s his life and writings led to the founding of two religious congregations, the Little Brothers of Jesus and the Little Sisters of Jesus, both of which have communities in the Philippines. The Little Sisters have a community in Northern Ireland. Here is a lovely story about a Polish sister in that community: Sister Asia, the nun who closed an Irish pub.

There are a number of other congregations that have adapted the rule that Brother Charles wrote.

Little Sister Goneswary Subramaniam LSJ

The Little Brothers and the Little Sisters live among the poor, support themselves by taking manual jobs. The January-February 2005 issue of Misyon, the Columban magazine in the Philippines of which I was then editor, carried an article, Working Sisters, in which Little Sister Goneswary Subramaniam LSJ from Sri Lanka writes about her job sewing in a garment factory in Quezon City, Metro Manila, and Little Sister Annarita Zamboni LSJ from Italy about working as a lavandera, a laundry woman. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is at the heart of the life of each community of the Little Brothers, some of whom are priests, and of the Little Sisters and neighbours are invited to join.

Blessed Charles was a diocesan priest, though definitely not a conventional one. But a more conventional diocesan priest, played a central role in his conversion, Fr Henri Huvelin.

Fr Henri Huvelin
(1830-1910) [Wikipedia]

Among the groups inspired by Blessed Charles is the Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests, a movement that adapts his spirituality to the lives of pastoral priests, mainly diocesan, though not exclusively. [That website has links to other branches of the De Foucauld family, including the Little Brothers and the Little Sisters.]

Troubled by the words of Jesus, Peter said, See, we have left everything and followed you. Jesus replied, Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

Charles de Foucauld experienced the joy of doing God's will, with persecutions in his violent death, but the houses and brothers and sisters . . . didn't come till some years after his death. And when Cardinal José Saraiva Martins beatified Brother Charles in Rome on 13 November 2005 the Church confirmed that he had indeed attained eternal life from the moment of his death and that he was a model of holiness who could guide us as we try to follow Jesus.

Blessed Charles saw clearly what the young man in the gospel, who didn't sin but had no idea of the riches he was spurning, didn't see: that Jesus was looking upon him and loved him

Prayer of Abandonment of Blessed Charles de Foucauld

I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures -
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

This prayer is recited in the Charles de Foucauld video above beginning at 3:38. 



The Rosary with the Great Artists

October is the month of the Holy Rosary. The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is celebrated on 7 October. Here are the links to the four sets of mysteries.

The Virgin Mary

Virgin and Child with a Rosary

The Virgin Showing the Man of Sorrows
Hans Memling [Web Gallery of Art]

Madonna of the Rosary
Lorenzo Lotto [Web Gallery of Art]

01 October 2021

‘What is more striking: a woman healed from a tumour or a father, happy with his baby without the mother?’ Sunday Reflections, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Servant of God Chiara Corbella Petrillo
(9 January 1984 - 13 June 2012)
[Photo from official website]

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

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel Mark 10:2-16 or 10:2-12 (English Standard Version Anglicised: India)

And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,  and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

[And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.]


Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Pope Benedict XVI with young friends

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it (Mark 10:15; Gospel). 

I have been involved with Worldwide Marriage Encounter since 1981, initially in Canada and then from 1984 until 2017 in the Philippines and now in Ireland. The most important reality that I have come to see very clearly through Marriage Encounter is that the relationship between husband and wife in the Sacrament of Matrimony is the foundation of the Christian family.

About sixteen years ago we in Worldwide Marriage Encounter in Bacolod City, Philippines, held a family day. One of the last activities was for the pre-teen children. They were asked to share what they loved most about their parents. One boy, aged about ten or eleven, told us that what he loved most about his parents was that they were always together.

He didn't mean, of course, that they were tied to each other 24/7. But he saw that for his father and mother the most important reality in their lives was to be husband and wife and he felt drawn into the love that they had for each other. Jesus in today's Gospel quotes from today's First Reading: Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24)
In my closing remarks at the family day I picked up on what the boy had said and pointed out that he had articulated that the foundation of the family is the relationship between husband and wife. If that relationship is sound the other relationships in the family will normally be sound too. Children won't feel left out but rather will feel drawn into the love their parents have for each other, the very love that brought them into life in the first place. In God's plan, it is as husband and wife that a man and a woman are called to become father and mother. It is God's plan that their children be drawn into the love they have for one another. This is the foundation of the family. And perhaps this can give us some idea of the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity where the Father, Son and Holy Spirit draw us into the circle of their life, having given us life through our parents.

A young journalist, a single man, happened to be present at our family day that afternoon and approached me afterwards. He had never heard marriage being described that way before and really wanted to know more. For him it was truly an experience of hearing the Good News for the first time in this context.

It is God who joins together a man and a woman when they exchange their marriage vows. In the Sacrament of Matrimony they are giving Jesus Christ himself to each other. This is far more than a 'blessing by the priest', as so many misunderstand the Sacrament. It is the bride and groom who confer the sacrament on each other, who give Jesus himself to each other. This is such a profound and sacred union, as Jesus teaches us so clearly today: What therefore 
God has joined together, let not man separate. Today's gospel is very clear on that. Jesus spells out what the sin of adultery is: Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.

So often in visiting Catholic schools in the Philippines I was struck by the fact that so many students in their teens knew by heart the words that the bride and groom exchange: For better, for worse; for richer . . . These words, etched into their hearts, express their deep-down sense of the words of Jesus in the gospel today, God made them male and female . . . so they are no longer two but one flesh. They also express their dreams and aspirations for their own future, dreams and aspirations that have been placed in their hearts by God himself. For to such belongs the kingdom of God.

Enrico and Chiara: 
loving spouses and parents, witnesses to joy

Here is an extract from an article by  Marie Meaney in Crisis Magazine in 2014, Chiara Corbella: A Witness to Joy.

In worldly terms, Chiara Corbella’s life (1984 - 2012) was not a success story: two children dying shortly after birth, herself ravaged by an aggressive cancer, which killed her at the young age of 28, leaving a beloved husband and a small son behind. This is not the kind of material dreams are made of. Yet when one listens to the testimonies of her friends, husband, and spiritual director, and hears more about her story and looks at her radiating, beautiful face on photographs and in video clips, one can’t help but feel that hers was an extraordinary life. Each saint has a special charisma, a particular theme, some facet of God, which he reflects, due to his particular character, call and story. Hers, I’d say, is to be a witness to joy in the face of great adversity, the kind which makes the heart overflow despite the sorrow over loss and death.

Meet Chiara Corbella Petrillo: A Story of Joy & Hope

The full article on Enrico and Chiara and their children by Marie Meaney is here.  Google 'Chiara Corbella' or 'Chiara Corbella Petrillo' to discover much more about God's love for all of us through couples like Enrico and Chiara.

The cause for the beatification of Chiara was  opened on 2 July 2018 in the Diocese of Rome. She now has the title 'Servant of God'. Pergiorgio Greco in that same article quotes Chiara's husband Enrico. Francesco was their third child, the only one to survive. [Emphases in the original article.]

The sacrament of marriage is crucial to understand Enrico and Chiara. Enrico said, ‘A few months before she died, while she was already a terminal patient, she said to me, “The one I feel saddest to leave is you, Enrico, not Francesco. I chose you, and I wanted to grow old with you.”’ He then added, ‘If you love your child more than you love your spouse, you are not living up to the promise you made to Jesus on the altar: to love your spouse above all.’ Their friend Cristiana explained, ‘Chiara was very neat: there was the Lord, there was herself, there was Enrico, and, that way, everything acquired its true rhythm. Until the end.’

I cannot help but think that a world that has accepted a grotesque parody of marriage between two persons of the same sex in the name of 'equality' as a 'right', a parody that is an affront to God the Creator who made them male and female and an affront to nature itself, desperately needs to know married couples like Enrico and Chiara. A world that values unborn children only in terms of 'viability' desperately needs to know parents like Enrico and Chiara.

Only when you truly love you will realize nothing really belongs to you because everything is a gift. [Letter from Enrico and Chiara to Francesco].


Worldwide Marriage Encounter

Worldwide Marriage Encounter is the largest pro-marriage organization in the world and promotes Weekend experiences for couples who want to make their good marriage even better.


Retrouvaille is the name of a programme designed to help heal and renew marriages. The French word Retrouvaille, simply means 'rediscovery'. The programme offers the chance to rediscover yourself, your spouse, and a loving relationship in your marriage.

This website gives links to information about Retrouvaille weekends in different European countries, in the USA and in the Philippines.


(15 March 1938 - 24 September 2021)

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Columban Fr Gerard Bellew who died last week. You will find his obituary here.

Solas na bhFlaitheas ar a anam uasal - The Light of Heaven on his noble soul.