29 December 2008

St Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr

St Thomas Becket – ‘à Becket’ it seems is a mistake - was murdered on this date in 1170, aged 58, in Canterbury Cathedral, where he was archbishop, by followers of King Henry II of England. He is the patron saint of the pastoral clergy of England.

The office of readings for his feast has an extract from one of his letters. It is clear that he was a faithful and orthodox bishop, his martyrdom being the ultimate witness to that. He writes:
At our consecration we promised to be continuously and increasingly zealous as teachers and pastors. We repeat the promise every day. Would to God our lives made our promises more credible!

Further on we read: Still, who can doubt that the Church of Rome is the head of all the churches, the source of Catholic teaching? Who does not know that the keys of the kingdom of heavern were given to Peter? Is not the whole structure of the Church built up on Peter’s faith and teaching, so to grow until we meet Christ as one perfect man, united in faith and in our recognition of him as Son of God?

I found the picture above in Canterbury Tales , the blog of Taylor Marshall, a convert to the Catholic Church and a former Episcopal priest in Texas. He tells why he is a Catholic Christian here.

25 December 2008

Happy Christmas!

The Adoration of the Shepherds, El Greco
La Adoración de los Pastores
And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!" When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Maligayang Pasko!
¡Feliz Navidad!
Nollaig shone daoibh!
Happy Christmas!

24 December 2008

Linda Gibbons: In jail in Toronto for praying

I studied in Toronto in 1981-82 and it was a grace-filled year for me. It is distressing to know that in today's Canada a grandmother is spending another Christmas in jail simply for praying silently outside a building where unborn babies are killed.

Earlier this year Canada, to the utter dismay and shame of many of its citizens, gave its highest decoration to a notorious abortionist who had frequently broken the law by killing unborn children when this was still illegal in the country. This was his way of trying to bring about a change in the law. Unfortunately, he succeeded.

The report below is from
LifeSiteNews. I've highlighted some parts. Please remember this brave woman and those she is trying to help in your Christmas prayers.

Imprisoned for Defending Unborn - Linda Gibbons Shares Her Christmas Wish

By Thaddeus M. Baklinski, LifeSiteNews

TORONTO, December 23, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Pro-life heroine Linda Gibbons will spend another Christmas in jail this year for her refusal to abide by an injunction which forbids even silent prayerful pro-life witness on the public sidewalk in front of the Scott abortion mill in Toronto.

Linda has given permission to share the thoughts she communicates in her letters in hopes that they may further the cause for life.

In a recent letter, Linda wished to convey her Christmas prayer for Canada: "That Canada could recognize the sanctity of life in its mind's eye, could rediscover a heart of affection and awe towards nascent life, could dare in its soul to embrace it boldly from conception.

"Would this not be to love God, mind, body and soul in careless abandonment to the Creator?

"Is that not a Christmas wish - a new morn, Canada reborn?"

Rosemary Connell of Show the Truth Canada has informed LifeSiteNews.com that Linda appreciates very much the letters and cards she receives from pro-lifers all over the world, and especially letters and artwork from children. She assures them of her prayers as well.

"I know she appreciates letters and cards and the effort to send them," Connell told LifeSiteNews.

"She enjoys letters and art work from children also. She is very humble about the number of letters she gets each day.

"Please consider sending a Christmas card and short letters regularly. It is great for her spirits and important that the employees of the prison know of her supporters. It reminds people of the plight of little babies being threatened by abortion."

There are some rules to follow for letters being sent to Linda so that she will receive them promptly:
- handwrite or type the address and return address on the envelope
- no stickers or stamped images etc. on envelope or in letter
- put return address on letter as well as envelope
- no plastic prayer cards or bookmarks - paper prayer cards and bookmarks are fine
- she is allowed a couple of pamphlets but not many
- no questions about day to day workings of the prison - baby saves, prayer groups, difficulties she faces. She cannot comment on the day to day workings of the prison.
- please number your letters so she can be sure she is getting all that you send
- please include a pro-life comment in each letter - facts of numbers of children being executed, loss of God's children, our prayer for everyone involved in abortion industry

Letters should be addressed to
Linda Gibbons - Vanier Women's Detention Centre
655 Martin St. - Box 1040 - Milton, ON
L9T 5E6

A 'Myrrhy' Christmas!

Matt, the resident genius at The Daily Telegraph in London, has done it again!

May I wish whoever reads this a 'Myrrhy' and Merry Christmas!

23 December 2008

Mary Full of Life

Mary Full of Life H/T to The Curt Jester

You may find photos of the sculpture at Mary Full of Life. My apologies for using a copyrighted photo of the sculpture shown on the billboard. I have just deleted it.


San Juan de la Cruz (1542-1597)

Del Verbo divino
la Virgen preñada
viene de camino:
¡si le dais posada!

With the divinest Word, the Virgin
Made pregnant, down the road
Comes walking, if you’ll grant her
A room in your abode. Translated by Roy Campbell

22 December 2008

St Joseph's place in the Christmas story

St Joseph's Dream, Rembrandt

St Joseph's Site is a website dedicated to the Husband of Mary a Filipina in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Babes Tan-Magkalas.

Babes has prepared a power-point presentation on St Joseph's place in the Advent-Christmas story. You may listen to it and read it here.

'One vast substantial smile'

Every year at this time I read Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol and each time I find new delight in doing so. Only a master storyteller could come up with two successive sentences such as these:

In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile.

The ‘vast substantial smile’ above is Annette Badland in a 1999 stage production of the work.

"But if they had been twice as many -- ah, four times -- old Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would Mrs Fezziwig. As to her, she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term. If that's not high praise, tell me higher, and I'll use it. A positive light appeared to issue from Fezziwig's calves. They shone in every part of the dance like moons. You couldn't have predicted, at any given time, what would have become of them next. And when old Fezziwig and Mrs Fezziwig had gone all through the dance; advance and retire, both hands to your partner, bow and curtsey, corkscrew, thread-the-needle, and back again to your place; Fezziwig cut -- cut so deftly, that he appeared to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again without a stagger."

And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

21 December 2008

Behold the handmaid of the Lord

Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.

The Annunciation, El Greco, 1597

The Incarnation
St John of the Cross

Then He summoned an archangel,
Saint Gabriel: and when he came,
Sent him forth to find a maiden,
Mary was her name.

Only through her consenting love
Could the mystery be preferred
That the Trinity in human
Flesh might clothe the Word.

Though the three Persons worked the wonder
It only happened in the One.
So was the Word made incarnation
In Mary’s womb, a son.

So He who only had a Father
Now had a Mother undefiled,
Though not as ordinary maids
Had she conceived the Child.

By Mary, and with her own flesh
He was clothed in His own frame
Both Son of God and Son of Man
Together had one name. Translated by Roy Campbell.

The Annunciation, El Greco, 1569

San Juan de la Cruz (1542-1697)

Entonces llamó a un arcángel
que san Gabriel se decía,
y enviólo a una doncella
que se llamaba María,

de cuyo consentimiento
el misterio se hacía;
en la cual la Trinidad
de carne al Verbo vestía;

y aunque tres hacen la obra,
en el uno se hacía;
y quedó el Verbo encarnado
en el vientre de María.

Y el que tenia sólo Padre,
ya también Madre tenía,
aunque no como cualquiera
que de varón concebía,

que de las entrañas de ella
él su carne recibía;
por lo cual Hijo de Dios
y del hombre se decía.

20 December 2008

The 'Foot-and-Mouth' Columban Ordination Class

Forty-one years ago today, 20 December, Bishop Patrick Cleary of Nancheng, China, ordained 14 of us in St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin. He was one of the earliest priests to join the newly-founded Society of St Columban in 1918, resigning his professorship in St Patrick’s National Seminary, Maynooth. He became Bishop of Nancheng in 1939 but was expelled 13 years later.

We were blessed to have Bishop Cleary as a substitute teacher of English and Latin in our first year in the seminary. We also got tonsure, the ceremony used before to admit a man to the clerical state, our four minor orders and the major orders of subdiaconate and diaconate from this wonderful man.

Four of our class were ordained the same day in Derry Cathedral by Bishop Neil Farren of that diocese and another the following day in Glasgow.
We were due to be ordained together on 20 December in our seminary, St Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan, within sight of Tara, where the high kings of Ireland ruled in days of old. There was a farm attached to our seminary and, at the time, there was an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Britain. Because of very strict quarantine regulations brought in, rightfully, by the Irish government, a decision was made about three days before our ordination to transfer the venue so that relatives of some of my class form Britain could attend.

As I’m from Dublin, the switch meant that more than the officially-invited ten guests could be present at the ordination ceremony.

The traditional day of Columban ordinations in Ireland and the USA was the old feast of St Thomas the Apostle, 21 December. However, as a newly-ordained priest in Ireland in those days didn’t celebrate his First Mass on a Sunday, the date could be brought forward or put back by a day. So I celebrated my First Mass on the feast of the apostle in Holy Family Church, Aughrim St, Dublin, where I had grown up.
With my father John (+1987), my mother Mary (+1970) and my brother Paddy

We had a six-day retreat that ended the night before our ordination, though those heading for Derry left earlier. Our retreat director was Fr Dan Conneely, witty and wise, one of three brothers who were Columban priests. Fathers Joe, Dan and Paul between them served as joyful priests for 184 years. Today is the 22nd death anniversary of Father Dan and the 14th of Father Paul. May they all rest in peace.

Blessing my cousin Mai Dowling

Our retreat was ‘low-key’ and prayerful. The only thing I can remember that Father Dan said, in the middle of one of his talks and with no connection whatever to the topic, was one of the shortest poems in the English language, by Ogden Nash: No MacTavish / was ever lavish. (For Filipino readers: ‘MacTavish’ is a Scottish apelledo and the Scots, like the Ilocanos, are reputed to be kuripot, hence many jokes about them.) But it was the kind of retreat that prepared us well.

Father Dan was editor of the Irish Far East, the Columban magazine, for nearly 30 years. He never served overseas but was a true missionary.

A Home for Jesus

A Home for Jesus
It’s that time of the year again when we decorate the Christmas tree and the house takes on a winter wonderland feel.

At Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, the seminarians did their best to decorate hallways and public rooms and get into the Christmas spirit. One hallway even put up stockings for each faculty member. Guess who had the small stocking?

Luke and Jason went the extra mile and made a ginger bread cathedral from scratch.

This edible cathedral was a real work of art. It made me think about how Christmas decorations can be helpful in putting us in a “Holy day” mood. At the same time, it made me realize that if we lose focus of the religious nature of this Advent season, the decorations become a distraction to the purpose of Christ’s coming. I don’t want to dampen the holiday spirit by cautioning against decorating. I want to highlight the focus of all we’re doing, so that even decorating your family’s home can become a prayer.

Did you know the Christmas tree (the ever green) was used to encourage pagans to see how the pointy tree top gives us a direction to the truth – God in Heaven. The Christmas star, tinsel, and Christmas cards all have deep spiritual and religious significance.

Despite the expensive, and at times frustrating, task of putting up decorations, the best way that we can prepare for Christmas is by making sure we are preparing our home for Jesus as the guest of honor. Preparing our homes for Christ requires us to prepare our hearts for Him. These Mount St. Mary’s students, despite their busy exam week, made sure to take time for prayer, receiving Christ, and preparing for Christmas in the chapel; not the shopping mall!
In this holiday season, we have to ask ourselves if we let church and personal prayer take a back seat to Christmas preparations. When considering your preparations for Christmas, be sure to take a cue from those who celebrated Christmas for the first time. Consider how the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph prepared for the miracle of birth. Meditate and pray about how you prepare your home for Christmas and you may see that Christ prefers the humble stable of Bethlehem to tinsel and light decorations. Take time and celebrate the seasonal liturgies with sincere faith and you’ll hear how a silent night is preferred over the din of overplayed Santa songs. And, if you really take St. Nicholas seriously by praying with that saint, you’ll understand how through prayer we can become like saints.

As you and your family prepare your home for Christmas, don’t start with a tree or tinsel. Start with the most important home you can offer Jesus: your pure heart.

Mushroom-stuffed Double-thick Pork Chops

Cooking in stages can create a memorable meal, while giving you peace of mind about cooking a lot of food quickly during this busy season. Here’s a meal you may want to consider for a big holiday party. It begins with asking your butcher to create a pocket in the pork chop so that you can stuff it. Then, you simply brine the meat over night. After you stuff the chops, it’s only a matter of minutes before you have a perfectly succulent meal. Please click here for the recipe.

Slow Down and Pray

Here’s a prayer from a great website to bless your Christmas tree and help you and your family enjoy the holidays as true Holy days!

Holy Lord,We come with joy to celebrate the birth of your Son, who rescued us from the darkness of sin by making the Cross a tree of life and light.

May this tree, arrayed in splendor, remind us of the life-giving Cross of Christ, that we may always rejoice in the new life that shines in our hearts. We ask this through Christ our Lord.Amen.

Ask Fr. Leo for fatherly advice.Any submissions may be used in future Grace Before Meals publications.

Please forward Fr. Leo’s weekly email blast to anyone you think would benefit. If you haven’tsigned up for the Food for the Body, Food for the Soul weekly email blast, go here and register now. Also please visit our blog. weekly to stay up

19 December 2008

The Filipino whose fists stop wars

Without a doubt, the most popular person in the Philippines right now is a boxer, Manny Pacquiao, from General Santos City in southeastern Mindanao, an island that is bigger than Ireland. (Very few Filipinos live on 'cartoon' tropical islands with a beach and one coconut tree!)

Mercatornet, a website that is well worth exploring as it deals with current events and ethical issues from a point of view that is very much that of the orthodox teaching of the Church, though it isn't a Church site, has an interesting article about this boxing phenomenon. Among other things, it highlights popular religiosity in the Philippines and the open way in which many Filipinos express their faith and piety.

I'm not a supporter of professional boxing but it is a fact of life.

This article is by Zen Udani.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The Filipino whose fists stop wars

"Don't tell God you have a big problem. Tell your problem you have a big God,” champ tells fans.

The boxing world is in shock after the legendary Mexican Oscar de la Hoya was sent into retirement by Filipino Manny Pacquiao on December 6 in Las Vegas.

Manny Pacquiao is undoubtedly the Philippines’ most popular sports icon. He’s a simple guy of extraordinary grit. Glorious in his bouts, he remains humble with his feet firmly planted on the ground. In his most recent match, which kept millions of Filipinos all over the world glued to their radios or TV screens, he emerged as the winner against the much touted “golden boy” Oscar de la Joya in an eight-round TKO decision.

The good-natured Pacquiao shows his mettle even inside the ring. Recah Trinidad, a Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) columnist, wrote: “How Pacquiao lent boxing a warm human touch was no coincidence. In fact, Pacquiao would later bare that he often took pity on the helpless De La Hoya. After cornering and shaking up De La Hoya, Pacquiao would often stall in his offensive. Of course, this was not out of a sudden attack of compassion and humility.”

Pacquiao’s matches are surely a diversion to many people, not just Filipinos. His bouts relieve the stress of a faltering economy and provide national entertainment on a humdrum weekend. They have even led to truces among warring camps and a drop in crime rate, even as rebels and thieves are kept off the streets to catch a glimpse of his exciting matches. Apparently Eid Kabalu, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front civil-military affairs chief, has been known to say, “If Manny fights every day, guns will always be silent.”

The 29-year-old Pacquiao is an interesting character. In the tough world of boxing, you see this man publicly acknowledging that among his weapons are absolute faith in God and prayer. He hangs a rosary around his neck just before a match, and he’s not shy about it. As soon as he steps into the boxing ring, he kneels in deep prayer in one corner. Meanwhile, thousands of kilometers away in General Santos City, he’s supported by a pious mother who spends hours praying before an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Santo Nino (Holy Child Jesus) for the success of her son. After each victorious bout, an assistant immediately hops into the ring to hang once more the same holy rosary around Manny’s neck.

Returning to the Philippines after his victorious dream match, he went to the popular Black Nazarene Church in Manila. In a blog posted by Izah Morales in the PDI, she recalled: “After priest gave his final blessings, Pacquiao was asked to give a message to the people. During his message, Pacquiao thanked the people and attributed his success to God. He talked about the criticisms he got from some sportswriters before his bout with Oscar de la Hoya. But he said he did not lose hope as he kept his faith in God.

“Pacquiao told the crowd, ‘Don't tell God that [you] have a big problem. [B]ut tell your problem [that you] have a big God.’”

It said that a boxer’s motto is “It’s better to give than to receive.” But Pacquaio goes beyond that quip. It was reported that before his “dream match” with de la Joya, he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for tickets to be distributed among his friends and supporters. For him, it was a way of giving back. Some labeled it as superstition. But Pacquiao has that penchant for sharing his blessings with others. At the end of his match he was quoted saying, “I’m just happy that I made a lot of people happy.”

Pacquiao was tempted to venture into politics last year when he ran for a seat in Congress. He was soundly defeated, much to the delight of his fans, who wanted him to stay in the ring.

A recent PDI editorial warned Pacquiao against pursuing further political ambitions: “Pacquiao's achievements have been fully his own, as far as boxing is concerned. His becoming a sports hero has led not only to riches, but also has won him the incomparable affections of an entire nation. That success and that affection are his because of how he unites a nation otherwise divided and discouraged by politics.

“No one can doubt that Pacquiao is looking for a career that will not just give meaning to his life after boxing, but which will also allow him to help others as so many have helped him rise from rags to riches through sports. The question is not whether he can or should try to be a force for public good, but whether the public good is served by his entering politics.

“His dogged determination, his dedication to his sport, his discipline and his ability to improve himself, all the while maintaining a sunny disposition and picking no quarrels with people outside the boxing ring, suggest to us that the greatest good for the greatest number lies in Pacquiao staying out of the political arena. He is a political force by sheer force of being who he is-the man who unites-and staying that way.”

The good-tempered, level-headed Pacquiao is no Mike Tyson. He is unlikely to end up like many other boxers: broke, cheated, disgraced or punch-drunk. But he should stay out of politics. The punches thrown in political shadow boxing are more vicious than any he will ever face in the ring.

Zen Udani is Assistant Professor of Management at the University of Macau.

16 December 2008

Novena of pre-dawn Masses in the Philippines

Parols, Christmas lanterns, on sale in the Philippines. These are used as decorations outside and inside buildings.

This morning I had Mass at five, the first day of the Misa de Gallo, or Aguinaldo Masses, also called Simbang Gabi in Tagalog. A letter from Bishop Vicente M. Navarra of Bacolod, where I live, explains what these Masses are:

The celebration of the Aguinaldo Masses is a special indult given by Rome to the Church in the Philippines for the perseverance of the nation in the Catholic Faith. Hence the sacrifice of a very early morning Mass, It has to be celebrated only in the early morning (4am) from December 16-24, and not in the late afternoon or everning. The Mass formulary is one one for the whole duration - the Mass of the Blessed Virgin. The vestments are with with the recitation of the Gloria and Credo.

Misa de Gallo is Spanish for 'Mass at cockcrow'. (I have a recording by the Tallis Singers of Missa in Gallicantu, A Mass in Sarum chant, the usage in the Diocese of Salisbury, England, before, that used to be sung after midnight on Christmas Eve - I'm not sure if that means early on the 24th or 25th). Aguinaldo is a Spanish word meaning Christmas or New Year's gift. Simbang Gabi could be translated as 'going to church at night'.

The emphasis is on thanking God, with our Blessed Mother, for the gift of faith. There are now nine special Mass formularies that may be used, with the readings of the current Advent day. On the Fourth Sunday of Advent the Mass of that day is used, with white vestements and the Gloria.

The custom began maybe three centuries or so ago, in Spanish times, when farm workers wanted to have Mass very early before they'd go to work.

In the village where I live the Mass has always been at 5, maybe because when there was no priest here before, the parish priest came after his 4am Mass in the parish church. However, for the rest of the novena we'll start at 4:45 so that dawn won't be breaking until Mass is ending. I take the bishop's '4am' to be a guideline and it's the norm in parish churchese.

Churches all over the Philippines are full these mornings, especially with young people. I noticed a young woman in the chapel this morning with her infant and reminded the people that that's one of the ways we pass on the faith.

The only thing comparable to the Misa de Gallo in my own experience before coming to the Philippines was Lenten weekdays in Dublin in the 1950s when the churches would be full of workers and students at the earlier Masses, the older people and housewives - yes there were still very many of them! - going to the later Masses.

Each year people are spending less and less in the run up to Christmas in the Philippines, which in one way is a good thing, though it's also a sign of people having less money for things that aren't essential.

Filipinos have brought the custom of the Misa de Gallo to many other countries and have adapted them to the local situation. I'ts not usually a Misa de Gallo in the literal sense since it's usually held in the evening, for example, in London, when the roosters, if there are any there, have all gone to sleep. Very often a Mass is celebrated on the nine evenings in a different church each time. I know that in the Archdiocese of Seattle, Washington, Archbishop Alexander Joseph Brunett has encouraged everyone to get involved, not just Filipinos. It may be one way of renewing the faith in Europe and North America, not to mention other places.

I'll remember my readers at Mass these mornings.

06 December 2008

A Grand Duke with Backbone

The price for opposing euthanasia

The Grand Duke of Luxembourg is to be stripped of his executive veto after refusing to rubber-stamp a euthanasia law.

The cynical epitaph for the rakish King Charles II of England -- "Here lies our Sovereign Lord the King, Whose word no man relies on ; Who never said a foolish thing, And never did a wise one." -- sums up most republicans' feelings towards constitutional monarchs. Palatial accommodation, fabulous salaries, gorgeous clothes, jetsetting, handshakes with everyone from Bono to Barack – all this just to sign a few laws tossed across a desk by the government of the day.

However, 53-year-old Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg is made of different stuff. He has just precipitated a constitutional crisis in his tiny (population 470,000) realm by refusing to grant royal assent to a law authorising euthanasia -- "for reasons of conscience".

Read the full article here and check out its source, Mercatornet.

As we might say in Ireland, 'Ah, sure isn't he a grand duke, God bless him!'

Do you have the courage to defend Christian marriage?

Joanna Bogle wonders why British Catholics are too afraid to speak up for holy matrimony

5 December 2008, The Catholic Herald.

If, at any time during our country's long history, you had been invited into a school or youth group to give a talk on marriage, and began with the words, "Marriage is the union of a man and a woman, establishing a new family", you would have been regarded as making a statement of the blindingly obvious. Not any more. It's now regarded as a rather daring and controversial statement, possibly acceptable in a guest speaker but probably to be followed up with some caveats on the part of the teacher.

Read the full article .

Joanna Bogle has her own blog, Auntie Joanna Writes.

01 December 2008

Going on retreat

Please pray for me till Friday. I'll be on retreat at Maryshore Retreat House, in Talisay City, just north of Bacolod, from this morning until Friday afternoon. It's right beside the sea and is owned by the CICM Missionaries, known in the USA as 'Missionhurst' and in Belgium, where the congregation originated, as the 'Scheut Missionaries'. Their full name in English is the 'Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary'.

28 November 2008

Finding a Grave After 84 Years

Under the Acacia
Finding a Grave After 84 years

This was to have appeared in Negros Times last Monday, 24 November. However, the paper isn’t being published right now. The column contains some material from my post ‘In Flanders Fields’ but I focused on the finding of my great-uncle’s grave. We are still in the month when Catholics remember the dead in a special way.

One thing that Filipinos and Irish share is respect for the dead. I think that this comes mainly from the Catholic faith that prevails in both countries, though people of every culture and faith and none have their various ways of burying the dead and remembering them.

While working in Mindanao I noticed that many visited the cemetery on Mondays and each parish had a Misa Comun that day when the priest would offer Mass for the souls of all the dead whose names had been given in during the week ahead. People would bring an offering with their list. As far as I know, this is a custom among Cebuano-speakers, though it may be done by others too.

I would say that Filipinos are better than the Irish for visiting cemeteries. However, during the summer in Ireland many parishes or districts have a ‘Cemetery Sunday’ when Mass is offered for all who are buried in the particular place. This practice, as far as I know, is a relatively new one.

The Irish are very good at remembering the dead in speech, with expressions such as “May he rest in peace”, ‘Lord be good to her”, “The light of heaven on her”, when someone deceased is mentioned. It’s mostly older people who follow this custom now but you often hear these prayers, because that’s what they are, on radio and TV. They express a strong sense of the Communion of Saints, being one with the saints in heaven and the souls in purgatory, with the hope of joining them one day.

When I was a child my mother often mentioned her Uncle Larry Dowd who had died in the Great War, “the war to end all wars”, 1914-1918, later to be called World War I. However, she had no details apart from her father hearing the “banshee”, “bean sí”, or “fairy woman” with long hair whose wailing foretells a death in the family, according to folklore. Larry was my grandmother’s brother. However, even though she died only the year before my ordination Í never thought of asking her about him, something I deeply regret.

Some years after my mother’s death I asked her sisters about their Uncle Larry. One thought he
had died in Gallipoli, Turkey, but none of them had any details. By chance I came across a book with the names of all soldiers in Irish regiments of the British army who had died in the Great War and there found an entry for “Corporal L. Dowd” who died in Belgium, on August 6, 1917. The only thing that raised a doubt in my mind was that he was listed as having been born in Scotland. However, he had enlisted in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. My research since has shown that only one person by the name of “L. Dowd” died in action in the Great War.

(Transfiguration, Raphael, painted 1516-1520)

In 2001, when I was based in Britain, I was asked by Joy, a friend from Mindanao to officiate at her Church wedding on September 8 to her husband, Stefaan, a Belgian. They lived near Ieper, or “Ypres” as it is known in French, a city that was utterly destroyed in the Great War but that was rebuilt with the help of the blueprints of the original buildings. There are many war cemeteries in the area, maintained beautifully by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Stefaan took me to the In Flanders Fields Museum where I told an official what I knew about Larry. Less than a minute later a computer printed the details of where he was buried and we went to the cemetery immediately.

It was a very moving moment for me to be the first and only relative, 84 years after his death, to visit the grave of Laurence Dowd who had died in a war that for the soldiers on both sides was utter hell. I find some consolation in the fact that he died on the Feast of the Transfiguration.

So many of the headstones in the war cemeteries don’t have a name but simply ‘A Soldier of such-and-such a Regiment’. The vast majority were still in their late teens or early twenties.

The British built a monument in Ieper called the Menin Gate. On it are listed the names of more than 50,000 soldiers of the British Commonwealth whose remains were never found. They were from all over the British Empire – Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Newfoundland, India, which then included what are now Pakistan and Bangladesh, the African colonies and the Caribbean, apart from the great numbers from the United Kingdom itself, which then included the whole of Ireland.

Every might at 8.00 volunteer buglers from Ieper’s firefighters the Last Post at the Mennen Gate and traffic comes to a halt. The evening I was there a very old man, possibly a veteran of the Great War, placed a wreath. Beside me was a young woman with a baby not more than a week old. This brought tears to my eyes. Here was a woman passing on to her new-born the memory of the tragedy of the Great War, which everyone in that part of Belgium carries, in the presence of someone who probably had fought in it.

Joy and Stefaan promised they would visit the grave of my great-uncle Larry on Armistice Day, November 11, a public holiday in Belgium, which they did. The Great War ended at 11 A.M. on November 11 ninety years ago. May my Uncle Larry and all the other soldiers buried near the battlefields of Europe rest in peace.

The Confession of the Centurion (La Confession du Centurion)

James Tissot (1836-1902)

27 November 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Day to all Americans!

First known and last photos of President Abraham Lincoln

Thanksgiving Day is a great family day in the USA. It's a day when Americans, second to none in my experience in hospitality, welcome strangers to their home.

President Lincoln's proclamation below is surely a wise document.

Thanksgiving Proclamation — 1863
Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States of America

It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the over ruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with a sure hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the holy scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord.

We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people.

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven, we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.

25 November 2008

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an Angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him, thy son.
Behold! caught in a thicket by its horns;
A ram. Offer the Ram of Pride instead.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

Wilfred Owen (18 March 1893 – 4 November 1918)

Genesis 22 : 1-19 (Authorised or King James Version which the poet would have been very familiar with. Owen based his poem on this passage).

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.

Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.

And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.

And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.

And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.

And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time,

And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son:That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

So Abraham returned unto his young men, and they rose up and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.

The Sacrifice of Isaac, Rembrandt, 1635

The Oise-Sambre Canal where Wilfred Owen was killed in action on 4 November 1918 and the poet's grave. His family got word of his death one week later, Armistice Day, when the Great War ended at 11am, 11 November.

May all who died in 'The war to end all wars' rest in peace.

Dishonoring the Dead

The Negros Times has suspended publication for the time being. here is the column I wrote for 17-18 November. I had originally written in for 3-4 November, in the context of the observance of All Saints and All Souls here in the Philippines. A 'memorial park' is a privately owned cemetery run as a business.

Under the Acacia

By Father Seán Coyle

Dishonoring the Dead

I don’t know whether it’s ignorance of Philippine culture or justifiable outrage that made me upset the last week of October when I saw a half-page advertisement in a Bacolod newspaper inviting people to a “Celebration of All Saints’ Day” by playing bingo and engaging in parlor games at a memorial park in the city. The owners reminded us that there would be “Peryahan” and Merry-Go-Round Rides the whole afternoon.

And, yes, the blessing of graves was fitted in before bingo and the Holy Mass between the parlor games and the evening “Cultural Show”, no doubt to satisfy the fanatics who think that a cemetery is a sacred place where we Catholics pray for the dead.

The first time I blessed graves on November 1 or 2 in the Philippines was in a mountainous area of the municipality of Tubod, Lanao del Norte in 1972. We were accompanied by members of the Philippine Constabulary, as the civil war that erupted the previous year in the Lanao and Cotabato provinces, instigated by politicians with Christian and Islamic backgrounds, had abated only some months before. Thank God, there was no trouble.

In subsequent years I blessed graves in parishes in Misamis Occidental, in Karomatan, now Sultan Naga Dimaporo, Lanao del Norte, where about half the people are Christians and half Muslims, and in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. In most places the busiest day was November 1 but in Lianga everything took place on November 2, the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, as the Church officially designates it. I have never understood why the Feast of All Saints has, in effect, become All Souls’ Day or Fiesta Minatay, the Feast of the Dead, as it’s often called by Ilonggos, in the Philippines.

But in all of these places the emphasis was on blessing the graves and praying for the dead. Many had a picnic also. In Lianga we had Mass in the church at 6 in the morning. After breakfast everyone went to the cemetery where the priest celebrated Mass again and the blessing of the graves took place in reasonably orderly fashion. By noon everything was finished and, following local custom, the priest lunched at the pantheon where the relatives of the mayor were buried.
But in none of these places did I ever encounter bingo or parlor games or merry-go-rounds or a so-called “cultural show”. There was a sense of joyful hope, because of our faith as Christians in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and because of our Catholic practice of praying for the dead. The Roman Martyrology or official list of saints of the Church, on which our almanake is based, says of November 2: On this day is observed the commemoration of the faithful departed, in which our common and pious Mother the Church, immediately after having endeavored to celebrate by worthy praise all her children who already rejoice in heaven, strives to aid by her powerful intercession with Christ, her Lord and Spouse, all those who still groan in Purgatory, so that they may join as soon as possible the inhabitants of the heavenly city.

In other words, the whole point of All Souls’ Day, even if it is observed on All Saints’ Day by most Filipinos, is to pray for the souls in purgatory, in accordance with Catholic teaching and practice. This doesn’t rule out a sense of joy or even having a picnic at the cemetery. After all, the heavenly banquet is a wonderful image from the Bible.

Pope Benedict writes beautifully about this in Spe Salvi, No.48:
Now a further question arises: if “Purgatory” is simply purification through fire in the encounter with the Lord, Judge and Saviour, how can a third person intervene, even if he or she is particularly close to the other? When we ask such a question, we should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve.

And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for him—can play a small part in his purification. And for that there is no need to convert earthly time into God's time: in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded.

It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain. In this way we further clarify an important element of the Christian concept of hope. Our hope is always essentially also hope for others; only thus is it truly hope for me too. As Christians we should never limit ourselves to asking: how can I save myself? We should also ask: what can I do in order that others may be saved and that for them too the star of hope may rise? Then I will have done my utmost for my own personal salvation as well.

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, All Souls’ Day, Fiesta Minatay, call it what we will, is an ancient Catholic practice. No owners of a memorial park have the right to hijack it and distort it for commercial purposes. The business people of Cebu, in just over 20 years, have distorted and all but destroyed the Sinulog, a centuries-old celebration in honor of the Sto. Niño, the Child Jesus.

Are the people of Bacolod going to allow commercial interests to dishonor our dead and undermine our Catholic faith?

24 November 2008

‘¡Viva Cristo Rey!’ 'Long live Christ the King!'

‘¡Viva Cristo Rey!’

'Long live Christ the King!'

The photo above was taken on 23 November 1927 in Mexico City just before the execution by firing squad of 36-year-old Fr Miguel Agustin Pro SJ. In his right hand was a crucifix and in his left a rosary. His last words were ‘¡Viva Cristo Rey!’ 'Long live Christ the King'.

I first saw this photo in 1955, when I was 12. It was in a supplement to the Irish Independent on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. The paper, at the time very Catholic in its ethos - it is very different now - had an outstanding photo from each year of its publication. That of Father Pro was its choice for 1927. It made a profound impact on me, as it does still.

Blessed Miguel was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 15 September 1988. The spoke said on that occasion, 'Neither suffering nor serious illness, neither the exhausting ministerial activity, frequently carried out in difficult and dangerous circumstances, could stifle the radiating and contagious joy which he brought to his life for Christ and which nothing could take away. Indeed, the deepest root of self-sacrificing surrender for the lowly was his passionate love for Jesus Christ and his ardent desire to be conformed to him, even unto death.'

Joy was a characteristic of this most attractive of saints. In nearly all photos of him that I have seen, not only those taken on his execution day, he looks deadly serious. But he was a practical joker of the first order and he also suffered from poor health all his life.

Blessed Miguel's feast is observed in the USA and, I presume, in Mexico, on 23 November, which is also the feast of St Columban and of St Clement of Rome. As that date this year was the Solemnity of Christ the King, Clement, Columban and Miguel had to 'yield'. But it is only proper to recall this great Jesuit priest whose last words were those of forgiveness for those who were about to kill him and whose final words were the inspiring ‘¡Viva Cristo Rey!’

You can read more about Blessed Miguel here - that site has many photos - and here.

Here is an article about Blessed Miguel that we published in Misyon in September-Cctober 2004.


By Sister Mariana Reyes HGS

Sister Mariana came to the Philippines in 2000. She is a member of the Hermanas Guadalupanas de la Salle founded in Mexico in 1946 by Brother Juan Fromental Coyroche, a De La Salle Brother from France. The Sisters follow the charism of St John Baptist De La Salle, involved in the promotion of Christian Education. Their spirituality in their service of God inspires them to look to Our Lady of Guadalupe in her role as evangelizer to the people they serve. They arrived in the Philippines in 1984. They also work in Mexico, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Italy, Vatican, USA, La Reunion and Madagascar. The Sisters' Philippine website is http://religioushgs.tripod.com/

Martyr: we have often heard the deep meaning of this word. Witness: to suffer for the God who has kept you alive, and, if required, to give up your life also. The word makes us recall the Witness par excellence: Jesus Christ. The word ‘martyr’ recalls for us the many believers in the early Church, who rather than give up their faith and to show their love, trust and faith in God, faced death.

But here is a modern witness, facing his killers wearing a suit and tie. It’s November 23, 1927, during the religious persecution in Mexico. He is Father Miguel Agustin Pro SJ.

José Ramon Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez was born on 13 January 1891 in Guadalupe, Mexico, one of 11 children of Don Miguel and Josefa. As a child he had been dangerously ill for a year. Don Miguel held his son before an image of La Virgen de Guadalupe and said, ‘Madre mia, give me back my son.’ Despite not being particularly religious he found his vocation at 20 and entered the Jesuits despite his fragile health, which meant more suffering. His vocation involved leaving his loving family behind, fleeing to foreign lands, strange languages and customs, as he couldn’t study in Mexico because of the persecution. He studied in the USA, in Nicaragua, Spain and Belgium where he was ordained in 1925.

Father Pro had a number of operations for a bad stomach. He also suffered because of his concern for his family who went through great financial hardship during the persecution. His superiors assigned him to work at home in 1926.

Returning to Mexico he showed with passion that he understood the words ‘The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.’ He knew well that any priest found propagating Catholicism could face the death penalty. Many were executed. But we see something really special in Father Pro – his ability to inject into his adventures the cheerfulness that characterized him: one word, one gesture was many times enough to see him escape from the police. In spite of the danger he never lost his sense of humor which he saw as a gift from God. As a child he was musical and a practical joker.

Earthly powers weren’t able to stop his priestly zeal. His cheerfulness made him try one and another way of deceiving the detectives assigned to detect violators of the law. He wore many disguises in order to administer the sacraments, celebrate Mass or lead a recollection. There’s a photo of him dressed as a mechanic. On one occasion on his way to anoint an old person he spotted the detectives. A young Catholic woman whom he knew happened to pass by. He linked arms with her and the police thought they were sweethearts.

Meantime, the persecution continued. Churches were closed, Catholic schools suppressed, convents expropriated, religious communities persecuted. So many priests, religious, lay persons died. This was Mexico, the land Our Lady visited on 1531 in her apparition to the indigenous St Juan Diego. It seemed that this land had changed its patron. But the blood of martyrs is the seed of new Christians, and the execution of hundreds was not enough to eradicate the Catholic faith from Mexican soil.

Now it was the moment Divine Providence destined for Father Pro to bear the supreme testimony of his faith. In November 1927, the authorities arrested Father Pro, along with his brothers Humberto and Roberto. The government authorities linked them to an assassination attempt on the presidential candidate General Álvaro Obregón through an old car that had once belonged to Humberto. (General Obregón had been president from 1920 to 1924 when he was replaced by his ally Plutarco Elías Calles who was the real power. General Obregón was assassinated after being re-elected in 1928.) The authorities were well aware that the brothers were innocent. But because they considered Catholic priests their enemies, the government saw in Padre Miguel and his brothers the perfect scapegoats. Without due process or trial, they sentenced them to death.

The government had a photographer cover the execution to show up Catholics as cowards. The photos had the opposite effect and later the government made it a crime to possess them.

Father Miguel was given a couple of minutes to pray before his execution. He rejected the traditional blindfold and said to the firing squad, ‘May God have mercy on you. May God bless you. Lord, you know that I am innocent. With all my heart I forgive my enemies.’ Serene, he stretched out his arms in the form of a cross, holding a rosary in his left hand, a crucifix in his right. With his last breath he said quietly but clearly, ‘¡Viva Cristo Rey!’ ‘Long live Christ the King!’ This cry was the assurance that the persecuted and suffering Church of Mexican was owned by Christ its King.

The effect of the news was the opposite to what the government had expected. Thousands turned out for the funeral of Father Miguel and his brother Humberto – Roberto had been released. An old blind woman in the crowd who came to touch his body left with her sight restored. The fervor of the Catholic faithful grew stronger and their fear lessened because of the testimony of the martyrdom of this man of God, this committed priest, selfless in his generous ministry of the Word and the Sacraments; a creative, fun-loving joker, despite his serious demeanor in photos.

Sometime before his death he said to a friend that if he came upon any somber-looking saints in heaven, he’d do the Mexican hat dance to cheer them up. How well he used his gifts to live and die with passion for Christ and his Gospel. May we find in this witness, an inspiration to see that it is possible to live our faith with creativity and face challenges the challenges of modern times in a concrete, loving way.

Chaplet of Blessed Miguel

Blessed Miguel, before your death, you told your friend to ask you for favors when you were in Heaven. I beg you to intercede for me and in union with Our Lady and all the angels and saints, to ask Our Lord to grant my petition, provided that it be God's Will. {mention the request}

We honor and adore the triune God. The Gloria.

We ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. Come Holy Ghost.

We pray as Jesus taught us to pray. The Our Father.

We venerate with love the Virgin Mary. Hail Mary.

All you angels, bless you the Lord forever.

Saint Joseph, Saint {name of your patron}, and all the saints, pray for us. Blessed Miguel, high spirited youth, pray for us. Viva Christo Rey.

Blessed Miguel, loving son and brother, pray for us. Viva Christo Rey.

Blessed Miguel, patient novice, pray for us. Viva Christo Rey.

Blessed Miguel, exile from your homeland, pray for us. Viva Christo Rey.

Blessed Miguel, prayerful religious, pray for us. Viva Christo Rey.

Blessed Miguel, sick and suffering, pray for us. Viva Christo Rey.

Blessed Miguel, defender of workers, pray for us. Viva Christo Rey.

Blessed Miguel, courageous priest in hiding, pray for us. Viva Christo Rey.

Blessed Miguel, prisoner in jail, pray for us. Viva Christo Rey.

Blessed Miguel, forgiver of persecutors, pray for us. Viva Christo Rey.

Blessed Miguel, holy martyr, pray for us. Viva Christo Rey.

Imprimatur: Joseph A. Fiorenza, Bishop of Galveston - Houston, August 13, 1995

22 November 2008

St Columban's Day

St Columban’s Day

The feast of St Columban is celebrated on 23 November. However, as the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, Universal King, falls on the 23rd Columbans will observe the feast of their patron liturgically the following day.

Here are links to various items about St Columban.

On 11 June this year Pope Benedict spoke at his Wednesday audience about this great saint and we feature his talk in the current Misyon.

You can find a number of interesting items about St Columban here.

Here is the message of our Superior General, Fr Tommy Murphy, to all Columbans.

Saint Columban’s Day Message.

We Columbans are good at celebrating and each year we particularly look forward to getting together to honour our Patron St Columban on his feast day.
Earlier this year St Columban was honoured in a most unique way when Pope Benedict recognised the contribution of St Columban by making him the special focus of his Wednesday General Audience Address in St Peters’ Square on June 11th last.

Pope Benedict acknowledged that St Columban faced considerable difficulties but stressed that his work of evangelization began ‘in the first place through the witness of the missionaries’ own lives’.

As this feast day approaches I wish to acknowledge the contribution of all who are involved today in Columban Mission in our Regions and Mission Units. Many of you are working in challenging contexts and under difficult conditions. I have witnessed first hand some of the strains under which you carry out your present responsibilities. It is not easy to be a Catholic Missionary today. At times there is the temptation to despair because the odds are stacked against us and the challenges seem too great for the time and personnel we have.

Earlier this year at the Columban US Regional Assembly we were reminded of the helpful distinction between ‘Chronological time ‘, and ‘Kairos time’. It was stressed that while we may not have enough chronological time to complete what we want to do; we do have enough time to do what God wants us to do. This perspective can help us to lighten the real or perceived burdens of life and ministry and to take a broader view of our calling as Columban missionaries no matter what context we are working in. We are encouraged to live in Kairos time which is holy and it is God’s time, laden with meaning and choice and we have the freedom and responsibility to use this time and these choices well.

Pope Benedict in this year’s World Mission Day message wrote: ‘with concern we ask ourselves: What will become of humanity and creation? Is there hope for the future, or rather, is there a future for humanity? And what will this future be like? Humanity needs to be liberated and redeemed. Creation itself – St Paul says-suffers and nurtures the hope that it will share in the freedom of the children of God. These words are true in today’s world too. Creation is suffering. Creation is suffering and waiting for real freedom; it is waiting for a different and better world.’ And ‘there are countless people who are thirsting for hope and love’.

In this Year of St Paul, we note a strong belief that was shared by both St Paul and St Columban. The oft quoted statement from St Columban’s 10th Sermon, Christi simus, non nostri, is translated as ‘We are for Christ not for ourselves’, or ‘Let us be Christ’s, not our own’, or ‘We are Christ’s, not our own’. St Columban’s awareness of the importance of the presence of Christ in his own life and work was alive and well over five hundred years earlier in St Paul’s conviction that it was not himself but that it was Christ that lived in him. ‘and it is no longer I who live, but Christ in me.’ Gal 2.19. St Paul was very clear that it is only in Christ that humanity can find redemption and hope.

For over 90 years Columban missionaries have committed their lives to ensure that the hope and love of the Gospel message is experienced by people in many different parts of the world. Today we give thanks to God for this long history of commitment.

During the coming days, as we come together in our Regions and Mission Units to celebrate the feast of our Patron, we recommit ourselves to our mission; and to be focused and dedicated in healthy ways that bring life to ourselves and the people with whom we live and work.

May the life and spirit of St Columban encourage all of us.

Fr Tommy Murphy. November 21, 2008.