28 May 2009

More than one side to the Irish Christian Brothers

The Ryan Report, published in Ireland last week, shows the Christian Brothers, founded by Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice (picture) in 1808 and known as the Irish Chrstian Brothers when I was young, in very bad light. A question that troubles me now, in the light of the Ryan Report, is, did these men to whom I am so grateful, who influenced me so much, in whom I saw dedication and commitment, did they know what was going on in Artane, Letterfrack and Tralee? And if they did, what did they do about it?

One of the most influential persons in my life was a Christian Brother.

The Brothers always had a reputation for toughness. My late father, who went to North Brunswick Street School, ‘Brunner’, in Dublin in the 1920s used to tell us stories of some teachers, brothers and lay, unmercifully beating up boys. (Strictly speaking, religious, both men and women’ are part of the laity). However, he’d also tell us about the teachers, both Brothers and lay, who were kind. I don’t think that Dad himself ever got excessive punishment. When he’d tell his stories he didn’t show any anger or seem to question what he had seen, though he himself was the most gentle of persons who never raised his voice to anyone, including the men who worked under him on construction sites for years.

When I was with the Irish Sisters of Charity in Stanhope Street, Dublin, from 1947 till 1951, I think that the teachers, all laywomen, used a short stick now and again on our hands. But I don’t associate those years with fear or punishment. Sister Margaret Stanislaus, the principal of the boys’ kindergarten, who prepared us for First Holy Communion, once told me to stay behind after school for some misdemeanor or other. I walked out right under her nose when classes ended and never heard any more about it.

My parents wanted me to have the best education they could afford and had me apply in O’Connell Schools, founded in 1828 and named in honour of Daniel O’Connell, ‘The Liberator’, largely responsible for Catholic Emancipation in the United Kingdom in 1829. The whole of Ireland was part of the UK at the time. Most of the Penal Laws against Catholics were repealed then.

The Brothers had a reputation for narrow-minded Irish nationalism. My very first teacher in O’Connell’s, the late Brother John Dobson, who left the congregation some years later and with whom I renewed contact when in the seminary, gave me a great love for the Irish language. I learned later that he was English, though of Irish parentage. I remember very clearly our class praying, in Irish, for the repose of the soul of King George VI when he died in February 1952. So much for narrow-minded Irish nationalism.

I didn’t have Brothers teaching me again until my last year in primary school, 1955-56. I was in a scholarship class and, unlike any other section in the whole school, we had two brothers teaching us, Brother Morgan Felix Donnelly, with whom I have kept in contact ever since, and Brother John Felix Kelly, who left the congregation some time after my ordination. Both were present at my First Mass, as I recall, certainly Brother Kelly. We had our scholarship exam, given by Dublin Corporation, now known as Dublin City Council, during Easter Week 1956. The two Brothers gave themselves heart and soul to us during that year, wanting only the best for us. Some of my classmates weren’t eligible for the scholarship exam, for which there was a means test, but they got the same attention as everyone else.

One incident I remember vividly was a few weeks before Easter. Brother Kelly gave me a couple of slaps on the palm of the hand with the leather strap that teachers in the school used. (I never saw any other kind of instrument used by anyone and our parents approved of its use, provided it wasn’t excessive, and in my experience it never was). Strictly speaking, Brother Kelly was wrong as I was punished for my work, not for misbehaviour. Then he looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘The sooner this exam is over the better’. I saw there a teacher, a fellow human being, who was undergoing tension like the rest of us. That's what has remained with me for 53 years, not the momentary sting from the leather.

As it happened, all of us won scholarships to pay for our secondary education, eight of us in the Top Ten, as I recall, with yours truly at the very top.

During my primary school years I came to know an exceptional person, Brother Mícheál Ó Flaitile, known as ‘Pancho’ from the sidekick of the Cisco Kid, a syndicated comic-strip that we used to

read in The Irish Press. Our 'Pancho', like the Cisco Kid's friend, was on the pudgy side. He organized an Irish-speaking club and arranged for me to be secretary. I don’t think I was too happy at the time to get that job but I realized later that he had spotted my ability to write. Other teachers had encouraged me in this too.

My class was blessed to have had Brother Ó Flaitile in our last two years in secondary school, 1959 to 1961, when we were preparing for our all-important Leaving Certificate examination. He taught us Irish and Latin. He probably should have been teaching at university level. What I remember most of all about him was his character. Everyone described him as ‘fear uasal’, the Irish for 'a noble man' – as distinct from 'a nobleman’. A stare from him made you feel humbled, but not humiliated. He had the kind of authority that we read in the gospels Jesus had.

I remember one event in our last year. ‘Pancho’ used to take the A and B sections for religion together in our last class before lunch every day for religion class. One day he scolded a student in the B section for something trivial or other and the student himself and the rest of us took it in our stride and forgot about it. We were nearly 70 boys aged between 16 and 18. The next day Brother Ó Flaitile apologized to the boy in question and to the rest of us because he had discovered that the student hadn’t done what he had accused him of. Whatever it was, it had been very insignificant. But ‘Pancho’’s apology was for me a formative moment. I mentioned it to him many years later when he was in his 80s. He told me he didn’t remember the incident, but he smiled. He died in the late 1980s.

About three years ago a classmate told me about an incident between himself and Brother Ó Flaitile in 1959 when we were on a summer school/holiday in an Irish-speaking part of County Galway. If my friend had told me the story at the time I wouldn’t have believed him. He got angry with ‘Pancho’ over something or other and used a four-letter word that nobody would ever express to an adult, least of all a religious brother and teacher whom we revered. The lad stormed back to the house where he was staying and before too long felt remorse. He went back to ‘Pancho’ and apologized. The Brother accepted this totally and unconditionally and never referred to the incident again.

After my father, I don't think that anyone else influenced me more for good when I was young than 'Pancho'.

I remember the annual Gilbert and Sullivan operas, pure English Victoriana, that we produced every January in school, spending a good part of the Christmas holidays rehearsing, some of the Brothers painting the scenery, helping with the music and getting involved in many other ways. This wasn’t narrow-minded Irish nationalism.

Did 'Pancho' and the others know what was really going on? What I experienced between 1951 and 1961 and what was going on in other places during those years don't fit together for me.

New logo of Christian Brothers.

23 May 2009

'. . . my clothes and teddy thrown away' 'They took my identity from me'

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse set up by the Irish government nine years ago issued its report last Wednesday. The full report and the Executive Summary are available on the commission’s website.
Today’s Irish Times carries an article, The abused – in their own words.

The article begins: The voices of the abused emerge raw and bleak from pages 113 to 119 of Volume V of the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse. They told their stories to an interviewing team. In an introductory note to the section, the team acknowledged their courage: “We were deeply moved, inspired and humbled by our contact with you. Although we spent only a few hours with you, meeting you and listening to your stories was a moving and enriching experience for all of us. We felt privileged and honoured that you trusted us with such intensely personal and private experiences. . .” Here are sample extracts – unedited – of what the team heard.

Two statements of victims recounting the ‘worst thing’ that had happened to them and taken from the report and published in today’s Irish Times really hit me. One was, The night I entered the institution, my clothes and teddy thrown away.

Here in Bacolod I am involved with Holy Family Home and when a new girl arrives one of the first things she is given, no matter how young or old she is, is a teddy-bear or other soft toy. This was one of the first things I noticed when I first visited there late in 2002 and was shown around by a group of the girls. My Columban colleague, Fr Gary Walker, noticed the same thing when he visited and wrote about Holy Family Home.

The other statement that really hit me was, They made me change my surname and beat me until I accepted it. They took my identity from me. The put me through mental torture which is still with me now. They separated me from my sister and sent her to another institution.

This was precisely the aspect of the horror of the Holocaust that Pope Benedict spoke about last week at Yad Vashem. He took as his theme I will give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name … I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off (Is 56:5). He said, One can rob a neighbor of possessions, opportunity or freedom. One can weave an insidious web of lies to convince others that certain groups are undeserving of respect. Yet, try as one might, one can never take away the name of a fellow human being.

Yet that is what religious did to this young girl.

What Pope Benedict said in Jerusalem about the Jewish victims of the Holocaust could be said about all the victims in this awful report: Gazing upon the faces reflected in the pool that lies in stillness within this memorial, one cannot help but recall how each of them bears a name. I can only imagine the joyful expectation of their parents as they anxiously awaited the birth of their children. What name shall we give this child? What is to become of him or her? Who could have imagined that they would be condemned to such a deplorable fate!

As we stand here in silence, their cry still echoes in our hearts. It is a cry raised against every act of injustice and violence. It is a perpetual reproach against the spilling of innocent blood

Nazism was godless. The people interviewed for the Ryan Report had their childhood stolen and were treated as dirt by people who had once dedicated their lives to Jesus Christ. How did those religious sisters and brothers become so corrupted?

I was educated by the Christian Brothers for ten years and am profoundly grateful to them. They had a reputation for being tough. My father used to tell me stories of brutal beatings he saw in school by some Brothers and by some lay teachers. I never saw anything like that, though corporal punishment was still legal in Ireland. I did get a few ‘biffs’ with a leather strap on the palm of the hand from time to time, as did most of us. But that was the norm and our parents supported it. I never saw a teacher punishing excessively.

But did the Brothers I knew and admired know what was going on in some of their own institutions? One of them was St Joseph’s, Artane. Artane is a district in the northeast of Dublin city. Parents in Dublin, including my own, sometimes threatened to send us to ‘Artane’. The message I got was to behave myself but I never took the threat itself as serious. I doubt if my parents were aware of any excessive cruelty there but clearly they saw it as a place where no boy would want to go.

It is impossible to equate what the Ryan Report tells us was done in the name of Jesus, of his Mother and of St Joseph with a living faith in a loving Redeemer who died for us on the Cross.

19 May 2009

Obama at Notre Dame: some good?

On 20 December I had a post about Mary Full of Life. Today I received the press release below. One sign of hope from the Notre Dame debacle.

Contact: Valerie Aschbacher FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 18, 2009 Email: info@maryfulloflife.org
# # #

A FRESH RAY OF HOPE at the Crossroads in South Bend Indiana

This past week, overshadowed by controversy and adversity, apart from the arrests and protests, unshaken by President Obama’s arrival to South Bend, Indiana, and approximately a mile away from the center of Notre Dame University, a fresh ray of hope made its way to shine upon the community from higher ground. At the crossroads of North Hill Street and East LaSalle Avenue, an unusual image, a fully and visibly pregnant Mother Mary is literally “showing” life. Presented on a billboard in the vicinity of St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, Jesus, as an unborn child, is portrayed under the protection of his mother’s mantle. In its message, Mary Full of Life appears to bear the weight of humanity into the world and to bring new life.

In 2004, Valerie Aschbacher, a Catholic woman in Portland, Oregon, commissioned a sculpture through an anonymous artist, requesting an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary to be “barely showing”. The intended purpose of this artwork was to reproduce and sell it, as a way to raise funds for starting a charitable, nonprofit organization.

As the process evolved, it became clearer that the emerging image had a distinctly different mission, which was not, after all, to be barely showing, but rather to be quite apparently “with child”. With each new development, Mary Full of Life proved to have a life of its own. When Aschbacher began researching the thousands of titles and works of Mary throughout the centuries, she discovered, Mary Full of Life was undoubtedly special and she began to pursue copyright protection for the works. Over 250 photos, taken by a professional photographer, uniquely captured the cleverly crafted piece of art, which seems to be full of life from every angle. An inspired prayer, patterned after the Hail Mary, accompanies the image. The collected works are culminated into a website where visitors can engage in a virtual, spiritual experience - www.maryfulloflife.org

The expectant mother, Mary Full of Life first appeared November 13th, 2008, on a similar billboard, atop the city landscape, against a dark backdrop, among the poor and lost souls of Portland, Oregon. From that single billboard, the message of its mission continues to make its way around the globe, with daily visitors to the website in places where it might be least expected – such as China, Myanmar, Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Indonesia, Belgium, Chile, Ivory Coast, as well as across the United States.

When several individuals from around the nation, including Jeanette O’Toole of Elmhurst, Illinois expressed an interest in having a similar billboard displayed in South Bend, Indiana, Valerie Aschbacher agreed to pursue it with a local advertising company. Donors from around the country helped to defray the costs. Now, for at least a month, it will stand, larger than life, and speak for itself, with the hopes of furthering its mission - to unite humankind to uphold the sacredness of human life.
# # #

I must confess that I have been thinking very uncharitable thoughts about many members of the Congregation of Holy Cross, who run the University of Notre Dame. I was aware that some members of the congregation had publicly dissociated themselves from the university's decision to invite the militantly pro-abortion President Obama and to gove him an honorary doctorate.

Fr Wilson Miscamble CSC, an Australian who teaches at Notre Dame, spoke at the alternative ceremony held in another part of the campus while Mr Obama was speaking. Thsi must have been very painful for him as he was publicly criticising some of his own confreres but not out of spite or anger, but in order to proclaim the truth of the Gospel and the integrity of the mission of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

Though the University of Notre Dame was founded by French missionaries of the Congregation of Holy Cross, it has acquired the nickname of 'The Fighting Irish', especially in the context of the American gridiron game which Americans, for some strange reason, call 'football'. Archbishop Charles Chaput OFMCap of Denver, Colorado, has no Irish blood, though he has visited that blessed land. His paternal ancestors are of French-Canadian background and he is part Native American on his mother's side. But in his comments on the award to Mr Obama he could match any 'Fighting Irishman', though in a charitable way.

For too long, perhaps, we've had too much of a distorted Jesus 'meek and mild' and a total absence of the Jesus who called some persons 'a brood of vipers' and who overthrew the tables of the money-changers in the Temple.

One sign that President Obama may be listening to what some are saying is this brief extract from his Notre Dame speech: Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded in clear ethics and sound science, as well as respect for the equality of women.

Maybe he's pulling back from his previous position of wanting to deny medical personnel the right to follow their consciences and refuse to be involved in abortions.

I think too that Judge John Noonan, the stand-in speaker for Dr Mary Ann Glendon who turned down the Laetare Medal because she judged she was being used by the university in the context of the honorayr doctorate to the pro-abortion Mr Obama, spoke clearly, in a kind of 'Vaticanese' with an American accent. He very clearly implied, to me at least, that one day Americans, and others, would see clearly that abortion is wrong just as most of us see clearly today that slavery is wrong, that torture is wrong.

This whole episode has been shabby, not only a failure to preach the Gospel and to defend basic human rights, but an open defiance of the Gospel, an insult to Our Lady in the university that carries her name, an insult to Jesus who died on the Cross by a university run by the Congregation of Holy Cross. But all is not lost.

16 May 2009

'Don't shout; I am Deaf'

Since 1992 I have been involved with the Deaf to some extent, especially here in Bacolod City, and often celebrate Mass in Sign Language. I was largely inspired by Fr Joseph Coyle, a Columban priest - not related - who died in December 1991 and who was a pioneer here in the Philippines in working with the Deaf.

I have met a number of Deaf priests but until today was unaware of there being at least one Deafblind priest, Fr Cyril Axelrod CSsR (in photo). I came across the story below on the website of the British-based Independent Catholic News. My highlights, some in red.

The story is about Deaf Awareness Week in Britain but it contains many very practical points for hearing people communicating with Deaf and hard-of-hearing persons. It's quite common for hearing people to tend to 'shout' when they're trying to communicate either with a deaf person or a hearing person who doesn't speak English (or whatever our own language happens to be) well. My late father tended to do that whenever he met a foreigner who couldn't speak English well. but his welcome was always absolutely clear.

Don't shout; I am Deaf
By: Shell Roca
Posted: Monday, May 11, 2009 3:34 pm

Catholic Deaf Awareness week happens from 9 - 16 May.

Many events will be taking place around the country to highlight not only the inclusion of people who are Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing but also their skills and energies and what they can bring to Parish and Diocesan life.

In Westminster, Fr Cyril Axelrod CSsR, a Deafblind Redemptorist priest, will be celebrating Mass for the Deaf Community and the Catholic Actors Guild taking place at Corpus Christi Church, Maiden Lane on Tuesday 12 May at 6.30pm. Fr Paul Fletcher SJ, a Deaf Jesuit priest, will be leading a group of Deaf adults on retreat in Walsingham during the annual CDA pilgrimage.

So how much do you know about the Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing people in your communities? Many misconceptions abound linked to communicating with people who have some form of hearing loss. 1 in 7 of the UK population experience some form of hearing loss, that is one in seven of the community in your parish church.

Don't shout; it doesn't help. Many, although not all, Deaf and Hard of Hearing people lip read. Lip reading requires a great deal of skill. Only 30% of English words can be read accurately on the lips. Shouting at a person distorts the lip patterns and means it is much more difficult to lip read.

When talking to a person who lip reads make sure that the light on your face is good. Stand or sit directly facing the person and keep your head still; moving it from side to side makes lip reading very difficult. Speak clearly and naturally. Deaf and Hard of Hearing people are used to lip reading normal speech. Accentuating the lip patterns can be confusing. If the person does not understand you, try rephrasing, using different words to explain what you are talking about. Some words are much easier to lip read than others. Above all persevere, don't give up. We all like people to spend time with us, Deaf and Hard of Hearing people are not different.

Around 75,000 Deaf people in the UK use British Sign Language (BSL) as their first language. For these people a parish can be very isolating if there is no one else there that knows any BSL. Why not try to learn BSL? Local authorities are usually the best place to look for BSL courses and this time of year is the ideal time to look for courses starting in September.

If you are aware of a Deaf person in your parish, check with them after the Mass that they have all the notices including those announced at the last minute that didn't make it into the newsletter. Ask the parish priest if they can provide a copy of their homily, or a script of keywords and names, for the Deaf person to read. Above all please make sure that the Deaf person feels included; they are part of your community.

Does your church have an induction hearing loop? When was the last time it was checked? More importantly when did you last check with a person who uses a hearing aid if the loop was working properly? Many times I have heard people say: "I don't need to use a microphone, I have a loud voice". By taking that approach anyone who relies on the hearing loop will not be able to follow what you are saying. Your hard work in preparing your presentation, homily or liturgy will be lost on people that want to be included and want to use their skills and talents to benefit your parish and the Diocese as a whole.

So the next time you meet a Deaf or Hard of hearing person, don't shout, relax, welcome them and ask them how they want to be included, then smile!

If you would like more information, please contact: Shellroca@rcdow.org.uk

15 May 2009

Pope Benedict on Marriage and Family, in Nazareth

Holy Family with a Bird, Murillo 1650

Yesterday Pope Benedict celebrated Mass with about 40,000 people in Nazareth. In his homily he spoke of the vocation of the Christian family. The text is from the website of the Vatican. I have highlighted some parts and made some comments.

St Joseph and the Christ Child, El Greco, c1600

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“May the peace of the Risen Christ reign in your hearts, for as members of the one body you have been called to that peace!” (Col 3:15). With these words of the Apostle Paul, I greet all of you with affection in the Lord. I rejoice to have come to Nazareth, the place blessed by the mystery of the Annunciation, the place which witnessed the hidden years of Christ’s growth in wisdom, age and grace (cf. Lk 2:52). I thank Archbishop Elias Chacour for his kind words of welcome, and I embrace with the sign of peace my brother Bishops, the priests and religious, and all the faithful of Galilee, who, in the diversity of their rites and traditions, give expression to the universality of Christ’s Church. In a special way I wish to thank all those who have helped to make this celebration possible, particularly those involved in the planning and construction of this new theatre with its splendid panorama of the city.

Here in the home town of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we have gathered to mark the conclusion of the Year of the Family celebrated by the Church in the Holy Land. As a sign of hope for the future I will bless the first stone of an International Center for the Family to be built in Nazareth. Let us pray that the Center will promote strong family life in this region, offer support and assistance to families everywhere, and encourage them in their irreplaceable mission to society.
Procession before Mass in Nazareth, 15 May 2009

This stage of my pilgrimage, I am confident, will draw the whole Church’s attention to this town of Nazareth. All of us need, as Pope Paul VI said here, to return to Nazareth, to contemplate ever anew the silence and love of the Holy Family, the model of all Christian family life. Here, in the example of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, we come to appreciate even more fully the sacredness of the family, which in God’s plan is based on the lifelong fidelity of a man and a woman [it is incredibly sad but necessary that this basic aspect of marriage has to be stated today with so many demanding the 'right' to 'marriage' between two persons of the same sex] consecrated by the marriage covenant and accepting of God’s gift of new life. How much the men and women of our time need to reappropriate this fundamental truth, which stands at the foundation of society, and how important is the witness of married couples [notice that the Pope emphasises couples here, not families] for the formation of sound consciences and the building of a civilization of love!

In today’s first reading, drawn from the book of Sirach (3:3-7, 14-17), the word of God presents the family as the first school of wisdom, a school which trains its members in the practice of those virtues which make for authentic happiness and lasting fulfilment. In God’s plan for the family, the love of husband and wife bears fruit in new life, and finds daily expression in the loving efforts of parents to ensure an integral human and spiritual formation for their children [again, the Pope puts husband and wife first - being parents is a consequence of being spouses]. In the family each person, whether the smallest child or the oldest relative, is valued for himself or herself, and not seen simply as a means to some other end. Here we begin to glimpse something of the essential role of the family as the first building-block of a well-ordered and welcoming society. We also come to appreciate, within the wider community, the duty of the State to support families in their mission of education, to protect the institution of the family and its inherent rights, and to ensure that all families can live and flourish in conditions of dignity.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Colossians, speaks instinctively of the family when he wishes to illustrate the virtues which build up the “one body” which is the Church. As “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved”, we are called to live in harmony and peace with one another, showing above all forbearance and forgiveness, with love as the highest bond of perfection (cf. Col 3:12-14). Just as in the marriage covenant, the love of man and woman is raised by grace to become a sharing in, and an expression of, the love of Christ and the Church (cf. Eph 5:32), so too the family, grounded in that love, is called to be a “domestic church”, a place of faith, of prayer and of loving concern for the true and enduring good of each of its members [notice that once again the marriage covenant comes before family].

As we reflect on these realities here, in the town of the Annunciation, our thoughts naturally turn to Mary, “full of grace”, the mother of the Holy Family and our Mother. Nazareth reminds us of our need to acknowledge and respect the God-given dignity and proper role of women, as well as their particular charisms and talents. Whether as mothers in families, as a vital presence in the work force and the institutions of society, or in the particular vocation of following our Lord by the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, women have an indispensable role in creating that “human ecology” (cf. Centesimus Annus, 39) which our world, and this land, so urgently needs: a milieu in which children learn to love and to cherish others, to be honest and respectful to all, to practice the virtues of mercy and forgiveness [I think that the Pope may be saying that all women are called to be mothers, in a real sense, because God made them to be such and only they can fulfill the specific role to which God has called them].

Here too, we think of Saint Joseph, the just man whom God wished to place over his household. From Joseph’s strong and fatherly example Jesus learned the virtues of a manly piety, fidelity to one’s word, integrity and hard work [Jesus, God who became man, learned from St Joseph how to be a man!]. In the carpenter of Nazareth he saw how authority placed at the service of love is infinitely more fruitful than the power which seeks to dominate [I was truly blessed to be also the son of a carpenter named John Joseph in whom I saw precisely this]. How much our world needs the example, guidance and quiet strength of men like Joseph! [Those words describe my late Dad].

Finally, in contemplating the Holy Family of Nazareth, we turn to the child Jesus, who in the home of Mary and Joseph grew in wisdom and understanding, until the day he began his public ministry. Here I would simply like to leave a particular thought with the young people here. The Second Vatican Council teaches that children have a special role to play in the growth of their parents in holiness (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 48). I urge you to reflect on this, and to let the example of Jesus guide you, not only in showing respect for your parents, but also helping them to discover more fully the love which gives our lives their deepest meaning. In the Holy Family of Nazareth, it was Jesus who taught Mary and Joseph something of the greatness of the love of God his heavenly Father, the ultimate source of all love, the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name (cf. Eph 3:14-15). [What an extraordinary statement this is, that children call their parents to be saints. And I truly believe that means that the reality of being parents calls a couple to be even more, and primarily, husband and wife. When children see their parents truly loving one another that is when they feel most loved as sons and daughters. May I add here that I don't think it is at all helpful for children to hear their parents address each other as 'Tatay', 'Nanay', 'Pa', 'Ma' or whatever. Your wife is not your mother. She is the mother of your children but your spouse. Your husband is not your father. He is the father of your children but your spouse].

Dear friends, in the Opening Prayer of today’s Mass we asked the Father to “help us to live as the Holy Family, united in respect and love”. Let us reaffirm here our commitment to be a leaven of respect and love in the world around us. This Mount of the Precipice reminds us, as it has generations of pilgrims, that our Lord’s message was at times a source of contradiction and conflict with his hearers. Sadly, as the world knows, Nazareth has experienced tensions in recent years which have harmed relations between its Christian and Muslim communities. I urge people of good will in both communities to repair the damage that has been done, and in fidelity to our common belief in one God, the Father of the human family, to work to build bridges and find the way to a peaceful coexistence. Let everyone reject the destructive power of hatred and prejudice, which kills men’s souls before it kills their bodies!

Allow me to conclude with a word of gratitude and praise for all those who strive to bring God’s love to the children of this town, and to educate new generations in the ways of peace. I think in a special way of the local Churches, particularly in their schools and charitable institutions, to break down walls and to be a seedbed of encounter, dialogue, reconciliation and solidarity. I encourage the dedicated priests, religious, catechists and teachers, together with parents and all concerned for the good of our children, to persevere in bearing witness to the Gospel, to be confident in the triumph of goodness and truth, and to trust that God will give growth to every initiative which aims at the extension of his Kingdom of holiness, solidarity, justice and peace. At the same time I acknowledge with gratitude the solidarity which so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world show towards the faithful of the Holy Land by supporting the praiseworthy programs and activities of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

“Let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). May our Lady of the Annunciation, who courageously opened her heart to God’s mysterious plan, and became the Mother of all believers, guide and sustain us by her prayers. May she obtain for us and our families the grace to open our ears to that word of the Lord which has the power to build us up (cf. Acts 20:32), to inspire courageous decisions, and to guide our feet into the path of peace!

14 May 2009

A letter for 2009 written around AD 125

Finding of Moses, Nicolas Poussin, 1651

When I tried to post this yesterday the people at blogspot were doing some scheduled maintenance work.

The Second Reading in the Office of Readings yesterday, Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter, was from the Letter to Diognetus. I found this background on it at Crossroads Initiative:

The Letter to Diognetus, dating from approximately 125AD, is the earliest example we have of an "apology," a document defending the Christian faith addressed to a non-Christian. It's author is anonymous and the "Diognetus" to whom it is addressed is also unknown. This brief but wonderful document is so close to the time of the Apostles that it is reckoned as falling within the category of the "Apostolic Fathers."

The extract used in the Office of Readings, which I found at Universalis.com, speaks to us today. I've added some emphases and comments.

The Christian in the world

Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens [they don't see their faith as a 'private matter' having no bearing on society, on matters of basic justice, etc, but labour under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry [by marrying is meant one man marrying one woman] and have children, but they do not expose them [they do not abort them]. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law.

Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonour, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.

Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.


LifeSiteNews reported on Tuesday that babies of the 'wrong' sex may now be aborted for that reason alone. Pharaoh is indeed alive and well. How many potential leaders like Moses and compassionate women like Pharaoh's daughter will be killed before birth just for being male or female?

12 May 2009

Do we take oaths too easily?

I learned just now from Catholic Culture that St Pancras, whom the Church honours today, is the patron saint of fidelity to oaths. he was martryred in Rome in 304 at the age of 14.

Here in the Philippines oaths are taken very lightly. A regular photo in newspapers is that of a politician or group of politicians being sworn in as members of their latest party. At school sports festivals children take an 'oath of amateurism'. Years ago, when I was a chaplain in a Catholic school I was asked to celebrate Mass for the opening of the games. I did so on condition that there would be no oath of amateuris. These were high school kids. The teacher in charge promised me that there wouldn't be an oath. hardly was the Mass finished than this same teacher led the students in their 'oath of amateurism'.

I was also a member of the committee of the diocesan directors of vocations and no less than than the bishop swore us in. I just remained silent as I didn't see it as proper.

I've been at countless graduation ceremonies in both public and Catholic schools here where the graduates, even at elementary level, swear their allegiance to the alumni association.

When my Columban colleagues, Fr Niall O'Brien and Fr Brian Gore, were on trial for trumped-up murder charges along with Fr Vicente Dangan of the Diocese of Bacolod, and six laymen, Church workers, lies were told freely in the court. Perjury meant nothing.

I see an oath or a vow as being made only on such solemn occasions as a wedding, a religious profession or on receiving the sacrament of holy orders, as well as when you give testimony in court or become president of your country. But not when you join an alumni association or your next political party. (Here in the Philippines political parties as understood in the West simply don't exist. They are temporary alliances of convenience).

Catholic Culture carries an excerpt from the writings of the late Fr Pius Parsch on St Pancras:

St Pancras or Pancratius was the descendant of a noble Phrygian family. As a youth of fourteen, he came to Rome while Diocletian and Maximian were in power (about 304). He was baptized by the Pope and given instructions in the Christian religion. Arrested for his action, he steadfastly refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods and was condemned to death. With manly courage, he bared his neck for the sword and received the martyr's crown. During the night his body was removed by the pious matron Octavilla, anointed with sweet smelling balsam and interred on the Via Aurelia.

Pancratius is the patron saint of fidelity to oaths. The basilica that Pope Symmachus erected over his remains about the year 500 later became a station church (since 1798 his relics have been lost). On the first Sunday after Easter the saint exhorted the catechumens gathered at his station church to remain loyal to their baptismal vows. The saint warns us to proceed slowly and prudently before taking an oath or vow. But once our word is given we must remain true to our pledge, true unto death itself, whether it concerns baptismal vows, ordination vows, profession vows, or marriage vows.

— Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch.

I had the full set of The Church's Year of Grace in my seminary years and it nourished me liturgically. It followed the calendar that was changed after Vatican II.

11 May 2009

'What would Jesus do (or say)?'

Pope Benedict at Wadi Kharrar, Jordan, the reputed location of Jesus' baptism by St John the Baptist.

What would Jesus do?’ is an expression I come across fairly often in comments in blogs. It is often, though not always, accompanied by a viewpoint at variance with the teaching of the Church. Wikipedia traces the popularity, though not the origin, of the phrase, to an 1896 novel by American writer Charles Sheldon, In His Steps. (You have to careful in referring to or quoting Wikipedia. Today’s Irish Times carries a story of how shocked an Irish university student was when he discovered that a quote he wrote and attributed to French composer Maurice Jarre after his death in March and placed on Wikipedia, was quoted in papers throughout the world. The student eventually emailed them to tell them that it was a hoax, though by way of an experiment rather than an effort to deceive anyone).

Pope Benedict in Jordan

A variation of ‘What would Jesus do?’ is ‘What would Jesus say?’ Today’s gospel gives us a clear answer: These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (Jn 14:25-26).

The Last Supper, Hans Holbein the Younger, 1524-25

That is what Jesus told us when he spoke to the apostles at the Last Supper. He speaks to us today through the teaching authority of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit. Part of the expression of that is the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
My suggestion is that if you want to know what Jesus would say or do, check what the Church teaches, because that is where he speaks to us and calls us to do what he and the Father want us to do.

10 May 2009

Catholics in Jordan, Israel and Palestine

Pope Benedict greeting a Jordanian official

At his general audience last Wednesday in the Vatican Pope Benedict explained why he was about to set off on a week-long pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories: My dear friends, this Friday I leave Rome for my Apostolic Visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories. I wish this morning to take the opportunity through this radio and television broadcast to greet all the peoples of those lands. I am eagerly looking forward to being with you and to sharing with you your aspirations and hopes as well as your pains and struggles. I will be coming among you as a pilgrim of peace. My primary intention is to visit the places made holy by the life of Jesus, and, to pray at them for the gift of peace and unity for your families, and all those for whom the Holy Land and the Middle East is home. Among the many religious and civic gatherings which will take place over the course of the week, will be meetings with representatives from the Muslim and Jewish communities with whom great strides have been made in dialogue and cultural exchange. In a special way I warmly greet the Catholics of the region and ask you to join me in praying that the visit will bear much fruit for the spiritual and civic life of all who dwell in the Holy Land. May we all praise God for his goodness. May we all be people of hope. May we all be steadfast in our desire and efforts for peace.

Most of us, when we hear the word ‘Arab’ think ‘Muslim’. It is a fact that most Arabs are Muslims but many are Christians and many of those Catholics, descendants of the original Christians in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Iraq, not to mention other countries to which some have emigrated.

Islam began around AD 610.

On 5 May the Vatican issued some statistics on the number of Catholics in the countries Pope Benedict is visiting this week, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

The Catholics in Jordan are nearly all members of the Melkite Rite. So are many in Palestine and Israel. Israel also has Catholics of the Maronite Rite, which is strongest in Lebanon, and of the Latin Rite, to which most Catholics throughout the world belong.

Queen Rania and King Abdullah II of Jordan greeting Pope Benedict (above)

Queen Rania with Pope Benedict as he greets Cardinal Emmanuel II Delly, Chaldean-Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad, Iraq (below)

VATICAN CITY, 5 MAY 2009 (VIS) - For the occasion of Benedict XVI's forthcoming pilgrimage to the Holy Land, due to take place from 8 to 15 May, statistics have been published concerning the Catholic Church in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories. The information, updated to 31 December 2007, comes from the Central Statistical Office of the Church.

Jordan has a population of 5,720,000 of whom 109,000 (1.91 percent) are Catholic. There are three ecclesiastical circumscriptions and sixty-four parishes. Currently, there are four bishops, 103 priests and 258 religious. Major seminarians number seven.

A total of 30,595 students attend the 123 infant, primary, middle and secondary schools that belong to the Catholic Church or are run by priests or religious. Other institutions belonging to the Church or run by priests or religious in Jordan include two hospitals, one clinic, one family counselling centre, and three centres for education and social rehabilitation.

Israel and the Palestinian Territories have a population of 7,180,000 of whom 130,000 (1.81 percent) are Catholic. There are nine ecclesiastical circumscriptions, seventy-eight parishes and three pastoral centres of other kinds. Currently, there are eleven bishops, 406 priests, 1,171 religious and one lay missionary. Minor seminarians number fourteen and major seminarians 110.

A total of 43,876 students attend 192 centres of Catholic education, from kindergartens to universities. Other institutions belonging to the Church or run by priests or religious in Israel and the Palestinian Territories include eleven hospitals, ten clinics, nine homes for the elderly or disabled, eleven orphanages and nurseries, four centres for education and social rehabilitation, and two institutions of other kinds.

In Israel there is a small number of Hebrew-speaking Catholics who are a minority within a minority. This is how they describe themselves on their website : Welcome to the web site of the Hebrew Speaking Vicariate in Israel (H.S.V.I.), a part of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. We are a community of Hebrew-speaking Catholics who live in Israel, some of us belonging to the Jewish people and some of us coming from the nations. We form one community in Jesus Christ and we belong to one Church. We are to be found throughout Israel with our centers in the major cities.

Pope Benedict on Mount Nebo, Jordan, from where Moses saw the Promised Land.

09 May 2009

Pope visits center for young persons with disabilities in Amman

Pope Benedict wearing a 'keffayah'

Since the early 1990s I’ve been involved to some degree with the Deaf here in Bacolod City and with Faith and Light in the Manila area (and here) though with the latter somewhat tenuously.

I was utterly delighted then to read that Pope Benedict’s first stop after the welcoming ceremony when he arrived in Jordan yesterday was at Regina Pacis (Queen of Peace) Center.

Zenit reports, ‘The Pope visited the Regina Pacis center in Amman today, just an hour after his official welcome to Jordan by the nation's King Abdullah II and Queen Rania.

‘The center was founded in 2004 by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and offers not only medical attention but also formation and education to disabled youth, both Christian and Muslim.

‘Bishop Selim Sayegh, Latin patriarchal vicar of Jordan and the center's founder, together with the youth, the nursing staff and volunteers, the Comboni religious women who run the center, and retired Patriarch Michel Sabbah welcomed the Holy Father to the site. His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal offered words of welcome.

‘In a festive encounter celebrated in the center's chapel, the Pontiff recognized that these disabled youth have been led to Regina Pacis by journeys "marked by suffering or trial."

'"Some of you struggle courageously with disabilities, others of you have endured rejection, and some of you are drawn to this place of peace simply for encouragement and support," he said. "It is a great joy for me to be with you."'

The Pope lauded the 'center's great success in promoting the rightful place of the disabled in society and in ensuring that suitable training and opportunities are provided to facilitate such integration.'

Benedict said to the young people at the centre, ‘Some of you struggle courageously with disabilities, others of you have endured rejection, and some of you are drawn to this place of peace simply for encouragement and support. Of particular importance, I know, is the Centre's great success in promoting the rightful place of the disabled in society and in ensuring that suitable training and opportunities are provided to facilitate such integration. For this foresight and determination you all deserve great praise and encouragement!’

You can read the full report here and the full text of the Pope’s remarks here.

07 May 2009

Joyful, enthusiastic communication

Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice (Phil 4:4).

H/T to Deacon Greg Kandra at The Deacon's Bench for the cartoon.

'The new digital technologies are, indeed, bringing about fundamental shifts in patterns of communication and human relationships. Benedict XVI, Message for the 43rd World Day of Communications, Pentecost Sunday, 24 May.

06 May 2009

'Show your wife a preference . . . even above the children she has given you' - St John Chrysostom

Wedding of Junby Saguisag and Mitzi Ramos, Bacolod City, Philippines,
15 December 2007

Last Tuesday I came across a quotation on marriage by St John Chrysostom (357-407) in Fr Francis Fernandez’s In Conversation with God, Volume II, Lent and Eastertide: Show your wife you appreciate her company a lot and that you prefer to be at home rather than outside, because she is there. Show her a preference among all your friends and even above the children she has given you; love them because of her . . . Pray all together . . . Learn the fear of God; everything else will flow from this like water from a fountain and your house will be filled with bounty.

That’s from the saint’s Twentieth homily on the Letter to the Ephesians.

My friends in Worldwide Marriage Enounter, and some others, have often heard me speak of the central importance of the relationship between husband and wife: the spouse must come before anyone else, including the children.

Wedding of Junby and Mitzi

I came across this online . I’m not sure if it’s part of the same homily, or another one. St John is addressing husbands. During a marriage encounter weekend we read the whole of this passage from the Letter to the Ephesians, 5:21-33.

St John Chrysostom - On Marriage and Family Life

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church. (Ephesians 5:25).

You have heard how important obedience is; you have praised and marveled at Paul, how he welds our whole life together, as we would expect from an admirable and spiritual man. You have done well. But now listen to what else he requires from you; he has not finished with his example. Husbands, he says, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church.

You have seen the amount of obedience necessary. Do you want your wife to be obedient to you, as the Church is to Christ? Then be responsible for the same providential care of her, as Christ is for the Church. And even if it becomes necessary for you to give your life for her, yes, and even to endure and undergo suffering of any kind, do not refuse.

Even though you undergo all this, you will never have done anything equal to what Christ has done. You are sacrificing yourself for someone to whom you are already joined, but He offered Himself up for one who turned her back on Him and hated Him. In the same way, then, as He honored her by putting at His feet one who turned her back on Him, who hated, rejected, and disdained Him, as he accomplished this not with threats, or violence, or terror, or anything else like that, but through His untiring love; so also you should behave toward your wife. Even if you see her belittling you, or despising and mocking you, still you will be able to subject her to yourself, through affection, kindness, and your great regard for her. There is no influence more powerful than the bond of love, especially for husband and wife . . . . Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies (v. 28).

What does this mean? He is using a much stronger image and illustration now, much closer and plainer, and much more demanding. Some might not be convinced by his previous illustration, saying, "After all, he was Christ, and Christ is God--naturally he would sacrifice Himself." Paul's method is different now; he says, "husbands should love their wives" because such love is an obligation, not a favor "as their own bodies." Why?

For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it (v. 29). That is, he takes particular care of it. How is she his flesh? Listen: This at last is bone of my bones, said Adam, and flesh of my flesh! and also, They become one flesh. So he nourishes and cherishes his own flesh, as Christ does the Church (v. 29). He returns here to his first comparison: because we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones (v. 30). How is this true? Because Christ was born from our matter, just as Eve was fashioned from Adam's flesh. Paul does well here to speak of flesh and bones, for the Lord has exalted our material substance by partaking of it Himself: Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same nature. It is obvious that He shares our nature, but how do we share His? How are we members of His flesh? We are truly members of Christ because through Him we were created, and we are truly members of His flesh because we are recreated by partaking of His mysteries. There are some who affirm that He came by water and blood but will not accept that the Holy Spirit enables us to share His same essence, through baptism. Foolish heretics! How can the children who confess His truth and are born again in the water not become His Body? St. Paul explicitly says that we are members of His flesh and of His bones.

Understand that Adam was fashioned from matter and Christ was born in the same. From Adam's side came the bearer of corruption, but from Christ's side came life. Death blossomed in paradise but was slain on the cross. The Son of God shares our nature so we can share His as He has us in Him, so we have Him in us.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh (v. 31)...

So if you think that the wife is the loser because she is told to fear her husband, remember that the principal duty of love is assigned to the husband, and you will see that it is her gain. "And what if my wife refuses to obey me?" a husband will ask. Never mind! Your obligation is to love her; do your duty!

02 May 2009

A choice for life at Notre Dame

Golden Dome Statue of Our Lady, University of Notre Dame

The decision of the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, USA, to invite President Obama receive an honorary doctorate and to be its commencement speaker on 17 May has caused great controversy. The university has been one that all Catholic Americans were proud of and is run by the Congregation of the Holy Cross of which Father Patrick Peyton, ‘The Rosary Priest’, was a member.

The controversy is due to the fact that Mr Obama is militantly pro-abortion, as his record and his promises show. Mary Ann Glendon, former US ambassador to the Vatican, was to have received the Laetare Award at the same graduation but has now declined to do so because of her perception that she was being used to supply ‘balance’ on an issue on which the Church is absolutely clear: abortion is always intrinsically evil.

First Things features an article by a Notre Dame graduate, Lacy Dodd, who knows exactly what’s at stake and who concludes her article with a question for Notre Dame president, Fr John I. Jenkins CSC: There have been many things written about the honors to be extended to President Obama. I’d like to ask this of Fr. John Jenkins, the Notre Dame president: Who draws support from your decision to honor President Obama—the young, pregnant Notre Dame woman sitting in that graduating class who wants desperately to keep her baby, or the Notre Dame man who believes that the Catholic teaching on the intrinsic evil of abortion is just dining-room talk?

Read the full article to get the impact of Lucy's question.

01 May 2009

What constitutes an 'outburst'?

I've always seen 'beauty' contests as somewhat ridiculous, if not worse. Most, though not all, seem designed to turn contestants into the proverbial 'dumb blondes', no matter what colour they are.But occasionally a young woman will show real character, as did Carrie Prejean, 'Miss California', who, in answer to a question, stated clearly and politely that she believes marriage is between one man and one woman.

The Irish Examiner last Monday in it's 'Breaking News' carried the story below. I've highlighted the heart of the report and made some comments. But what caught my eye was the astonishing headline:

Beauty queen defends gay marriage outburst

Monday, April 27, 2009 - 08:42 AM

Miss California Carrie Prejean, who became the bombshell of the Miss USA pageant by saying gay couples should not be allowed to marry, [She did not say that, but 'that a marriage should be between a man and a woman'] said her state sponsors urged her to apologise afterward but she rejected the advice.

Ms Prejean, 21, said officials from the Miss California USA pageant were worried that her comments would cost their contest financial backing and tried to prepare her for a string of post-pageant media interviews by discouraging her from discussing her religious beliefs.“’You need to apologise to the gay community. You need to not talk about your faith. This has everything to do with you representing California and saving the brand’,” Ms Prejean recalled being told.

“I was representing California. I was representing the majority of people in California.”

She offered her version of the tense hours following the April 19 Miss USA pageant while appearing at the San Diego megachurch that has helped shape her views.

The Rock Church, founded by former San Diego Chargers defensive back Miles McPherson, was active in the campaign to pass a constitutional ban on gay marriages in California last year. [Here is the text of 'Proposition 8', approved by the people of California:

'SECTION I. TitleThis measure shall be known and may be cited as the "California Marriage Protection Act.

"SECTION 2. Article I. Section 7.5 is added to the California Constitution. to read:Sec. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.'

No ban on anything but rather a definition of what marriage is, and a definition that has been accepted in every culture since time began, even if polygamy or polyandry were involved. Always man and woman, man and women or men and woman.]

Ms Prejean, who was named first runner-up to Miss North Carolina and will remain Miss California until November, has spent the last week defending her comments, made during the pageant’s final round.

They came in response to celebrity blogger Perez Hilton’s question about legalising same-sex marriage.

“I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage,” she said. “And you know what? I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offence to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.”

Hilton, who is gay, stoked the 30-second exchange the next day when he cursed the beauty queen on his blog and suggested her response may have cost Ms Prejean the Miss USA crown.

The San Diego Christian College junior, model and member of the San Diego Padres Pad Squad received a heroine’s welcome from fellow members of the Rock, where she was the guest of honour at morning services.


Here's a letter I sent to the Irish Examiner:

Dear Sir

Miss Califonia’s straight, honest, measured and polite answer to a loaded on-the-spot question constitutes an ‘outburst’?

Yours truly

I don't know if the paper used my letter or if the report and the headline appeared in its printed version.

The National Organization for Marriage has used part of Miss Prejean's answer, along with part of a subsequent comment by the contest judge who asked the question, Perez Hilton, in a TV ad.

Judge for yourself who is guilty of an 'outburst'.

Moving house

St Joseph the Carpenter, Georges de La Tour, 1640s

Today is the feast of St Joseph the Worker. My Dad, like St Joseph, was a carpenter. As his names were John Joseph I can proudly claim to be the son of Joseph the carpenter. He was known as John in his own family and among his workmates but as Joe to my mother and her family.

Jesus too was a carpenter but I have no skills whatever in that area.
In my imagination, St Joseph built furniture. However, Dad worked on building or construction sites all of his working life, most of that time as a highly respected general foreman. He often said to me, 'Anything that's worth doing is worth doing well'. He lived by that. I don't know if he was aware of what GK Chesterton wrote, 'Anything that's worth doing is worth doing badly', but he agreed with that too in terms of encouraging me whenever I tried to do something new, such as taking a scholarship examination or whatever. He would say, 'The experience will do you good'. And it always did.

Today, 1 May, is a holiday here in the Philippines. If it hadn't fallen on a Friday or Monday President Arroyo would have changed it to one of those days. She has an obsession with long weekends and has demeaned every single distinctively Filipino public holiday, including Independence Day, 12 June, by switching them sometimes at the last minute. Her late father, President Diosdado Macapagal, moved Independence Day from 4 July to 12 June for historical and practical reasons but his daughter seems to have forgotten that.

Instead of blogging I should really be packing. Yesterday I got the keys to the house down the road I'm moving to. The Columbans have been renting the house I've been living in since 2002 for about ten years. The owners told me last August that they would need it for one of their sons, Jose Maria 'Jong' Abaya, who was married in 2006 and whose first child, Bernadette Sophia, was born to his wife Ella a few weeks before Christmas. Around that time Jong was discovered to have cancer of the colon. Sadly, he died, aged 42, and was buried last Wednesday. Please remember him in your prayers, along with his young widow of 29 and baby daughter.

I was to have moved at the end of November to another part of Bacolod City but learned of a house down the road becoming available after Easter. With the agreement of all parties involved I was able to change my plans. But the arrangements are made now.

We have a grace period in the sense that we won't transfer our office equipment for http://www.misyononline.com/ until the phone lines are connected, probably during the coming week. We'll still have the same number.

While I adjust very quickly to a new place I'm somewhat of a procrastinator. I meant to move some things this morning but it's coming up to lunch time now. (It's 11am here and 12 is the usual time for lunch in the Philippines). However, after post-siesta coffee I'll move at least some of my clothes and maybe a few books. I guess I'm in a sort of denial, but it's really only the bother of moving that I don't want to face.

I'm sure that Jinky, the ten-year-old 3/4 black Labrador I inherited from the late Fr Niall O'Brien, will adjust quickly. I hope her companions, Pembo, a very friendly neutered male cat, the only one of five orphaned kittens to survive, and Pascua, who became mother of four kittens nearly four weeks ago, will adjust too.