31 March 2011

'Do you want to become his disciples, too?' Fourth Sunday of Lent Year A

Christ Healing the Blind, El Greco, painted 1570-75

Readings (New American Bible version, used in the Philippines and USA)

Gospel (John 9:1-41). [Short form: John 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38]

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is, “but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.” So they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?” He replied, “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and told me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went there and washed and was able to see.” And they said to him, “Where is he?” He said, “I don’t know.”

They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

Now the Jews did not believe that he had been blind and gained his sight until they summoned the parents of the one who had gained his sight. They asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?” His parents answered and said, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. We do not know how he sees now, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is of age; he can speak for himself.” His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone acknowledged him as the Christ, he would be expelled from the synagogue. For this reason his parents said, “He is of age; question him.”

So a second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give God the praise! We know that this man is a sinner.” He replied, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” So they said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” They ridiculed him and said, “You are that man’s disciple; we are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this one is from.” The man answered and said to them, “This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if one is devout and does his will, he listens to him. It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. Then Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.


When I went to study in the USA in 1968, a few months after my ordination, there was a wonderful Columban priest in our house in Bayside, Queen’s, New York City, Fr Frank Gallagher. I was initially half afraid of him because he was very tall and had a swarthy appearance but quickly discovered him to be gentle, kind and helpful. He had been interned by the Japanese in Korea during World War II. Fr Frank, ordained in 1938, died in his native Ireland last year, aged 96 or thereabouts and had been active as a chaplain to a community of Sisters into his 90s.

Father Frank used to speak occasionally about ‘Unk’. At first I didn’t quite know who or what he meant but quickly realized it was ‘Uncle Sam’, which Wikipedia tells me is ‘a common national personification of the American government originally used during the War of 1812’. The term ‘the Jews’, as used in today’s gospel and elsewhere by St John, is a bit like ‘Uncle Sam’ in that it means the leaders of the Jews. Jesus was Jew. Mary his mother was a Jew. St John who wrote the gospel was a Jew. The blind man was a Jew.

However, some Christians have misunderstood the term as meaning the whole Jewish people and have used this as an excuse to persecute them, the worst manifestation being the efforts of the Nazis in the last century to exterminate them. The Nazis had no connection whatever with the Christian faith but the vast majority of them were baptized and raised as Catholics or Lutherans.

The man born blind and given his sight by Jesus paid for it by being thrown out of the Temple for sticking to his story and asking the leaders ‘Do you want to become his disciples, too?’

This brings to my mind a modern-day witness to the faith, Blessed Franz Jägerstätter (20 May 1907 – 9 August 1943). The blind man in the gospel today doesn’t come across as a particularly ‘saintly’ person. Franz, an Austrian farmer, had the reputation when young of being a bit on the wild side. During those days he fathered a daughter though he wasn't yet married. The woman who married him in 1936, Franziska Schwaninger, wasn't the mother of this daughter, was deeply religious, and seems to have ‘put some manners on him’ as we say in Ireland. They had three daughters. Franz became a Franciscan Tertiary in 1940.

When called up on 23 February 1943 to join Hitler’s army Franz refused because he saw what the Nazis were doing as being contrary to his Catholic faith. Even his bishop tried to persuade him to serve in the Wehrmacht, the German army. Though he did some military training he refused to serve in the war and was executed by guillotine on 9 August that year. Some criticized him for failing as a husband and father. Leaving his wife and children caused him great anguish. His wife was refused a pension until 1950.

Franz was declared a martyr by Pope Benedict in Jun 2007 and on 26 October that year he was beatified in Linz, Austria. His 94-year-old widow, Franziska and their three daughters, along with Franz’s first daughter, were present.

Franz Jägerstätter - A Man of Conscience, Trailer (0:23, photo of Blessed Franz; 0:27 Franz (left), Franziska and their three daughters; 0:41 Franziska).  
In an article in First Things on 25 July 2007, Franz Jägerstätter: Martyr and Model, William Doino Jr quotes Franz: ‘Since the death of Christ, almost every century has seen the persecution of Christians; there have always been heroes and martyrs who gave their lives—often in horrible ways—for Christ and their faith. If we hope to reach our goal someday, then we, too, must become heroes of the faith.’ Indeed, he added, ‘the important thing is to fear God more than man.’ Doino’s article is well worth reading.

Blessed Franz's words were very similar to those of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Catholic politician assassinated in Pakistan on 2 March: 'I only want a place at the feet of Jesus. I want my life, my character, my actions to speak for me and say that I am a follower of Jesus'
Shahbaz Bhatti, about a month before his death

How ever and when ever Blessed Franz Jägerstätter and Shabaz Bhatti heard the question put by the man in today's gospel to the Jewish leaders, 'Do you want to become his disciples, too?' they gave a resounding 'Yes' - with their lives.
What is my response?

29 March 2011

Korean Columban Lay Missionary and victims of the tsunami in Japan

Fr John Burger is an American Columban who worked for many years in Japan. he is currently a member of the General Council of the Columbans, based in Hong Kong. He posted this report on his Facebook. Soon-Ho Kim, above right, has been a Columban lay missionary in Japan since 1999. You can read about Soon-Ho Kim's previous work in Japan in Strangers in a Strange Land. She has also written about her work with the Apostleship of the Sea.

Soon-Ho Kim, left, on board a ship docked in Japan.

Sendai (Agenzia Fides) – The Holy See hopes to help the fishermen hit by the tsunami to rebuild their livelihoods: the person responsible for realising this intention in Japan is Soon-Ho Kim, a St Columban lay missionary who has worked in Japan for many years and is currently the Director of the Apostolate of the Sea in Japan. Interviewed by Fides, Soon-Ho Kim reports that there are about 260 ports adversely affected by the tsunami and more than 20,000 boats destroyed: this has devastated the lives of thousands of families who now lack the basic means for their livelihood, with serious damage to the local economy in the three prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima. Fides interviewed Soon-Ho Kim.

Can you give us an idea of the damages sustained by the fishermen?

Conditions are very difficult. The roads are destroyed and it is difficult to reach the areas hit by the tsunami. Efforts first need to be made to reach the victims with humanitarian aid. Fishermen are amongst those hit hardest. The number of deaths has not yet been certified, but, according to official data, they have suffered serious damage, losing 111 ports in the Prefecture of Iwate, 142 in that of Miyagi and 10 ports in that of Fukushima. It seems that more than 20,000 fishing boats and vessels have been destroyed, an absolute catastrophe for these people for whom fishing is the main form of subsistence.

What can you do to help them, in keeping with the wishes of the Holy Father?

First of all we are trying to stabilise an efficient network of communication, which is not easy in these conditions. For the first few weeks emergency aid will continue. Then we will try to estimate and understand the extent to which coastal communities have been affected by focusing our attention on fishermen. We will begin reconstruction projects, which may be much larger than the funds at our disposal. We will act in concert with our government agencies to avoid the risk of duplication of aid. (PA) (Agenzia Fides)

Pope Benedict: 'God is not a menace to society!' Video Message to the 'Courtyard of the Gentiles' in Paris

VATICAN CITY, 26 MAR 2011 (VIS) - Given below is the complete text of the Holy Father's video message [above, with an English voice-over; Pope Benedict spoke in French] to participants in the "Courtyard of the Gentiles", a meeting between believers and non-believers promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture and dedicated to the theme "Enlightenment, religion, shared reason". The event closed yesterday in Paris on the forecourt of the cathedral of Notre-Dame where the Pope's message was broadcast on giant screens. I have highlighted some parts of the Pope's address and added [comments].

H/T to Father Ray Blake for the video, which I couldn't locate by googling.

"Dear young people, dear friends!

"I know that - at the invitation of Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris , and of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture - you have gathered in large numbers on the forecourt of Notre-Dame de Paris. I greet you all, not forgetting our brothers and friends of the Taize Community. I am grateful to the pontifical council for having taken up and extended my invitation to open a 'Courtyard of the Gentiles' in the Church. The image of the courtyard evokes that vast open space near the Temple of Jerusalem where everyone who did not share the faith of Israel could approach the Temple and pose questions about that religion. [Pope Benedict has been particularly concerned about a renewed evangelisation of Europe, where many have lost the faith. The same may be happening in the Philippines.] There they could meet the scribes, discuss the faith and even pray to the God they did not know. And if, at that time, the Courtyard was also a place of exclusion because Gentiles did not have the right to enter the consecrated area, Jesus Christ came to 'break down the dividing wall' between Jews and Gentiles, so as to 'reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace...', as St. Paul tells us.

"At the heart of the 'City of Light ', in front of that magnificent masterpiece of French religious culture which is Notre-Dame, a great space has been opened to give fresh impetus to respectful and friendly encounter among people of differing convictions. You young people, believers and non-believers, have chosen to come together, this evening as in your everyday lives, to meet and to discuss the great questions of human existence. Many people today affirm that they do not belong to any religion, but wish for a new and freer world, more just and more united, more peaceful and happier. As I address you today, I consider everything you have to say to one another. [Pope Benedict is showing the same sense of openness to non-believers that Jesus showed to the Samaritan woman in last Sunday's gospel.] You non-believers call on believers, in particular, to offer the witness of a life coherent with the faith they profess, and you reject any deviation from religion which renders it inhuman. You believers wish to tell your friends that the treasure that is within you merits sharing, it needs to be announced, it requires reflection. The question of God is not a danger to society, it does not imperil human life! The question of God must not be absent from the great questions of our time. [The Pope is constantly urging us to proclaim the Gospel and introduce Jesus to others by the way we live.]

"Dear friends, you must build bridges between one another. You must seize the opportunity that has been given you to seek, in the depths of your consciences and through solid and well-reasoned reflection, the ways to a profound dialogue. You have so much to say to one another. Do not close your consciences before the challenges and problems facing you.

"I deeply believe that the encounter between faith and reason enables man to discover himself. But all too often reason is warped by the pressure of interests and the lure of profit, which it is forced to recognise as the ultimate criterion. The search for truth is not easy. And if each of us is called to make a courageous decision in favour of truth, this is because there are no shortcuts to the happiness and beauty of a perfect life. Jesus says as much in the Gospel: 'The truth will make you free'. [Jesus calls on what is most noble and generous in us. He doesn't offer us an easy life.]

"Dear young people, it is up to you to ensure that in your own countries and in Europe as a whole, believers and non-believers rediscover the path of dialogue. Religions cannot be afraid of a just secularism, a secularism that is open and allows individuals to live according to what they believe in their own consciences. If we are to build a world of freedom, equality and fraternity, believers and non-believers should feel themselves to be free, with equal rights to live their individual and community lives in accordance with their own convictions; and they must be brothers to one another. [In some Western countries there are expressions of a 'militant' secularism that is hostile to Christianity but Benedict here is asking young Catholics to be open to what he calls 'a just secularism' which is found among those searching for what is ture and just.]

"One of the reasons behind this Courtyard of the Gentiles is to foster such feelings of fraternity, over and above individual beliefs but without denying differences and, even more profoundly, recognising that only God, in Christ, gives us inner freedom and the possibility of truly coming together as brothers. [Pope Benedict doesn't water down in any way the command of Christ to 'preach the gospel to every creature'. He is respectful to those who do not believe in Jesus Christ. He is not 'being nice' to them.]

"Our primary attitude, the first action we must undertake together, is that of respecting, assisting and loving all human beings, because they are creatures of God and, in a certain way, embody the path that leads to Him. He's asking us to be 'living Christs'.] By continuing the experience you are having this evening you will help to break down the barriers of fear of the other, of foreigners, of those who are not like you; a fear that often arises from mutual ignorance, from scepticism or from indifference. [I've often noticed that persons who are fully at home with themselves are at ease with persons who are totally different from them.] Be sure to strengthen your bonds with all young people without distinction, not forgetting those who live in poverty and solitude, those who suffer through unemployment or sickness, or who feel they are on the margins of society.

"Dear young people, you can share not only your life experience but also your approach to prayer. You believers and non-believers, present here in this Courtyard of the Unknown, are also invited to enter the consecrated area, to pass the magnificent portal of Notre-Dame and enter the cathedral for a moment of prayer. For some of you this will be a prayer to a God you know through the faith, but for others it may be a prayer to an unknown God. Dear young non-believers, joining those who are praying inside Notre-Dame on this day of the Annunciation of the Lord, open your hearts to the Sacred Scriptures, allow yourselves to be drawn by the beauty of the music [something Pope Benedict has been 'harping on', if I may use that appropriate expression, for many years. How much of the music we hear or sing in church lifts up our hearts?] and, if you truly desire it, allow the feelings closed within you to rise towards the unknown God.

"I am happy to have had the chance to address you this evening for the inauguration of the Courtyard of the Gentiles. And I hope you will be able to respond to other invitations I have made, especially that of this summer's World Youth Day in Madrid . The God Whom believers learn to know invites you to discover Him and to live in Him. Do not be afraid! On your journey together towards a new world, seek the Absolute, seek God, even those of you for whom He is an unknown God.

"May He Who loves each and every one of you bless and protect you. He relies on you to show concern for others and for the future, and you can always rely on Him!"

MESS/ VIS 20110328 (1180)

27 March 2011

My Dad's 98th birth anniversary and his love of 'a good tune'.

My late father, known as 'John' to his side of the family and his workmates and as 'Joe' to my mother, Mary, and her side of the family - his baptismal names were 'John Joseph' - loved a good tune and I often heard him sing bits of songs around the house, though I don't recall him having a 'party piece'. The songs he sang were always melodic. This morning I looked for Till We Meet Again on YouTube, one of the songs I associate with my Dad. Later I realised that today is the 98th anniversary of his birth. The song was written in 1918 by Richard A. Whiting (music) and Raymond B. Egan (lyrics).

Dad was a great fan of Bing Crosby. One of the recordings I came across was by Bing Crosby and Patti page, made in 1952. I have never been a great fan of Patti Page, though I am of Bing Crosby. But I like their version (below). Above is a video of Gordon MacRae and Doris Day singing it, from a movie made in 1951, On Moonlight Bay, but set at the time the song was written, when the USA was already involved in the Great War. Gordon MacRae refers to 'The Doughboys', the nickname used for US soldiers at that time. In World War II they became 'GIs'.

Duets with a male and female singer were very popular when I was a child in the late '40s and early '50s. Gordon MacRae recorded many with Jo Stafford. These songs were all tuneful.

Smile the while you kiss me sad adieu,
When the clouds roll by I'll come to you,
Then the skies will seem more blue,
Down in lovers' lane my dearie,
Wedding bells will ring so merrily,
Every tear will be a memory,
So wait and pray each night for me,
Till we meet again.

My parents grew up with great songs!

Dad died suddenly in the early evening of 11 August 1987, having been at Mass that morning, as he had been every morning of his adult life. Please remember him in your prayers today.

25 March 2011

'Give me a drink.' Third Sunday of Lent Year A

Christ and the Samaritan Woman, Bernardo Strozzi (born 1581, died 1644)

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” —For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?”
Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.” The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.”
Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
The woman said to him,
“Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.”
The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.”
Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one speaking with you.”

At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?” The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?” They went out of the town and came to him. Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 


During the week Elizabeth Taylor, one of the world's best known women, died. I might have seen one or two of her movies, but that's all. Like the Samaritan woman in today's gospel she had had many husbands, in her case eight, one of them twice. The world seemed to be more interested in that aspect of her life than in any other.

When Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman he wasn't interested in the colourful details of her life, those that her neighbours probably gossiped about. He was interested in herself, in her eternal salvation, in what she most longed for. He was prepared to break two religious and cultural taboos. As a Jew he wasn't supposed to talk to a Samaritan. As a man he wasn't supposed to talk alone to a woman in such a public place, least of all a woman with a 'past'. Jesus was prepared to do that. He was more concerned with the woman's future than with her past.

Bernardo Strozzi's painting above shows how alive the interest of Jesus in the eternal salvation of the person he was with. The woman isn't looking directly at Jesus but her left hand indicates the longing in her heart for what is good and pure. Jesus reveals himself  as the Messiah to this sinner, not to someone leading an upright life. Her response is what ours is meant to be to God's overwhelming mercy - sharing what she discovered with others.

Jesus came to 'give a drink' of the water of eternal life to every single one of us, to bring the water of hope to all who are thirsty. He came to give this water to Elizabeth Taylor and to all who, like the woman in the gospel, have a 'past'. Do we every pray for public figures such as actors, entertainers, sports personalities, 'celebrities'? Jesus mingled with their equivalents in his day, not to become famous by association but because he longed enough for their eternal salvation to die on the cross for them and for all of us.

As we meditate on this gospel let us pray for the soul of Elizabeth Taylor and other public figures who have been directly or indirectly part of our lives and ask Jesus to give them the water of eternal life.

A Reflection by Fr Thomas Rosica CSB

I came across this gospel song, He Gave Her Water, sung by Acappella:

Words and music: Traditional
Arrangement: Keith Lancaster
© 1987 Anthony K. Music (ASCAP)
Lead: Jerome Williams

Oh Jesus, he gave her water
You know my Jesus gave her water
Oh Jesus gave her water
And it was not from the well

Well, there was a woman from Samaria
She came to the well to get some water
It was there she met a stranger
And he did her story tell
She left my savior singing
She came back to him bringing
The time she had water
And it was not from the well

Repeat Chorus

Well on that woman he had pity
She ran back to the city
Crying glory hallelujah
I'm gonna let his praises swell
Every time she'd doubt him
She's stop and think about him
The man that gave her that living water
And it was not from the well

Oh, gave her water
Jesus gave her water
Oh Jesus he gave her water
I'm gonna let his praises swell
Jesus gave that woman water
He gave her that living lasting water
Oh, and it was not from the well

'May it be done to me according to your word.' The Annunciation'May it be done to me according to your word.' The Annunciation

Virgin of the Annunciation, Antonello da Messina

Luke 1:26-38 (Douai-Rheims)

And in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Who having heard, was troubled at his saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her: Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.

Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the most High; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end. And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man? And the angel answering, said to her: The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren: Because no word shall be impossible with God. And Mary said: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

The Angelus, Jean-François Millet, painted 1857-59

The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary: And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word.

Hail Mary . . .

And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us.

Hail Mary . . .

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.


19 March 2011

'Rise, and do not be afraid.' Second Sunday of Lent Year A, 20 March 2011

The Transfiguration of Christ, Paolo Veronese, painted 1555-56

Readings (New American Bible, used in the Philippines and USA)

Gospel (Mt 17:1-9)

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”


The Great Wave off Kanagawa, woodblock print created c.1829-1832 by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

When Peter, James and John caught a glimpse of the divinity of Jesus they were ‘very much afraid’. We have recently seen on TV and the internet the destructive power of a tsunami, triggered by the 9.0 earthquake in Japan on 11 March. Many have been ‘very much afraid’. We have also seen the dignity and discipline of the people directly affected in Japan. I saw a BBC reporter near Sendai, one of the worst-hit areas, tell of a man who had lost everything, including his family, but who had found hope when he saw Emperor Akihito address his people on TV. Many Japanese people used to believe that the emperor was a god, until the destruction the country brought on itself in wars in the last century. Nevertheless, seeing Emperor Akihito expressing his solidarity with and his concern for his people has given hope to some who have nothing left.

Jesus was aware of the bewilderment the apostles would go through during his Passion and death. He wanted to give them hope, though they wouldn’t recognize this until after those events. What had made Peter, James and John afraid wasn’t the destructive power of nature but being in the presence of God showing himself as God. They were afraid when told to listen to God’s ‘beloved Son’. Isn’t it strange that when in the presence of the totally good we sometimes can’t comprehend or cope?

In the first reading God asks Abram, later to be called ‘Abraham’, to ‘Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you’. People directly affected by disasters such as that in Japan and the political unrest in so many Arab countries right now often have to do the same. Some go to another part of their own country. Some, such as overseas workers, may choose to return home where they may have no work. And they may have to go through great hardship while escaping, as we have seen in Libya, for example, in recent weeks. I was on the phone recently to a domestic worker from the Philippines in Bahrain who told me that she thought her employers were planning to evacuate but didn’t know what they would do about her. She told me about houses on fire in the area where she is living and also said she hadn’t been paid for more than three months. She too, like the three apostles in the gospel, is ‘very afraid’.

But the responsorial psalm’s response is one of encouragement: ‘Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.’ The psalm contains these consoling words, ‘May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us who have put our hope in you.’ Our hope is not in an emperor or in any official, though the hope that such persons can bring is real and ultimately from God. But we place our hope in God himself and in Jesus, the ‘beloved ‘Son’ of the Father, God who became Man.

St Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy urges us to ‘Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God’. Bishop Martin Tetsuo Hiraga of Sendai is surely bearing this hardship for the gospel. He told Vatican Radio, ‘We are terrified. We only have the government announcements, we have no other source of information. We don't even know what has happened to our parishes in the towns and villages along the coast. We have no way of contacting them. I can only hope that the people of my diocese can stand together and be strong enough to overcome this disaster.’

Yet the same CNS report quotes Father Daisuke Narui, executive director of Caritas Japan, saying to Fides, ‘Young people are continually coming to Caritas from all the dioceses to offer their availability as volunteers to bring aid to the areas most affected by the disaster. This is an important sign that gives us hope for the future.’ Catholics comprise only 0.15 percent of the population of the area the Diocese of Sendai covers and 0.40 percent of the people of Japan. Despite that, they are bringing hope to their people, the hope that Jesus was bringing to Peter, James and John in his Transfiguration and through them to us, as we face whatever ‘earthquakes’, ‘tsunamis’ or ‘nuclear meltdowns’ may come our way.

16 March 2011

Ireland needs St Patrick's prayers to rediscover the Catholic faith

First Holy Communion at Holy Family Home, Bacolod City

Kevin Myers is a columnist for the Irish Independent who often says things other won't say. At times he can border on the crude and can go 'over the top' - an expression now widely used in Britain and Ireland that comes from the trench warfare of the Great War or World War I on which Kevin is an expert - often in a funny way. He was born in England of Irish parents and educated in a Catholic school there. As far as I know, he is not a practising Catholic but he has a deep respect for what the Church teaches, though not always for what some of its members do.

On Tuesday 8 march he wrote a column under the heading We boast about how much alcohol we drink, but if outsiders agree they are called racists. He began, ALL right; so now we've got a Government. Therefore let it hit the ground running, as promised, by ending the hideous and demeaning farce of St Patrick's Day. He goes on to write about the tendency of many Irish people to drink to excess, particularly on St Patrick's Day, giving grounds for the stereotype of the drunken Irishman.

Then he writes, we have already informally established the caricature elsewhere, with the transformation of First Holy Communion into an excuse for girls to be draped with huge Joan Collins wigs, fake tan and make-up.

And the Catholic Church, as broken as a Mormon lap-dancing club in Afghanistan, is speechless at this whore-mongering degradation of the consecration of bread and wine into the living body and blood of Jesus Christ, the redeemer of mankind. And no, I'm not saying that -- it's what the Catholic Church actually believes. Yet it nonetheless allows the parents of a seven-year old girl to dress her up like a trollop in order to celebrate this momentous day, and then to spend the aftermath getting paralytic, courtesy of the special bar-extensions. Men once gave their lives to keep the faith alive: now it's an excuse for alcoholic comas.

I know that some bishops, priests and teachers have tried to curb some of the excesses that go with the celebration of the sacraments but on at least some occasions have been met with hostility by parents who want to put on a show.

The girls in the photo taken some years ago in Holy Family Home, Bacolod City, come from backgrounds of extreme suffering and often of real poverty. The excesses of contemporary Ireland would be beyond their comprehension.

A few weeks earlier, on 22 February, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, gave a talk to the Cambridge Group of Irish Studies, at Magdalen College, Cambridge, England on the topic 'KEEPING THE SHOW ON THE ROAD' Is this the future of the Irish Catholic Church?

Here are some extracts from his speaking notes with my emphases added:

I am thus in a situation where I have near monopoly control – at least in theory - of primary education in the Archdiocese of Dublin. What are the results? In Ireland we have a fully State-funded system of Catholic education. We have wonderfully dedicated teachers. There is access for clergy to schools which also look after the programmes of preparation for the sacraments. First Communion and Confirmation are major events in the life of each school. The question is: how far are these events really faith-filled events today? It is above all good Catholic teachers who express their concerns to me in this regard. Admission to the sacraments is not something which is automatically acquired when one reaches a certain class in school.

A few weeks ago a very angry survivor of sexual abuse by a Dublin priest came to me to express his disgust and horror at what the Church had done to him. He wanted nothing more to do with a corrupt Church or any of its agents and listening to his story one could well understand his anger. Leaving me he thanked me and added: “I believe that you will be confirming my little lad later this month”. For many the sacraments are the social events of a civil religion rather than celebrations of the Church.

Young Irish people are among the most catechised in Europe but apparently among the least evangelized. Our schools are great schools; our young people are idealistic and generous, but the bond between young people and Church life ends up being very weak.
This is due to the fact that the religious education and sacramental preparation became over the years more and more assigned almost exclusively to the school. Parents were not formally involved in the education process. The parish was content to leave the task of religious education to competent teachers. Should there be political moves or moves by teachers’ organizations to remove sacramental preparation from schools, then the parish structure of the Church in Ireland would be totally unprepared.

Kevni Myers and Archbishop Martin are, in slightly different ways, saying the same thing about the celebration of the sacraments, especially First Holy Communion. Three or four years ago an Irish judge commented, when someone was looking for a temporary licence to serve alcohol on the occasion of a First Holy Communion celebration, remarked that the sacraments had come to be linked to alcohol. He told of one defendant brought before him who had been driving under the influence of alcohol. The man's excuse was that he was on his way to confession!

There has been a colossal falling away from the Catholic faith in Ireland in the last few decades. I am not sure of the reasons why. Some say the rot had set in long before. That may well be true. Some try to gloss over the reality by speaking of the undoubted generosity of many young people.

Earlier in his talk Archbishop Martin noted: Ireland is today undergoing a further phase in a veritable revolution of its religious culture. Many outside of Ireland still believe that Ireland is a bastion of traditional Catholicism. They are surprised to discover that there are parishes in Dublin where the presence at Sunday Mass is some 5% of the Catholic population and, in some cases, even below 2%. On any particular Sunday about 18% of the Catholic population in the Archdiocese of Dublin attends Mass. That is considerably lower than in any other part of Ireland.

For the second time since I became Archbishop of Dublin there will be no ordination to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Dublin this year and the coming years indicate only a tiny trickle of new vocations.
Holy Family Church, Aughrim St, Dublin, the parish in which I grew up and where I celebrated  my First Mass.
In theory, the Archdiocese has about 1,100,000 members, about 84 percent of the population of the area it covers and is by far the largest in terms of numbers of Ireland's 26 dioceses. The parish I grew up in had five priests when I was young and the church used to be packed for Mass on the weekdays of Lent. Now it has three priest,s two of them diocesan, the third a returned missionary who is not in good health. The pastor emeritus also helps out. The parish I now go home to has three priests, including a religious priest in his 70s and a retired parish priest. When I first went home there in 1981 it had four priests, as I recall, all from the diocese and three of them much younger than any of the priests there now. Since last year St Brigid's has had a full-time lay parish pastoral worker, a young man named Kevin Mullally.
St Brigid's Church, Blanchardstown, where I go home to now. It is just north of the city of Dublin and has many Filipino parishioners, mainly because of James Connolly Memorial Hospital.

The interior of St Brigid's. When I was young Blanchardstown was essentially a rural village. Now it has become a huge suburb of Dublin. many of its parishioners, like me, grew up in Holy Family Parish.

St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, the son of a deacon and grandson of a priest, was probably like many young people in Ireland today when he was kidnapped and taken there, probably from Wales, at the age of 16. Here is the opening of his Confession with my highlights and [comments]:

1. I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. [Was he 'catechised' but not 'evangelised', as Archbishop Martin described the young people of Ireland today?] And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.

2. And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. [Maybe it's appropriate that St Patrick's Day always falls during Lent.] And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.

May St Patrick, patron of Ireland and of Nigeria, patron of churches in every continent, obtain a renewal of faith for the descendants of those who kidnapped him and to whom he later brought the Gospel. May he also obtain God's very special blessings on the people of Japan who are suffering so much at present.

Lúireach Phádraig  Saint Patrick's Breastplate

Críost liom,                                                 
Críost romham,
Críost i mo dhiaidh,
Críost istigh ionam,

Críost fúm,
Críost os mo chionn,
Críost ar mo lámh dheas,
Críost ar mo lámh chlé,

Críost i mo lúi dom,
Críost i mo sheasamh dom,

Críost i gcrói gach duine atá ag cuimhneamh orm,
Críost i mbéal gach duine a labhráionn liom,
Críost i ngach súil a fhéachann orm,
Críost i ngach cluas a éisteann liom.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ within me,

Christ below me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right hand,
Christ on my left hand,

Christ in my sleeping,
Christ in my waking,

Christ in the heart of all who think of me,
Christ in the mouth of all who speak of me,
Christ in every eye that looks at me,
Christ in every ear that listens to me.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig faoi mhaise daoibh!
A Happy St Patrick’s Day!


15 March 2011

'Legion founder's principles still very relevant' - Irish Times article on Frank Duff

Frank Duff, Founder of the Legion of Mary, 7 June 1889 - 7 November 1980

I met Frank Duff only once, at a meeting of the Legion of Mary's central governing body, the Concilium, in Dublin in 1976 during my first visit home from the Philippines. However, I was very much aware of him from my primary school days and I remember my teacher in Fourth Class ('Grade' in the Philippines), John Galligan, speaking about him. I joined the Legion of Mary, which Frank Duff founded on 7 September 1921, during my first year in secondary school and it had a formative influence on me.

I have never quite understood the criticisms of the Legion, especially from priests. It is a body that teaches its members to be responsible and to be accountable for their actgions or lack thereof. Legionaries work in pairs and may never work alon, which means that if you don't turn up your companioncan't do what he was assigned to do. The weekly meetings begin on time and, importantly, end on time. No open-ended stuff where nothing gets done. It balances prayer, study of the Legion Handbook, reporting and receiving assignments.

Though he grew up in a middle-class family, Frank Duff knew poverty from his experience as a member of the St Vincent de Paul Society while a young civil servant in Dublin. He was a man of action and his actions came from his profound faith and his great love for the Blessed Mother. As I know from the late Fr Aedan McGrath, a Columban priest who spent nearly three years in solitary confinement in China between 1950 and 1953 because of his involvement with the Legion of Mary in that country and who was a great friend of the Legion's founder, Frank Duff had to struggle with his temper. I find this consoling and encouraging. I pray to him every day.

The official webiste of the Legion of Mary is here.

Frank Duff also had a deep sense of patriotism, which economist Finola Kennedy's article in today's issue of The Irish Times shows. I've highlighted parts of the article and added [comments].


Legion founder's principles still very relevant


RITE AND REASON : The mover behind the Legion of Mary offered hope, saying Ireland had immense possibilities. ['Rite and Reason' is a series dealing with faith.]

FRANK DUFF is best known as the founder of the Legion of Mary, but it is generally forgotten that he spent 26 years as a civil servant. [He probably would have risen to the top had he not resigned to devote himself full-time to the Legion of Mary].

In the 1940s, a small group consisting of Duff, León Ó Broin [another civil servant and bigorapher by avocation], Joe Walshe, later Irish ambassador to the Vatican, Paddy Little, a founder member of Fianna Fáil [the biggest and dominant party in Irish politics from 1932 until the recent election when they went from having 76 seats to only 20, from being the biggest party to only the third] and then minister for posts and telegraphs, and Seán Ryan, editor of the Irish Catholic, would spend time discussing the general betterment of Ireland. [All men with a sense of service.]

Little mentioned to then taoiseach [prime minister] Éamon de Valera that Duff was seeking ways to improve the situation in Ireland, and the latter suggested Duff be asked to draw up a memorandum for him. It is revealing to read it today, as it might have been written in the current context.

He wrote: “Our present position is that of disillusion, disheartenment, utter perplexity, cynicism, apathy. In such a mood, and with the misgiving creeping into so many hearts that the nation is no more than a big racket, what chance is there that its children will serve it worthily or sacrifice themselves for it? Elemental instinct in us rebels violently against the notion of mere exploitation in the name of a sacred cause.” [There was much of this in the last year or two but the recent election and the formation of a new government seems to have brought a sense of hope.]

His memo called for a set of “national principles” which would help generate practical idealism. [Note 'practical idealism'.] In drawing up these ideals for Ireland, Duff said terms such as “democracy”, “social justice” or “a Christian nation” should not be used “as mere catch-cries”. Christianity must be authentic, not a mere sham or caricature.

Of Christianity in Ireland, he said: “Without the practical living of the full Christian duty, the theory is fruitless; without it we are thrown back on the caricature of Christianity.” [I wonder if the widespread rejection of the Christian faith in Ireland in recents years is a rejection of the 'caricature of Christianity' that Duff writes about?]

In his memorandum Duff offered hope, saying Ireland had immense possibilities. [The same applies to the Philippines and everywhere else].

To clarify the meaning of “Ireland a nation”, he suggested the government should select four or five persons of very different types, including at least one Protestant, who would examine the question privately and who would then present a draft set of national principles. [Indonesia has something like this, though I don't iknow how effective it is].

De Valera asked that Duff should himself “attack that task”. The principles Duff proposed were based on an overarching Christianity, where each man cared for his fellow man.

The first principle for the State should be the recognition of every person as an individual, not merely as part of a herd. [The Legion of Mary Handbook is imbued with this.] The second was equality of treatment. All sorts of discrimination must be eliminated. The third was that everyone should contribute to the nation according to ability. [So many incidents in the Gospels are of Jesus enabling individuals to be fully part of the community.] This included preparedness to undertake some voluntary work. [No 'pie in the sky' here. Ireland sitll has a strong sense of voluntarism, especially among the young, though not always related directly to our Christian faith.]

Duff sent his memorandum to de Valera, who was out of office within weeks after the 1948 vote. When de Valera was returned as taoiseach in 1951, he did not revert to the matter with Duff.

Duff’s concern for the state of the nation continued, and he sought practical ways in which his ideas could be used. With the Legion he undertook a number of community-building projects, for example at Inchigeela in Co Cork and at Tuosist in Co Kerry.

Almost everyone seems to want to blame “the system” at the moment – political, financial or regulatory. But perhaps the system failed because right principles were not applied.

Finola Kennedy is an economist. Her book, Frank Duff: A Life, will be published in the autumn by Continuum. You can also read her article om Studies Issue 364, vol.91, Winter 2002: Frank Duff's Search for the Neglected and Rejected.


Prayer for the Beatification of Frank Duff

God our Father, You inspired your servant Frank Duff with a profound insight into the mystery of Your Church, the Body of Christ, and of the place of Mary the Mother of Jesus in this mystery.

In his immense desire to share this insight with others and in filial dependence on Mary he formed her Legion to be a sign of her maternal love for the world and a means of enlisting all her children in the Church's evangelising work.

We thank you Father for the graces conferred on him and for the benefits accruing to the Church from his courageous and shining faith. With confidence we beg You that through his intercession you grant the petition we lay before You . ............... We ask too that if it be in accordance with Your will, the holiness of his life may be acknowledged by the Church for the glory of your Name, through Christ Our Lord,


With ecclesiastical approval


The Legion website has a lovely portrait of Frank Duff by Síle Ní Chochláin, Vice President, Concilium Legionis Mariae: THE SERVANT OF GOD, FRANK DUFF – AS I KNEW HIM

14 March 2011

Feast of St Joseph, Day of Prayer for Dementia

In 2009 Pastoral Care Project, based in Coleshill, near Birmingham, England, initiated a Day of Prayer for Dementia to be observed on 19 March, the feast of St Joseph.

The mission of Pastoral Care Project is 'To raise awareness to the spiritual needs of the frail elderly – enabling carers to support them in their journey to the fullness of life.' It began more than twenty years ago when Mrs Frances Molloy, originally from Rathlin Island off the northern coast of Ireland, began to notice the needs of older persons, especially those with various forms of dementia, and of those taking care of them, whether family members or people working in nursing homes.

The word 'Alzheimer's' has become part of our vocabulary and is often used as a generic term, even though it is only one form of dementia. However, its use has helped make us more aware of the reality of the situation of person affected by dementia. Very often it is not those with dementia who suffer most but those around them, for example, a husband seeing his wife turning into a seemingly different person, often nor recognising him, or adult children 'losing' their mother. I remember once visiting a Christian Brother who had taught me in secondary school in Dublin and whom I revered for his saintliness, as did everyone else who knew him, and feeling so distressed when it was clear that his very active mind had failed and he didn't know who I was.

I became aware of this apostolate during my two years in Britain, 2000-2002, when Frances invited me to celebrate Mass in a nursing home in Birmingham. I then became involved to a limited degree on the fringes.

Here is part of a press release from Pastoral Care Project. I have highlighted some of it and added [comments].

Recent statistics indicate that there are 820,000 people in the UK with dementia. Of these, it is estimated that 1 in 1,400 cases are aged 40-46, rising to 1 in 100 aged 65-69 and 1 in 25 aged 70-79 years. [Quite possibly there is a similar number of Filipinos with dementia. The population here is larger than in the UK but the latter has a higher percentage of people who live to a very old age.]

'I am very pleased to commend the Day of Prayer for Dementia on 19th March. It is a way of highlighting the daily struggle that many people experience just to keep going on life’s path [not only those with dementia but especailly family members taking care of them] and it is a good opportunity for us to ask Our Lord to strengthen them on their pilgrimage of faith. It is also a way of encouraging each of us to be a support and understanding friend to those who experience dementia and those who take care of them.' Archbishop Bernard Longley (of Birmingham).

Do this in Memory of Me

Loving Father in Heaven,
You sent your Son, Jesus,
to change the world,
to bring peace to people of good will.

As he gave himself to us,
He said ‘Do this in memory of me’.
So, when we gather in his name,
we remember Jesus and his words,
and he becomes real for us.

Father, we pray for those who need to be reminded
for as they grow frail their memory may fail them,
and who may struggle to find the right words,
but whose life is made up of many stories.

When the memory fades,
we know that it is not today that is remembered,
but days of long ago.

When we hear your words
‘Do this in memory of me’
we are reminded that nothing can
separate us form you love.

So let us cherish today, heavenly Father
and all the memories we are making,
memories that are written in the book of life,
stored forever in grateful hearts.

Life is a gift from you.
Memory is your gift, too.
Let us accept your gifts with joy,
and always remember
that you are the beginning and end
of our story.

We make every prayer to you, Author of all that is good
in the name of Jesus, our companion on the journey,
and with the Holy Spirit, our inspiration and our life.


There is a suggestion of praying and sharing a meal together with persons with dementia. I know that here in the Philippines birthdays are always marked. Maybe the feast of St Joseph could be marked too by something special within a family that has a member with dementia. Music can bring people alvie, especially if has some significance for the person, for example, 'their song' and music from their young days. Sometimes this can have a negative affect. Dame Vera Lynn, now in her 90s. was one of the most popular English singers during World War II and her recordings are still being bought. However, I read about one old woman in a nusring home who asked when one of Vera's songs was played, 'Is the War not over yet?' For an outsider this may sound funny but for this person it was bringing back the suffering of those years when British cities were destroyed by bombs and many families lost members who fought in the war.

Pray and Share a Meal Together

“The peace and joy of sharing with others has been a real time of healing.” s

We invite you to make use of our Prayer Card at any meal time.
This may be an opportunity to think about and share the different ways
dementia affects the person and their family.

For example, the person with dementia may have reduced Sense of
Taste, so it is important to consider this.

The visual Sense can be affected whereby the food may look dull and
unappetising; so it is important to consider interesting colours

The Sense of touch and the texture. Therefore it is important that
food is presented in easily manageable portions. As dementia progresses
the person may need assistance as they may forget how to eat or that
they have eaten at all.

Consider the needs of the full time Carer, they may neglect their own
mealtime and so it is important to consider their wellbeing.

The Pastoral Care Project resources - Quiet Days for Carers would enable
any church, community group to offer such Days.

As one carer said, “The peace and joy of sharing with others has been a real time of healing. I return home with new hope and confidence.”

From your prayer/meal you may wish to make an offering to the work of the Pastoral Care Project. You too will be raising awareness!

Additional Prayer Cards are available at a cost of 5p each +p&p from
Pastoral Care Project, St Gerard’s, Coventry Road, Coleshill B46 3ED
Email pastoralcareproject@gmail.com Tel 01675 434035

Copyright Pastoral Care Project and Day of Prayer for Dementia all rights reserved.
The online resources for the Day of Prayer for Dementia include, with notes for presenters, a PowerPoint presentation for primary schools and one for secondary schools.
The website of the Dementia Society of the Philippines is here. 'This website was created in order to reach out to all physicians, allied specialists and laypeople who have a special interest in dementia. All our activities and conferences can be accessed through this website. The DSP hopes for you to be our partner in our endeavors and in caring for individuals with dementia and in helping their caregivers.'

11 March 2011

'The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.' 1st Sunday of Lent Year A, 13 March 2011


Gospel Matthew 4:1-11
At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert
to be tempted by the devil.
He fasted for forty days and forty nights,
and afterwards he was hungry.
The tempter approached and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
He said in reply,
“It is written:
One does not live on bread alone,

but on every word that comes forth

from the mouth of God

Then the devil took him to the holy city,
and made him stand on the parapet of the temple,
and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.
For it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you

and with their hands they will support you,

lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Jesus answered him,
“Again it is written,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain,
and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,
and he said to him, "All these I shall give to you,
if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
At this, Jesus said to him,
“Get away, Satan!
It is written:
The Lord, your God, shall you worship

and him alone shall you serve.

Then the devil left him and, behold,
angels came and ministered to him.


This gospel has been used for hundreds of years on the First Sunday in Lent. St Matthew’s version is still used in the extraordinary form of the Mass (the ‘old Mass’ or ‘Tridentine Mass). In the ordinary form that we have been using for more than 40 years this gospel is used in Year A, while St Luke’s version is read in Year B and that of St Luke in Year C.

I remember vividly a homily on this gospel when I was in the seminary, around 1965. The preacher was a saintly Columban, Fr Edward McCormack, known to us as ‘Father Ted’, though he was a far cry from the Father Ted in the British comedy TV series about a group of priests in a remote part of Ireland. It wasn’t so much the preacher’s words as the sense of the horror he conveyed of the very idea of Satan trying to tempt Jesus Christ, God who became Man that struck me and that still remains. Father Ted conveyed to me a sense of the horror of what sin is.

Lent is a time in which we can receive the grace of knowing something of the horror of sin and of the price that our loving God paid in order to save us from being lost in it. Lent is a time when the whole Church prepares to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus at Easter. We can’t do that without going through Good Friday and all that led to that.

An essential part of going through Lent, and one that involves some pain, is accepting responsibility for our personal sins and asking God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of confession or reconciliation. This is an expression of God’s love for us as sinners, a sacrament in which Jesus gives us the grace to resist the temptations of Satan as he did in the gospel.


Pillars of Stewardship
Meditation for the First Sunday of Lent by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, from the website of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan

March 13, 2011

The Lenten season invites us to return to the desert and there wrestle with our number one enemy—ourselves. Today the Lord shows us how he himself went into wilderness, wrestled with the devil and stood firm in the path of goodness. The desert reminds us of our defenselessness. The desert reminds us our vulnerabilities. The desert reminds us of the dark secrets we are afraid to confront. The desert confronts us with our naked sins. In the desert, we can hold on to nothing and boast of nothing. In the desert we choose to let go of everything if only to survive. 

The desert is not a garden like Eden. In that garden of abundance, we forgot that we were only caretakers not owners. We must go to the desert of isolation and discover God again. The desert is barren. The desert is hard life. Stripped and distanced, we start to understand the things that matter most. The desert is our powerlessness. 

When I am powerless, I am strong. When you recognize your powerlessness, you have made the first step to stewardship. You have begun to recognize that you have nothing. You see things within the perspective of a steward not an owner. All that you have is from God.

The desert experience teaches us the three pillars of the spirituality of stewardship.
The nothingness of the desert leads us to the spirit of contentment. You want to be happy? Keep your desires simple and your needs few. Another teacher about contentment, the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, said “Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness and have few desires.”
If I am content with little, enough is as good as a feast. The grace of contentment is one of God’s best gifts (Isaac Bickerstaffe). 

St Paul wrote Timothy “We brought nothing into the world and we will leave it with nothing. Let us then be content with having food and clothing. Those who strive to be rich fall into temptations and traps” (I Tim 6:7-9). We can do all things in Him who strengthens us (cfr. Phil 4:13).

If you can be happy with nothing, you have found real happiness. 

Your happy disposition must lead you to the second pillar of stewardship which is generosity. The greatest measure of love is to love without measure. It is not enough to give. We must give fearlessly and cheerfully. The real measure of generosity is not how much we give but how much we keep for ourselves. The generous one is not the one who gives the most but the one who keeps the least. We believe that God cannot be outdone in generosity. We are generous because God has been unreasonably generous with us. God will always provide. His blessings will never run dry.

The third pillar of stewardship is humility. St Bernard said humility is the mother of salvation. We fell from the grace of God because of pride. We will be saved by cheerful giving, by humble sharing. Perhaps the best way to define humility is to echo the words of St. Thomas Aquinas: Humility means seeing ourselves the way God sees us. Humility is truth and pride is nothing but lying. 

“The test of real greatness is humility. The humble man knows that the greatness is not in them but through them. They see something divine in others and are endlessly, foolishly and incredibly merciful”, said John Ruskin. 

The real steward is always happy. The real steward gives from his contentment. The real steward knows that He is not the savior; he is not the owner; he is not the almighty one—God is. I am only a steward.
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, March 13, 2011

Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan


The Single-Heartedness, Faithfulness and Loyalty of God's Son

Biblical Reflection for 1st Sunday of Lent, Year A

By Father Thomas Rosica, CSB

TORONTO, MARCH 8, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Today's Scripture readings for the first Sunday of Lent immerse us into the depths of this penitential season. The readings and today's Psalm 51 sound overtures of the great themes that we will hear and live over the next six weeks. 

Reflecting on today's first reading from Genesis (2:7-9; 3:1-7), we must take into consideration the literary and theological form of the first pages of the Bible. Like many stories in the first eleven chapters of Genesis, the Eden tale is an etiology -- a story that helps to explain important questions about the major realities of our life. Why is there pain in childbirth? Why is the ground hard to till? Why do snakes crawl upon the earth, etc?

Genesis 2-3 suggests that knowledge, a necessity for human life, is something that is acquired painfully. Ignorance may be bliss, but it is certainly not the mark of adult maturity. When human beings finally understand what it means to be fully human, when they have complete knowledge, then the realities of life come into full relief in all of their complexity and difficulty. Knowledge is both enlightening and painful.

Full text here.