30 April 2011

'My Lord and my God!' Second Sunday of Easter. Blessed John Paul

Doubting Thomas, Guercino

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

Gospel, John 20:19-31 (NAB)

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

Today is the Second Sunday of Easter, the last day of the Octave of Easter. In 2000 Pope John Paul named this day ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’. However, there are no changes whatever in the liturgical texts as a result of this. I must confess that I’m not too enthused about what is essentially a private, though worthy, devotion, that observes a novena from Good Friday to the Second Sunday of Easter, in a sense cutting across the central celebration of the Church’s year. No feasts may be celebrated during Holy Week or the Easter Octave.

However, I discovered that ‘The Three O’Clock Prayer’ is very ancient and is used in the liturgies of the Eastern Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox. I have heard it over the sound-systems of department stores here in the Philippines where the Divine Mercy devotion is strong.

Here is the prayer: Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, Have mercy on us and on the whole world (repeat thrice). Jesus, King of mercy, I trust in you!

St Thomas’s profession of faith, ‘My Lord and my God!’ is the most explicit in all the Scriptures. He has always got a ‘bad press’, not having a ‘spin-doctor’, as ‘Doubting Thomas’. But there’s no greater act of faith than his. And it is in the scars on the body of Jesus that he recognises the Risen Lord.

How many people we know who carry similar scars that are the marks of a life spent loving others. The wrinkles on the face of Blessed Mother Teresa and on the brows of many others, signs of love that call forth trust in the young. Wounds sustained through saving the lives of others, like a blind man I knew at home in Dublin who had been a soldier in the Irish army. During training exercises a grenade went off and he threw himself on it to save others. He survived, though ready to give up his life, but without his sight for the rest of his life. Filipino Jesuit seminarian Richie Fernando did the same in Cambodia to save the lives of the young persons with disabilities, victims of war, with whom he was working. One of them threw a grenade, in October 1996, and Richie, only 26, gave up his life and saved everyone else.

Pope John Paul II will be beatified today. When elected in 1978 he was a vigorous and athletic person, though a little stooped as a result of an accident in a quarry when he was a student. He spoke with a vigorous voice. But the whole world saw the scars of old age and illness, perhaps exacerbated by the shooting he survived in 1981, gradually taking their toll. The most poignant scene of all was his last appearance at his window on Easter Sunday 2005 when he couldn’t utter a word, this man who had spoken so powerfully on so many occasions. But his voicelessness, just days before his death, had an eloquence beyond words.

This production by saltandlight.org, Thank You, John Paul II, shows the scars of love, the love of Jesus the Risen Lord himself, shared with the whole world by the man we will now call ‘Blessed John Paul’.

After posting this I came across an article by Nicole Winfield in today's Irish Independent about Pope John Paul's personal photographer, Arturo Mari, The day 'a living saint' kissed 800 lepers one by one

One extract:
IT was May 4, 1984 and Pope John Paul II was visiting Sorok Island off South Korea, a leper colony where several hundred people with the disfiguring disease were receiving care.

Arturo Mari was there, as he was on all the Pontiff's trips, a silent witness to almost every papal audience, Mass, vacation and dinner party, public or private.

As the Pope's personal photographer, Mari had nearly unrestricted access to John Paul's 27-year papacy, and his verdict as the Pontiff's beatification approaches is unwavering: he was a living saint.

The protocol that day in 1984 called for John Paul to enter the Sarok pavilion, where the patients were gathered, give a brief speech on the meaning of suffering, then leave. But after surveying the scene, John Paul brushed aside a cardinal who tried to speed him along, and set to work.

"He touched them with his hands, caressed them, kissed each one," Mari said. "Eight hundred lepers, one by one. One by one! For me he was a man of God," the 71-year-old photographer said.

"I can guarantee you he was a living saint, because everything I could see with my eyes, hear with my ears, you cannot believe that this man could do so much."

29 April 2011

Musical memories of my mother on her 41st death anniversary

My parents, John and Mary with my Auntie Nan, a younger sister of my mother, and her husband (or husband-to-be at the time) Joe Kiernan, all of them now gone to their reward, at Powerscourt, County Wicklow, south of Dublin, around 1940. My parents were married on 6 July 1942, Auntie Nan and Uncle Joe in 1941, I think.

My mother died quietly in her sleep at home in Dublin, early in the morning of 29 April 1970, exactly four hears after the death of her own mother, whom I knew as Granny Collins. I'm not sure how old I was when I learned that Granny Collins had been born Annie Dowd.

Mam had a lovely singing voice and appeared in a number or amateur productions in her single days. Her favourite singer was Deanna Durbin, born in Winnipeg, Canada, of Englihs parents but raised in southern California, who left the Hollywood scene after her last movie in 1948 and went to live in Paris where she is now in her 90th year. A song she sang at the end of a 1939 movie, Three Smart Girls Grow Up, that has been recorded by many opera singers, mostly tenors, was my mother's party piece, Because. It is sung in the context of a wedding and, as it happens, there's a big wedding today in London, that of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Clearly, there's some twist in the plot at the end of the movie but it's a happy one!

The last song I heard my mother singing, I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen, has always been a great favourite in Ireland. As far as I can recall, she sang it at a farewell party for me before I left to study in the USA in September 1968, nine months or so after my ordination. 'Kathleen' is an anglicised form of 'Caitlín', a Gaelic form of 'Catherine', as is 'Caitríona'. The song was written in 1875 by a German-American, Thomas P. Westendorf. Deanna Durbin sang it in her last movie, For the Love of Mary, made in 1948.

My own favourite song by Deanna Durbin is Beneath the Lights of Home. It brings out clearly the purity of her voice. Deanna is playing a character named Jane Dana in the 1941 movie Nice Girl? who sings the song at a benefit concert for  the Red Cross. Jane is having a somewhat complicated love-life at the time. Not surprisingly, this song became a great favourite with soldiers overseas during World War II.

There were great songs during the 1930s and 1940s but sometimes the toll on those who sang them in Hollywood movies was enormous. Deanna Durbin's very first movie, Every Sunday, a short one made in 1936, featured Judy Garland when they were both 14. Poor Judy's subsequent life was a mess, while Deanna simply left the artificial Hollywood 'lifestyle'.However, by the time she did so she had been divorced twice.

One of the blessings of my childhood was plenty of tuneful music.

Please remember in your prayers my mother, born Mary Collins, dying suddenly at the age of 55, and her mother, born Annie Dowd, dying from cancer at the age of 84, sharing the same death anniversary. May they rest in peace.

Newly re-elected Irish Senator and the poorest of the poor in Argentina

Senator Rónán Mullen

I recently asked that if you were a graduate of the National University of Ireland to give your No 1 preference to Senator Rónán Mullen in the election for the Irish Senate or, if you didn't have a vote, to pray that he would be re-elected. In 2007 he was the last of the three NUI senators to make it. The Irish Times reports today that this time he headed the poll.

I am delighted. Seanad Éireann, the Senate of Ireland, has little power and is basically a talking-shop. But it has always had some truly independent voices who can say things not heard in the Dáil, the parliament, or elsewhere. Rónán Mullen  has been one of those voices for the last four years and, God willing, will be so for nearly five years, as the new government has such a strong majority that it is unlikely to be defeated on any major issue. If that were to happen, the government would resign and there would be an election. When the Dáil is dissolved the Seanad is also.

Senator Mullen has been involved in a project in Argentina of Irish missionary Fr Liam Hayes SVD among the poorest and most abandoned, St Teresa's Foundation. In a column in The Irish Examiner some years ago Rónán Mullen  described Father Liam thus: He combines traditional faith with social action. You can read the full article below. From what I know of Senator Mullen, you could describe him in the same words.

Here is a video about St Teresa's that I came across through a link on Senator Mullen's website.

How Prayer and Practicality Mean So Much To The Poor of Argentina.

- The Irish Examiner, 7th July, 2004.

Rónán Mullen.

President McAleese smiled down as our neighbour lifted the tarantula. He did it so effortlessly.

Two fingers thrust forward surgically, squeezing the spider just enough to grab him but not so tight as to kill. Transferring the creature to a piece of paper. Followed by a graceful removal to the priest´s garden.

It´s great the way the locals are so casual. When my fellow volunteer announced, “er, there´s a rather large spider in here”, the missionary was all reassurance. But when Fr. Liam Hayes put his head around the door, spotting this furry creature about the size of a digestive biscuit, the diagnosis changed somewhat. “Oh, that one could bite you all right. Hold on. I´ll get a neighbour. Don´t kill it. They do a lot of good, you know.”

Fr. Hayes´s idea of “good” is that tarantulas can kill snakes and mosquitoes. Our idea of “good” would involve them leaving the room. Any time now would be good.

During all this drama, President McAleese and her husband Martin radiated benevolence from the photo on the mantlepiece, safe from all danger and discomfort.. I have no doubt that they would have taken that spider in their stride. The President would probably have known that tarantulas are not fatal to humans. I know it too, now.

President McAleese visiting St Teresa's, Hogar Santa Teresita, with Fr Hayes in the background

We are in Oberá, a fairly desolate town in the remote province of Misiones in northern Argentina. There is only one Irishman in this place - Liam Hayes, the Divine Word Missionary priest. He´s been here for 19 years. We´ve come here for a few weeks, to do some voluntary work and to learn a little about life here.

At the human level, there is plenty to notice. Like the priest´s strong east Limerick burr. “Hola Flipper”, he says, as he greets one of the many dogs which inhabit the mission. Flipper is unfortunately troublesome – a beast full of affection but inclined to attack the local hens. He did 17 of them in one week a while back. Fortunately the neighbours are supportive and they mind Flipper while the priest is on his rounds.

Just before the tarantula incident, Fr. Liam took us to evening Mass in one of the parish´s outlying chapels. The earth is red here, and we bumped over about 10 miles of it (these roads are like ice when it rains) before reaching our destination – a red – brick chapel with no windows and doors, a few wooden benches, and a group of families from the barrio.

The parishioners are friendly but poorly dressed. Fr. Liam says a simple Mass and thanks to that Cappamore accent, his Spanish is easier to understand than the local version. He likes to conduct a discussion as part of his homily – getting people´s thoughts and opinions as he analyses that day´s scripture readings. After Mass, we are moved by the middle – aged man who asks if we could help by donating a window or a door to the church. It transpires that Fr. Liam started this brick chapel (a wooden shack – where he once spotted snakes in the roof as he said Mass – stands next door). It seems the fixtures could be got for a few thousand pesos (about 1,000 euro) and the locals could fit them. It is not the first time we are surprised by how much could be done with so little cash.

Last weekend, Fr. Hayes said Mass five times, in some cases in remote chapels miles from the town of Oberá, and baptised a couple of dozen children. He combines traditional faith with social action. There is spiritual reading, reflection in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and simple prayers at the beginning and end of journeys. Since 1993, Fr. Hayes has been running homes for abandoned people in Oberá. He is in charge of the health pastorate for the local diocese of Posadas. He acts as chaplain to the local hospital, where 120 beds are all that caters for a town and hinderland of 60,000 people.

The missionary estqablished the homes after coming face -to-face with disabled people abandoned by their families.

“I began to have sleepless nights thinking about some of the things I saw. Poor people who could not move their hands, unable to shield themselves from swarms of flies and mosquitoes and people left by the roadside”.

One such person was Miguel, affectionately known as Miguelito. He was discovered in sub-human conditions, having been abandoned by his father.

Since all births are registered in Argentina, it was possible in time to discover more. Miguel was 22 and was born with perfect health. His mother died when he was two. After that, he suffered various illnesses and didn´t get proper medical help. Years later, his father returned to plead forgiveness for abandoning him.

“He told me he had walked long distances on mud roads with MIguel on his shoulders only to arrive at the public hospital and receive no medical attention”, says Fr. Hayes. “Sadly this is how the majority of the poorest people are treated”.

Next door to Miguel sleeps Clorinda, who neither speaks, sees or hears and who had been violated by the time she was found. Clorinda is one of the reasons Fr. Hayes wants to put air-conditioning in the homes. “She cries out at night sometimes. We think it is with discomfort at the terrible heat of summertime”.

Most of the residents are utterly helpless, although it is hard to be sure about the extent of their disability. Lorena, who was assisted by an Irish volunteer one night, seems completely unaware, has no movement, and occasionally gives vent to long wails. Yet at the end of the meal she croaked “thank you” in English.

You might think it is impossible to find happiness in such a place but there is laughter from the home´s youngest resident, Joni, who has cerebral palsy, and Maria Inez, a saintly, soft – spoken person with a smile for everyone. There was happiness, too, when President McAleese came to visit Hogar Santa Teresa (the Home of St. Teresa) last March. It was the first visit by a foreign head of state to Oberá and a moment of confirmation for the Irish missionary that his work was appreciated in Ireland. Other visits are memorable for other reasons. Last week, as one of the home´s newer residents, Marcello, was on the brink of death, his mother – quiet by chance – came to see him for the first time in 20 years.

I don´t know what news story is breaking at home as you read this, but the big news here this week is that people continue to suffer, and there don´t seem to be enough Hogar Santa Teresas to go round. But I am glad there are some.

When I started on this post here in Bacolod City, central Philippines, to congratulate Senator Mullen on his re-election to the Senate in Ireland I didn't expect to end up in Argentina! Comhghairdeachas, a Rónáin, agus go soirbhí Dia duit! Heartiest congratulations, Rónán, and Godspeed!

28 April 2011

'He was the natural captain of every team' - the late Fr Nicholas Murray

Fr Nicholas Murray, 1938-2011

In Ireland it is the custom to bring the remains to the church the evening before burial for a service of the word. In cities and towns this usually takes place around 5:30pm or 6pm so that people coming home from work may attend. Most of these would be unable to attend the funeral Mass the following day. The remains are left overnight in the locked church, which must sound very strange to Filipinos. We call this service 'The Removal'. I'm told it is becoming less common now with the wake being continued at home or at a funeral home and the remains being brought directly to the church for the funeral Mass. We rarely if ever have a funeral on Sunday.

It is also the custom in Ireland to hold the funeral within two days, or maybe three, of the death. In the case of Father Nicholas Murray it was four days, since he died on Holy Thursday.

Here are the words spoken by Father Nick's classmate, Fr Gerry French, who is based in Ireland but who worked before in Korea and in Britain, a the removal. I have highlighted parts of it and added [comments].

'I would like to welcome all of Nicholas’ family and friends again to our Columban home in Dalgan Park. [Most of the Irish Columbans studied there, some work there, some are retired there and most Columbans who died in Ireland are buried there. It truly is our home.]

My name is Gerry French, a classmate of Nicholas, it is my privilege to share some reflections and memories with you.

During Nicholas’s struggle this past week to go over to the other side, I thought of Gerald Manley Hopkins, the English Jesuit and poet who often visited Felix Randal in his blacksmith’s forge:

(We) who have watched his mould of man, big-boned and hardy-handsome
Pining, pining, till time when reason rambled in it and some
Fatal four disorders, fleshed there, all contended?

I met the big-boned and hardy-handsome Nick Murray nearly fifty-five years ago here in this building. I remember the very welcoming Columban priest then who said, 'You must be very generous men to come here to prepare for the far east'.

Nick was truly generous from day one. He and his friend Tony O’Dwyer were champion athletes and, unusually for athletes, were great hurlers and footballers too.

In Dalgan we were also encouraged to develop household skills. Nick turned out to be a champion at carpentery, tailoring and hairdressing. For some of us who were all thumbs he was constantly repairing our clothes and replacing our buttons, all laced with terrific humour. Of me, he’d say, 'Gerry has given me a button but expects me to make a jacket!'

I told him that I was from Mayo and he said he was from Ballymacward where his National School [primary school] teacher was from Mayo. [County allegiances are very important in Ireland, especially in competitions in Galeic football and hurling, the two main national sports. Ironically, the 32 counties of Ireland were created by the English!] He had a great influence on Nick. He said that Ballymac was the place that football ended and hurling had not yet really begun. He also said that Ballymac was the last parish in [the Diocese of] Clonfert before [the Archdiocese of] Tuam or [the Diocese of ] Elphin. (Nick and Bishop Kirby would way that Ballymac was the first parish!) That Mayo teacher gave Nick a long life love for Irish music and for sport.

Parish Church, Ballymacward and Gurteen [Wikipedia]

Like the road to Emmaus, journey was woven into Nick’s life. His first journey was to Garbally Park [diocesan secondary school for boys] and then to Dalgan, carrying with him the deep roots of Ballymac where tidy farming and tasty workers abounded. Nick’s room, desk, car and clothes were always immaculate. The years of writing many letters and memos only improved his writing, unlike the rest of us.

He was the oldest of his family and he seemed to have a great relationship and understanding with his father. He brought that understanding of authority forward to very phase of his life. He was the natural captain of every team, [this describes Father Nick perfectly] the natural chairperson of every meeting. He also had a great understanding of people, especially some of who had difficulties with authority figures, whether referees, mentors, parish priests, teachers or deans.

In 1956, Nick was to be captain of the Galway minor team [I'm not sure if this was in Gaelic football or in hurling. 'Minor' means 'under 18' at whatever date the cut-off date is]. The team mentors heard rumour that he had played another sport/code under an assumed name, so he wasn’t picked for the team. [The game referred to is rugby. At the time the Gaelic Athleitc Association or GAA banned its members from playing or watching the 'foreign', ie English, games of soccer, rugby, cricket and hockey. This ban was rooted in recent history.] What a blow to any 18-year-old, but Nick never held it against the poor GAA official, Jack by name. He readily understand the prejudice of an older generation.

Another memory I have of him as a young man was his sustained interest in people. He brought that with him to the Philippines and back: remembering people, relationships, remembering those he had met whether in New York or New Zealand.

He was proud of his sporting achievements, gaining the equivalent of a 'colors cap’ for all Dalgan representative teams. He was hugely disappointed that his rapid improvement at Gaelic didn’t continue. Seán Purcell’s mother was from Ballymac and Seán encouraged Nick to keep at it, for Galway needed a big centre-field man. [Seán Purcell was a great Galway Gaelic footballer who played between 1947 and 1962.] Nick found his rugby prowess was an obstacle to his improvement on the Gaelic pitch.

His disciplined reliability was part of his character – a man who never forgot to reply to a letter of to answer a phone call – even the oppressive heat of the Philippines didn’t take that away from him. He treated the sprawling city of Manila as if it were a little village.

In his middle years, Nick took on mission leadership and church administration in the Philippines and Ireland with extraordinary aplomb, culminating in election as our Superior General for not one but two terms. His generosity, reliability and ease with authority served him and his confreres very well. I remember one of my colleagues saying of his election, 'Nick never thought of himself as superior or inferior to anyone else' - what a beautiful tribute. [As we say in Irish, ‘fear ann féin’, a man at home with himself.]

The older Nick was even better. He enjoyed mission in China. He loved networking there, before physical discomfort brought him home to a wonderful two years in Kilconnell in Clonfert. And more recently, his delving into the mystery of his debilitating ailments when he was just enjoying hands on experiences of pastoral ministry.

Sacred Heart Church, Kilconnell, Diocese of Clonfert

In this more complex segment of his Emmaus journey he was seeing to the full the mystery of suffering. I’m sure his heart is burning within him in the manner that American actor Gregory Peck said at the end of the Columban mission film Path to Glory: He sees it all so clearly the future hidden from his eyes till now. [Path to Glory was a movie made by the Columbans more than 40 years ago telling the story of how Koreans brought the faith to their own country and how they suffered for the faith. Gregory Peck was the voice of Columban Fr Anthony Collier, murdered at the beginning of the Korean War, who was the 'narrator' in the film.]

I still see him mending a hurley.

Hurley and ball, (Irish: Camán agus sliotar)

Of all the young men who came here in 1956 he was the one that changed least and developed most. As the writer Bryan MacMahon [an Irish writer and teacher, 1909-1998] has written:

Beyond this place of time and tide
Beyond this house of woe
There is a bourn in paradise
Where all the hurlers go.

And there in pride their goaling
As they race across the sod
To thrill our dead forefathers
On the level lawns of God.

You can see some photos take at Father Murray's funeral here.

26 April 2011

A true Australian gentleman and Marist Brother who lived joyfully

Brother Columbanus Pratt FMS, 13 December 1924 - 19 February 2011

I learned on Holy Saturday from a friend in Adelaide, Australia, of the recent death of a man I had known and loved for many years, Brother Columbanus Pratt FMS. I have always had the deepest respect for religious brothers, a group whose vocation is not always understood, having been educated for ten years by the (Irish) Christian Brothers in Dublin.

Brother Columbanus - his baptismal names were Neil Richard - had a great devotion to St Columban and knew more about him than most people. On at least one occasion when he was visiting our formation house in Cebu I asked him to share his knowledge with our students. He was also a keen astronomer and spoke to the students about the stars and planets.

In the late 1980s when Brother Columbanus, or 'Brother Col', as he was known, when he was principal of Notre Dame School, Shepparton, Victoria, he brought small groups of students to the Philippines after Christmas, during the long vacation in Australian schools, where the academic year runs from Feburary to November. They attended classes in Notre Dame de Marbel in Mindanao where Brother Col had worked from 1980 till 1987 when he went to Shepparton.

A eulogy by Brother Julian Casey FSM,  Provincial of the Melbourne Province of the Marist Brothers, gives one side of Brother Col:

He didn’t have much of 'a bedside manner' with students. He expected them to pull their socks up, to behave themselves, to study and work hard. The schools Col led were well ordered and organised. His assemblies were well planned, and had an almost military precision about them. At times, he would even refer to them as 'addressing the troops'. But he would encourage the student group, indicate what he was delighted with, challenge them and sometimes correct them. The externals of the school - prayer, attendance at Mass, equipment, grounds, student uniform and behaviour - were of high importance. He would brook no deviation from the standards he set. Unruly students, untidy groups, teachers not wearing a tie, careless bus-drivers and latecomers were all the subject of his censure and nobody could issue a reprimand like Col could. Not even the Brothers were exempt from his exacting ways and, from time to time, his disapproval.

I didn't see this side of Brother Col, at least not directly. The students from Shepparton whom he brought to the Philippines spent a few days at our formation house in Cebu and I saw there the great love he had not only for the students but for their parents. I saw his great pride in them and his desire that they would fulfill their potential. I visited Australia after Easter 1990 and Brother Columbanus drove to our house in Essendon, near Melbourne, to take me to Shepparton for a few days. There he took me to the homes of the students who had stayed with us in Cebu.

Brother Julian noted about Brother Col's first assignment in the Philippines: Filipino students responded so positively and in a way unlike Australian students. This brought the best out in Col: he taught with more energy; he cared for those from poor families and organised financial assistance for those who struggled. Enough, you might say. But, in fact, with up to 3000 students to choose from, Col could not resist indulging his passion for singing by starting up a choral group, the Tambuli Singers. He had them singing at public events throughout the area.

As it happens, I have two friends who were members of the Tambuli Singers and I know the love and affection with which they remember Brother Col and I know how deeply he respected and admired them. One, Asteria Pocon, lives in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, where I was parish priest from 1993 to 1994. He spent a few days with me there while on a visit to the Philippines and we had dinner with Asteria's family, all of whom are Methodists. The other mutual friend is now Sr Mary Anthony MC, a member of the contemplative branch of the Missionaries of Charity.

Brother Col was to return to the Philippines some years later as Dean of Students at the Marist Asian Center where young Marist Brothers from all over the Pacific Region continue their studies and formation. Another great friend with whom I had studied in Toronto in 1981-82, the late Brother Luke Pearson FMS, an American of Scottish and Irish parentage, had also spent some time there.

The last time Brother Col and I met was five or six years ago in Cebu City when he stayed for a few days at our house and I flew over to be with him. We had many cups of coffee, chats about cricket and religious life and many other things.

I had great affection for Brother Col. To me he was a fatherly figure. His outstanding characteristics for me were the joyful way he lived his life as a religious brother and his great love for our Blessed Mother. Brother Julian spoke of the influence of the Filipino people on Brother Col's spirituality and how he expressed his love for Mary: The affective Filipino culture helped Col to recognise and express more of what he felt: matters of the heart. It was a wonderful gift to him, attested to in his correspondence. His devotion to Mary was enlivened by his contact with the Filipino people, uninhibited and exuberant in their devotion. It touched his heart, affirmed him and he brought back to Australia a confident and explicit devotion to Mary and a positive means of expressing this. This was particularly noticeable on his return to principalship at Notre Dame in Shepparton.

Brother Columbanus was a true Australian gentleman who never lost his zeal as a Marist Brother. May he rest in peace.

25 April 2011


Anzac Day Dawn Service, King's Park, Western Australia, 25 April 2009

The Columbans arrived in Australia in 1919 and in New Zealand two years later. Our arrival in those two countries was only a few years after the event in the Great War, World War I, that had a huge impact on their people of European origin, mainly British and Irish at the time, the landing in Gallipoli, Turkey, on 25 April 1915. Many of my confreres are from these two countries and because of that, their history is part of mine.

I paid my first visit to Australia just after Easter 1990. I was there for the 75th anniversary of the landing of the first members of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, the 'Anzacs', in Gallipoli. That particular anniversary generated new interest in this event. The Australian government flew a group of Gallipoli veterans, some of them aged more than 100, to Gallipoli to mark the event. Since then many young Australians have been going there for the anniversary ceremonies.

The landing at Anzac Cove, painting by George Lambert

On one TV discussion while I was there a participant pointed out that the iconic symbol of the Great War and Gallipoli for Australians wasn't one of soldiers killing or being killed, but of one saving lives: Private John Simpson, a stretcher-bearer, born in England, who was with the first group that landed, and his donkey, which he 'recruited' in Gallipoli and which acquired the name 'Duffy'. He had worked with donkeys as a youth during summers in England.

Private Simpson, centre, with his donkey and a wounded soldier (a Turk?)

John Simpson died on 15 May from machine gun fire, less than a month after he had arrived. He was 22. He quickly became a legend In Australia and his exploits were somewhat exaggerated, rather like some of the legends about the Church's martyrs. But there's no doubt about his bravery and that he saved many men.

Australian director Peter Weir's 1981 Gallipoli is one of the most memorable and moving films I have ever seen. It is built around the friendship of two young runners, Archy Hamilton, played by Mark Lee, and Frank Dunne, played by Mel Gibson. They meet as rivals in a 100-yard sprint but quickly become close friends or 'mates' and acquire more mates when they enlist in the army. Part of the movie's power is the detail paid to characters with small parts, every one a real human being, some attractive, some not.

Another is the wonderful use of music, especially of the Adagio in G minor by Venetian composer Tomaso Giovanni Albinoni (1671-1751). It is used with poignant effect at the end of the movie, with Frank  running back from the general to tell the major in charge of the group to which he and Archy belong that he was 're-considering the whole situation', ie, that he didn't want to have the soldiers go 'over the top' just yet. However, before he can reach the major a colonel has ordered that the soldiers go into attack immediately. The ending is unbearably sad,  the realisation of Frank that he is too late and his friend Archy going to his death.

The scenes in the trench before the soldiers go 'over the top' show their fear and their bravery. It shows them writing final letters, sharing a last cigarette and one praying the rosary. Archy recalls the words of his coach, his uncle. Here is that final scene.

Here is a beautiful video of Albinoni's Adagio played by the Franz Lizst Chamber Orchestra and recorded in Pannonhalma Archabbey, Hungary:

Eric Bogle, a Scottish singer-songwriter, wrote And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda in 1971, two years after he emigrated to Australia. The interpretation of Irish singer Liam Clancy is the best I have heard. War is not glorious for those who are maimed for life.

This year ANZAC Day falls on Easter Monday, but this song is more of a Good Friday one, recalling the words of Isaiah read on that day: He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;  and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

23 April 2011

Easter Sunday. Resurrexit, sicut dixit. He is risen as he said, Alleluia

Resurrection (after 1665), Luca Giordano

Readings for the Mass of Easter Day (New American Bible, Philippines, USA)

Gospel John 20:1-9 (RSV-Catholic Version)

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; or as yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

AN SOISCÉAL Eoin 20:1-9 (An Bíobla Naofa) [Irish]

An chéad lá den tseachtain tháinig Máire Mhaigdiléana go moch, agus an dorchadas fós ann, chun an tuama agus chonaic sí an líog aistrithe ón tuama. Rith sí ansin agus tháinig sí go dtí Síomón Peadar agus go dtí an deisceabal úd eile ab ionúin le Íosa. “Thog siad an Tiarna as an tuama,” ar sí leo, “agus níl a fhios againn cár chuir siad é.”

Amach le Peadar agus leis an deisceabal eile ansin agus chuaigh siad chun an tuama. Chrom siad a mbeirt ar rith in éineacht agus rith an deisceabal eile níos luaithe ná Peadar agus is é is túisce a tháinig go dtí an tuama. Nuair a chrom sé síos chonaic sé na línéadaí ina luí ansiúd, ach ní dheachaigh sé isteach. Ansin tháinig Síomón Peadar ina dhiaidh agus chuaigh sé isteach sa tuama, agus chonaic sé na línéadaí agus an brat a bhí ar a cheann – ní i dteannta na línéadaí a bhí sé, ach fillte in aon áit amháin leis féin. Ansin. an deisceabal eile, a tháinig ar dtús chun an tuama, chuaigh sé isteach agus chonaic agus chreid sé. Óir níor thuig siad go fóill an scrioptúr nárbh fholáir é a aiséirí ó mhairbh.


One Foot in Eden

by Edwin Muir

Edwin Muir was from the Orkney Islands, Scotland. This poem, like The Killing, which I included in the Reflections for Good Friday,  is in The Divine Office, approved for use by the bishops of Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, Scotland.

One foot in Eden still, I stand
And look across the other land.
The world's great day is growing late,
Yet strange these fields that we have planted
So long with crops of love and hate.
Time's handiworks by time are haunted,
And nothing now can separate
The corn and tares compactly grown.
The armorial weed in stillness bound
About the stalk; these are our own.
Evil and good stand thick around
In fields of charity and sin
Where we shall lead our harvest in.

Yet still from Eden springs the root
As clean as on the starting day.
Time takes the foliage and the fruit
And burns the archetypal leaf
To shapes of terror and of grief
Scattered along the winter way.
But famished field and blackened tree
Bear flowers in Eden never known.
Blossoms of grief and charity
Bloom in these darkened fields alone.
What had Eden ever to say
Of hope and faith and pity and love
Until was buried all its day
And memory found its treasure trove?
Strange blessings never in Paradise
Fall from these beclouded skies.

Regina Coeli, which replaces the Angelus during the Easter Season

Regina cæli lætare, Alleluia;
Quia quem meruisti portare, Alleluia;
Resurrexit, sicut dixit, Alleluia:
Ora pro nobis Deum, Alleluia.

Queen of Heaven rejoice, Alleluia;
For the Son thou wast privileged to bear, Alleluia;
is risen as He said, Alleluia:
Pray for us to God, Alleluia.

A setting of Regina Coeli by Mozart, featuring the Vienna Boys' Choir

Death of former Columban Superior General, Fr Nicholas Murray

Please pray for the soul of Fr Nicholas Murray who worked in the Philippines for many years and died on Holy Thursday, eleven days after his 73rd birthday.  

St Columban's, Dalgan Park, where Fr Murray spent seven years as a seminarian and where he was living when he died.

Fr Nicholas Francis Murray (1938 - 2011)

Below is an obituary sent from Ireland. I knew Father Nick very well as the late superior general was in his sixth of seven years in the seminary when I entered in 1961. In 1983, when Father Nick was Regional Director of the Columbans in the Philippines, he asked me to be the first vocation director. The General Chapter of the Columbans in 1982 made the decision to invite young men from the countries where we served to join us. In 1984 Fr Bernard Cleary, an Australian, the Superior General at the time, appointed me, on the recommendation of Father Murray and his council, as director of the first group of young men to join the new Columban formation program in Cebu. Most were first year college students. I had to look for a house in Cebu but when Father Nick came down to help he found a suitable house within hours, through a friend he had there.

He was a very practical man, in a gracious and friendly way. He got things done and he got people working together. Not long after the Cebu programme started he and his council arranged for a long weekend meeting in Cebu with elected delegates from the Columbans in the different areas to discuss its future and to plan for it.

On the playing fields in the seminary Nick Murray, a big man in every sense of the word, played hard and played fair. As far as I can recall, he played hurling for his native County Galway, a great honour.

Above all, Father Nick was a missionary priest. For me he embodied all that is best in the Irish priest. He was prayerful, he was full of energy, he was focused and he was encouraging to those around him. He was able to make tough decisions and to take responsibility for them. He was a person you could trust your life with.

Nicholas (‘Nick’) Murray was born on 11 April 1938, in Ballymacward, County Galway, Ireland. He studied at Esker National School and St Joseph’s, Garbally Park, Ballinasloe, before going to St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, Navan, in September 1956. He was ordained priest on 21 December 1962. A natural athlete, he excelled at hurling, football and rugby during his days in Garbally and later in Dalgan.

Assigned to the Philippines in 1963, he spent the next twenty-two years working in some Luzon parishes, and later as Chaplain and Director of Student Catholic Action in the Archdiocese of Manila. His leadership skills and his capacity for administration were soon noted and he served in succession as a member of the Director’s Council in the Philippines, as District Superior of Luzon, as Vice-Director, and as Director of the Philippine Region 1981-1985. He was in office during the 'Negros Nine' case.

Assigned back to Ireland in 1985, he spent two years fostering vocations and was then appointed Director of the Irish Region. At the Society’s General Chapter in 1988, he was elected Superior General. He served for six years, and was then re-elected for a further term in 1994, something that had not happened since the early years of the Society. A man of great integrity, a hard worker, one who related easily with fellow-Columbans and others, Father Nick was never happier than when visiting the members in mission regions. In an era of great change, he brought stability, purpose, good humour and boundless energy to every task.

In 2000, after a brief sabbatical, he asked to be assigned to China. He completed a course in teaching English as a second language, and under the auspices of AITECE, was assigned for two years to Sichuan International Studies University in Chongqing. He made a big impression on his students and later described this work as 'an eminently worthwhile ministry'. In 2005 he spent some time helping out in his native Diocese of Clonfert. In 2008 he was diagnosed with a form of leukaemia. Over he past three years, as he endured all sorts of therapy and treatment, he used whatever energy he could muster to serve as bursar in Dalgan. He fought the good fight and did not complain. He died in St Francis Hospice, Raheny, on 21 April, Holy Thursday. May he rest in peace.

22 April 2011

Holy Saturday. 'They took the body of Jesus . . .'

John 19:38-42 (RSV-Catholic Edition)

These are the closing words of the Passion according to St John read on Good Friday.

After this Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him leave. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who had at first come to him by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds' weight. They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. 

Eoin 19:38-42 (An Bíobla Naofa) [Irish]

An chuid deireannach de Pháis ár dTiarna Íosa de réir Naoimh Eoin a léadh ar Aoine an Chéasta.

Ina dhiaidh sin d’iarr Iósaef ó Airiomatáia cead ar Phioláit – ba dheisceabal d’Íosa é; os íseal, áfach, ar eagla na nGiúdach – corp Íosa a bhreith leis, agus thug Pioláit an cead.Tháinig sé mar sin agus thóg sé an corp. Níocodaemas freisin – é siúd a tháinig san oíche chuige ar dtús – tháinig sé agus meascán miorra agus aló aige, timpeall céad punt meáchain. Thóg siad corp Íosa dá bhrí sin agus rinne siad é a chuachadh i línéadaí maille le spíosraí, de réir nós adhlactha na nGiúdach. San áit inar céasadh Íosa bhí gairdín, agus sa ghairdín sin bhí tuama nua nár cuireadh aon duine ann riamh roimhe. Is ansiúd a chuir siad Íosa, de bhrí gurbh é lá ullmhaithe na nGiúdach é, agus ó bhí an tuama in aice láimhe.

The Trinity, 1577, El Greco
El Greco's two paintings show two different dimensions of the death of Jesus. The first is one we are familiar with, the sorrow of Mary as she lets go of her son. There is a peacefulness about the body of Jesus, now beyong all suffering. Yet he still seems to be embracing the two who are trying to carry him - St John on the right? Mary's mantle seems to be embracing all three. Behind Mary is a dark cloud but behind the three crosses is a brighter sky, offering the hope of the Resurrection.

But in The Trinity El Greco depicts something I hadn't seen depicted or explicitly spoken about before - the Father and the Holy Spirit accepting the dead body of Jesus, God the Son who became Man and whose sacrifice of his will totally to that of the Father has won for us eternal life. This is the most precious of all gifts, but one we have to freely accept. The faces of the angels express what we feel when confronted with death, especially the violent death of a young person.

El Greco painted The Trinity the year after he finished the Pietà above. He surely had the latter very much in mind when he painted it. In embracing his Son's body the Father is embracing us all because the death of Jesus has made it possible for him to welcome us too when we die. The golden light behind the Holy Spirit hints at both Easter and Pentecost.

Today is a strange day liturgically. There are no celebrations of any kind held in the church. We wait until after nightfall to celebrate the greatest of all liturgies, the Easter Vigil.

Today is, perhaps, like a wake, even though Jesus has already been buried. I find it difficult to enter into because the world around continues normally. Here in the Philippines everything closes down on Good Friday but everything opens again on Holy Saturday and there isn't really any great air of mourning around. In Ireland, where I'm from, these days have become simply part of a long weekend holiday early in spring. Nothing more. Indeed for many in the Philippines, especially those who have some money, these too are days of holiday - going to Hong Kong to shop and relax or going to places such as Boracay island to enjoy themselves at the beach.

Yet we know that Easter is about to break forth and I know that I anticipate the joy of that.

Lamentations for Holy Saturday, Palestrina (1525 or 26 - 1594)

Prayer from the Divine Office for Holy Saturday

Almighty, ever-living God,
whose Only-begotten Son descended to the realm of the dead,
and rose from there to glory,
grant that your faithful people,
who were buried with him in baptism,
may, by his resurrection, obtain eternal life.

We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Good Friday. 'Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows'

The Disrobing of Jesus (El Espolio), El Greco, painted 1577-79

Readings (New American Bible, Philippines and USA)

First Reading. Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (RSV Catholic Edition)

Behold, my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. As many were astonished at him - his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men - so shall he startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they shall see, and that which they have not heard they shall understand.

Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;  and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

AN CHÉAD LÉACHT Íseáia 52:13-53:12 (Bíobla Mhaigh Nuad ) [Irish language]

Is amhlaidh a bheidh rath ar mo Ghiolla, gheobhaidh sé gradam agus céimíocht agus oirearcas thar cuimse.

Mar a bhí scéin trath ar na sluaite ar a fheiceáil, (bhí sé chomh loite sin ina chuma – ní raibh cruth duine dhaonna air níos mó) is amhlaidh fós a bheidh alltacht ar an iomad ciníocha; fágfar ríthe ina mbalbháin os a chomhair. Óir feicfidh siad rud nach raibh insint scéil air agus breathnóidh siad rud nár chualathas a leithéid riamh: “Cé a chreidfeadh an scéal is clos dúinn, agus neart an Tiarna, cé dó a nochtadh é?”

Amhail bachlóg is ea a d’fhás sé os ár gcomhair a mbeadh a fréamh i dtalamh tirim. Níl cruth ná cumthacht air, dá bhfaca sinne ná scéimh ar bith go mbeadh dúil againn ann; ach é ina dhíol tarcaisne agus tréigthe ag daoine, fear pianta agus seanaithne ag an mbreoiteacht air; a ndála siúd a gclúdaímid ar n-aighthe ina bhfianaise, ba tháir agus ba tharcaisne linn é.

Ní hea! ach ár mbreoiteachtaí a bhí sé a iompar agus ár bpianta, ba iad a thromualach. Sinne, áfach, dar linn gur milleadh é, gur leag Dia lámh air agus go raibh sé cloíte.

Goineadh é as ucht ár gcoireanna, bascadh é as ucht ár gcionta. Airsean a cuireadh an pionós a thug sláinte dúinn agus trína fhearbacha tháinig cneasú orainne.

Sinn uile, amhail caoirigh, bhíomar ar seachrán, gach aon ag dul a bhealach féin. Agus d’aifir an Tiarna airsean ár gcionta go léir.

Fuair sé ainíde agus rinne sé beag de féin, agus níor oscail sé a bhéal. Mar a bheadh uan á chinnireacht chuig an seamlas, mar bheadh caora ina tost os comhair lucht a lomtha, níor oscail sé a bhéal.

Le barr éigin agus le breithiúnas tugadh ar shiúl é; cé atá buartha faoina chríoch? Sea! Teascadh é as tír na mbeo; as ucht ár gcoireanna a ciorraíodh é.

Tugadh uaigh dó i measc na gcoirpeach agus tuama i gcuideachta na saibhre, cé nach ndearna sé éagóir ar aon duine agus nach raibh cluain ná cealg ina bhéal.

Ba thoil leis an Tiarna é a bhascadh le breoiteacht. Má thugann sé a anam in éiric an pheaca, feicfidh sé a shliocht, cuirfidh sé fad lena shaol, agus rachaidh toil an Tiarna chun cinn ina lámha.

“Tar éis saothar a anama, feicfidh sé an solas agus beidh sásamh air. Lena phianta déanfaidh mo ghiolla fíréin de na sluaite, á luchtú féin le hualach a gcionta. Is é sin an fáth a ndáilfidh mé na sluaite air agus roinnfidh sé an chreach leis na tréana, cionnas gur scaoil sé a anam leis an mbás agus gur áiríodh é ar líon na bpeacach, cé go raibh coireanna na sluaite ar iompar aige agus é ag déanamh eadrána ar son na bpeacach.”

Good Friday Reflection by Fr Thomas Rosica CSB, Toronto
The Killing by Edwin Muir (1887-1959)
Edwin Muir was from the Orkney Islands, Scotland. This poem is in The Divine Office, approved for use by the bishops of Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, Scotland.

That was the day they killed the Son of God
On a squat hill-top by Jerusalem.
Zion was bare, her children from their maze
Sucked by the dream of curiosity
Clean through the gates. The very halt and blind
Had somehow got themselves up to the hill.

After the ceremonial preparation,
The scourging, nailing, nailing against the wood,
Erection of the main-trees with their burden,
While from the hill rose an orchestral wailing,
They were there at last, high up in the soft spring day.
We watched the writhings, heard the moanings, saw
The three heads turning on their separate axles
Like broken wheels left spinning. Round his head
Was loosely bound a crown of plaited thorn
That hurt at random, stinging temple and brow
As the pain swung into its envious circle.
In front the wreath was gathered in a knot
That as he gazed looked like the last stump left
Of a death-wounded deer's great antlers. Some
Who came to stare grew silent as they looked,
Indignant or sorry. But the hardened old
And the hard-hearted young, although at odds
From the first morning, cursed him with one curse,
Having prayed for a Rabbi or an armed Messiah
And found the Son of God. What use to them
Was a God or a Son of God? Of what avail
For purposes such as theirs? Beside the cross-foot,
Alone, four women stood and did not move
All day. The sun revolved, the shadows wheeled,
The evening fell. His head lay on his breast,
But in his breast they watched his heart move on
By itself alone, accomplishing its journey.
Their taunts grew louder, sharpened by the knowledge
That he was walking in the park of death,
Far from their rage. Yet all grew stale at last,
Spite, curiosity, envy, hate itself.
They waited only for death and death was slow
And came so quietly they scarce could mark it.
They were angry then with death and death's deceit.

I was a stranger, could not read these people
Or this outlandish deity. Did a God
Indeed in dying cross my life that day
By chance, he on his road and I on mine?

The beginning of The St John Passion by Johann Sebastian Bach, conducted by Masaaki Suzuki with the Bach Collegium Japan.

Pray for the people of Japan, many of whom are still going through their own Good Friday, that they will come to know our Lord Jesus Christ.

21 April 2011

Holy Thursday. 'For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.'

Christ Washing the Feet of His Disciples (detail), Tintoretto, c,1547

Readings for the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel (John 13:1-15. RSV-Catholic Edition)

Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, "Lord, do you wash my feet?" Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand." Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not every one of you." For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, "You are not all clean." When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

AN SOISCÉAL (Eoin 13:1-15. Bíobla Mhaigh Nuad ) [Irish language]

Roimh fhéile na Cásca, ó bhí a fhios ag Íosa go raibh a uair tagtha chun imeacht as an saol seo go dtí an tAthair, agus ó thug sé grá dá mhuintir féin a bhí ar an saol, thug sé grá thar na bearta dóibh feasta.

Le linn an tsuipéir agus tar éis don diabhal a chur ina chroí ag Iúdás, mac Shíomóin Isceiriót, go mbraithfeadh sé é – ó bhí a fhios ag Íosa go raibh gach uile ní tugtha isteach ina lámha dó, ag an Athair, agus gur ó Dhia a ghabh sé amach, agus gur ar Dhia a bhí a thriall, d’éirigh sé ón suipéar, agus leag sé uaidh a chuid éadaigh, agus cheangail sé tuáille faoina choim. Ansin chuir sé uisce sa bháisín agus thosaigh ag ní cosa na ndeisceabal agus á dtiormú leis an tuáille a bhí faoina choim.

Tháinig sé chomh fada le Síomón Peadar agus dúirt seisean leis: “Tusa a ní mo chos-sa, a Thiarna!” D’fhreagair Íosa é: “Ní fios duit anois cad tá ar siúl agam,” ar sé leis, “ach tuigfidh tú ar ball é.” Dúirt Peadar leis: “Ní nífidh tú mo chosa-sa choíche!” D’fhreagair Íosa é: “Mura ndéanfaidh mé thú a ní, ní bheidh aon chuid agat díom.” Dúirt Síomón Peadar leis: “A Thiarna, ní amháin mo chosa, ach nigh fós mo lámha agus mo cheann!” Dúirt Íosa leis: “Duine tar éis a fholctha, ní gá dó a ní [ach a chosa]; tá sé glan go hiomlán. Agus tá sibhse glan, ach níl gach duine agaibh glan.” Mar bhí a fhios aige cé a bhí chun é bhrath; sin é an fáth a ndúirt sé: “Níl gach duine agaibh glan.”

Ansin, tar éis dó a gcosa a ní, agus a chuid éadaigh a chur air, shuigh sé chun boird arís agus dúirt sé leo: “An dtuigeann sibh cad tá déanta agam daoibh? Deir sibh: ‘A Mháistir’ liom agus ‘A Thiarna’, agus is le ceart é, óir is mé sin. Má rinne mise bhur gcosa a ní agus gur mé bhur dTiarna agus bhur Máistir, ba chóir daoibhse chomh maith cosa a chéile a ní. Tá sampla tugtha agam daoibh, faoi mar atá déanta agam daoibhse, go ndéanfadh sibhse mar an gcéanna.


When I see Jesus washing the feet of the apostles, done on the occasion of his instituting the Holy Eucharist, the Mass, I think of Marilyn, one of those who attends my weekday Masses and whose husband Ramonito was incapacitated by a stroke nearly two years ago, and of the loving care she shows him every day although he cannot respond.

I remember my late father who, before he went to work on building sites each day went to early Mass and then came home to prepare my mother's breakfast and bring it to her in bed.

I think of the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of the Holy Family who welcome young girls who have been traumatized to Holy Family Home here in Bacolod City. I think of the girls themselves, with whom I celebrate Mass most Sundays, and how they welcome a newcomer and stay with a girl full of anger and maybe despair until she begins to see the hope that Jesus offers.

I think of Columban Father Tony Kelly whose obituary I posted here the other day and what the writer said about him: 'in his typical quiet, unobtrusive fashion, provided many small but essential services for his fellow-Columbans in the Retirement Home'.
I think of the Columban priests, and many others, who were jailed in China after the Communist takeover in 1949 before being expelled, celebrating Mass secretly in their cells with the minimum of ceremony but certain that when they said 'This is my body . . . this is my blood', the bread and wine became the Body and Blood of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Fr Thomas Rosica CSB, Toronto, on Holy Thursday

20 April 2011

Support Irish Senator Rónán Mullen

Senator Rónán Mullen at the Council of Europe April 2010

I've never used my position as a priest to influence people on how they should vote. In private conversation with friends, yes, I've often shared my views on political positions and on politicians. I'm making a kind of exception here. And this is a personal blog where I represent nobody but myself, though I hope that no matter what I write about it brings people closer to our Lord Jesus Christ and that I am faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The Irish Senate, Seanad Éireann [SHANad AIRun], unlike the senates of the Philippines of or the USA, has little power and only six of the 60 senators are elected by a large number of people. Eleven are nominated by the Taoiseach [TEEshock] (Prime Minister), 43 by supposedly vocational panels, eg, Agricultural, Labour, which consist of elected members of county and city councils, most of whom belong to political parties.

However, six graduates of our two older universities, three from Dublin University (Trinity College) and three from the National University of Ireland (NUI), are elected by their fellow graduates. The university senators are usually independents, though not always so, unlike those elected by the panels who are often people who have lost their seats in the elections for the Dáil [DHAWil] (parliament) or promising young politicians being groomed by their parties for the next Dáil election.

Rónán Mullen, whom I met before he was elected in 2007 and with whom I had been in email correspondence before that, is a truly independent voice, steeped in the social teaching of the Catholic Church and not afraid to speak out, despite the hostility he sometimes meets. As a senator he has been active in highlighting the plight of trafficked women, the needs of those who are dying, the dignity of the life of every human being from the moment of conception and so on. He has highlighted these issues also at European level.

Some, including the new Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, want the Seanad abolished while others want it reformed so that it can play a bigger role in Irish life instead of being a powerless talking-shop, as many see it to be.

There are, I think, 27 candidates running for the three NUI seats. The system of voting is the single transferable vote where you put No 1 after the name of your top candidate, No 2 after your second, and so on as far down as you wish to go. There's a complicated system of transfers with the purpose of ensuring a balanced reflection of the will of the total electorate.

As I'm not a graduate of the NUI, I can't vote for Rónán Mullen. But I truly believe that at a time of great social change in Ireland, at a time when the bishops have lost most of their moral influence, the voice of authentic Christian values needs to be heard from articulate lay people assuming their proper role in public life, as Vatican II challenged them to do. Rónán Mullen doesn't represent the Catholic Church in the Seanad. He represents the graduates of the NUI. But he is absolutely clear about what he stands for and his principles aren't determined by the opinions of those who vote for him.

You can find out about Rónán's policies and record on his website.

If you have friends who are graduates of the NUI encourage them to give Rónán their No 1 preference and to make sure that their ballot papers will be in by 27 April. Meanwhile we can all pray that he will be re-elected and continue to be a truly independent voice in the Irish legislature.

Here's Rónán's campaign video: