29 June 2011

A Columban ordination on the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul

Saints Peter and Paul, El Greco, painted 1605-08

Earlier today I attended the ordination of Columban Fr Rodolfo Christopher Kaamiño IV in Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Ozamiz City. The ordaining prelate was Archbishop Jesus A. Dosado CM of the Archdiocese of Ozamiz. As a deacon Father Chris was working in Malate Parish, Manila, which the Columbans have been taking care of since we came to the Philippines in 1929. He will continue to work there as a priest for some months before receiving an overseas assignment. He spent two years in Taiwan as a seminarian on his First Mission Assignment.

Among the five Irish Columbans in Malate killed by the Japanese in February 1945 during the Battle of Manila, when around 100,000 died, mostly civilians, was Fr Peter Fallon, the first Columban parish priest of what then was the town of Misamis, now Ozamiz City, when we came to Mindanao in 1948. The first bishop of the Prelature of Ozamiz, set up in 1951, was Columban Bishop Patrick Cronin, later Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro.

Photos from website of Cathedral Parish

Among the many priests who concelebrated was Columban Fr Desmond Morrison from Derry, Northern Ireland, an engineer by profession, who designed the Cathedral, built in the late 1950s or early 1960s. (Right now I can't find the exact date).

Today, the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, is also the 93rd anniversary of the canonical establishment of the Missionary Society of St Columban in the Diocese of Galway, Ireland. It late became a society of pontifical right, meaning it wasn't under the jurisdiction of an individual bishop.

In the January-February 2011 issue of Misyon I published an article by Father Chris on his experience in Taiwan as a seminarian, ‘Come after me and I will make you fishers of men’ (Mark 1:17). He describes directly and with humour what he was doing. I tried to find a more 'polite' way of describing this, but couldn't. I'll let the newly ordained priest speak for himself and I know that you'll keep him in your prayers.

‘Come after me and I will make you fishers of men’ (Mark 1:17)

By Rodolfo Christopher Kaamiño IV

The author, from Ozamiz City, was ordained deacon in Malate Church, Manila, on 12 December and priest in Ozamiz Cathedral 29 June 2011. He writes here about his experience as a Columban seminarian on First Mission Assignment in Taiwan.

Father Rodolfo Christopher Kaamiño IV

Friends ask me what I’m doing here in Taiwan. Half-jokingly, ‘Washing asses’ is my frequent reply, and they laugh, thinking I might be joking or that I mean something else. Here is somebody who has studied for four years in graduate school in the USA now washing other people’s asses. It led me to wonder what’s ‘wrong’ with this, probably because it’s a ‘dirty’ job, or because it’s not a ‘classy job’, a ‘sophisticated profession’ such as engineering or accountancy. A friend asked me why I’m doing this. I told him I don’t do it on my own, or else I would have quit a long time ago. I have some help from above.

After being in Taiwan for almost two years, I felt I was an ‘amateur in every field and professional in none’. Probably that's what being a missionary is all about. Being in the ministry for several months now, I feel that I don’t have to be a professional or a rocket scientist to be a minister. I arrived here with ‘professional ideas and concepts’ about mission and ministry learned in school. In ministry here at AiJia these don’t matter much. Mentally challenged adults don’t necessarily need a professional. They need a human companion, somebody who can ‘waste’ time with them.

The ministry at AiJia, of course, also requires professional nursing and care-giving and I learned both on the job. Probably it was my willingness and openness that enabled me to also take on those roles. It wasn’t easy. Being an adult, I don’t want to be told what to do. Yet being a ‘tongue-tied’ foreigner, I depended much on others in the ministry. In AiJia a professional nurse, caregiver or social worker may efficiently take care of the physical needs of mentally challenged adults but not necessarily of their human needs. It has been my continuous struggle in the ministry to provide the people here with professional care and at the same time to be a human companion to them.

Most of the first followers of Jesus knew only of one trade, and that was to fish. These disciples could have remained professional fishermen and serve the hunger of the people by providing them with fish. But Jesus invited them to a whole new level of fishing, to ‘fish’ for people, a whole new field beyond their professional expertise. It required less of their professional skills but more of their hearts and minds. A tall order, but they were willing and trusting. Despite their being slow to understand, Jesus patiently journeyed with them as they continued ‘fishing’ for people.

Like the first disciples, I too am slow to understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Yet I continue this journey in trust and with help from above. We missionaries try to put some flesh on God’s love in this world. Each does it in different ways depending upon the different gifts each has been given. One can be a professional when the situation calls for such. But most of the time, people need a human companion, somebody who is willing to go the extra mile with them.

You can find the Father Chris on Facebook.

23 June 2011

'I am the living bread . . .' Sunday Reflections. Corpus Christi, 26 June 2011

El Greco, Altarpiece, 1597-99

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

Gospel John 6:51-58 (Jerusalem Bible, used in Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, Scotland)

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’
Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

Soiscéal Eoin 6:51-58 (Gaeilge, Irish)

San am sin dúirt Íosa leis na sluaite:

Is mise an t-arán beo
a tháinig anuas ó neamh.
Má itheann duine an t-arán seo
mairfidh sé go deo, agus an t-arán a thabharfaidh mé uaim
is é m’fheoil é [a thabharfar] ar son bheatha an domhain.”
Bhí na Giúdaigh ansin ag aighneas le chéile á rá: “Conas is féidir don duine seo a fheoil
a thabhairt dúinn le hithe?”

Dúirt Íosa leo:

“Amen, Amen, a deirim libh,
mura n-íosfaidh sibh feoil Mhac an Duine,
agus a chuid fola a ól,
ní bheidh beatha agaibh ionaibh.
An té a itheann m’fheoil
agus a olann m’fhuil,
tá an bheatha shíoraí aige,
agus tógfaidh mé suas é an lá deireanach.
Is bia go fíor mo chuid feola
agus is deoch go fíor mo chuid fola.
An té a itheann m’fheoil agus a ólann m’fhuil
cónaíonn sé ionamsa agus cónaímse ann.
Amhail mar a chuir an tAthair beo mise uaidh,
agus mar is beo mise tríd an Athair,
mar an gcéanna, an té a itheann mise,
mairfidh sé tríom.
Is é seo an t-arán a tháinig anuas ó neamh.
Ní ionann is an manna ar ith bhur n-aithreacha é
agus go bhfuil siad marbh;
an té a itheann an t-arán seo,
mairfidh sé go deo.”


May I ask your prayers for myself and the four Columban seminarians to whom I am giving a retreat in Manila at the moment, 22-27 June, Tavite and Pat from Fiji and Adonis and Reggie from the Philippines.

Early in 1994 when I was parish priest in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, on the east coast of Mindanao, one of the volunteer catechists came and told me that her father was asking for 'the Bread of Life'. I learned that he had three families - he had been widowed twice - and children of this three wives, along with some of his grandchildren were in the house when I went to bring him the last sacraments.

He was fully alert and after I heard his confession he participated joyfully in the celebration of the sacrament of the sick and when he received Holy Communion. At the end of the ceremony I asked the members of his family who were nearest to him to place their hands on him. My idea was that they would pray for him individually. However, the dying man did something far more beautiful. He took one of his grandchildren, a babe in arms, and embraced the child. He then embraced each member of the family in turn.

It is not the practice in the Philippines to offer the priest something to eat when he makes a sick call but on this occasion the family had prepared a snack. There was such a palpable joy in the house that I felt it right and proper to eat.

The following morning the catechist came to tell me that her father had died.

This man understood the meaning of today's gospel and of today's feast, called now in English the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, though Corpus Christi is still the most common name. I think that all predominantly English-speaking countries have now transferred the feast from Thursday to the following Sunday.

Pope Urban IV asked St Thomas Aquinas to compose the sequence sung at Mass today, Lauda Sion Salvatorem. The hymn gives very clearly the teaching of the Church on the Eucharist. Here is one example:

Dogma datur Christiánis,
Quod in carnem transit panis,
Et vinum in sánguinem.
Hear, what holy Church maintaineth,
That the bread its substance changeth
Into Flesh, the wine to Blood.

I shudder when I hear people tell me that they received 'the wine' when Holy Communion is given under both kinds. I shudder even more when I hear priests refer to the Precious Blood as 'the wine'. As often as I can I remind people at Mass what the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No 1333 teaches: At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit, become Christ's Body and Blood.

The Body and Blood of Christ that we receive are the sustenance we need as individuals and as Church to follow Jesus faithfully and, if necessary, to shed our own blood so that others might know the Risen Lord. Fr Ragheed Ganni, martyred on 3 June 2007 just after he had celebrated Mass in Mosul, said not long before his death, Without Sunday, without the Eucharist the Christians in Iraq cannot survive.

Nor can Christians or the Church anywhere else.

Lauda Sion Salvatorem, St Thomas Aquinas, c1264 at the request of Pope Urban IV

Latin text English translation

Lauda Sion Salvatórem
Lauda ducem et pastórem
in hymnis et cánticis.
Sion, lift up thy voice and sing:
Praise thy Savior and thy King,
Praise with hymns thy shepherd true

Quantum potes, tantum aude:
Quia major omni laude,
Nec laudáre súfficis.
All thou canst, do thou endeavour:
Yet thy praise can equal never
Such as merits thy great King.

Laudis thema speciális,
Panis vivus et vitális,
Hódie propónitur.
See today before us laid
The living and life-giving Bread,
Theme for praise and joy profound.

Quem in sacræ mensa cœnæ,
Turbæ fratrum duodénæ
Datum non ambígitur.
The same which at the sacred board
Was, by our incarnate Lord,
Giv'n to His Apostles round.

Sit laus plena, sit sonóra,
Sit jucúnda, sit decóra
Mentis jubilátio.
Let the praise be loud and high:
Sweet and tranquil be the joy
Felt today in every breast.

Dies enim solémnis ágitur,
In qua mensæ prima recólitur
Hujus institútio.
On this festival divine
Which records the origin
Of the glorious Eucharist.

In hac mensa novi Regis,
Novum Pascha novæ legis,
Phase vetus términat.
On this table of the King,
Our new Paschal offering
Brings to end the olden rite.

Vetustátem nóvitas,
Umbram fugat véritas,
Noctem lux elíminat.
Here, for empty shadows fled,
Is reality instead,
Here, instead of darkness, light.

Quod in cœna Christus gessit,
Faciéndum hoc expréssit
In sui memóriam.
His own act, at supper seated
Christ ordain'd to be repeated
In His memory divine;

Docti sacris institútis,
Panem, vinum, in salútis
Consecrámus hóstiam.
Wherefore now, with adoration,
We, the host of our salvation,
Consecrate from bread and wine

Dogma datur Christiánis,
Quod in carnem transit panis,
Et vinum in sánguinem.
Hear, what holy Church maintaineth,
That the bread its substance changeth
Into Flesh, the wine to Blood

Quod non capis, quod non vides,
Animósa firmat fides,
Præter rerum ordinem.
Doth it pass thy comprehending?
Faith, the law of sight transcending
Leaps to things not understood.

Sub divérsis speciébus,
Signis tantum, et non rebus,
Latent res exímiæ.
Here beneath these signs are hidden
Priceless things, to sense forbidden,
Signs, not things, are all we see

Caro cibus, sanguis potus:
Manet tamen Christus totus,
Sub utráque spécie.
Flesh from bread, and Blood from wine,
Yet is Christ in either sign,
All entire, confessed to be.

A suménte non concísus,
Non confráctus, non divísus:
Integer accípitur.
They, who of Him here partake,
Sever not, nor rend, nor break:
But, entire, their Lord receive.

Sumit unus, sumunt mille:
Quantum isti, tantum ille:
Nec sumptus consúmitur.
Whether one or thousands eat:
All receive the self-same meat:
Nor the less for others leave.

Sumunt boni, sumunt mali:
Sorte tamen inæquáli,
Vitæ vel intéritus.
Both the wicked and the good
Eat of this celestial Food:
But with ends how opposite!

Mors est malis, vita bonis:
Vide paris sumptiónis
Quam sit dispar éxitus.
Here 't is life: and there 't is death:
The same, yet issuing to each
In a difference infinite

Fracto demum Sacraménto,
Ne vacílles, sed memento,
Tantum esse sub fragménto,
Nor a single doubt retain,
When they break the Host in twain,
But that in each part remains

Quantum toto tégitur.
Nulla rei fit scissúra:
Signi tantum fit fractúra:
What was in the whole before.
Since the simple sign alone
Suffers change in state or form:

Qua nec status nec statúra
Signáti minúitur.
Ecce panis Angelórum,
The signified remaining one
And the same for evermore.
Lo! bread of the Angels broken,

Factus cibus viatórum:
Vere panis fíliórum,
Non mittendus cánibus.
For us pilgrims food, and token
Of the promise by Christ spoken,
Children’s meat, to dogs denied.

In figúris præsignátur,
Cum Isaac immolátur:
Agnus paschæ deputátur
Shewn in Isaac's dedication,
In the manna's preparation:
In the Paschal immolation

Datur manna pátribus.
Bone pastor, panis vere,
Jesu, nostri miserére:
In old types pre-signified.
Jesu, shepherd of the sheep:
Thou thy flock in safety keep,

Tu nos pasce, nos tuére:
Tu nos bona fac vidére
In terra vivéntium.
Living bread, thy life supply:
Strengthen us, or else we die,
Fill us with celestial grace.

Tu, qui cuncta scis et vales:
Qui nos pascis hic mortales:
Tuos ibi commensáles,
Thou, who feedest us below:
Source of all we have or know:
Grant that with Thy Saints above,

Cohærédes et sodales,
Fac sanctórum cívium.
Amen. Allelúja.
Sitting at the feast of love,
We may see Thee face to face.
Amen. Alleluia.

Yo Soy el Pan de Vida, I am the Bread of Life Words: Suzanne Toolan, Music: John Michael Talbot
Most of us are familiar with this modern hymn, based on today's gospel. The video is of a Spanish version.

20 June 2011

Prayer for those with dementia

The link to the video was sent by my friend Frances Molloy (photo below), founder of the Pastoral Care Project in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England. I was involved with the Project to a limited degree while based in Solihull, near Birmingham, from 2000 to 2002.

Here is a brief history of the Project from its website:

In 1989, I was leading a Spiritual Development programme (Light Out of Darkness written by Sr Kathleen O’Sullivan SSL) and the theme of that particular week was ‘finding God in my weakness’, Romans 8.26-27. I met a lady with dementia in an EMI (Elderly and Mentally Infirm) Ward at the George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton, while visiting as a church volunteer. She was also blind and yet seemed to have an awareness which captured my attention. She couldn't remember her name – and yet she had this great awareness of God and others. Reflecting on the scripture and the visit, I became aware of how special and unique each person is. The visit highlighted that God still communicates his love through people with dementia and that listening was the way of understanding and meeting their spiritual needs. This was an inspirational visit, which led to the Project taking off in 1994, after many years of prayer and research.

Frances Molloy, Project Manager.
Check out the Project's website.

17 June 2011

'God loved the world so much.' Sunday Reflections, Trinity Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Trinity, El Greco, painted 1577, Museo del Prado, Madrid

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

Gospel John 3:16-18 (Jerusalem Bible, used in Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, Scotland) 

Jesus said to Nicodemus, 

God loved the world so much
that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him
may not be lost but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe
in the name of God's only Son.

An Soiscéal Eoin 3:16-18 (Gaeilge, Irish)

San am sin dúirt Íosa lena dheisceabail:
Óir ghráigh Dia an domhan chomh mór sin
gur thug sé a Aonghin Mic uaidh
i dtreo, gach duine a chreideann ann,
nach gcaillfí é ach go mbeadh an bheatha shioraí aige.
Óir ní chun daorbhreith a thabhairt ar an saol
a chuir Dia a Mhac uaidh ar an saol
ach chun go slánófaí an saol tríd.
An té a chreideann ann ní thabharfar daorbhreith air,
ach an té nach gcreideann ann,
tá daorbhreith tugtha air cheana féin,
mar nár chreid sé in ainm Mhac Dé, a Aonghin.

In 1976, during my first visit home to Ireland from the Philippines, I was celebrating Sunday Mass in my home parish church in Dublin. I mentioned in my homily that 'a temple of the Holy Spirit' hade been murdered that week in Northern Ireland. A member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary had been shot dead. A middle-aged man in the congregation didn't like what I said and stood up and asked 'Are we here to listen to the Gospel or to a political speech?' He then sat down. I was initially stunned but continued and mentioned the policeman specifically during the prayers of the faithful.
I don't know whether the murdered man was a Catholic or Protestant but was certain that he was baptised and therefore a Temple of the Holy Spirit. Part of the tragedy is that the person who killed him was also such. But it isn't only the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. The Blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, do so.
The Venerable Edel Quinn (14 September 1907 - 12 May 1944)
The Handbook of the Legion of Mary, Chapter 7, The Legionary and the Holy Trinity, has these words: The saints are insistent on the necessity for thus distinguishing between the Three Divine Persons and for rendering to each one of them an appropriate attention. The Athanasian Creed is mandatory and strangely menacing in regard to this requirement, which proceeds from the fact that the final purpose of Creation and of the Incarnation is the glorification of the Trinity. The late Fr Anselm Moynihan quotes these words in an article on the Venerable Edel Quinn, Edel Quinn: A Life in the Trinity.
The concluding part of the article, Adoring the Trinity, is especially appropriate for today's feast. The references to 'S' are to the life of Edel by Cardinal Suenens. Those to 'N' are to Edel's notes.
Adoring the Trinity

We are sharers in the very life of the Blessed Trinity, with the Incarnate Word as our Brother, His Father as our Father, His Spirit as the Soul of our souls. Yet we can never forget the transcendent holiness of God. And as a consequence, underlying, though not weakening the sublime intimacy we enjoy with the Divine Persons, will be an attitude of profound reverence and adoration. Edel certainly had that. It was manifest in her whole bearing at prayer, her behaviour towards all who represented God in any way and also in the expressions she uses in her private notes. She knew her soul to be the living sanctuary of the Triune God. She snatched at every opportunity of quiet and silence to recollect herself and be alone with God and offer Him the incense of her adoration.

Let us ask the grace to live in realization of our life in Christ, through Mary, adoring the Trinity (S, p. 246).

In Christ Jesus we have all. Realise this.

Often offer Him to the Trinity, present in our soul, giving all honour, reparation and glory throughout the day (S, p. 246).

Realise that I am the temple of God, the dwelling-place of the Trinity (S, p. 246).

In Christ we adore the Trinity, Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus. Try and adore the Trinity in our souls, even in the midst of trouble or external duties (S, p. 248).

Our Lady, dwelling place of the Trinity. With Christ and helped by Mary, let us adore the Trinity. Cut out useless worrying thoughts ... to adore with and in union with Jesus ... Trinity in soul ... per Mariam (N).

At Mass I united myself to the victim Christ, through Mary's hands, for the glory of the Trinity, in thanksgiving for everything, and on behalf of souls (S, p. 250).

For Edel Quinn, then, the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity was not just an abstraction, to be accepted indeed on faith but with little bearing on the practical working out of our lives. For her it was supremely practical, vital and energizing. Her manner of applying it to her life, her prayer, her work, her relations with others offers an example we can all imitate - to the glory of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

'The Blessed Trinity - there is our dwelling-place, our home, the Father's house which we must never leave' (Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity [photo below]).

Trinity was not just an abstraction, to be accepted indeed on faith but with little bearing on the practical working out of our lives. For her it was supremely practical, vital and energising. Her manner of applying it to her life, her prayer, her work, her relations with others offers an example we can all imitate - to the glory of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

'The Blessed Trinity - there is our dwelling-place, our home, the Father's house which we must never leave' (Sister Elizabeth of the Trinity).

This article first appeared in Doctrine and Life, July 1963.( Ed.)

Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity (18 July 1880 – 9 November 1906)

Introit (Entrance Antiphon) from Missal of Blessed John XXIII (1962):
Benedicta sit sancta Trinitas atque indivisa unitas: confitebimur ei, quia fecit nobiscum misericordiam suam. Ps. Domine Dominus noster, quam admirabile est nomen tuum in universa terra! V. Gloria Patri.

English translation

Blessed be the Holy Trinity and undivided Unity: we will give glory to Him, because He hath shown His mercy to us. Vs. (Ps. 8: 2) O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful is Thy name in all the earth! Glory be to the Father.

El Greco often did a number of paintings of the same scene. Here is one very similar to that at the top, painted the same year but over the high altar in the Church of Santo Domingo el Antiguo, Toledo, Spain.

Trinity Sunday

Lord, who has form'd me out of mud,
And hast redeem'd me through thy blood,
And sanctifi'd me to do good;

Purge all my sins done heretofore:
For I confess my heavy score,
And I will strive to sin no more.

Enrich my heart, mouth, hands in me,
With faith, with hope, with charity;
That I may run, rise, rest with thee.

George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633)

George Herbert, born in Wales, was an Anglican priest noted for his great love for the poor in his parish in Wiltshire, England. This poem is found in the edition of The Divine Office approved by the hierarchies of Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, Scotland and published in 1974.

Preamble to the Constitution of Ireland

In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,

We, the people of Éire,

Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our fathers through centuries of trial,

Gratefully remembering their heroic and unremitting struggle to regain the rightful independence of our Nation,

And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations,

Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.

 Brollach do Bhunreacht na hÉireann

In Ainm na Tríonóide Ró-Naofa is tobar don uile údarás agus gur chuici, ós í is críoch dheireanach dúinn, is dírithe ní amháin gníomhartha daoine ach gníomhartha Stát,

Ar mbeith dúinne, muintir na hÉireann, ag admháil go huiríseal a mhéid atáimid faoi chomaoin ag Íosa Críost, ár dTiarna Dia, a thug comhfhurtacht dár sinsir i ngach cruatan ina rabhadar ar feadh na gcéadta bliain,

Agus ar mbeith dúinn ag cuimhneamh go buíoch ar a chalmacht a rinneadarsan troid gan staonadh chun an neamhspleáchas is dual dár Náisiún a bhaint amach,

Agus ar mbeith dúinn á chur romhainn an mhaitheas phoiblí a chur ar aghaidh maille le Críonnacht agus le hIonracas agus le Carthanacht de réir mar is cuí, ionas go dtiocfaidh linn a uaisleacht agus a shaoirse a chur in áirithe do gach aon duine, saol ceart comhdhaonnach a bhunú, aiseag a haontachta a thabhairt dár dtír, agus comhcharadra a dhéanamh le náisiúin eile,

Atáimid leis seo ag gabháil an Bhunreachta seo chugainn, agus á achtú agus á thíolacadh dúinn féin.

13 June 2011

'I'd be lost without St Anthony'

This post is by way of making amends to St Anthony of Padua. I must confess that he impinges on my life only when I can't find something. He has never failed me. I do thank him when I find the lost object - and then forget him till the next time.

On one occasion when I was doing a mission appeal in the west of Ireland I was chatting with the sacristan. We got around to St Anthony and how he had helped both us of. She then mentioned something that for the life of her she couldn't find. We both prayed to this saint from Lisbon, Portugal, but associated with Padua, Italy. Then we found the lost object - right in front of us in the sacristy!

The hymn above was written by a Filipino Franciscan friar, Fr Mariano Montero OFM, and sung at the shrine of St Anthony in Sampaloc, Manila.

This great saint is a doctor of the Church and was known as 'The Hammer of Heretics'. Here is an extract from his writings, part of the reading for the saint's feast day in the Office of Readings. It is most appropriate for the day after Pentecost, whcih used to be known as Whit Monday and was celebrated liturgically as an extension of this great feast. It still is by those who use the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. I remember it was one of the days when my late father would drag me to High Mass in one of the churches run by the Franciscans, Capuchins or Dominicans in Dublin. Whit Monday used be a holiday in the Republic of Ireland. In 1973 the holiday was transferred to the first Monday in June by our wise legislators in Dublin, the link with Pentecost broken.

The man who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in different languages. These different languages are different ways of witnessing to Christ, such as humility, poverty, patience and obedience; we speak in those languages when we reveal in ourselves these virtues to others. Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak. We are full of words but empty of actions, and therefore are cursed by the Lord, since he himself cursed the fig tree when he found no fruit but only leaves. Gregory says: “A law is laid upon the preacher to practise what he preaches.” It is useless for a man to flaunt his knowledge of the law if he undermines its teaching by his actions.

But the apostles spoke as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech. Happy the man whose words issue from the Holy Spirit and not from himself! For some men speak as their own character dictates, but steal the words of others and present them as their own and claim the credit for them. The Lord refers to such men and others like them in Jeremiah: So, then, I have a quarrel with the prophets that steal my words from each other. I have a quarrel with the prophets, says the Lord, who have only to move their tongues to utter oracles. I have a quarrel with the prophets who make prophecies out of lying dreams, who recount them and lead my people astray with their lies and their pretensions. I certainly never sent them or commissioned them, and they serve no good purpose for this people, says the Lord.

We should speak, then, as the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of speech. Our humble and sincere request to the Spirit for ourselves should be that we may bring the day of Pentecost to fulfilment, insofar as he infuses us with his grace, by using our bodily senses in a perfect manner and by keeping the commandments. Likewise we shall request that we may be filled with a keen sense of sorrow and with fiery tongues for confessing the faith, so that our deserved reward may be to stand in the blazing splendour of the saints and to look upon the triune God.

10 June 2011

'As the Father has sent me, so I send you'. Pentecost Sunday

The Vigil Mass has its own prayers and readings. The texts for the Mass During the Day should not be used on Saturday evening, though many priests seem to be unaware of this. Pentecost is one of a number of feasts that have a Vigil Mass. A Vigil Mass is not an 'anticipated Mass'. It is a liturgical celebration in its own right, for a specific day and time. Participation in the Vigil Mass fulfils our Sunday obligation.

The readings here are from the New American Bible, used in the lectionary in the Philippines and in the USA.

Gospel John 20:19-23 (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.”

Soiscéal, Eoin 20:19-23 (Gaeilge, Irish)
Tráthnóna an lae chéanna, an chéad lá den tseachtain, agus na doirse faoi ghlas le heagla na nGiúdach, san áit ina raibh na deisceabail, tháinig Íosa agus sheas ina measc agus dúirt leo: “Síocháin daoibh!” Á rá sin dó, thaispeáin sé dóibh a lámha agus a chliathán. Bhí áthas ar na deisceabail nuair a chonaic siad an Tiarna. Dúirt Íosa leo ansin arís:
“Síocháin daoibh! Amhail mar a chuir an tAthair uaidh mise, táimse do bhur gcursa uaim freisin.”
Arna rá sin dó, d’análaigh sé orthu agus dúirt leo: “Glacaigí an Spiorad Naomh. Na daoine a maithfidh sibh a bpeacaí dóibh, beidh siad maite dóibh; na daoine a gcoinneoidh sibh a bpeacaí,
beidh a bpeacaí coinnithe.”


At the Last Supper Jesus said to the Apostles, 'I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete' (John 15:11). He also said to them, 'I have told you this so that you might have peace in me' (John 16:33). In today's gospel the Risen Lord seems to anticipate Pentecost when he breathes the Holy Spirit on the Apostles after saying 'Peace be with you'. He sends them, and us, on mission as the Father had sent him.

Jesus is well aware of the suffering that he will undergo and which his followers will undergo. In his case it was to be a terribly painful and humiliating death, that of a criminal, the following day. Yet he wants our joy to be complete. He assures us of the peace we will find in him.

Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho (20 November 1942 - February or March 2008)

The age of the martyrs is far from over. In February or March 2008 Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul, Iraq, died or was killed after being kidnapped, eight or nine months after the murder of his secretary, Fr Ragheed Ganni who, with three subdeacons, was shot dead just after celebrating Mass. These all belonged to the Chaldean Rite of the Catholic Church, the rite to which most Iraqi Catholics belong.

Fr Ragheed Ganni (20 January 1972 - 3 June 2007)

Bayan Adam Bell, widow of one of the three subdeacons murdered with Fr Ragheed, told what happened:

"At a certain point the car was stopped by armed men. Fr Ragheed could have fled, but he did not want to, because he knew they were looking for him.  They forced us to get out of the car, and led me away.  Then one of the killers screamed at Ragheed, 'I told you to close the church, why didn't you do it? Why are you still here?'  And he simply responded, 'How can I close the house of God?' They immediately pushed him to the ground, and Ragheed had only enough time to gesture to me with his head that I should run away.  Then they opened fire and killed all four of them".  At this point, Bayan fainted.  In the hours immediately after the killing, the bodies remained abandoned on the road because no one dared to get close to them.  

Shabaz Bhatti (9 September 1968 - 2 March 2011)

More recently we had the assassination of Pakistani politician Shabaz Bhatti, the only Christian in the cabinet. A Catholic deeply committed to justice, especially for the Christian minority in Pakistan, Shabaz Bhatt knew his life was in danger but said, '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 Christ'.

Father Ragheed lived in the Pontifical Irish College in Rome while studying before and after his ordination. he had given up a career as an engineer to be a priest. He spent some summers as a young priest working at St Patrick's Purgatory, Lough Derg, Ireland, a place of penitential pilgrimage. He could have continued to work as a priest in Ireland but chose to go back into danger in his own country. Shabaz Bhatti made a similar choice because of his faith in Jesus Christ.

These contemporary martyrs are examples of the truth of the words of Jesus, testimonies of the living presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, witnesses to what we as Church are called to be. Few of us will be asked by God to lay down our lives for our faith in Jesus Christ but all of us are called to say with Shabaz Bhatti, '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 Christ'.


The above is the Sequence for the Solemnity of Pentecost, which may be sung or recited after the second reading of the Mass During the Day. Here is an English translation

Veni, Sancte Spiritus

From A Catholic Prayer Book
Ascribed to Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury (+ 1228)

Holy Spirit, Lord of Light,
From the clear celestial height.
Thy pure beaming radiance give.

Come, thou Father of the poor,
Come, with treasures which endure;
Come, thou Light of all that live!

Thou, of all consolers best,
Thou, the soul's delightful guest,
Dost refreshing peace bestow.

Thou in toil art comfort sweet;
Pleasant coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

Light immortal, Light divine,
Visit thou these hearts of thine,
And our inmost being fill.

If thou take thy grace away,
Nothing pure in man will stay;
All his good is turned to ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour thy dew,
Wash the stains of guilt away.

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

Thou, on us who evermore
Thee confess and thee adore,
With thy sevenfold gifts descend.

Give us comfort when we die;
Give us life with thee on high;
Give us joys that never end.
Amen. Alleluia.

Photo, Kurt Zion Pala, Columban seminarian

God’s Grandeur
by Gerald Manley Hopkins SJ (1844-1889)

Written 1877, published 1918

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod; 
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

09 June 2011

'Harp of the Holy Spirit': St Ephrem of Syria, a country in distress

Today is the feast of a great theologian of the fourth century, St Ephrem, a deacon and now a doctor of the Church who wrote his theology in poetic form, as the video above tells us.

Syria is a country in distress at the moment. The country has about 358,000 Catholics, roughly two percent of the population. Another eight percent or so belong to various Orthodox churches. There are 18 Catholic jurisdictions in the country, three of the Armenian Rite, three of the Maronite Rite, one of the Chaldean Rite, six of the Melkite Greek Rite, four of the Syrian Rite and one of the Latin or Roman Rite. Each rite has a diocese or jurisdiction located in Aleppo, the largest city. The majority of Christians are Arabs, descendants of the earliest Christians.

Collect for feast of St Ephrem

Lord, in your love fill our hearts with the Holy Spirit,
who inspired the deacon Ephrem to sing the praise of your mysteries
and gave him strength to serve you alone.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

GENERAL AUDIENCE, Paul VI Audience Hall, Wednesday, 28 November 2007

I have highlighted some parts of the text.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Common opinion today supposes Christianity to be a European religion which subsequently exported the culture of this Continent to other countries. But the reality is far more complex since the roots of the Christian religion are found in the Old Testament, hence, in Jerusalem and the Semitic world. Christianity is still nourished by these Old Testament roots. Furthermore, its expansion in the first centuries was both towards the West - towards the Greco-Latin world, where it later inspired European culture - and in the direction of the East, as far as Persia and India. It thus contributed to creating a specific culture in Semitic languages with an identity of its own. To demonstrate this cultural pluralism of the one Christian faith in its origins, I spoke in my Catechesis last Wednesday of a representative of this other Christianity who is almost unknown to us: Aphraates, the Persian sage. Today, along the same lines, I would like to talk about St Ephrem the Syrian, who was born into a Christian family in Nisibis in about 306 A.D. He was Christianity's most important Syriac-speaking representative and uniquely succeeded in reconciling the vocations of theologian and poet. He was educated and grew up beside James, Bishop of Nisibis (303-338), and with him founded the theological school in his city. He was ordained a deacon and was intensely active in local Christian community life until 363, the year when Nisibis fell into Persian hands. Ephrem then emigrated to Edessa, where he continued his activity as a preacher. He died in this city in 373, a victim of the disease he contracted while caring for those infected with the plague. It is not known for certain whether he was a monk, but we can be sure in any case that he remained a deacon throughout his life and embraced virginity and poverty. Thus, the common and fundamental Christian identity appears in the specificity of his own cultural expression: faith, hope - the hope which makes it possible to live poor and chaste in this world, placing every expectation in the Lord - and lastly, charity, to the point of giving his life through nursing those sick with the plague.

St Ephrem has left us an important theological inheritance. His substantial opus can be divided into four categories: works written in ordinary prose (his polemic works or biblical commentaries); works written in poetic prose; homilies in verse; and lastly, hymns, undoubtedly Ephrem's most abundant production. He is a rich and interesting author in many ways, but especially from the theological point of view. It is the fact that theology and poetry converge in his work which makes it so special. If we desire to approach his doctrine, we must insist on this from the outset: namely, on the fact that he produces theology in poetical form. Poetry enabled him to deepen his theological reflection through paradoxes and images. At the same time, his theology became liturgy, became music; indeed, he was a great composer, a musician. Theology, reflection on the faith, poetry, song and praise of God go together; and it is precisely in this liturgical character that the divine truth emerges clearly in Ephrem's theology. In his search for God, in his theological activity, he employed the way of paradoxes and symbols. He made ample use of contrasting images because they served to emphasize the mystery of God.

I cannot present much of his writing here, partly because his poetry is difficult to translate, but to give at least some idea of his poetical theology I would like to cite a part of two hymns. First of all, and also with a view to the approach of Advent, I shall propose to you several splendid images taken from his hymns On the Nativity of Christ. Ephrem expressed his wonder before the Virgin in inspired tones:

"The Lord entered her and became a servant; the Word entered her, and became silent within her; thunder entered her and his voice was still; the Shepherd of all entered her; he became a Lamb in her, and came forth bleating.

"The belly of your Mother changed the order of things, O you who order all! Rich he went in, he came out poor: the High One went into her [Mary], he came out lowly. Brightness went into her and clothed himself, and came forth a despised form....

"He that gives food to all went in, and knew hunger. He who gives drink to all went in, and knew thirst. Naked and bare came forth from her the Clother of all things [in beauty]"

(Hymn De Nativitate 11: 6-8).

To express the mystery of Christ, Ephrem uses a broad range of topics, expressions and images. In one of his hymns he effectively links Adam (in Paradise) to Christ (in the Eucharist):

"It was by closing with the sword of the cherub that the path to the tree of life was closed. But for the peoples, the Lord of this tree gave himself as food in his (Eucharistic) oblation.

"The trees of the Garden of Eden were given as food to the first Adam. For us, the gardener of the Garden in person made himself food for our souls. Indeed, we had all left Paradise together with Adam, who left it behind him.

"Now that the sword has been removed here below (on the Cross), replaced by the spear, we can return to it".

(Hymn 49: 9-11).

To speak of the Eucharist, Ephrem used two images, embers or burning coal and the pearl. The burning coal theme was taken from the Prophet Isaiah (cf. 6: 6). It is the image of one of the seraphim who picks up a burning coal with tongs and simply touches the lips of the Prophet with it in order to purify them; the Christian, on the other hand, touches and consumes the Burning Coal which is Christ himself:

"In your bread hides the Spirit who cannot be consumed; in your wine is the fire that cannot be swallowed. The Spirit in your bread, fire in your wine: behold a wonder heard from our lips.

"The seraph could not bring himself to touch the glowing coal with his fingers, it was Isaiah's mouth alone that it touched; neither did the fingers grasp it nor the mouth swallow it; but the Lord has granted us to do both these things.

"The fire came down with anger to destroy sinners, but the fire of grace descends on the bread and settles in it. Instead of the fire that destroyed man, we have consumed the fire in the bread and have been invigorated".

(Hymn De Fide 10: 8-10).

Here again is a final example of St Ephrem's hymns, where he speaks of the pearl as a symbol of the riches and beauty of faith:

"I placed (the pearl), my brothers, on the palm of my hand, to be able to examine it. I began to look at it from one side and from the other: it looked the same from all sides. (Thus) is the search for the Son inscrutable, because it is all light. In its clarity I saw the Clear One who does not grow opaque; and in his purity, the great symbol of the Body of Our Lord, which is pure. In his indivisibility I saw the truth which is indivisible".

(Hymn On the Pearl 1: 2-3).

The figure of Ephrem is still absolutely timely for the life of the various Christian Churches. We discover him in the first place as a theologian who reflects poetically, on the basis of Holy Scripture, on the mystery of man's redemption brought about by Christ, the Word of God incarnate. His is a theological reflection expressed in images and symbols taken from nature, daily life and the Bible. Ephrem gives his poetry and liturgical hymns a didactic and catechetical character: they are theological hymns yet at the same time suitable for recitation or liturgical song. On the occasion of liturgical feasts, Ephrem made use of these hymns to spread Church doctrine. Time has proven them to be an extremely effective catechetical instrument for the Christian community.

Ephrem's reflection on the theme of God the Creator is important: nothing in creation is isolated and the world, next to Sacred Scripture, is a Bible of God. By using his freedom wrongly, man upsets the cosmic order. The role of women was important to Ephrem. The way he spoke of them was always inspired with sensitivity and respect: the dwelling place of Jesus in Mary's womb greatly increased women's dignity. Ephrem held that just as there is no Redemption without Jesus, there is no Incarnation without Mary. The divine and human dimensions of the mystery of our redemption can already be found in Ephrem's texts; poetically and with fundamentally scriptural images, he anticipated the theological background and in some way the very language of the great Christological definitions of the fifth-century Councils.

Ephrem, honoured by Christian tradition with the title "Harp of the Holy Spirit", remained a deacon of the Church throughout his life. It was a crucial and emblematic decision: he was a deacon, a servant, in his liturgical ministry, and more radically, in his love for Christ, whose praises he sang in an unparalleled way, and also in his love for his brethren, whom he introduced with rare skill to the knowledge of divine Revelation.

Please pray for the people of Syria, especially the Catholics and other Christians there.

08 June 2011

First anniversary of a gem of a blog: Remembering Fr William Doyle SJ

Yesterday was the first anniversary of a gem of a blog, Remembering Fr William Doyle SJ. Check it out and be inspired by it. And pray for us priests.


O my God, pour out in abundance Thy spirit of sacrifice upon Thy priests. It is both their glory and their duty to become victims, to be burnt up for souls, to live without ordinary joys, to be often the objects of distrust, injustice, and persecution.

The words they say every day at the altar, "This is my Body, this is my Blood," grant them to apply to themselves: "I am no longer myself, I am Jesus, Jesus crucified. I am, like the bread and wine, a substance no longer itself, but by consecration another."

O my God, I burn with desire for the sanctification of Thy priests. I wish all the priestly hands which touch Thee were hands whose touch is gentle and pleasing to Thee, that all the mouths uttering such sublime words at the altar should never descend to speaking trivialities.

Let priests in all their person stay at the level of their lofty functions, let every man find them simple and great, like the Holy Eucharist, accessible to all yet above the rest of men. O my God, grant them to carry with them from the Mass of today, a thirst for the Mass of tomorrow, and grant them, ladened themselves with gifts, to share these abundantly with their fellow men. Amen.


O Jesus, who has given us the example of Your servant, Father William Doyle, graciously grant us the favours we ask You through his intercession...[Make petition.]

Teach us to imitate his love for You, his heroic devotion to Your service, his zeal for repairing the outrages done to Your glory and for the salvation of souls. Hear our prayer and show us the credit he now enjoys in heaven so that we may soon be able to venerate him in public worship."

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be

The death of a good man: Declan Costello

Declan Costello, 1 August 1926 - 6 June 2011

My first clear recollection of a political campaign in Ireland is that leading up to the general election of 30 May 1951. I had just turned eight and lived in the constituency of Dublin North West, which elected three deputies to the Dáil (parliament). I remember a young candidate speaking from the back of a lorry. He spoke approvingly of President Eisenhower of the USA, as I recall. That young man was Declan Costello, son of the outgoing Taoiseach (Prime Minister), John A. Costello. He headed the poll and was the youngest member of the 14th Dáil. He died yesterday in Dublin after a long illness.

I never met Declan Costello personally but had an encounter with him at a forum for young people about nine years later when I was still in secondary school. He was one of the invited speakers and I disgreed with something he said about the Irish language, then as now an emotive topic. Speaking from the floor with all the brashness of a 17-year-old I told him 'you are talking through your hat'.

Like his father, Declan Costello was a distinguished barrister. Like his father he became attorney-general, in the government of 1973-1977 led by Liam Cosgrave. An extraordinary thing about that government was that three members held the same positions as their fathers had done in the 1920s when W. T Cosgrave, father of Liam, was the leader of the government, John A. Costello the attorney-general and Desmond FitzGerald foreign minister, the position his son Garret held in the younger Cosgrave's cabinet. There was no nepotism here. The sons were as distinguished in their own right as their fathers had been.

Declan Costello had a deep sense of social justice and the document Towards a Just Society, used by his Fine Gael party in the 1965 election campaign, was inspired by his thinking, though it didn't go as far as he would have liked.

After retiring from politics Declan Costello became a member of the High Court in 1977 where he served for twenty years, the last three years as President of the Court. In 1992 in what became known as the 'X Case' Mr Justice Costello granted an injunction to the attorney-general to prevent a 14-year-old girl, the victim of a rape by a neighbour, from going to Britain to have an abortion. The injunction was overturned by the Supreme Court. (As it happened, the girl had a miscarriage and the rapist had a 14-year sentence reduced to four).

Reviewing a TV programme on this event in March last year Brendan O'Regan wrote in The Irish Catholic: Originally the High Court upheld his injunction, and one thing that struck me was the logic and common sense in Justice Declan Costello's judgement - that the abortion couldn't be approved because, given that mother and baby had equal rights, the threat of death from abortion was more certain for the baby than the possibility of suicide by the girl in question. And yet the Supreme Court overturned this, with what seemed to me then and still does, bizarre and illogical ''reasoning'' by four of the five judges.

An editorial in today's The Irish Times describes Declan Costello as Radical on economic and social matters, he was deeply conservative on moral issues. On appointment to the High Court, his judgments tended to reflect traditional Catholic values. I have always found this descripton of individuals as 'radical on social issues but conservative on moral issues' as curious. Surely all issues involving the good of society and individuals are moral issues. The description seems to suggest that such individuals, including Blessed John Paul II, were schizophrenic to some degree rather than persons whose faith or philosophy of life permeated everything they did.

The editorial concludes: Through it all, he worked for socially important reforms, founding and supporting St Michael’s House for people with intellectual disabilities. A man of intelligence, integrity and fairness, his contribution to public life has deeply influenced Irish politics and established a link between economic development and a more caring and egalitarian society.

I hadn't been aware until now of Declan Costello's involvement with St Michael's House. Indeed I wasn't even aware of St Michael's House. Its website today has this: The Board of Directors, service users, families and staff of St. Michael’s House wish to express their deepest sympathies to his wife Joan and family on the sad passing of one of our founding members and President Declan Costello.

Declan will be remembered for his pioneering work in developing educational services for children with an intellectual disability and for his lifelong commitment to ensuring that people with a disability are equal members of society.

The website of St Michael's House gives this brief history of its beginnings: Unable to secure schooling for her son, Patricia Farrell, the mother of a young boy with Down Syndrome placed an ad in the Irish Times in 1955: "Association for Parents of Mentally Backward Children. Lady wishing to form above would like to contact anyone interested. Box Z 5061 Children."

From this grew St. Michael's House, an organisation which set out to develop new community services and bring about a change in how people with an intellectual disability were viewed. Today, we provide services for 1,585 people with an intellectual disability and their families in the Greater Dublin Area.

Declan Costello chaired the public meeting that resulted from that newspaper ad and that led to the founding of St Michael's House.
It seems that Declan Costello had a  vision for persons with intellectual disabilities similar to that of his Canadian contemporary Jean Vanier, another distinghuished son of a distinguished father.

Declan Costello was a good man. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal. May his noble soul be at the right hand of God.