23 May 2012

'Receive the Holy Spirit.' Sunday Reflections, Pentecost

Pentecost, El Greco, painted 1596-1600

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

(The readings for the Vigil Mass are on the upper part of the page, those for the Mass During the Day on the lower part of the page).

Liturgical Note. Pentecost, like Easter and some other solemnities, has a Vigil, properly so-called. This is not an ‘anticipated Mass’ but a Vigil Mass in its own right, with its own set of prayers and readings. It fulfils our Sunday obligation. There may be an extended Liturgy of the Word,er similar to the Easter Vigil, with all the Old Testament readings used. 

The prayers and readings of the Mass During the Day should not be used for the Vigil Mass, nor those of the Vigil Mass for the Mass During the Day. 

Gospel John 20:19-23 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."


I'm quite happy to live in the present and to look forward to the future without worrying too much. That is all grace from God. There is, however, one event in my life that I would, perhaps, like to relive, if that were possible, which it's not. It was the summer of 1969, less than two years after my ordination in Ireland, when I was studying in a college north of New York City. I was also one of the chaplains in the college.

One day during Lent of that year while walking across the campus to class I met Betty, a student who was in some classes with me, and asked her what she was doing for Easter. I was just making small talk. But when she told me that she and some other students were going to work in a parish in rural Kentucky as volunteers for that week I got interested - and ended up going with them. I spent most of Easter week in Lancaster, Kentucky, cleaning up buildings, getting them ready for summer programmes such as Bible classes and summer camps for local children. The parish priest, Fr Ralph Beiting, had many projects and invited students, most at college level bu some still in high school, to come during the summer for a week, two weeks, a month or longer, to help run the Bible schools in the four towns in his parish, to staff the two camps for children to spend a five-day vacation in, to do house-to-house visitation in pairs, and some other things. He had also founded the Christian Appalachian Project to help the development of this predominantly poor corner of the USA, and an area where there was only a handful of Catholics. There were still remnants of anti-Catholicism.

Fr Beiting used to go around preaching in towns during the summer, accompanied by seminarians and other male college students. They'd park their truck at a place where people could gather and he'd preach basic Christian truths from the back of the lorry. He was following an old Protestant tradition in the area but one that was dying out. On one occasion he was driven out at gunpoint but next day turned up again, not to preach but simply to show himself.

This great diocesan priest had the great gift of organising and inspiring young people in the service of the Gospel. These gifts of his helped me to discover a gift I was unaware of - the ability to listen to people. When I went back to Kentucky for six weeks in the summer of 1969 he asked me to divide my time between the activities in Lancaster and those in Cliffview Camp, where each week a group of local youngsters went on Monday morning and went home on Friday afternoon, with lots of activities to keep them, and the student volunteers, occupied. Cliffview is now a retreat and conference centre for the Diocese of Lexington.

Father Beiting wasn't a person you would go to if you had a problem or wanted to talk about something. He was an 'action man', though a prayerful one. However, I discovered that many of the young volunteers I was working with, and some persons older than me, found in me somebody who could listen to them. I had never been aware of that ability but it was to become very important in my life as a priest. Indeed, in the case of one young volunteer who became a close friend and to whom I was to be a mentor, that ability that God gave me became helped, 12 years later, to draw her back from the brink of suicide. And in that episode I discovered that sometimes a person of deep and generous faith can also be very fragile. My friend died the following year, aged only 29, peacefully and from natural causes. Some months before her death she told me that she thought she didn't have long to live. I had the good sense to listen to her and we spoke to each other as persons of faith as to what her death would mean. There was nothing morbid about our conversation and we went for an Italian lunch afterwards - my friend was pure Italian - and had a joyful time together.It was to be our last time to meet.

I am posting this early because this evening, 23 May, I will be starting a retreat with four novices and four professed of the Canossian Sisters. It will end on the morning of 1 June. I will give one talk a day and meet each retreatant individually each day. This aspect of my life all springs from the discovery I made in Kentucky in the summer of 1969. I need your prayers too.

But what I still marvel at, and thank God for, is that 'casual' meeting with another student and a conversation that I didn't see as having any importance at all. A question that expressed friendliness rather than curiosity was to receive a profound and life-long answer, not from Betty, but from the Holy Spirit.

Receive the Holy Spirit . . . as the Father has sent me, even so I send you.

Veni Sancte Spiritus (Sequence for Mass on Pentecost Sunday)

Veni, Sancte Spiritus,
et emitte caelitus
lucis tuae radium.

Come, Holy Spirit,
send forth the heavenly
radiance of your light.

Veni, pater pauperum,
veni, dator munerum
veni, lumen cordium.

Come, father of the poor,
come giver of gifts,
come, light of the heart.

Consolator optime,
dulcis hospes animae,
dulce refrigerium.

Greatest comforter,
sweet guest of the soul,
sweet consolation.

In labore requies,
in aestu temperies
in fletu solatium.

In labor, rest,
in heat, temperance,
in tears, solace.

O lux beatissima,
reple cordis intima
tuorum fidelium.

O most blessed light,
fill the inmost heart
of your faithful.

Sine tuo numine,
nihil est in homine,
nihil est innoxium.

Without your grace,
there is nothing in us,
nothing that is not harmful.

Lava quod est sordidum,
riga quod est aridum,
sana quod est saucium.

Cleanse that which is unclean,
water that which is dry,
heal that which is wounded.

Flecte quod est rigidum,
fove quod est frigidum,
rege quod est devium.

Bend that which is inflexible,
fire that which is chilled,
correct what goes astray.

Da tuis fidelibus,
in te confidentibus,
sacrum septenarium.

Give to your faithful,
those who trust in you,
the sevenfold gifts.

Da virtutis meritum,
da salutis exitum,
da perenne gaudium,

Grant the reward of virtue,
grant the deliverence of salvation,
grant eternal joy.


22 May 2012

Persecution in Mexico yesterday and today

In my post yesterday, Church honours Mexican martyrs today, I included an interview with Mauricio Kuri, the 14-year-old actor who played the part of Blessed José Luis Sánchez Del Río in the new movie about the persecution of Catholics in Mexico in the 1920s, For Greater Glory. Above is another interview with the young actor.

And below, two old men recall the event of the martyrdom of Blessed José Luis.

The Church as such is no longer a target for persecution in Mexico, the country from which we in the Philippines received the Catholic faith. Today's persecution is conducted by drug-lords. Fr Kevin Mullins, an Australian Columban, is a parish priest in Ciudad Juarez, one of the most violent parts of Mexico. He was featured on PBS television in the USA on 26 March 2010. Here is the video of that broadcast, Juarez Drug Wars.

Please pray through the intercession of the Mexican Martyrs for justice and peace in their land, recalling the last words of St Christopher Magallanes, honoured by the Church yesterday along with his companions, I die innocent, and ask God that my blood may serve to unite my Mexican brethren.

21 May 2012

Church honours Mexican martyrs today

Today the Church honours a group of 25 Mexican martyrs, 22 of them diocesan priests and three of them laymen, St Christopher Magallanes and Companions. There is a list of their names here. Fr Pedro de Jesus Maldonado was killed in 1915, the others between 1926 and 1928. 

The movie, For Greater Glory, in Spanish Cristiada, which tells something of the story of the martyrs, will be officially released on 1 June. Peter O'Toole plays the part of St Christopher. Above is the official trailer.

St Cristóbal (Christopher) Magallanes Jara was born on 30 July 1869 and executed by firing squad on 25 May 1927. The son of farmers, and a one-time shepherd, he was captured while on his way to celebrate Mass with farmers, becoming a shepherd in a much deeper sense by laying down his life for his sheep. His last words were, I die innocent, and ask God that my blood may serve to unite my Mexican brethren.

Image of Blessed José Luis Sánchez Del Río (28 March 1913 - 10 February 1928)

One of the characters in For Greater Glory is 14-year-old Blessed José Luis Sánchez Del Río, beatified in Mexico on 20 November 2005. His part in the film is played by 14-year-old Mauricio Kuri. In an interview Mauricio speaks of the impact on him of the young Blessed and of his playing the martyr's part in the movie.

Pope Benedict in his message for this year's World Youth Day, celebrated in Rome on Palm Sunday, 13 April, wrote, Be enthusiastic witnesses of the new evangelization! Go to those who are suffering and those who are searching, and give them the joy that Jesus wants to bestow. Bring it to your families, your schools and universities, and your workplaces and your friends, wherever you live. You will see how it is contagious. You will receive a hundredfold: the joy of salvation for yourselves, and the joy of seeing God’s mercy at work in the hearts of others. And when you go to meet the Lord on that last day, you will hear him say: 'Well done, my good and faithful servant... Come, share your master’s joy' (Mt 25:21). 

Young actor Mauricio Kuri radiates some of that joy as he speaks about the young Mexican martyr whose part he played in For Greater Glory.

15 May 2012

'Go into all the world . . .' Sunday Reflections for Ascension Year B

Ascension, Rembrandt, painted 1636

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA) 

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa) 

The Ascension is celebrated on Ascension Thursday, 17 May, in Scotland and the USA, and on Sunday 20 May in England & Wales, Ireland and the Philippines. I'm not sure about other countries. I won't be posting Sunday Reflections for the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

Gospel Mark 16:15-20 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

Jesus said to the Apostles, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover." So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.

The story of how Koreans heard the Gospel is unique. As a Columban, I have a special interest in Korea since we have been working there since 1933. Some of our priests died there during the Korean War (1950-1953). I have visited the country three times, in 1971, in 1988 and in 2002. Korean Columban priests and lay missionaries have been assigned to the Philippines and Columban priests and lay missionaries from the Philippines have been sent to Korea.

Envoys from Korea to Beijing came across some of the writings of Fr Matteo Ricci SJ there They brought them back to Korea to study them. Then in 1784 Yi Sung-Hun, a Korean nobleman, was baptized in Beijing, taking the name Peter. He and others brought the faith back to Korea and within ten years there were 4,000 Catholic Christians, without any priests. Eventually some priests of the Paris Foreign Missionaries were able to enter the country secretly.

Four severe persecutions of Catholics took place, in 1801, 1839, 1846 and the last in 1869, in which people of all social backgrounds and from every age group were martyred. One of those martyred in 1869 was the paternal grandfather of the late Stephen Cardinal Kim, Archbishop of Seoul. His grandmother was also sentenced to death but because she was pregnant was spared. The infant in her womb became the father of the Cardinal.

 Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-hwan (8 May 1922 - 16 February 2009)

But today’s Gospel makes it very clear that we have to make a choice. If we accept the Gospel, believing it to be God’s own word, and are baptized, we will be saved. If we believe that the Gospel is God’s own word but reject it we will not be saved. The last words of St Andrew Kim Taegon, the first Korean priest, echo this: This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.

 St Andrew Kim Taegon (21 August 1921 – 16 September 1846), first Korean priest.

Faith is a gift. There are many good persons who live by the truth but who have not received the gift of faith. In the Solemn Intercessions on Good Friday we pray for the Jewish people, for those who do not believe in Christ and for those who do not believe in God. In the prayer for those who do not believe in Christ the priest prays, Almighty ever-living God, grant to those who do not confess Christ that, by walking before you with a sincere heart, they may find the truth and that we ourselves, being constant in mutual love and striving to understand more fully the mystery of your life, may be made more perfect witnesses to your love in the world. [Emphasis added].

In the prayer for those who do not believe in God the priest prays, . . . grant, we pray, that, despite every harmful obstacle, all may recognise the signs of your fatherly love and the witness of the good works done by those who believe in you, and so in gladness confess you . . . [Emphasis added].

The witness of the writings of Fr Matteo Ricci SJ and that of the Catholics he met in Beijing led Yi Sung-Hun to ask for baptism. His witness in turn to his own people led many not only to accept the Catholic faith but to witness to it by accepting humiliation and death itself during the four persecutions that took place. Here is an example from Asian Saints by Francis X. Clark SJ. St Columba and her sister St Agnes were martyred in 1839.

Kim Hyo-im (Columba) was one of the outstanding Korean martyrs. Her mother and six children converted to the Catholic religion. Two of the six, Columba and Agnes, resolved not to marry. In a trial the officials therefore asked: ‘Why are you not married?’ They replied: ‘Because we want to worship God, the Creator of all things, with clean body and heart, and save our souls’.
Tortures followed. For example, to make her indicate where Catholic were hiding and where Catholic books were kept, they twisted her legs, burned her body with heated charcoal, penetrated her skin with needle-like instruments. The police chief finally used a method which was unthinkable even in pagan lands.

They stripped Columba and Agnes of their clothes, took them from the jail for women, threw them into a prison of criminal men, allowing the prisoners to do anything they wanted. Although for two full days this continued, a power from above protected Columba and Agnes; no man approached them. Later Columba vehemently complained to the chief judge about this treatment: ‘You can kill us, but you have no right to do that kind of thing to us’. The judge agreed, and punished the police responsible. The officials attempted three final beatings to force her to deny her faith, without success. They then cut off her head.

The first canonization outside of Rome in modern times took place in Seoul on 6 May 1984 when Blessed John Paul II canonized a representative group of 113 Korean martyrs, out of more than 8,000 killed during the persecutions. Their feast day is 28 September.

 Beethoven’s Halleluiah from Christ on the Mount of Olives. Bupyeong Methodist Church, Seoul.  

Columban priests who died as a result of the Korean War

 Fr Anthony Collier

Father Tony was born in Clogherhead, County Louth, Ireland, 20 June 1913. He was killed by North Korean soldiers on 27 June 1950.

Fr James Maginn

Father Jim  was born in Butte, Montana, USA, on 15 November 1911 but grew up in Northern Ireland. He was killed on 4 July 1950.

Fr Patrick Reilly

Father Paddy was born in Drumraney, County Westmeath, Ireland, on 21 October 1915. He was killed by North Korean soldiers on 29 August 1950.

Monsignor Patrick Brennan

Monsignor Brennan was born in Chicago, USA, on 13 March 1901. He was ordained for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1928 and joined the Columbans eight years later. He became Prefect Apostolic of Kwangju in 1948. He and Frs Cusack and O'Brien, below, are presumed to have been massacred along with many other prisoner on the night of 24 September 1950. Monsignor Brennan, who had also served in China, was awarded the Soldier's Medal for bravery as a US Army chaplain in Europe during World War II.

Fr Thomas Cusack

Father Tom was born in Ballycotton, Liscannor, County Clare, Ireland, on 23 October 1910. He was killed with Monsignor Brennan and Father O'Brien.

Fr John O'Brien

Father Jack was from Donamon, County Roscommon, Ireland, and was born in 1918. He perished along with Monsignor Brennan and Father Cusack.

11 May 2012

'That my joy may be in you . . .' Sunday Reflections, 6th Sunday of Easter Year B

The Last Supper, El Greco, c.1568

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA) 

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)  

Gospel John 15:9-17 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.’

From 1997 to 2000, during a six-year stint as vocation director of the Columbans in the Philippines, I lived in the Columban house in Negros Occidental, about an hour and a half south of Bacolod city where I now live. . One of my companions in the Columban house was the late Fr Edward Allen, born in the heart of Dublin in September 1906. He died on 3 March 2001. Father Eddie was severely incapacitated by a stroke in December 1998 but his mind and his sense of humour remained clear, even though his speech was difficult to understand at times.

In the late 1980s, when I was in charge of the Columban seminarians in their first year of study in Cebu City, when they were in the 16-17 age bracket, I invited Father Eddie over to spend some time with us and to talk about the early days of the Society of St Columban, formally established on the 29 June 1918. As it happened, Fr Aedan McGrath, born in Dublin in January 1906 and ordained in 1929, one year ahead of Father Eddie, happened to arrive. One morning at breakfast they were sitting at two different tables with groups of students and were eating brown bread, or what Americans call ‘Irish soda bread’. Virgie, our cook, had been taught by Irish Columban Sisters how to bake it and she did a good job if it. To my utter astonishment and delight Father Eddie and Father Aedan, already in their 80s, began to sing an old music hall song from Dublin that I wasn’t familiar with, Brown Bread. None of us had expected such early morning entertainment.

Maybe ten years or so later, after Father Eddie has his stroke, Father Aedan came to visit him in our house in Negros. Father Eddie didn’t know his old friend was coming. It was evening when he arrived and when Father Aedan walked into his room Father Eddie’s smile was like a particularly stunning sunrise. His senior by eight months solved the communication problem by talking about things he knew Father Eddie was interested in.

About a year after his stroke the nurse called me to Father Eddie’s room one night around 12 to give him last rites. He said very clearly, ‘I’m dying’. I anointed him. Those who were present said the prayers for the dying, sang a couple of hymns and we then said our goodbyes to him. But after a while it became apparent that he had come through the crisis and would be with us for a while yet. I went back to bed.

The following morning the nurses were joking with him, ‘Father, you were only practicing last night!’ There was a palpable sense of joy around the house, even though we expected him to go within a matter of days. He lived on for more than a year, outlasting Father Aedan by more than a year! Father Aedan, whom I thought might be the first Columban to reach 100, died suddenly at a family gathering in Dublin on Christmas morning 2000.

Both of these priests were full of the joy that Jesus wants to share with each of us, a joy that is not something on the surface but rather in the depths of our being. This is the gift that he spoke about at the Last Supper the night before he died. Father Aedan spent almost three years in solitary confinement in China from 1950 to 1953 because of his work there with the Legion of Mary but he didn’t have the slightest touch of bitterness towards the Chinese people, rather the opposite. [See video below]. Father Eddie in his 55 years in the Philippines, after spending the War years in our seminary in the USA, never held any position of authority in the Columbans or in a parish. He was quite happy to be an assistant to younger men. He had an extraordinary influence on the lives of many young women who found their vocation to the religious life under his guidance and encouragement.

Despite his physical helplessness in his last illness he was a source of strength to the nurses taking care of him. Their joking with him about ‘practising’ for death was to me a profound expression of their respect and affection for him and indeed of their faith in the Resurrection, a faith strengthened by the joyful faith of Father Eddie. How many of us would have that kind of freedom with a much older and sick person?

Those taking care of Father Eddie found this freedom because of the way he shared with them the joy that Jesus shared with him, a joy that he wants each of us to have.

The video below includes the one above and tells of an extraordinary event at Father Aedan's funeral.

04 May 2012

'I am the true vine . . .' Sunday Reflections, 5th Sunday of Easter Year B

From The Gospel of John (2003). Directed by Philip Saville. Jesus played by Henry Ian Cusick; narrator, Christopher Plummer.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA) 

Gospel John 15:1-8 (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Jesus said to his disciples:
'I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more. You are pruned already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you. Make your home in me, as I make mine in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is like a branch that has been thrown away - he withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire, and they are burnt. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask what you will and you shall get it. It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples.'

An Soiscéal Eoin 15:1-8 (Gaeilge, Irish)

San am sin dúirt Íosa lena dheisceabail:
Mise an fhíniúin fhíor, agus is é m’Athair an saothraí. Gach géag ionam nach dtugann toradh, bainfidh sé í; agus gach géag a thugann toradh, bearrfaidh sé í, ionas go dtabharfaidh sí breis toraidh. Tá sibhse bearrtha de bharr an bhriathair a labhair mé libh. Fanaigí ionamsa, agus mise ionaibh. Faoi mar nach féidir don ghéag toradh a thabhairt uaithi féin, mura bhfanann sí san fhíniúin, sin mar nach féidir daoibhse, mura bhfanann sibh ionamsa. Mise an fhíniúin, sibhse na géaga; an té a fhanann ionamsa, agus mise ann, tugann seisean toradh mór uaidh; óir gan mise, ní féidir daoibh aon ní a dhéanamh. Cibé nach bhfanfaidh ionamsa, caithfear amach é mar ghéag, agus feofaidh sé; agus tógfar agus caithfear sa tine iad, agus dófar iad. Má fhanann sibh ionamsa agus má fhanann mo bhriathra ionaibh, iarrfaidh sibh cibé ní is mian libh agus déanfar daoibh é. Tugadh glóir do m’Athair sa mhéid go dtugann sibhse toradh mór uaibh, agus go mbeidh sibh in bhur ndeisceabail agamsa.

Today’s gospel was the one used by Pope Benedict when he celebrated Mass in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin last year on 22 September. In his homily the Pope used these striking words: In the parable of the vine, Jesus does not say: “You are the vine”, but: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5). In other words: “As the branches are joined to the vine, so you belong to me! But inasmuch as you belong to me, you also belong to one another.” This belonging to each other and to him is not some ideal, imaginary, symbolic relationship, but – I would almost want to say – a biological, life-transmitting state of belonging to Jesus Christ. Such is the Church, this communion of life with Jesus Christ and for one another, a communion that is rooted in baptism and is deepened and given more and more vitality in the Eucharist. “I am the true vine” actually means: “I am you and you are I” – an unprecedented identification of the Lord with us, with his Church.

So many are caught in a ‘Jesus and me’ mentality, which ignores the reality of the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation, words from the Second Vatican Council that Pope Benedict quotes.

As I was reading the Pope’s homily I was thinking that he could have been speaking directly to the people of my native Ireland where there is a deep crisis in the Church. He says to the congregation in Berlin, Many people see only the outward form of the Church. This makes the Church appear as merely one of the many organizations within a democratic society, whose criteria and laws are then applied to the task of evaluating and dealing with such a complex entity as the ‘Church’. If to this is added the sad experience that the Church contains both good and bad fish, wheat and darnel, and if only these negative aspects are taken into account, then the great and beautiful mystery of the Church is no longer seen.

It follows that belonging to this vine, the ‘Church’, is no longer a source of joy. Dissatisfaction and discontent begin to spread, when people’s superficial and mistaken notions of ‘Church’, their ‘dream Church’, fail to materialize! Then we no longer hear the glad song ‘Thanks be to God who in his grace has called me into his Church’ that generations of Catholics have sung with conviction.

I sometimes feel discouraged when I read the news from Ireland. I sometimes feel discouraged at happenings in the Philippines, especially within the Church.

But Jesus tells us clearly that separated from him we can do nothing. Each of us has to decide whether or not we wish to remain united to the life-giving vine who is Jesus himself. Pope Benedict says, Every one of us is faced with this choice. The Lord reminds us how much is at stake as he continues his parable: ‘If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned’ (John 15:6). There is nothing of the ‘meek and mild’ in these stark words of Jesus.

Yet the Gospel, the Good News’ is by definition a message of joyful hope, as the Pope reminded the people in Berlin:

The decision that is required of us here makes us keenly aware of the fundamental significance of our life choices. But at the same time, the image of the vine is a sign of hope and confidence. Christ himself came into this world through his incarnation, to be our root. Whatever hardship or drought befall us, he is the source that offers us the water of life, that feeds and strengthens us. He takes upon himself all our sins, anxieties and sufferings and he purifies and transforms us, in a way that is ultimately mysterious, into good branches that produce good wine. In such times of hardship we can sometimes feel as if we ourselves were in the wine-press, like grapes being utterly crushed. But we know that if we are joined to Christ we become mature wine. God can transform into love even the burdensome and oppressive aspects of our lives. It is important that we ‘abide’ in Christ, in the vine. The evangelist uses the word ‘abide’ [‘remain’] a dozen times in this brief passage. This ‘abiding in Christ’ characterizes the whole of the parable. In our era of restlessness and lack of commitment, when so many people lose their way and their grounding, when loving fidelity in marriage and friendship has become so fragile and short-lived, when in our need we cry out like the disciples on the road to Emmaus: ‘Lord, stay with us, for it is almost evening and darkness is all around us!’ (cf. Luke 24:29), in this present era, the risen Lord gives us a place of refuge, a place of light, hope and confidence, a place of rest and security. When drought and death loom over the branches, then in Christ we find future, life and joy. In him we always find forgiveness and the opportunity to begin again, to be transformed as we are drawn into his love.

To abide in Christ means, as we saw earlier, to abide in the Church as well. The whole communion of the faithful has been firmly incorporated into the vine, into Christ. In Christ we belong together. Within this communion he supports us, and at the same time all the members support one another. We stand firm together against the storm and offer one another protection. Those who believe are not alone. We do not believe alone, we believe with the whole Church of all times and places, with the Church in heaven and the Church on earth.

May I, as an Irish missionary priest in the Philippines, ask your prayers for a renewal of the Church in Ireland and that the International EucharisticCongress to be held in Dublin in June will be a life-giving ‘pruning’ for each and every individual Catholic and for the Church as a whole in Ireland so that once again it can truly be a sign of God’s love for all, the universal sacrament of salvation.

Céad mile fáilte (Irish Gaelic) or Ceud Mìle Fàilte (Scottish Gaelic) is a traditional greeting, here extended to Jesus (Íosa). The following is copied straight from the description that goes with the video.

CÉAD MÍLE FÁILTE ROMHAT A ÍOSA is an especially charming version of one of Ireland's treasury of religious songs, handed down to modern times by oral tradition.

It is generally sung as a Christmas carol but also serves as a beautiful hymn for the reception of Holy Communionat any time of the year.

The recording, from the CD 'Faith of Our Fathers' originally released in the early 1990s, is beautifully sung by the RTÉ Cór na nÓg to an arrangement by Dubliner John Drummond.

'Cór na nÓg' is a choir for children maintained by RTÉ, Ireland's admirable national broadcasting authority.

For translations into English and Welsh please scroll down.


Céad míle fáilte romhat, a Íosa, a Íosa,
Céad míle fáilte romhat, a Íosa,
Céad míle fáilte romhat, a Shlánaitheoir
Céad míle míle fáilte romhat, a Íosa, a Íosa...

Glóir agus moladh duit, a Íosa, a Íosa,
Glóir agus moladh duit, a Íosa,
Glóir agus moladh duit, a Shlánaitheoir,
Glóir, moladh agus buíochas duit, a Íosa, a Íosa...

Céad míle fáilte romhat, a Shlánaitheoir,
Céad míle míle fáilte romhat, a Íosa, a Íosa...


A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Jesus, o Jesus,
A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Jesus,
A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Saviour,
A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Jesus, o Jesus...

Glory and praise to you, o Jesus, o Jesus,
Glory and praise to you, o Jesus,
Glory and praise to you, o Saviour,
Glory, praise and thanks to you, o Jesus, o Jesus...

A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Saviour,
A hundred thousand welcomes to you, o Jesus, o Jesus...


Croeso it galon gu, yr Iesu,
Croeso it galon gu, y Waredwr ,
Croeso it galon gu a glân, yr Iesu, yr Iesu...

Moliant a bri i ti, yr Iesu, yr Iesu,
Moliant a bri i ti, yr Iesu,
Moliant a bri i ti, y Waredwr,
Pob moliant pur a diolch i ti, yr Iesu, yr Iesu.

Croeso it galon gu, y Waredwr ,
Croeso it galon gu a glân, yr Iesu, yr Iesu...

This version in Welsh may be sung to the traditional Irish melody. To make it so meant writing a translation to fit the music. For that reason it is not nearly as literal as the not-for-singing version in English.