21 February 2013

'They saw his glory . . .' Sunday Reflections, 2nd Sunday of Lent Year C

Transfiguration of ChristUnknown Icon Painter, Cretan, c.1550. (Web Gallery of Art)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Luke 9:28b-36 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah"--not knowing what he said. As he said this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen. 

[The LORD] brought [Abram] outside and said, "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them." Then he said to him, "So shall your descendants be." ( From First Reading, Gen 15:5, RSVCE).

Starry Night June 1889, Saint-Rémy, Vincent Van Gogh


By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

The deacon or priest says these words quietly as he pours wine and a little water into the chalice during the Offertory of the Mass. In today's gospel Jesus, who humbled himself to share in our humanity, allowed Peter, James and John to get a glimpse of his divinity. Moses and Elijah spoke of what Jesus was to accomplish at Jerusalem. That was not only his death but his Resurrection and glorification.

Jesus calls us to share in his Resurrection and glorification, to share in the divinity that is his.

We don't share in the Resurrection, glorification and divinity of Jesus Christ only after death but also, as Peter, James and John did in the Transfiguration, in this life when we experience the gift of God's love in events that can transform us here and now.

My Australian fellow Columban, Fr Warren Kinne, who worked in Mindanao, Philippines, for many years and is now in China, tells the story of Xiao Ai, who was in her early days a 'non-person'. But through the love and care of strangers, Chinese and foreign, she now has possibilities open to her that she never could have imagined. And Father Warren, who has some Chinese ancestry, sees her story as encapsulating in some ways the meaning of Lent and Easter. Here's how he tells it. It's taken from the current issue of Misyon, the Columban online magazine I edit in the Philippines.

Courage to live a Lent

by Fr Warren Kinne

Xiao Ai

Before the great Feast of Easter when we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Church goes through a period of preparation by prayer and fasting. We call this Lent. In the northern hemisphere, where Christianity started, it was celebrated in spring and slowly, throughout that time, the dead of winter burst forth into the luxuriance of new growth, signifying life and the resurrection.

Xiao Ai is a young friend of mine. She was left at the steps of a convent about eight years ago in a remote village of Shan Xi Province, China. She was born with clubbed feet and abandoned. Xiao was brought to Shanghai where a group of foreigners provided money and logistical support for multiple operations.
During that period she was taken in by a family who took great care of her and eventually wanted to adopt her as their own. However there were many hurdles to be overcome. Xiao Ai did not have any identification as the convent was not a registered orphanage and so was not in a position to register her.
Indeed people could only guess at her actual birth date. She was really a ‘non-person’.
After years of effort Xiao Ai has had all her paperwork completed and she now has a Chinese passport that will allow her to travel with her adopted family to Singapore. What happiness followed the long and anxious wait where a wonderful outcome was hoped for rather than expected.
Xiao Ai with Fr Warren Kinne
For the Lord takes delight in his people (Psalm 149:4, Grail translation)
Xiao’s struggle to me is a Lenten story that has become an Easter story; a fast that turned into a feast; a long journey in a desert that ended in freedom; a near death that heralded a resurrection, a new life.
Shanghai is a city of tinsel and glitter. Most people recognize the image of its iconic buildings and towering structures along the Huang Pu River. There are myriad neon signs and a ‘yuppie’ lifestyle for many expatriates who ride the wave of economic frenzy. But it has its under-belly.
The construction of this city has been done on the backs of migrant workers - currently seven million - who have travelled to the city to find work. They left their villages and often their families in order to make a little money on construction sites and in restaurants and factories.
These people do not have residency permits in Shanghai and so they cannot settle down where they work. Often they leave their children back in the village in the care of grandparents and may only get home once a year – during the Chinese New Year – to see how the family is going.
Children can resent their absence and may not appreciate the sacrifice of the parent or parents in order to better the whole family economically.
In the cities where they work they do not have equal access to medical and educational opportunities that are open to the local population.
Their sacrifice is a sort of ‘Lent’ lived in the hope of a better future for their family. Like Xiao Ai’s adopting parents or the migrant parents, they in fact live the admonition of God in Isaiah 58: 6-7: ‘Is not this the fast that I choose: to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him’.
God brought the slaves out of the land of Egypt where they had made bricks for the ostentatious buildings of the Pharaohs. This same God made a covenant with them and subsequently with us that we might treat each other differently because in one way or another we have all been freed. The worship of the market and the God of money has caused many to suffer. May we all have the courage to live a Lent that will usher in true life for the world.
Xiao Ai is singing a song of greeting for the Lunar/Chinese New Year.
Gong Xi Fa Cai

Although the Lunar New Year celebration is over I don't think it inappropriate to include the song here. What comes to my mind each time I look at the photo of Xiao Ai with Father Warren and when I watch the video of this young girl born a 'non-person' is the truth of Genesis 1: 26, Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness'.

14 February 2013

'To you I will give all this authority . . .' Sunday Reflections, 1st Sunday of Lent Year C

Three Temptations of Christ (detail), Sistine Chapel, Botticelli, 1481-82 

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Luke 4:1-13 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone.'" And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, "To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours." And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'" And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; for it is written, 'He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" And Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'" And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. 

Kyrie eleison, and Intercessions in different languages
Taizé - Pilgrimage of Trust in Rome
Prayer presided by Holy Father Benedict XVI
St Peter's Square, 29 December 2012

I can't help reflecting on this gospel in the light of Pope Benedict's announcement last Monday when he said, Well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome.

When the devil tempts Jesus with the promise of glory and power Jesus quotes from Scripture, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.

Tomb of St Gregory the Great, Rome

In an audience in 2008 speaking about St Gregory the Great, who reluctantly had become Pope Gregory I, Pope Benedict said, Recognizing the will of God in what had happened, the new Pontiff immediately and enthusiastically set to work. From the beginning he showed a singular enlightened vision of the reality with which he had to deal, an extraordinary capacity for work confronting both ecclesial and civil affairs, a constant and even balance in making decisions, at times with courage, imposed on him by his office.

The following day Pope Benedict said, Gregory remained a simple monk in his heart and therefore was decidedly opposed to great titles.  He wanted to be—and this is his expression—servus servorum Dei. Coined by him, this phrase was not just a pious formula on his lips but a true manifestation of his way of living and acting. He was intimately struck by the humility of God, who in Christ made himself our servant. He washed and washes our dirty feet. Therefore, he was convinced that a Bishop, above all, should imitate this humility of God and follow Christ in this way.  His desire was to live truly as a monk, in permanent contact with the Word of God, but for love of God he knew how to make himself the servant of all in a time full of tribulation and suffering. He knew how to make himself the “servant of the servants.”  Precisely because he was this, he is great and also shows us the measure of true greatness.

Pope Benedict, Zagreb, Croatia, June 2011 [Wikipedia]

Pope Benedict points out that it was his reluctant predecessor who coined the phrase that has become one of the titles that goes with the papacy, Servus servorum Dei, 'Servant of the servants of God'.

The call to be pope is a call to serve. Canon law, No 332, allows for the possibility of a pope to step down. But until now no pope has taken that step for 598 years and the previous few instances of it happening have been surrounded by controversy.

Blessed John Paul II wrote a letter of resignation in 1989 to be implemented in very specific situations that might arise. But he chose to remain pope until his death, despite his increasing incapacity in the last couple of years. Many of us were moved by his last public appearance on Easter Sunday 2005, six days before his death, when this once very athletic man with a powerful voice could only stand at his window and give a wordless blessing. Was his temptation to leave office, a temptation that with God's grace he didn't yield to?

Was the temptation of Pope Benedict to cling on to his office of service when he judged that he wasn't capable of doing so? Did he, with God's grace, refuse to yield to that temptation?

None of us can ever fully  know the depths of another person. But we can be touched by the actions of others.

Was it part of Blessed John Paul's vocation to teach us the value of suffering in old age, the value of accepting infirmity and disability, to refuse to yield to the temptation not to serve any more? 

Is it part of Pope Benedict's vocation to teach us the value of letting go of authority in order to allow another to exercise that same God-given authority in serving the Church and the world?

Many adult children and their parents are faced with choices such as Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict have faced. It can be a source of great anguish when it is clear that an older parent needs full-time care, the kind of care that their adult children cannot give, the kind of care that means their leaving home. I have never been faced with this situation as my mother died suddenly at 55 and my father at 74. But friends have told me of their suffering in this situation.

Fr Gabriel Harty OP (above), known as the Irish Rosary Priest and now over 90, wrote in Pioneer magazine last November:

As National Director of the rosary apostolate for almost sixty years, I realise that I had made a name for myself in certain quarters and that I had, as it were, built up a little kingdom of my own. Then one day I heard the news, that I was no longer to be in control. A big white van came down from the North to clear everything out of what was once my office, my home, my sanctuary to establish the rosary Centre elsewhere. I confess that I felt angry. Like so many at this time of recession who find themselves redundant, or like those who have to move aside to let the young take over, I went through a process of grieving. I confess that I failed to recognise the times, or come to terms with my own declining years.

In the midst of a time of darkness, it was the Lord's own prayer that helped me. Unable to run around the country anymore preaching to the crowds, I took time to walk up and down the Gethsemane back-garden of a dear friend who understood my predicament. As I would begin the Our Father, it would slowly dawn on me, that it was not my name that mattered or my kingdom that had to be preserved . . .

We will be without a Holy Father for some weeks because at 8pm Roman time on 28 February Pope Benedict XVI will renounce the papacy. Before Easter, God willing, we will have a new Holy Father.

Lent is a time of prayer, penance and renewal for the whole Church and for each member, a time to prepare to celebrate the great Feast of Easter, the Resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Pope Benedict's decision 'sharpens' all of this for us. A time of renewal is also a time of gratitude. We can thank God for Pope Benedict's gentle ministry, one in which he kept reminding us that our faith is in a Person, Jesus Christ, God who became Man.

This Lent is a time for earnest prayer that each of the cardinals who will assemble in March in Rome to elect a new pope will desire to be fully open to the Holy Spirit so that the one they choose will be the one whom God wills to be our new Holy Father. Let us pray that they will not be tempted to see the election as anything other than a searching for God's will as to who should be the next Servus servorum Dei, 'Servant of the servants of God'.


The memorial of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order is observed on 17 February. However, since it falls on a Sunday in Lent it is 'by-passed' this year. This order of friars was founded in 1233 by seven businessmen in Florence, Italy.

The website of the Province of the Isles (Britain and Ireland) is here, that of the USA Province here. Below is a vocations video prepared by the Servites in the USA.

St Valentine left us inspiring legacy as well as day of romance

Shrine of St Valentine, Whitefriar St, Dublin, Church of  the Carmelite Friars, (OCarm)

For a number of years I have been campaigning to put the 'SAINT' back into St Valentine's Day, eg, here, here and here. I was delighted, therefore, to read this essay in today's issue of The Irish Times. It is by 15-year-old Emma Tobin of Holy Faith Secondary School, Newbridge, County Kildare, Ireland.

St Valentine left us inspiring legacy as well as day of romance

I could talk all day about love, because in every book I read and in every movie I watch someone tries to tell me what it is. Most of these don’t come close to what love means to me, so I ignore them, but I remember a certain series of books that captured for me the shyness of young love and the certainty of true love.
Alas, I am not referring to any works by JK Rowling, but rather the man behind February 14th, the man whose name is thrown around but whose life is seldom remembered. Instead of preaching about what love is, I am going to tell you what we are truly saying when we write, in poorly disguised handwriting, “From your Valentine.”
St Valentine was a priest outside Rome in AD 270. He provided the sacraments to Christians at a time when the church was enduring massive persecution.
He was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers in the army and for practising Christianity.
What transpired during his imprisonment is the subject of much debate, and many say that we know nothing of St Valentine apart from the fact that he was buried in the Via Flaminia on February 14th.
There is also some consensus that he was martyred for his beliefs. This was not his belief that people should have the right to be in love, but that they should have the right to be married.
There are some accounts of St Valentine being interrogated by Emperor Claudius II, and of Claudius taking an interest in Valentine and urging him to convert to the polytheist religion of the Roman Empire. The same accounts also speak of St Valentine in turn trying to convert Claudius to Christianity, and say it was for this that he was ultimately sentenced to death.
True to form, he didn’t huddle defeated in his cell; he created a tradition that endures to this day. The jailer Asterius’s daughter was blind and St Valentine is said to have written a letter to the girl signed “From your Valentine”.
Another tradition has it that he cut out hearts in parchment and gave them to persecuted Christians to remind them of God’s love.
Our modern St Valentine’s Day may bear little resemblance to the aspirations of the man who gives it its name, but it is all that remains of a man who was brave, and who believed in human rights enough to die for them. We could do with taking a leaf from his book by respecting the human rights of others.
So today, when you’re dotting your i’s with jaunty little hearts, remember the man who died because he believed in the right of those who chose to do so to wear a ring on their finger proclaimimg their love for another person, in their right to let the world know who they loved enough to bind themselves together in sickness and in health, for rich or for poor, as long as they both shall live.
Happy St Valentine’s Day.

12 February 2013

Pope Benedict: 'I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome'.

The Latin text of Pope Benedict's Declaratio yesterday contains these words: Quapropter bene conscius ponderis huius actus plena libertate declaro me ministerio Episcopi Romae, Successoris Sancti Petri, mihi per manus Cardinalium die 19 aprilis MMV commissum renuntiare  ita ut a die 28 februarii MMXIII, hora 20, sedes Romae, sedes Sancti Petri vacet et Conclave  ad eligendum novum Summum Pontificem ab his quibus competit convocandum esse.

The official English translation of that reads: For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dr Robert Moynihan, founder and editor of Inside the Vatican, in an emailed newsletter yesterday makes this point: First, Pope Benedict has not decided to "resign" his office, but to renounce it. The distinction is important. He will not be a "retired Pope," but he will be, according to Vatican officials I spoke with today, simply "Cardinal Ratzinger" once again. There will be no danger of "two Popes" -- this present Pope will no longer be a Pope, not even a retired one.

More than once Pope Benedict has spoken about the importance of  'pacing' ourselves. While on vacation in Les Combes (Aosta Valley), in the mountains of northern Italy he said in his Angelus talk on 17 July 2005:

I have been here for some days in the marvellous mountains of the Aosta Valley, where the memory of my beloved Predecessor John Paul II lives on; his stays here over the years were relaxing and invigorating. This summer break is a truly providential gift of God after the first months of the demanding pastoral service that divine Providence has entrusted to me . . .

In the world in which we live, the need to be physically and mentally replenished has become as it were essential, especially to those who dwell in cities where the often frenzied pace of life leaves little room for silence, reflection and relaxing contact with nature. Moreover, holidays are days on which we can give even more time to prayer, reading and meditation on the profound meaning of life in the peaceful context of our own family and loved ones. The vacation period affords unique opportunities for reflection as we face the stirring views of nature, a marvellous "book" within the reach of everyone, adults or children. In contact with nature, individuals rediscover their proper dimension, they recognize that they are creatures but at the same time unique, "capable of God" since they are inwardly open to the Infinite. Driven by the heartfelt need for meaning that urges them onwards, they perceive the mark of goodness and divine Providence in the world that surrounds them and open themselves almost spontaneously to praise and prayer.

In his Angelus talk in the same place a year later, 16 July, Pope Benedict said:

I again have the joy this year of spending a period of rest here in the Aosta Valley, in the house that so often welcomed beloved John Paul II and in which I feel perfectly at home, truly on holiday, in a place where the Creator gives us this fresh air, beauty and restfulness and the joy of being alive.

I have immersed myself immediately in this magnificent Alpine scenery that helps reinvigorate body and spirit, and today I am happy to have this family meeting, for as the Bishop has said, it is not a crowd but a gathering, indeed, it is a family of the faithful.

The Valley of Tora, Lorenzago di Cadore

And on 15 July 2007, in Lorenzago di Cadore, also in the mountains of northern Italy, the Pope said in his Angelus talk:

Every good Christian knows that vacations are an appropriate time for relaxation and also the nourishment of the spirit through more extended periods of prayer and meditation, in order to grow in one's personal relationship with Christ and to conform increasingly to his teachings.

Cathedral, Bressanone (Brixen)

In  the Cathedral Plaza of Bressanone in the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone (Bozen-Brixen) on 10 August 2008, when he was once again on vacation in northern Italy, Pope Benedictg said in his Angelus talk:

There is a point in Mark's Gospel where he recounts that after days of stress the Lord said to the disciples: "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while" (6: 31). And since the Word of Christ is never connected solely to the moment in which it was spoken I have applied this invitation to the disciples also to myself, and I came to this beautiful, tranquil place to rest for a while. I must thank Bishop Egger and all his collaborators, the whole City and Region of Bressanone, for preparing this beautiful quiet place for me in which, during the past two weeks I have been able to relax, to think of God and of humanity, and thus to recover fresh energy. May God reward you!

Sadly, Bishop Wilhelm Emil Egger OFMCap died six days later, suddenly as I recall.

Many commentators have pointed out 'clues' that Pope Benedict has given over the years that he might take the step he has taken. But for me one mark of his pontificate is that he has always been himself, trying to do faithfully what God has asked him to do, constantly reminding us that our faith is in Jesus Christ, God who became Man. He has not tried to do the impossible but he has carried the Cross and will continue to do so.

Pope Benedict will continue to serve as Bishop of Rome till 2000 hours, Roman time, on Thursday 28 February (0200 hours, Philippine time, Friday 1 March). Until a new pope is elected we won't be praying for the pope during Mass, since there won't be any. 

But we should pray for Pope Benedict in a special way between now and then. The Mass for the Pope has three alternative Collects. Here is the third.

O God, who chose your servant Benedict
in succession to the Apostle Peter 
as shepherd of the whole flock, 
look favourably on the supplications of your people 
and grant that, as Vicar of Christ on earth, 
he may confirm his brethren 
and that the whole Churhc may be in communion with him 
in the bond of , love and peace, 
so that in you, the shepherd of souls, 
all may know the truth and attain life eternal. 
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.

09 February 2013

'But at your word . . .' Sunday Reflections, 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Luke 5:1-11 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men." And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. 

The painter Raphael captures something of the awe of St Peter when he saw how much fish he and his companions had caught, despite their misgivings as experienced fishermen in following the advice of someone they knew to be a carpenter from the mountains of Galilee. St Peter, who had a long way to go in his formation as a follower of Jesus, recognised the utter generosity of God's providence.

Columban Fr John Griffin, a New Zealander who worked for many years both in the Philippines and Chile tells a story about St Alberto Hurtado SJ (1901 - 1952) and his trust in God's providence in A priest, I bless you - Alberto. (I've used this story before but it fits in with today's Gospel).

Providence was always on his side. At a meeting one night his board of directors was unwilling, for lack of funds, to approve a new project. In the midst of discussions there was an unexpected call for Fr Hurtado to attend to someone at his front door. He had a brief conversation with the caller who said she wanted to leave a gift to help the great work he was doing.

He gratefully put her envelope in his pocket, wished her a good evening and returned to his meeting. He looked at the contents of the envelope as he sat down. Then he tossed a check onto the table saying, ‘There you are, ye of little faith!’ It was for one million pesos – worth about US$30,000 at that time. 

Postage stamps issued in Chile in 2001 for the centennial of the birth of the then Blessed Alberto Hurtado SJ

I recently experienced something of God's providence. I was asked to write an article for the Columban magazine in the USA, Columban Mission. So I wrote The Miracle Girls! and it was published last October. 

I got the title from one of the girls at Holy Family Home for Girls, Bacolod City,after the release of kidnapped Columban Fr Michael Sinnott in the Philippines in 2009. I had asked the girls to pray for Fr Sinnott's safe release. When I told them that God had heard their fervent prayers - and fervent they were - one of them came up to me and said, 'Father, we are the miracle girls!' [They were actually part of an international 'prayer brigade'].

She was expressing something like St Alberto, a total trust in God's providence.

I was happy when my article was published but had no idea how many readers would respond with generosity, a generosity that will enable the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of the Holy Family to continue to take care of the girls whom God sends their way just as God continues, more than 60 years after his death, to provide for the Hogar de Cristo (Home of Christ) movement that San Alberto started and that has spread to other countries.

Like many of 'The Miracle Girls' Father Alberto came from a background of poverty and of violence. But that didn't stop him from hearing God's call. He wanted to be a lawyer in order to help the poor. God answered his desire to help the poor of Chile, not as a lawyer but as a Jesuit priest. God called Peter and his companions to let go of their fears and of their work: Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.

St Luke tells us directly and simply how Peter and Andrew, James and John, responded to the words of Jesus: And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. 

They didn't become saints overnight. They failed Jesus many times and Peter even betrayed him. But Jesus never abandoned them and their hope and trust in him never vanished.

St Peter's words can encourage us when we can't see things clearly, when we are disheartened, when we've nowhere to turn to: But at your word . . .


After today we won't be singing or praying the Gloria on Sunday until Easter. Above is the new English translation of the Gloria adapted to the Gregorian chant setting of the Gloria in Mass XV, Dominator Deus. You can find the Latin setting, with a literal English translation, here and the organ accompaniment here.

You will find settings of the Mass in both Latin and the new English translation on Musica Sacra, Church Music Association of America.

Here the monks of St Peter's Abbey of Solesmes, France, sing the Gloria from Mass XV in the original Latin.

08 February 2013

Appeal from the Bishop of Myitkyina, Myanmar (Burma)

Skyline of Myitkyina

The Columbans first went to what was then Burma in October 1936 and went to the mountainous area of the north where the Kachins live. Priests of the Paris Foreign Missions Society had already been there for many years. The area the Columbans were asked to take care of has become two dioceses, Myitkyina [MITCH in awe] and Banmaw, also known as Bhamo.

There has been an ongoing conflict in the Kachin area for many years, a second phase beginning in June 2011. It is in the context of that conflict that the Diocese of Myitkyina issued this statement the other day.

St. Columban's Cathedral, Aungnan Yeiktha, Myitkyina 01011
Tel: (+95)-74-23017, Fax (+95)-74-23016, Email: myitkyinabishop@gmail.com
 Call from the Catholic Church in Myitkyina to all parties in Conflict in Kachin Region  to halt hostilities and begin the Journey  towards  Peace Based on Justice
Date : 3 February 2013
We, the Catholic Faithful,   guided by the Bishop of Diocese,  Rev Dr Francis, Priests  and religious of Myitkyina Diocese, urgently release this message  to all parties in the ongoing conflict in Kachin Areas :

Uphold the principle ''Church and State are separate” and has no political agenda in its structure and function yet called to collaborate in peace and justice and the human development of all.   Church is Catholic – that is open to all people, their needs, their aspirations and their desire for human dignity.

Are guided by the teachings of Christ and the bible, inspired by the Catholic Social teaching handed over by the Popes, specially the New Year Peace Day message of the Pope, which urge all Christians to work for peace and promotion of harmony among communities

Desire to collaborate with all like minded men and women, structures that work for promotion of peace and human dignity.

Are concerned deeply about the year long violent conflict in Kachin area. As a church we walk with our displaced people, watch  their life being destroyed by war,  their families fragmented by  depressing life in the displaced  camps.

Are deeply concerned about the escalation of war in the recent weeks, use of heavy weaponry, aerial bombing, increasing lack of clarity about conflict zones and civilian areas, unequal warfare waged during holy days of our faith, unacceptable conflict practice that force thousands to be displaced  exposing children and women to life threatening sickness  in the acute winter.

Wish to point out to all parties in conflict that we are all brothers and sisters in this God given land and ferocity of war of the strong one against the weak, the principle of might is right never brings peace, but more conflict and more displacement and closes all avenues of peaceful resolution of  major issues forcing generations after generation to indulge in a war without any result to anyone.

Are  guided by the international human rights instruments, our faith that seeks justice and we strongly condemn all human rights abuses by anyone – murder, violation to the integrity of a person, subhuman living conditions, arbitrary  detentions, deportation, disappearance, recruitment of children into conflict.
Strongly  Urge all parties to return to the peace negotiation, since peace is possible, peace is the only way, knowing that five decades of war has yielded nothing but more hatred, more agony.

Support all peace efforts that takes into consideration a peace making that is built on true justice, the peace dividends of the 1994 cease fire agreements, the consensus arrived at Panglong to accept  the ‘unity and diversity’ principle.

Urge all parties the root causes of the present conflict, the favoritism shown to one race and religion and language that opened a festering wound in the cultural heart of many communities that can be healed only by true federalism,  a meaningful participation in decision making and the sharing of resources.

Are strengthened by our Faith that peace is possible and human beings are brothers and sisters to one another and in this land we can live in peace and prosperity since God has blessed this golden land with too many resources.

As members of the church and Citizens of this Country, this is  our appeal to all the parties and urge all to  cease war and return to negotiating table.  We are intensely involved in the  care and comfort of the victims of war in the camps and in remote villages.  Despite our  meager  resources we have reached out our suffering poor with support from well wishers and local people.  We want our people to go back home. That is possible only when the war gets over and that is possible when  a peace based on Justice is initiated through talks.

On behalf of the Faithful

BISHOP OF MYITKYINA  and Church Leaders  


Here is a video that shows many parts of Myitkyina, including St Columban's Cathedral.

In the September-October 2011 issue of Misyon, the online magazine I edit for the Columbans in the Philippines, we carried an article by Arlenne B. Villahermosa, Remembering the Columbans. Arlenne is a Columban Lay Missionary from Talisay City, Cebu. The article includes the following video of the visit in 2009 of Bishop Michael Smith of Meath, Ireland, to the Diocese of Banmaw. St Columban's, Dalgan Park,Navan, where the Irish headquarters of the Columbans, where most Irish - and some American - Columbans studied, where many older Columbans are now living, is located in the Diocese of Meath.

Bishop Smith mentions Columbans who are buried in Burma. Many of those buried in Dalgan Park in his diocese worked as missionaries in the Diocese of Banmaw that he was visiting and in the Diocese of Myitkyina from which it was carved.