30 January 2014

'They brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord . . .' Sunday Reflections, Presentation of the Lord

The Presentation of the Lord, as a Feast of the Lord, takes precedence over the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)                                  

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

Gospel: Luke 2:22-40 [or 2:22-32] (New Revised Standard Version, CatholicEdition, Canada) 

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law,  Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
    according to your word;
 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
     which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

[And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed  so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.]

The late Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-Hwan, Archbishop of Seoul, with a young friend. The cardinal's paternal grandparents were sentenced to death during the last persecution of Catholics in Korea, in 1869. His grandfather was killed but the persecutors spared his grandmother because she was pregnant. The child in her womb was the Cardinal's father.

[Cover of Misyon, November-December 2007]
After patiently waiting for some years Renante and Christine Uy, from Bacolod City, Philippines, were finally blessed with Kiefer Thomas, their first born. They have been active members of Couples for Christ for many years and have continued with the movement in Thailand where they now live.

Three or four years ago while celebrating Sunday Mass in St Brigid's Parish, Blanchardstown, just north-west of Dublin city, where my brother and his wife live, I saw a young couple coming in at the back of the church a few minutes after Mass had begun. I smiled inwardly when I realised they were Filipinos. But then they came right up to the front pew and I was really touched to see the husband/father carrying their little child.

In the video of the Presentation in the Temple, produced by 'Rosary Priest' Fr Patrick Peyton's Family Theater, it is St Joseph who carries Jesus. St Luke doesn't specify this. But he does tell us that Simeon took him in his arms. The photo of the late Cardinal Kim above evokes this scene for me. What fills me with awe is the fact that his grandmother was spared by the persecutors in 1869 because she was pregnant, while his grandfather wasn't.

In Jewish law the man who named a child was considered his legal father. When I was a child I always heard St Joseph spoken of as the foster-father of Jesus. But St Matthew tells us: Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins' (Matt1:19-21). 

You are to name him Jesus means that St Joseph is being called by God to be a true father to the Son of his wife Mary. And the Church honours St Joseph above all as the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And it is through Joseph, son of David being his legal father that Jesus is of the line of David as God had promised.

Pope Francis has spoken a number of times about the faith of one of his grandmothers and how she helped to form him. The God-fearing mother, facing all kinds of adversity as she brings up her children in the faith has become almost a cliché. I don't mean any disrespect whatever to such mothers or to any mothers. But the emphasis on the role of the mother and grandmother in the raising of children in the faith tends, I think, to take away from the equally important role of the father and of the grandfather.

When I was a small child it was my father who brought me to Sunday Mass while my mother would stay at home with my brother, three years younger, when he was an infant. She would go to another Mass. I saw my father, who spent his working life on building (construction) sites, where he was a highly respected general foreman, get up very early every morning, go to Mass, come home and prepare my mother's breakfast and bring it to her in bed. (For many breakfast in bed is a treat. I hate the idea!) I saw how deeply he respected my mother, even when they had disagreements, never raising his voice to her or to anyone else, including us his two sons. I saw the same when I worked with him on a building site the summer before I was ordained. He never raised his voice there either and he never swore. He led by example and the men had profound respect for him. Some of those told me how great a mentor he was when they were still young and learning their trade. He had been blessed in a similar way when he started as an apprentice carpenter at 15.

My father taught me how to swim and how to ride a bicycle, letting go when he judged that I could go solo. I can still recall the joy in each instance when I realised that I was indeed going solo.

As I said above, St Luke doesn't specify that it was St Joseph who carried Jesus into the Temple. But the director of the video of the Presentation gives us an insight into the role of St Joseph. He was, as her husband, to be the protector of Mary and of her Son and he was, as his legal father, to be the mentor/teacher of Jesus in how to grow into manhood and in how to be a carpenter.

There is one telling scene when Simeon reaches out to take Jesus in his arms. Joseph doesn't hand him over without looking at Mary and getting her approval. As I grew older I could see that my parents made important decisions together such as which school they should send us to.

Rembrandt, c.1627 [Web Gallery of Art]

Simeon and Anna show us the importance of older persons in the lives of young parents and of children. When we are children the most significant older persons are our grandparents. Each Sunday morning my father would bring us to meet our grandfather who was widowed a couple of days after my brother was born. And I saw my maternal grandmother, widowed when I was less than two, very often. When I was in secondary school I often dropped into our parish church on my way home in the afternoon. There were always old people, including my grandfather, praying silently in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I sometimes dropped into other churches and would find the same.

There are many things we can reflect on as we celebrate the Presentation of the Lord. But for me it stirs up once again immense gratitude to God for my late father and an appreciation of the great responsibility that the vocation to be a husband/father carries, something, I think, that we as Church need to emphasise more.

The young Filipino husband/father carrying his child right up to the front of the church in Dublin, even though he and his wife were a little late, reminded me of the wonder of that vocation. And when we were choosing a photo of the Uy Family for the cover of Misyon I simply had to go for the one above.

Nunc dimittis (Canticle of Simeon)
Setting by Palestrina, sung by The Tallis Scholars.

Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace:
Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum
Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum:
Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Israel (Luke 2:29-32, Latin Vulgate).

Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
    according to your word;
 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
     which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and for glory to your people Israel (NRSVCE).


You will find music for the Feast of the Presentation on The God Who Sings on ABC Classic FM (Australia). The programme will be broadcast on Sunday night and will be available online for some weeks after that.

Happy Lunar New Year
I have friends from China, Korea and Vietnam all of whom, along with the people of Mongolia, where I have friends too, and of Tibet celebrate the Lunar New Year on 31 January. Happy New Year to all who are celebrating this festival, which continues for a number of days. 

23 January 2014

'For those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.' Sunday Reflections, 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Neubrandenburg, Caspar David Friedrich, c.1817 [Web Gallery of Art]

The people who sat in darkness
    have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned (Matthew 4:16, NRSVCE).

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)                                  

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

Gospel Matthew 4:12-23 [or 4:12-17] (New RevisedStandard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
    on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
 the people who sat in darkness
    have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
    light has dawned.”

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

[As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.]

Missa Brevis in G Major, Kyrie, Mozart
Lumen Choir, conducted by Jooyoung Kim
"Once upon a time",5th Annual Concert (Dec. 1, 2012)
Moonjeong-dong Catholic Church, Seoul, South Korea

Last Sunday here in the Philippines was the the Feast of the Santo Niño (Holy Child). The gospel was Matthew 18:1-5, 10 in which Jesus tells us Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I saw his words come to life at the end of Mass in Holy Family Home for Girls here in Bacolod City where I live.

Earlier this month four new girls came to the home. One, whom I'll call 'Josie', aged 14, is profoundly deaf. Her main way of communicating is Sign Language. The Sisters, staff and some of the girls are now learning Sign Language. The other three new girls include two aged ten and one aged six.

At the end of Mass I saw 'Josie' sitting and quietly crying. I wasn't quite sure why. One of the ten-year-old new girls, rather small for her age but very lively and whom I'll call 'Grace', went over to 'Josie' and put her arms around her to comfort her. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

The majority of the girls in Holy Family Home have had horrific experiences, in most cases within their own family circle. They truly have sat in darkness.

I celebrated Mass again in Holy Family Home on the evening of the feast of St Agnes, 21 January. Each year in the Home we combine a celebration of St Agnes the Martyr (c.291 - c.304), patron saint of chastity, of young girls and of rape victims, and Blessed Laura Vicuña (1891 - 1904), a patron of abuse victims who offered her life for the conversion of her mother and whose feast day is 22 January. I told the girls that the life of Blessed Laura, whose father died when she was young, was so like their own and that she became a saint in the midst of and through her sufferings, especially the cruelty of her stepfather who wasn't married to her mother. Despite her young age she had the maturity, generosity and holiness to offer her life so that her mother would return to the Lord. She told this to her mother when she was dying. It was the physical abuse of her stepfather that led to her death. Laura's prayers were answered.

Blessed Laura Vicuña in a school photo [Wikipedia]

Laura understood the stark reality of the words of Jesus in today's gospel: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. She also understood the power of God's mercy. Repentance and God's mercy are central to the preaching and teaching of Pope Francis. Since Blessed Laura, born in Santiago, Chile, died in Argentina he must be familiar with her life that embodied what he has spoken about so many times.

Holy Family Home exists because of the sins of adults against girls, some only small children. It is a place where most of the girls have sat in the region and shadow of death. I have brought many visitors there and the one word they nearly all have used to sum up their experience is 'joy', a joy they find among the girls and among the Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of the Holy Family and the staff. Those who live there are a testimony to the truth of the words of Isaiah that we listen to in the First Reading and the Gospel this Sunday and that we listened to at the Mass During the Night at Christmas: 

The people who sat in darkness    
   have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death   
   light has dawned.


The second part of today's gospel tells us of the call of the first disciples who were later called to be apostles, the brothers Simon Peter and Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee, James and John. Though Immediately they left their nets . . . Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him we know from the gospels that they continued to fish from time to time and to encounter stormy weather.

Here in the Philippines most fishermen are poor and go to sea in very small boats. In some countries larger boats go far from land and often encounter very dangerous weather. And a very large percentage of international seafarers - the largest group, I think - are Filipinos.

In Britain and Ireland the members of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) mostly volunteers, and their counterparts throughout the world, often put their lives in danger to save those in danger at sea. Irish Lifeboats covers both the RLNI in Ireland and Community Rescue Boats Ireland (CRBI). 

Irish musician and songwriter Phil Coulter, who lost a brother in a drowning accident, wrote a wonderful song about those who risk their lives at sea to save the lives of others, Home from the Sea. Here is a video of the song with Phil Coulter's musicians, a choir of members of the RNLI and the late Irish singer Liam Clancy, than whom there was no one better to put across a ballad.

In our prayers today let us remember our fishermen, our seafarers and those involved in rescue work at sea.

On a cold winter's night, with the storm at it's height,
A lifeboat answers a call.
They pitched and they tossed, 'till we thought they were lost,
As we watched from the harbour wall.
'Tho the night was pitch black, there was no turning back,
For someone was waiting out there,
And each volunteer had to live with his fear
As we joined in a silent prayer.

Home, home, home from the sea,
Angels of mercy, answer our plea.
And carry us home, home, home from the sea,
Carry us safely home, from the sea.
As they battled their way past the mouth of the bay
It was blowing like never before.
As they gallantly fought everyone of them thought
Of loved ones back on the shore.
Then a flicker of light and they knew they were right.
There she was on the crest of a wave.
She's an old fishing boat and she's barely afloat.
Please God, there are souls we can save.

And back in the town, on a street that runs down
To the sea and the harbour wall.
They had gathered in pairs at the foot of the stairs,
To wait for a radio call.
Then just before dawn, when all hope was gone,
Came a hush, and a faraway sound.
'Twas the coxswain, he roared "All survivors on board,
Thank God, and we're homeward bound"


20 January 2014

Claudio Abbado RIP, Pope Benedict and Mozart's Requiem

Lacrimosa from Dies Irae, Mozart's Requiem

Lacrimosa dies illa
Qua resurget ex favilla
Judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:
Pie Jesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem. Amen.

Full of tears shall be that day
On which from ashes shall arise
The guilty man to be judged;
Therefore, O God, have mercy on him.
Gentle Lord Jesus,
grant them eternal rest. Amen.

Agnus Dei, Mozart's Requiem, Lucerne Festival 2012

Pope Benedict on Mozart's Requiem

Pope Benedict attended a performance in his honour of Mozart's Requiem in Castel Gandolfo in September 2010. He gave a short address afterwards. Here are some quotations from that.

Everything is in perfect harmony in Mozart, every note, every musical phrase is as it is and could not be otherwise; even those opposed are reconciled; it is called 'mozart’sche Heiterkeit' (Mozart's serenity), which envelops everything, every moment. It is a gift of the Grace of God, but it is also the fruit of Mozart's lively faith that, especially in sacred music, is able to reflect the luminous response of divine love, which gives hope, even when human life is lacerated by suffering and death . . .

Mozart's Requiem is a lofty expression of faith, which recognizes the tragic character of human existence and which does not hide its dramatic aspects, and for this reason it is an appropriate expression of Christian faith, conscious that the whole of man's life is illuminated by the love of God.

Claudio Abbado expressed something of that very intensely at the conclusion of the Requiem in Lucerne.

At the conclusion of Mozart's Requiem, Lucerne Festival 2012

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10 NRSVCE).

May Claudio Abbado enjoy that fullness of life.

17 January 2014

'Here is the Lamb of God . . .' Sunday Reflections, 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Madonna and Child with the Lamb of God, Cesare de Sesto, c.1615 

In the Philippines the liturgy is that of the Feast of the Santo  Niño (Holy Child). You'll find Sunday Reflections for that here.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)                                  

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

Gospel John 1:29-34 (New Revised StandardVersion, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’  I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”  And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.  I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’  And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

San Alfonso de Liguori Parish, Rome, 6 January 2014.
Some wonderful photos of Pope Francis with the lamb here.

My friend Frances Molloy in England, founder and project manager of Pastoral Care Project, a ministry in the Archdiocese of Birmingham to persons with dementia and to their carers, told me a beautiful story in an email just after Christmas:

Behold . . . My granddaughter aged 4 was playing with 'Jesus' family', as they are known to her, our hand-knitted nativity set, and she noticed the empty manger. A little later she came to me and said, 'Grandma, I've put the lamb in the manger'. Quite a moment . . .

The Lamb of God is one of the names of Jesus, pointing towards his sacrificial death on Calvary. St John the Baptist, who introduces Jesus to us with the words Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! was to be martyred not long afterwards. The purpose of the mission of St John the Baptist was that he [Jesus] might be revealed to Israel. This is the mission to which each of us is called.

In his letter to the 10 new cardinals he announced last Sunday Pope Francis writes: And, although this may appear paradoxical, the ability to look further and to love more universally with greater intensity may be acquired only by following the same path of the Lord: the path of self-effacement and humility, taking on the role of a servant.

St John the Baptist followed that path: After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me. His mission was to lead people towards Jesus. One of the new cardinals is Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo OMI of Cotabato where just more than half of the 12,000,000 plus people are Catholics. Most of the others are Muslims.

The first Oblates came to the Philippines in 1939 from North America and included Canadians and Americans. They went to parts of Mindanao with a large Muslim population. Like the Columbans, to which I belong, they have their martyrs, as Fr Eliseo Mercado Jr OMI writesThe OMIs have had their share of martyrs in their 70 years in the Philip­pines. The first martyr was election-related. Fr Nelson Javellana and his volunteers of the first Philippine move­ment for clean and honest elections were ambushed near Tambunan, Cotabato on 3 November 1970. Three martyrs shed their blood in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. They are Bishop Benjamin de Je­sus on 4 February 1997, Fr Benjamin Inocencio on 28 December 2000 and Fr Jesus Reynaldo Roda on 15 January 2008.

Cardinal-designate Quevedo, who has been deeply involved in Christian-Muslim dialogue in Mindanao for many years, would have known those four men very well. He knows what is is to follow the same path of the Lord.

Below is an article published in Misyon, the Columban magazine I edit here in the Philippines, in May-June 2008, the first online-only edition. The author, Fr Roberto C. Layson OMI, whose ordination on 10 December 1988 I attended, was working with Bishop Benjamin de Jesus when he was murdered in 1997. Here he writes about his friend and confrere Fr Jesus Reynaldo A. Roda OMI whose life and death proclaimed Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 

They too Mourned for Him

by Fr Roberto C. Layson OMI
Fr Jesus Reynaldo A. Roda OMI, ‘Father Rey’, expected it all along. But not the people of Tabawan, whom he had served for ten years before his brutal murder on 15 January at the hands of his abductors. One of Father Rey’s Muslim scholars described the immediate reaction of the local people: ‘It was as if a big bomb was dropped in our midst and we got the shock of our lives. The whole island mourned. Some lost their appetite. Some kids don’t want to go to school anymore’.
Father Rey
Desecration of Sacred Grounds
Tabawan is one of the beautiful islands of Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost province of the Philippine archipelago. It is inhabited by peace-loving Samals and prides itself on being a peaceful and tolerant society. That is why the brutal murder of a missionary priest in this island is hard for the local inhabitants to accept. Ultimately, they saw it as a desecration of their sacred ground.
The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a missionary congregation, started to establish mission stations in the Muslim-dominated provinces of Cotabato, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi in 1939. Since then, they have been living with Muslims while serving the minority Christian population of the islands.
After World War II, the Oblates put up Notre Dame Schools in the islands to respond to the increasing demand for education in the region. These were welcomed by the local Muslims. Not only that. Over the years, the local people also started to develop strong affection for the missionaries. This was especially true in the case of Fr Leopold Gregoire OMI, a Canadian.
Fr Gregoire was the director of Notre Dame School in Tabawan for 20 years until his death. He died many years ago but until now, not only the Notre Dame community celebrates his birthday every year but the entire island. The celebration is called ‘Father Gregoire Day’ and goes on for three days with a lot of fanfare. The town has a population of more or less 20,000, with only thirty Christians.
For Love of Others
It was around 7:30 in the evening. Father Rey was praying inside the chapel, as he used to do after supper, when he was taken forcibly by his captors. When he refused to go with them, they shot him dead. The Oblates in the Vicariate have agreed among themselves not to go with the attackers in the event of a kidnapping attempt. The reason is that in many kidnapping incidents in Mindanao, the subsequent military operations usually take their toll not only among the combatants but also among the civilians. Father Rey chose to sacrifice his life in order to prevent the loss of more lives.
There were some students at the campus at the time of the killing. They were taking a computer class. The class is held in the evening because it’s the only time that the school generator is running. There is no electricity on the island. When the armed men left, they took Mr Taup, a Muslim teacher, with them.
Losing one of their own
Ordained on 10 May 1980, Father Rey had deep compassion for the poor. He was in the forefront of justice and peace work in the Diocese of Kidapawan during the Martial Law days. Prior to his assignment in Tabawan, he was a missionary in Thailand where he interacted with Buddhist society. In Tabawan, he not only directed the school and supported many scholars but also implemented several socio-economic projects for the poor in close coordination with a number of NGOs and government agencies. In 2003, he was actively involved during the surge of deportees from Sabah, Malaysia, providing them with food and shelter.
The death of Father Rey brought back to my memory that fateful day, 4 February 1997, when Bishop Benjamin de Jesus OMI was murdered in front of Mt Carmel Cathedral in Jolo. This was followed nearly four years later by another tragedy when Fr Benjamin Inocencio OMI was murdered at the back of the same cathedral on 28 December 2000.
Just like what happened after the deaths of Bishop Ben and Father Benjie, the Muslims mourned. They also mourned Father Rey’s death, especially the people of Tabawan whom he had learned to love. They literally had lost one of themselves.
One in Sorrow
I saw Samud being interviewed by Ces Drilon on ABS-CBN TV. He is the same convento boy, a Muslim, whom I met when I was based in Bongao from 1990 to 1994. The day after the killing, Fr Raul M. Biasbas OMI, a classmate of Father Rey on another island in Tawi-Tawi, called Samud by cellphone to ask what had really happened. ‘I’m very sorry, Father, I was not able to protect Father Rey,’ he answered in tears.
I spoke to Wija, one of Father Rey’s scholars, also a Muslim. She called him ‘Tatay’, ‘Dad’. During the commotion at the convento with the armed men, she rushed to help him but he shouted at her, ‘Anak, tumakbo ka na!’, ‘Run, daughter!’ She accompanied the body of Father Rey from Tabawan to Cotabato on board a military helicopter provided by the Philippine Air Force. She brought with her an album containing pictures of Father Rey and herself, which she keeps with fondness.
In Bongao island where Father Rey was waked for two days, Muslims and Christians filled Holy Rosary Church. The Muslims even brought food during the wake. In Cotabato City, Muslims and Christians were crying along the highway as Father Rey’s remains were transported from Awang Airport to a funeral parlor in the city. Many Muslims also came during the wake and attended the burial at the Oblate cemetery in Tamontaka.
This was very consoling. While we grieved for the death of Father Rey, we found solace not only in the support of fellow Christians but also in the support given by Muslims, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and several NGOs, through their personal condolences and public condemnations of the murder.
Boundaries Transcended
To me, this outpouring of support reveals that human goodness transcends even religious boundaries. Indeed, it is possible for Muslims and Christians to work together to create a peaceful society if only we learn to shed our human biases and focus on doing God’s will for his people.
We do not exactly know what Father Rey was telling God when he was praying inside the chapel. Perhaps, he was telling Him about his many dreams for the people of Tabawan. Now that he is gone, only the memory of Father Rey remains in the hearts of the Muslim and Christian inhabitants of this island.

Father Rey would have turned 54 on 5 February, less than a month after his murder.

From Messiah by Handel, sung by the Mogens Dahl Chamber Choir, Denmark

Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29, Authorized [King James] Version).