27 April 2016

'We will come to them and make our home with them.' Sunday Reflections, 6th Sunday of Easter, Year C

The Trinity, El Greco, 1577
Museo del Prado, Madrid [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)

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate,  the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

Responsorial Psalm
New American Bible Lectionary (Philippines, USA)

Bishop Bienvenido Tudtud of Marawi
(1931 - 1987)

The late Bishop Bienvenido 'Benny' S. Tudtud of Marawi, Philippines, visited my Dad (below) in Dublin some time in the early 1980s. As it happened, Dad was about to leave for the wedding of a cousin of mine but he was able to entertain his unexpected guest for a while. Later on he told my brother, 'The bishop made me feel at home'. My brother laughed and said to him, 'You were the one supposed to make him feel at home!' But my Dad was always himself no matter whose company he was in and so was Bishop Tudtud, whose Christian name is the Spanish for 'Welcome'. They were both to die suddenly in 1987, Bishop Tudtod in a plane crash in the Philippines on 26 June and Dad at home on 11 August from a heart attack. He had been at Mass that morning, as he had been every day of his adult life. The photo below was taken the week before his death.

My father hadn't expected Bishop Tudtud. But he made him feel welcome. The bishop felt free to just turn up because I had worked with him and had asked him to drop by my Dad if he had time. I have found over the years that there are friends' homes to which I need no invitation. These are friends with whom I truly feel at home and who feel at home with me.

Sometimes we feel fully at home with someone whom we have just met. Sometimes that being at ease with each other comes after being together many times, maybe through working together.

In the gospel of this Sunday's Mass Jesus makes the extraordinary statement, Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

The Father and Jesus are not only coming for a visit but to make their home with us. And the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Counselor/Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will come and will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

Fr Anselm Moynihan OP, an Irish Dominican friar who died in 1998, wrote a short book in 1948 about the Blessed Trinity living in our hearts, The Presence of God. Here is an extractAwareness of God, whether it come to us thus by a dazzling rending of the heavens or through the gentle whisper of his voice in our conscience, is at the beginning and end of our spiritual life, at the beginning and end of all religion.  It is the root of what is truly the most radical division of mankind, one to which Holy Scripture constantly reverts, that between the 'wise' who keep God before their eyes and the 'fools' who ignore him.  The first awakening of the soul to God's reality brings with it that fear of the Lord which is the 'beginning of wisdom'; the end of life should bring with it the 'wisdom of the perfect,' the fruit of charity, whereby a man will experience God's living presence within himself and be filled with longing for that full awareness of God which is the vision of his face in heaven.

Supper at EmmausCaravaggio, 1606
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan [Web Gallery of Art]

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus invited Jesus to join them and they pressed him to have supper with them at the inn, as it was getting dark. It was through their welcoming him that they discovered who their unknown companion was, the Risen Lord. And in the intimacy of the breaking of the bread when they recognised him and he disappeared from their sight, they felt his presence even more strongly, even more intimately. He was now dwelling in their hearts, just as he dwells in ours, with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Communion Antiphon John 14:15-16
Composed by Thomas Tallis (1505 - 1585)

English text used by Tallis: If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth. (John 14:15-17a, King James Version).

Text in the Roman Missal: If you love me, keep my commandments, says the Lord, and I will ask the Father and he will send you another Paraclete, to abide with you for ever, alleluia.

The Jubilee of Mercy and Shakespeare

The Church is currently observing the Jubilee of Mercy. 23 April this year was the 400th death anniversary of William Shakespeare, who was baptized on 26 April 1564.

Portia's speech from The Merchant of Venice, which I studied in school in Ireland almost 60 years ago, is very much in tune with the Jubilee.

21 April 2016

'By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.' Sunday Reflections, 5th Sunday of Easter, Year C

Father (later Bishop) Edward Galvin  
Co-founder of the Columbans (1882-1956)
Photo taken in China between 1912 and early 1916

Fr John Blowick
Co-founder of the Columbans (1888-1972)
Photo taken around 1913, the year of his ordination

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

Gospel John 13:31-33a, 34-35 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer.

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Frs Owen McPolin, John Blowick, Edward Galvin 
China 1920

On the evening of 29 January 1918 an extraordinary event took place in Dalgan Park, Shrule, a remote village on the borders of County Mayo and County Galway in the west of Ireland. At the time Ireland was part of the United Kingdom, which was engaged in the Great War. Thousands of Irishmen were fighting in the trenches in France and Belgium. Many, including my great-uncle Corporal Lawrence Dowd, never came home. There was a movement for independence in Ireland that led to the outbreak of guerrilla warfare in Ireland later in 1918. There was widespread poverty in the country, particularly acute in the cities.

Despite all of that, on 10 October 1916 the Irish bishops gave permission to two young diocesan priests, Fr Edward J. Galvin and Fr John Blowick to have a national collection so that they could open a seminary that would prepare young Irish priests to go to China. The effort was called the Maynooth Mission to China, because Maynooth, west of Dublin, is where St Patrick's National Seminary is, where Fr Galvin had been ordained in 1909 and Fr Blowick in 1913.

The seminary opened that late winter's evening with 19 students and seven priests. Many of the students were at different stages of their formation in Maynooth but transferred. The seven priests belonged to different dioceses but threw in their lot with this new venture which, on 29 June 1918, would become the Society of St Columban.

This Sunday's gospel was part of what the new group reflected on as they gathered in the makeshift chapel in Dalgan Park, the name of the 'Big House' and the land on which it was built. Among the seven priests was Fr John Heneghan, a priest from the Archdiocese of Tuam, as was Fr Blowick, and a classmate of Fr Galvin. Fr Heneghan never imagined that despite his desire to be a missionary in China he would spend many years in Ireland itself teaching the seminarians and editing the Columban magazine The Far East. But his dream was to take him to the Philippines in 1931 and to torture and death at the hands of Japanese soldiers during the Battle of Manila in February 1945, when 100,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed and most of the old city destroyed.

Fr John Blowick emphasised the centrality of the words of Jesus in this Sunday's gospel, I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. The second sentence there was written into the Constitutions of the Society, drawn up the following year.

To this particular Columban these words of Jesus from the Gospel of St John are the greatest legacy of Fr John Blowick to the many men from different countries who have shared his dream and that of Bishop Galvin to this day. 

And not only men, but women too, as Columban Sisters and as Columban Lay Missionaries

The Society of St Columban was born in the middle of the First World War because of the vision of two young men who saw beyond that awful reality and who took Jesus at his word. Down the years Columbans have lived through wars, in remote areas where their lives and the lives of the people they served were often in danger. Some have been kidnapped and not all of those survived. Among those who did was Fr Michael Sinnott, kidnapped in the southern Philippines in October 2009 when he was 79 and released safely a month later on 12 November.

Fr Michael Sinnott in Manila on the day of his release

With his sisters, Mrs Aine Kenny, left, and Mrs Kathleen O'Neill, right, at Dublin Airport, 3 December 2009

Father John Blowick's insistence on the words of Jesus in this Sunday's gospel becoming part of the very fibre of the being of Columbans sustained Fr John Heneghan, Fr Patrick Kelly, Fr Joseph Monaghan and Fr Peter Fallon, as Japanese soldiers took them away from Malate Church, Manila, on 10 February 1945, and their companion Fr John Lalor who was working in a makeshift hospital nearby who with others was killed there by a bomb three days later. 

Frs Lalor, Kelly, Francis Vernon Douglas, Fallon, Monaghan and Heneghan
Fr Douglas died, most probably on 27 July 1943,  after being tortured  by the Japanese in Paete, Laguna.

The words By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another are not only the hallmark of Columbans but of countless other groups, of countless families. They are meant to be the hallmark of every Christian.

First group of Columban priests [Names]

Fr John Blowick accompanied the first group of Columbans to China in 1920 but didn't stay there as he was needed in Ireland as Superior General and as a teacher in the seminary. 

Earthquake in Ecuador, 16 April 2017

In Memory of Sister Clare

Sr Clare Crockett, from Derry, Northern Ireland, died in the 7.8 earthquake that hit Ecuador last Saturday, 16 April at 7pm local time. She was 33. The death toll as I write this on 21 April is at least 570. Five postulants - young women preparing to be religious sisters - died along with Sister Clare. The video above is from the website of the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother Congregation to which Sister Clare belonged.

The young Clare Crockett was no angel. Her own words: 'I liked to party a lot. My weekends, since I was 16-17, consisted in getting drunk with my friends. I wasted all my money on alcohol and cigarettes.'

Before the age of 18 when she pledged to a life of servitude, Sister Clare has aspirations to be an actress. She joined an agency, presented television shows and even had a small part in a movie.
A self-confessed party animal she signed up for what she thought was a free trip to Spain only for her to later realise it was for a pilgrimage during Holy Week. It was during this trip that she realised the Grace of God and realised she had to change her ways. [Belfast Telegraph]

I thank God for the patience that He has had with me, and still has!!!! I do not ask Him why He has chosen me, I just accept it. I depend totally on Him and Our Blessed Mother and I ask them to give me the grace to be whatever they want me to be. [Sister Clare, quoted in Belfast Telegraph]

The Five postulants who died

When I entered as a sister in the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother I did so to dedicate my life to God and I knew that by entering into a religious community I was putting my life totally in his hands. And therefore I had to be open to whatever the Lord asked of me. So when I was told that I was going to go to Ecuador to do missionary work, then I put my life in God's hands and I totally accepted it. [Sister Clare, video 2:07 - 2:32]

Our life is completely safe in the hands of Jesus and the Father, Who are one, one love, one mercy, revealed once and for all in the sacrifice of the Cross. To save the lost sheep that is all of us, the Pastor became Lamb and let Himself be sacrificed to take upon Himself, and take away, the sin of the world. [Pope Francis, 17 April 2016]

Pope Francis arriving in Ecuador on 5 July 2015

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

19 April 2016

Pope Francis expresses irritation at media's obsession with Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried

On his way back from Lesbos, Greece, last Saturday, Pope Francis expressed a certain irritation with the media's obsession with Communion for divorced Catholics who have civilly re-married while avoiding much greater issues about marriage and the family.

POPE FRANCIS [Rome Reports]

When I convened the first synod, the great concern of the media was: Can the divorced and civilly remarried receive communion? And since I'm no saint, I was a bit irritated and it made me a little sad, but the media says this, why is it that they don’t see that the family, around the world, is in crisis? That despite the family being the foundation of society, the youth today don’t want to get married. That the birth rates in Europe make you want to cry. Do they not realize that the lack of work and job opportunities force parents to work and children grow up alone, so they do not learn to grow in dialogue with their parents? These are bigger problems.

It was the first time the Pope spoke directly about the media-generated debate.

Despite this, in his Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, he only devoted one of its nine chapters to this problem.

Prayer before the meal, Adriaen Jansz van Ostrade, 1653
British Museum, London [Web Gallery of Art]

14 April 2016

'My sheep hear my voice.' Sunday Reflections, 4th Sunday of Easter, Year C

The Good Shepherd, Marten van Cleve
Private Collection [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)

Jesus said:
“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
'My sheep hear my voice'
I know nothing about tending sheep and until I looked at the video above never quite understood the reality of the words of Jesus in today's gospel:  ‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me'.

An extraordinary example of the power of words is a story involving Fr Willie Doyle SJ, the army chaplain who was killed in 1917 in Belgium during the Great War. Some years before the War he was giving a retreat to a community of nuns in Ireland. He got a telegram on the last day from his Provincial Superior telling him to get back to Dublin immediately so that he could catch the boat for England that night. When Fr Doyle got to Dublin the Provincial showed him a telegram he had received from the governor of a prison in England: Please send Fr William Doyle SJ to D ___ Prison. Woman to be executed tomorrow asks to see him. The message was a mystery to both priests but Fr Doyle left for England immediately.

When he got to the prison at 5am the Governor told Fr Doyle that Fanny Cranbush wanted to talk to him. She was a prostitute who had got involved in a murder and was to pay the penalty. When she first arrived in jail she said she didn't need any minister of religion. But a few days before the execution she told the Governor that she wanted to see a particular priest. She didn't know his name or where he lived. All she could say was that a couple of years before this he had been in the town where the prison was giving some kind of 'mission'.

The good Governor asked local priests who this might be and this led to the two telegrams.

Fr William Doyle SJ 
(1873 - 1917)

Fanny herself, who welcomed Father Doyle with joy, reminded him that one night, during the mission, he had come across her on the street as he was heading back to where he was staying and she was looking for customers. He spoke to her kindly and said, My child, aren't you out very late? Won't you go home? Don't hurt Jesus. He loves you. He also gave her a book.

She did go home, gave up her 'trade' for a while but hunger drove her back to it and to worse.  In prison, as her execution approached, the words Don't hurt Jesus. He loves you came back to her. When Fr Doyle arrived Fanny asked him to tell her more about Jesus. Won't you set me on the road that leads to him? she asked.

Fr Doyle baptised her and was then able to arrange to celebrate Mass with her, her first and last, and he accompanied Fanny to the scaffold.

You can read the full story here on pages 16 to 19 under the title Snatched From the Brink.

The story of Fanny finding her loving Saviour through the kind words of a stranger is to me a great expression of God's mercy, something that Pope Francis has spoken about many times. (I wonder if the Pope is familiar with the life and death of his saintly fellow Jesuit?) Fanny heard the voice of the Good Shepherd through the gentle words of Fr Doyle. His Provincial Superior and the Governor of the Prison were also 'Good Shepherds'. Fanny realised that Jesus really did know her and she wanted to follow him. She went joyfully to her death knowing that she was to experience the truth of the words Jesus speaks to us today:  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. Through God's loving mercy and Father Doyle's great love for sinners she was 'snatched' by the hand of Jesus, not out of it.

And Jesus, the Risen Lord, speaks those same words to us in Mass and gives himself as the Bread of Life as he gave himself to Fanny when she made her First and Last Holy Communion before entering into the Eternal Communion that is heaven.

[Thanks to Remembering Fr William Doyle SJ.]

Sr Miriam Cousins SSC

Read about the ministry of Columban Sister Miriam Cousins to prostitutes in Korea in Not without you in the March 2016 issue of The Far East, the magazine of the Columbans in Australia and New Zealand.

Antiphona ad communionem  Communion Antiphon

Surréxit Pastor bonus, 
The Good Shepherd has risen, 
qui ánimam suam pósuit pro óvibus suis, 
who laid down his life for his sheep 
et pro grege suo mori dignátus est, alléluia.
and willingly died for his flock, alleluia.

Orlando di Lasso (c.1530 - 1594), who composed this Latin setting of the Communion Antiphon, was Flemish. Vox Angelorum is a Catholic choir from Jakarta, Indonesia, singing here in St Paul's Within the Walls Episcopal Church, the first Protestant church built in Rome.