24 November 2016

'One will be taken and one will be left.' Sunday Reflections, 1st Sunday of Advent, Year A

Aleppo, Syria [Wikipedia]

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:  For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark,  and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.  Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.  But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.  Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

One will be taken and one will be left (Matthew 24:40 and 41).

In February 2000 a friend of mine, Daisy, an engineer who teaches at Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro, was travelling home to Ozamiz City for the weekend. This involved a journey of about three or four hours by road to Mukas, Kolambugan, Lanao del Norte, where the bus then went on board a ferry for the 20-minute trip across Panguil Bay to Ozamiz City. While waiting for the bus to take the next ferry from Mukas Daisy got off and bought some crabs, a favourite with Filipinos.

Because of the crabs Daisy went up on the upper deck of the ferry instead of sitting in the bus. Halfway across the bay there was a huge explosion. 37 passengers on the three buses on board were killed and others injured.

Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. We could add, Two women will be travelling together in a bus; one will be taken and one will be left.

On Thursday 21 November 2013 Pope Francis met the Filipino community in Rome in St Peter's Basilica. With them, in the light of the recent calamities in the Philippines, a powerful earthquake in October and Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in November, he asks why these things happen.

Pope Francis doesn't offer any easy answers. He encourages us to ask God 'Why?', like little children, as this will catch the attention of our loving Father.

The ending of the old liturgical year and the beginning of the new both remind us of the importance of being ready whenever the Lord comes. This readiness is essential both for the individual and for the whole Christian community. When Jesus returns will he find that we have built a community where God's justice reigns? At the moment of the death of each of us will be in a right relationship with God? Will we have directed our lives towards him? 

One way to be ready for whatever may come is to go to confession regularly.

Pope Francis with victims of Haiyan/Yolanda
Palo, Leyte, 17 January 2015 [Wikipedia]

The old hymn, O Christ who art the light and day, a translation by R. R. Terry of the original Latin Christe Qui Lux Es Et Dies, in a setting here by English composer William Byrd, is often sung as part of Compline, the Night Prayer of the Church. It is a hymn that recognises the reality of sin but also God's desire to protect us. Though it's not specifically an Advent hymn it recalls the purpose of that blessed season that we are just beginning: to prepare to celebrate the First Coming of Jesus at his birth but also to prepare for his daily coming into our lives and for his Second Coming at the end of time.

Antiphona ad Introitum
Entrance Antiphon   Cf. Psalm 24[25]:1-3

Ad te levávi ánimam meam, Deus meus,
To you, I lift up my soul, O my God.
in te confído, non erubéscam.
In you, I have trusted; let me not be put to shame.
Neque irrídeant me inimíci mei,
Nor let my enemies exult over me;
étenim univérsi qui te exspéctant non confundéntur.
and let none who hope in you be put to shame.

23 November 2016

Columban Fr Michael Duffy RIP

Fr Michael Augustine Duffy
(1931 - 2016)

St Mary's Church, Navan [Wikipedia]

Father Michael died peacefully in Our Lady's Hospital, Navan, on 21 November 2016. Born on 28 November 1931 in Johnstown, County Meath, Ireland, he was educated at Loreto School, Abbey School, St Patrick’s Classical School, all in Navan, and at St Mary’s College, Rathmines, Dublin. He came to St Columban's, Dalgan Park, in September 1950 and was ordained priest there on 21 December 1956. During his student days he was outstanding at sports and regularly played for the Dalgan team against visiting teams in Gaelic Football, Hurling, Soccer and Rugby. Dalgan Park is very near Johnstown, where he grew up. He was a younger brother of Columban Fr Fergus Duffy who died in 1983.

St Francis Xavier University, Antigonish [Wikipedia]

Father Michael was appointed to post-graduate studies  at St Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, where he obtained an MA in Social Studies; this was followed by studies in Journalism at Denver in 1959 while awaiting a visa to Burma. In May 1960, when his request for a visa had been refused, he was assigned to promotion work in the US from Westminster and San Francisco houses. In 1962, he was appointed to the college staff at Milton, MA and in 1963 to Silver Creek.

Zambales Mountains, San Narciso [Wikipedia]

In 1966 he was appointed to the Philippines. He spent 18 years in Zambales in the parishes of San Narciso, San Antonio, San Felipe, Castillejos, Poonbato, and Botolan. In 1984 he was appointed the College Formation Program in Cebu City and in 1988 was sent to Manila where for three years he worked on Justice and Peace issues from a base in Tondo.

In 1989 he was appointed to the Region of Britain where he served until 2003. During those years he worked on Mission Promotion and served several terms as  Vice-Director of the Region from 1995 to 2003.

River Boyne, Brú na Bóinne, County Meath [Wikipedia]
The Boyne flows by St Columban's, Dalgan Park, by Johnstown and through Navan.

Appointed to Ireland in 2003, he served as editor of the Regional Newsletter until deteriorating health confined him to the Dalgan Nursing Home. Father Michael was a gentle, quiet man with a self-deprecating sense of humour. He deeply appreciated the care that he received during his years in the Dalgan Nursing Home. 

May he rest in peace. 

Blessing of St Columban's Formation House, Cebu City by Archbishop (later Cardinal) Ricardo J. Vidal of Cebu, 23 November 1984, St Columban's Day.
L: Fr Seán Coyle, R: Fr Michael Duffy

A Philippine Folk Dance in San Narciso, Zambales

Thanks to Fr Patrick Raleigh, Regional Director, Ireland.

17 November 2016

'Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.' Sunday Reflections, Christ the King, Year C

CrucifixionPedro de Campaña, c.1550
Musée du Louvre, Paris [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)

The people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at Jesus, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’
One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom (Luke 23:42) Taizé chant

About six years ago Dominican friar in Dublin told me about one of his confreres who was to celebrate Mass one morning in a nearby Sisters' convent. Since it was only a short walk he decided to wear his habit. (It was the Dominican habit that first caught my imagination about the priesthood when I was six or seven, though later on I never considered joining the Dominicans.) Along the way the friar met a Sister from another convent who chided him for being so 'old-fashioned' or 'pre-Vatican 2' or words to that effect. A little further on a young man stopped him. This was the conversation that followed:

You're a priest, right?


Well I'm getting married tomorrow and I need to go to confession.

So Father heard the young man's confession on the street and went on his 'pre-Vatican 2' way to celebrate Mass.

Today's Gospel shows us Jesus hanging on the Cross under a sign that said in Greek, Hebrew and Latin 'King of the Jews'. And the Kingdom he came to establish broke through in the conversation between him and one of the two thieves crucified with him. 

The brief conversation that St Luke records shows us what the Sacrament of Confession is all about. This young man acknowledged his sinful ways and accepted the punishment he received. He recognised the innocence of Jesus and saw in him something that spoke profoundly to him of God's love and mercy. It is very unlikely that he could see that Jesus was indeed God who became Man. But he saw in him a man of God and saw in some way the true nature of the Kingdom that Jesus had established.

Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

(3 March 1873 - 16 August 1917)

Received my appointment from the War Office as chaplain to the 16th Division. Fiat voluntas tua. What the future has in store I know not but I have given Jesus all to dispose of as He sees best. My heart is full of gratitude to Him for giving me this chance of being really generous and of leading a life that will be truly crucified. (Fr William Doyle, 15 November 1915). 

Having fulfilled his priestly duties in an outstanding fashion for almost two years, he was killed in the Battle of Ypres, Belgium, on August 16, 1917, having run 'all day hither and thither over the battlefield like an angel of mercy'. This good shepherd truly gave his life for his sheep.
Fr Doyle’s body was never recovered.
Wounded British soldiers, 16 July 1916, Battle of the Somme [Wikipedia]

The soldier carrying a staff is a German prisoner-or-war, now helping his erstwhile enemy.

[The battle ended exactly 100 years ago, 18 November 1916, with more than a million casualties, killed and wounded.]
The June 2013 issue of The Pioneer, the magazine of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association has an extraordinary story of how a young woman received the grace of forgiveness in baptism hours before her execution for murder in England just over a century ago. Snatched from the Brink tells how a young woman, Fanny Cranbush, a former prostitute, had asked if she could see a priest whose name she didn't know and had no idea where he was.
Through God's grace the priest, Fr Willie Doyle SJ, who was to die in Belgium on 16 August 1916 as a chaplain in the British army during the Great War, was located, travelled across from Ireland and spent the last few hours with Fanny. She wanted to be baptised and was also able to receive her First and Last Holy Communion as Fr Doyle celebrated Mass with her in her cell. The Bread of Life was the last food she ate.

A couple of years before this Father Willie had been giving a mission in a parish in the east of England. He had been hearing confessions well into the night and happened to pass Fanny on the street as he went to his lodging and she was plying her 'trade'.

Father Doyle was totally in the dark when he arrived at the prison but Fanny reminded him of their previous encounter.

You said to me, ‘Child, aren’t you out very late? Won’t you go home? Don’t hurt Jesus. He loves you.’ You said this so gently, so appealingly, and then you gave me a look that seemed to go right through me.

The memory of those words were what led her to the moment when she knew that Jesus was speaking the same words to her as she went to her execution that he spoke to the thief on the cross on his right: Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

The Jubilee Year of Mercy that began last year on 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, ends this Sunday. In the video above Pope Francis, in his homily during a Lenten penitential service on 13 March 2015 announces the Jubilee Year and explains, why he called it.

In his homily Pope Francis said: Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought of how the Church may render more clear her mission to be a witness to mercy; and we have to make this journey. It is a journey which begins with spiritual conversion. Therefore, I have decided to announce an Extraordinary Jubilee which has at its centre the mercy of God. It will be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live in the light of the word of the Lord: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (cf. Lk 6:36). And this especially applies to confessors! So much mercy!

As a priest who isas every priest should be, familiar with both sides of the confessional box, I am truly grateful to Pope Francis for reminding us so often of God's love, of the reality of sin and of the Devil, of the reality of God's mercy, expressed most especially through the beautiful Sacrament of Confession, Penance, Reconciliation, Forgiveness.

About 15 minutes before he died on the battlefield while trying to rescue a wounded soldier Fr Willie Doyle, who had an extraordinary gift of bringing hardened sinners back to God, himself went to confession for the last time.

Christ in Agony on the Cross, El Greco, 1600s
Art Museum, Cincinnati [Web Gallery of Art]

Christ the King is a King of Mercy

Antiphona ad Communionem
Communion Antiphon    Psalm 28[29]:10-11

Sedebit Dominus Rex in aeternum;
The Lord sits as King for ever.
Dominus benedicet populo suo in pace.
The Lrod will bless his people with peace.

16 November 2016

Columban Fr Bernard Toal RIP

Fr Bernard E. Toal
(17 October 1915 - 14 November 2016)
The greeting above was for his 100th birthday on 17 October 2015. He was the first Columban to reach that age.

Fr Bernard E. Toal died at St Elizabeth’s Manor, Rhode Island, on November 14, 2016.  Please remember him in your Masses and prayers. 

Fr Toal was born on 17 October 1915 in Gloucester, New Jersey, USA.  There he attended the local parish school. Thinking of becoming a missionary priest, he entered St Columban's Minor Seminary, Silver Creek, New York, for high school studies in 1931. After graduating in 1937, he entered the Columban Fathers spiritual formation program in Bristol, RI. Back in Silver Creek he studied Philosophy 1938-1940. He completed his theological studies in St Columbans, Nebraska, and was ordained a priest on 18 December 1943 at the Cathedral of St Joseph in Buffalo, NY.

A baptism in Ozamiz City

Because of World War II he did not immediately go to the missions but did parish work in California and Arizona. At the end of hostilities in 1945 he went to the Philippines where, in Ozamiz City, he taught in the parish high school.

In 1951 he returned home for vacation. He was then appointed as Spiritual Director and Bursar of the seminary in Bristol, RI. In 1957 he became Director of Probationers there, a position he held until going to Lima, Peru, in 1968.

Fr Toal (L) with Columban seminarians in Bristol, 1962-63

Fr Toal worked in Peru for eleven years and spent most of that time in the parish of 'The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary' in Reynoso, Callao. Before he left, he had just completed a new parish church and rectory and had built up a thriving parish community.

In Peru

Returning to the USA in April 1979 he was appointed assistant pastor in Blessed Sacrament Parish, Westminster, California. After seven years there he was assigned to Immaculate Conception parish in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Then, in the summer of 1992, he was assigned to Immaculate Conception in Grand Prairie, Texas, where he served with Columban Fathers, Dennis O'Mara and Gerald Wilmsen.

In Fontana, CA

In 2001, Fr Toal was asked to move to Los Angeles while waiting for his assignment to St Mary’s Parish in Fontana, California.  He enjoyed serving at St Mary’s for almost ten years and was beloved by the parishioners. In the fall of 2011 he moved to the Columban House in Bristol, RI. In the last few years he suffered from declining health. He was cared for at St Elizabeth Manor in Bristol, where he remained cheerful and did not complain. He was 101 when he passed away. 

Fr Toal (R) 26 September 2015

Thanks to his gentle spirit and genuine interest in all those who crossed his path, Fr Toal touched the lives of a great number of people and maintained personal contact with many of them for several decades up until the end of his life.

100th Birthday Mass, 17 October 2015, with Fr Charles Lintz

Funeral Mass will take place at 10:30am on Friday, 18 November at St Columban’s Retirement Home (65 Ferry Rd, Bristol) in Rhode Island. After lunch, burial will take place at the cemetery of St Mary’s, Bristol.  May he Rest In Peace.

Thanks to Fr Timothy Mulroy, Columban Regional Director, USA.

The great Russian-born American songwriter, Irving Berlin (1888 - 1989), like Fr Toal, lived to be 101. The year the latter was born Berlin wrote When I Leave the World Behind. This version, sung by Al Jolson, is from a radio broadcast in 1943, the year Fr Toal was ordained.

10 November 2016

'By your endurance you will gain your souls.' Sunday Reflections, 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Nave of the Archbasilica of St John Lateran [Wikipedia]
The Cathedral of Rome, the 'Mother of all Churches'

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, Jesus said,  ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.’
They asked him, ‘Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?’ And he said, ‘Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and, “The time is near!” Do not go after them.
‘When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
‘But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defence in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

Earthquake destroys Basilica of St Benedict on 30 October 2016
Norcia (or Nursia) is the place where St Benedict was born c.480

This Sunday falls between two celebrations of church buildings in Rome, the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica on 9 November and the Optional Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul on 18 November. When the former falls on a Sunday its celebration takes precedence over the Sunday. The official name of the Lateran Basicilica is the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist and is the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome.

In the gospel Jesus speaks of the future destruction of the Temple where he had worshipped all his life, where he had been presented to the Father as an infant by Mary and Joseph, from which he threw the moneylenders because they were turning it into a market.

On 30 October the Basilica of St Benedict in his birthplace Norcia in Italy was destroyed in seconds by a powerful earthquake as if fulfilling the words of Jesus today, all will be thrown down.

Destroyed Basilica of St Benedict [Source:The Monks of Norcia]

In today's gospel Jesus warns us of wars and insurrections . . . great earthquakes . . . famine and plagues . . . You will be hated by all because of my name.

We are seeing all of these things in our time. They can lead us to lose hope - if we forget the closing words of Jesus in today's gospel: But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

On 4 October this year Hurricane Matthew caused great destruction in southwestern Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. But the Sunday Examiner, the weekly newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong carried the following report in its issue for 30 October.

Port-au-Prince. Survivors of Hurricane Matthew put on their Sunday finest as they picked their way through rubble and downed power lines to gather in ruined churches on October 9, just three days after the devastating storm ravaged their homes. 

Photographs posted on news websites show pews in the open air, with the rubble from the hurricane piled to one side, as a neatly clad congregation in suits and ties, smart slacks and dresses made a colourful scene in what had once been churches with roofs.

Mass celebrated in Qaraqosh, Iraq, after its recent liberation

Archbishop Youhanna Boutros Moshe is the Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul

In 2104 Christians were driven out of Mosul and nearby cities in Iraq by ISIS, also known as Daesh. For the first time in nearly 2,000 years Mass could not be celebrated in the area. But on Sunday 30 October Mass was celebrated again in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Qaraqosh, near Mosul.

A church building is where Christians gather to celebrate the Eucharist, the Holy Mass, where they meet and receive the Risen Lord. Down the centuries Christian communities have built churches that are beautiful in order to draw people into the beauty and life of the Blessed Trinity. And even if the building is destroyed by an earthquake as in Norcia, by a hurricane as in southwestern Haiti, or by persecution  as in Qaraqosh, Iraq, the Lord is still present to and among the Christian community, especially when believers come together on Sunday, as Jesus Christ has asked us to do, to celebrate his life, death and Resurrection, and our hope in eternal life, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

By your endurance you will gain your souls.

Grave of Bishop Edward Galvin

St Columban's, Dalgan Park, Ireland

'But the spiritual edifice is, I think, intact.'

Since posting this week's Sunday Reflections I received the November 2016 issue of Far East, the magazine of the Columbans in Ireland and Britain, which has the following story that is connected so much with this Sunday's gospel.

After being expelled from China, September 1952

In the January/February 2006 issue of Far East, Fr Dan Fitzgerald recalled the following of Bishop Edward Galvin (Co-founder of the Columbans with Fr John Blowick):

Bishop Galvin was my bishop in China for six years. Three of us Columban priests arrived in Hanyang in central Chine in July 1946. We were the first Irish priests to arrive there after the war had ended in 1945.

The man we met on that July day looked older and more worn than his 64 years would suggest. He didn't look like a bishop either. He was in an old crumpled cotton Chinese shirt and pants, with perspiration running down his face and chest. Only for the plain episcopal ring he had on his finger, he might have been the gate-man. There was something about him that suggested one who had lived through a lot, had suffered and had survived.

His exile for Christ ended in September 1952. As he arrived in Hong Kong he said, They have taken our churches, schools, hospital and mission compounds, but the spiritual edifice is, I think, intact. I blessed the compound and the cathedral, the whole diocese, its Sisters, priests and people. I put then under the protection of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, and of St Columban, the patron of the diocese and the cathedral. It was all I could do, but it was enough.

(1916 - 2016)

Antiphona ad Communionem   
Communion Antiphon  Mark 11:23-24

Amen dico vobis, quidquid orantes petitis, 
Amen, I say to you: whatever you ask in prayer,
credite quia accipientis, et fiet vobis, [dicit Dominus]. 
believe that you will receive, and it shall be given to you, [says the Lord].