30 August 2008

'I get nothing out of Mass'

Young African woman crawls 2.5 miles to attend Sunday Mass

Olivia (Photo courtesy of AVAN)

Valencia, Aug 28, 2008 / 01:42 am (CNA).- The Little
Sisters of the Abandoned Elderly in Chissano (Mozambique) took into their home this week a 25-year-old African young girl named Olivia, who despite not being baptized at the time and not having any legs, crawled 2.5 miles (more than 4 kilometres) every Sunday to attend Mass.

According to the AVAN news agency, the nuns said that one day, they saw “something
moving on the ground far away,” and when they drew near they saw, “to our surprise, that it was a young woman.”

“We were able to talk to her through a lady who was walking by and who translated into Portuguese what she was saying to us in her dialect", they said.

The sisters said that although “the sand from the road burned the palms of her hands during the hottest times of the year,” the young woman crawled to Mass, “giving witness of perseverance and heroic faith.”

The young woman received baptismal preparation from a catechist, who periodically visited her at home. After she was recently baptized, one of the benefactors of the sisters donated a wheel chair for Olivia.

28 August 2008

Was St Monica an 'Irish mother'?

I had a pleasant lunch today at Colegio de San Augustin-Bacolod as the Augustinian Friars celebrated the feast of the great St Augustine (354-430). Present too were the Augustinian Sisters of Our Lady of Consolation who run La Consolacion College, beside San Sebastian Cathedral here in Bacolod. This congregation was founded in the Philippines and has more than 230 sisters. Some of the friars of the Augustinian Recollects, known in the Philippines as the Recoletos, were also present. They own the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos (UNO-R) here in Bacolod.

Both the Augustinian and Recollect friars played a large part in the evangelization of the Philippines in Spanish times.

The second reading in the Office of Readings for the feast of St Monica (332-387) yesterday always brings a smile to my face and leads me to ask, ‘Was St Monica an “Irish mother”?’ St Augustine’s brother had said to their mother when she was dying that it might be better if she died in her homeland in north Africa, rather than in Italy. The extract from St Augustine’s Confessions goes on: But as she heard this she looked at me and said: ‘See the way he talks’. And then she said to us both: ‘Lay this body where it may be. Let no care of it disturb you: this only I ask of you that you should remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be’.

The latter part of the last quotation appears on innumerable memorial cards and I don’t know of a better request for prayers for the dead. But it’s the ‘See the way he talks’ that makes me smile. May’s the time I heard my own mother – and other Irish mothers – say, nearly always in a family-type context, ‘Did you ever hear such nonsense?’ It’s the kind of thing that only people intimately related can say to one another, conveying gentle criticism/a reprimand and affection at the same time.

Both St Monica and St Augustine were from the north-east of present-day Algeria. Hippo, where Augustine was bishop, is also located in Algeria. Today there is hardly a trace of Christianity in most of north Africa. Is Europe heading the same way? Our faith is a gift. We can lose it as individuals and as communities, as I often remind people.

27 August 2008

Dublin's Fair City as seen by the Cardinal-archbishop of New York

Dublin’s Fair City as seen by the Cardinal-Archbishop of New York.

I hope that Cardinal Egan of New York won’t mind my using his column of 14 August in Catholic New York in which he responded to the gentle rebuke of a member of his diocese for not having written anything about a recent visit to my native city. As a ‘Dub’ I am very encouraged by the Cardinal’s observations. I’ll highlight parts of the article and (add some notes).

A Dublin Tour

Each week I join Mr. Rob Astorino for a one-hour program on the Catholic Channel, No. 159, of Sirius Satellite Radio. Rob is the program director of the channel and acts as my interlocutor for the show, which is aired on Thursdays at 1 p.m., Saturdays at 6 a.m., Sundays at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and Mondays at midnight. The format of what we have come to call "A Conversation With the Cardinal" includes a different theme each week having to do with Theology, Sacred Scripture, Church History or even Canon Law; a discussion of liturgies and events in which I have been involved as Archbishop of New York; and the answering of questions that listeners pose in letters, telephone calls and especially e-mail.

Some weeks ago I reported that I had been in Rome for meetings at the Vatican and later in Dublin for some days of prayer and reflection. Shortly thereafter I received a letter from a man living in one of the upper counties of the Archdiocese with a very courteously expressed complaint. He reminded me that, when I go away from New York for whatever reason, I usually describe on "A Conversation With the Cardinal" what I have seen and heard. "You were in Rome and you told of your visit to the church where St. Paul had been held prisoner, and you told it both on Sirius Satellite Radio and in an article in Catholic New York. But not a word about your days in Dublin. How about an article about 'Dublin's Fair City' in Catholic New York? With a name like 'Egan' you have to have Irish blood in your veins."

I examined my conscience and concluded that my correspondent was 100 percent correct. Here is an effort to make amends.

The doctor who replaced my left knee some years ago told me that I should try to take a walk each day to keep the legs in shape and the knee in operation. In New York this is not easy to do because of an overcrowded calendar. In Dublin, however, I followed the doctor's orders, made my way on foot to a church or shrine each day, and came away from all of them both informed and inspired.
< /div>One Sunday, having celebrated Mass very early in the morning, I walked over to St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral for Mass there at 8 o'clock. The two historic cathedrals of Dublin—St. Patrick's and Christ Church—were taken over by the Established Anglican Church in the 1500s; and it was not until early in the 1800s that the Catholics were permitted to build another for themselves. (This was after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 in the UK, which at the time included the whole of Ireland.) It was to be on O'Connell Street, one of the principal thoroughfares of the City. This, however, was disallowed by the Protestant establishment. Hence, it is located on Marlborough Street in a less elegant area known as "Monto." (Note: Marlborough St is just behind O’Connell St, the main thoroughfare in Dublin.)

As the Mass was about to conclude, a priest approached the podium to announce that the Pro-Cathedral's celebrated Palestrina Choir, which once included the great Irish tenor, John McCormack, was on vacation. Its place at the 10:30 Mass would be taken, he said, by the Chorus of the City of Dublin. I decided to stay for yet another liturgy.

The pews of the imposing edifice were two-thirds full for the 8 o'clock Mass and packed for the 10:30. I was deeply taken by every element of the celebration. The ceremonies were dignified, the homily was insightful and the choir was a delight. Indeed, the music was so outstanding that, at the conclusion of the final chorus, the congregation broke into applause. (I think we should try to avoid applause in church, though in this case it was when everything was over.) What impressed me most, however, was the age of the congregation. I had been led to expect only gray heads. Such, however, was not the case. Men and women in their 20s, 30s and 40s were the majority, many with children in tow. When I returned to where I was staying, the morning newspaper featured the priestly ordination of three young men in the Pro-Cathedral the day before. I could not imagine a more encouraging climax to my visit to St. Mary's.

The Carmelite Church known as Whitefriar St was another destination of my daily walks. It is immense and most deserving of a visit from anyone coming to Dublin. In the 16th century, it was seized by King Henry VIII and closed until 1827, when the Carmelite Fathers, the "Whitefriars," reopened and renovated it. I attended a noon Mass there one weekday. Well over 200 men and women were at prayer in a lovely liturgy made doubly moving by a homily that focused on St. Benedict of Norcia, the founder of Western monasticism and the saint of the day.

On the right aisle as I entered, I discovered with delight a mammoth shrine, the centerpiece of which is a tall, carved-oak statue of the Madonna that is alleged to be the only such image to have escaped the onslaughts of King Henry and his successors. As I was about to move into a pew, however, my attention was caught by another less impressive shrine on the opposite wall, the centerpiece of which is a stand into which a relic of St. Valentine given to the church by Pope Gregory XVI in 1837 has been inserted and above which one finds a brightly painted statue of the saint. (See my blog entry for 7 February.) Next to the stand is a table on which is placed a large, open book, bound in leather and accompanied by a sign inviting the faithful to write a prayer to St. Valentine in the book. There were several such prayers written on the page before me. One, however, that was printed on a scrap of paper and inserted into the book's binding was of particular note. It read: "Holy Saint, help me thank the Lord for my wonderful wife." When the Mass was over, I passed a long line of men and women waiting to go to Confession and moved out into the street. The sun was shining, the prayer to St. Valentine was still ringing in my mind's ear, and all seemed right with the world.

Trinity College is neither a church nor a shrine. It is, however, built on land once owned by Augustinian monks and in 1592 confiscated by order of Queen Elizabeth I. What no Catholic visitor to this institution of learning, whose students are now largely Catholic, will want to miss is to be found in the building known as the "Old Library." It is the "Book of Kells," one of the oldest books in the world, dated around 800 and containing the four Gospels, Prefaces for Masses and other assorted prayers—all in Latin and embellished with some of the most intricate decorations anyone could imagine. I went to see it, first and foremost, for reasons spiritual, since one cannot look at its pages without sensing that they are prayers in art and a testament to a most profound love for the Word of God. (The photo shows the opening of St John's Gospel.)

The volume is made up of 680 pages and was produced in the Monastery of St. Columcille on the Island of Iona. Early in the 800s it was taken to County Meath in Ireland, where it was stolen in 1007. Found buried three months later, it was restored and finally brought to Trinity College in 1654. Two pages were open for me to see. The most elaborately decorated was the title page of the Gospel of St. Matthew, containing three Greek letters for "Christos," that is, "Christ." They are painted in bright orange, yellow and red and are so full of details that the eye does not know where to settle. Embellished with images of angels, animals and flowers of various kinds, they powerfully proclaim an indomitable reverence for what our God has shared with us in the Scriptures and in the prayers of His Church.

Shortly before leaving Dublin, a priest friend told me that I absolutely had to visit the Kilmainham Gaol (Jail), the infamous institution in which so many Irish men and women were held and killed because of love of and loyalty to their land and their faith. "Take the tour," he said, "and at the first stop you will see why this place is a 'must' for a Catholic, and especially a Catholic priest."

He was right on target. For the first room to which our group was taken by the very articulate and very Catholic guide was a windowless chapel whose altar and other liturgical appurtenances had been fashioned out of wood by prisoners who were being ferociously mistreated and in not a few instances slowly starved to death.

Two young men from the United States in jackets announcing the university they were attending or had attended went down on their knees when the guide finished her description of the place, made the Sign of the Cross and remained kneeling with their heads bowed. Three others followed suit, as did I. In all frankness, I must confess that I listened to the rest of the tour with a certain indifference. For I did not want to lose the sense of deep-down holiness that had suddenly taken hold. Thankfully, it remained with me as we left the last stop of the tour, an exercise yard where, after the Easter Rising of 1916, a host of Ireland's most beloved heroes were executed. There was nothing in the yard apart from two black crosses, one of which marked where 12 rebel commanders were killed leaning against a pile of sacks and the second marking where the celebrated James Connolly, sick unto death, was killed while strapped to a chair. They spoke volumes about so much pain borne by so many for so long.

I left the Gaol in haste so as to visit one of the non-Catholic Cathedrals, Christ Church. The reason was my desire to say a prayer near the reliquary that is said to contain the heart of St. Lawrence O'Toole, who became the first Archbishop of Dublin in 1162, attended the Third Lateran Ecumenical Council in Rome, and gallantly defended the rights and interests of the Church against the intrusions of King Henry II. As I waited to pay for a book about the saint that I was purchasing for the pastor of St. Lawrence O'Toole parish in Brewster, New York, I caught sight of a rather large area for the sale of religious goods on my right. Hanging on the longest wall were dozens upon dozens of rosaries of all colors and sizes. I could not help but suspect that St. Lawrence was often amused by the spectacle from his place in heaven. Certainly, I was, from my place in "Dublin's Fair—and Holy—City."

Edward Cardinal Egan
Archbishop of New York

Thank you, Cardinal Egan!

Aechbishop of New York confronts House Speaker

The bishops of the USA seem to be finding their voice in speaking the truth about abortion. Here is a statement by Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop of New York Though the message is politce, 'the gloves are off'. Speaker Pelosi passes herself off as a Catholic, like the Democrat VP candidate, Senator Joseph Biden.

I've highlighted parts of the Cardinal's statement.



Like many other citizens of this nation, I was shocked to learn that the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States of America would make the kind of statements that were made to Mr. Tom Brokaw of NBC-TV on Sunday, August 24, 2008. What the Speaker had to say about theologians and their positions regarding abortion was not only misinformed; it was also, and especially, utterly incredible in this day and age.

We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb. In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons. They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith. Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.

Edward Cardinal Egan
Archbishop of New York

The Church is often criticized as being 'anti-science' etc. It's good to see Church leaders show up the pro-abortion 'liberals' as the neanderthals that they are when it comes to knowledge of science.

26 August 2008

Archbishop Chaput and Bishop Saltarelli on dignity of human life

This is the address of Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap of Denver, Colorado, at a Pro-Life Prayer Vigil outside Planned Parenthood of Stapleton, CO, 25 August 2008, the day the Democratic Party convention began in Denver.

One of the other speakers was Dr Alveda C. King, the niece of Dr Martin Luther King.

The future of a community, a people, a Church and a nation depends on the children who will inherit it.

If we prevent our children from being born, we remove ourselves from the future. It's really that simple.

No children, no future.

Here in America, and especially here tonight, we need to remember two basic truths.

Here's the first truth. Society has an obligation - and Christians have a Gospel duty -- to provide adequate and compassionate support for unwed and abandoned mothers; women facing unintended pregnancies; and women struggling with the aftermath of an abortion. It's not enough to talk about "prolife politics." The label "prolife" demands that we work to ensure social policies that will protect young woman and families, and help them generously in their need. In the Archdiocese of Denver we try very hard to do that through the Gabriel Project and other forms of outreach and support. But much more needs to be done. And we will cooperate with anyone of good will who wants to pursue that vital work.

Here's the second truth. Killing an unborn child is never the right answer to a woman's or society's problems. Acts of violence create a culture of violence -- and abortion is the most intimate form of violence there is. It wounds the woman, it kills the unborn child and it poisons the roots of justice and charity that bind us all into one human family.

Or to put it in the words of the great Protestant pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

"Destruction of the embryo in the mother's womb is a violation of the right to live which God has
bestowed on this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder."

Planned Parenthood is the largest single provider of abortion and family suppression services in the United States. This facility in this minority neighborhood should offend every African-American and Latino family, and all of us, because every child lost to abortion here subtracts one more life, one more universe of possibilities and talent, from the future of this community. Every time Planned Parenthood provides propaganda, pills or medical procedures to teens without parental permission, it undermines the Black and Latino family. The business of Planned Parenthood is the prevention of the future – and business is good, and very profitable, at the expense of this community.

I've been a great admirer of Dr. Alveda King for many years. She does the memory and legacy of her extraordinary uncle, Dr. Martin Luther King, proud -- and it's a great blessing to be with her tonight.

We're very grateful that she's willing to bring her message here to Denver at this critical moment in the life of our country. I'm also very grateful for the many African-American pastors who do such powerful work inspiring their congregations about the sacredness of human life, and anchoring their people in respect for the dignity of all life, from the unborn child to the elderly and poor.

And I'm also delighted to greet my brother in the ministry, Bishop James Conley, who also joins us tonight despite his own demanding schedule.

Finally, I want to thank you all for being here tonight despite your many other obligations. The hope of our Denver community resides in all of you, and especially your unselfish love for children and commitment to the sanctity of human life. May God bless all of you and your families.

Bishop-emeritus Michael Angelo Saltarelli of Wilmington, Delaware, the diocese of Democrat Vice-presidential candidate Senator Joseph Biden, a self-proclaimed Mass-going, rosary-carrying 'Catholic' who pushes abortion, composed the following litany four years ago in honour of St Thomas More (1478-1535), martyr and patron saint of statesmen, politicians and lawyers so that his people would pray for their politicians.

V. Lord, have mercy
R. Lord have mercy
V. Christ, have mercy
R. Christ have mercy
V. Lord, have mercy
R. Lord have mercy
V. Christ hear us
R. Christ, graciously hear us

V. St. Thomas More, Saint and Martyr,
R. Pray for us (Repeat after each invocation)

St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians and Lawyers
St. Thomas More, Patron of Justices, Judges and Magistrates

St. Thomas More, Model of Integrity and Virtue in Public and Private Life
St. Thomas More, Servant of the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Christ
St. Thomas More, Model of Holiness in the Sacrament of Marriage
St. Thomas More, Teacher of his Children in the Catholic Faith
St. Thomas More, Defender of the Weak and the Poor
St. Thomas More, Promoter of Human Life and Dignity

V. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R. Spare us O Lord
V. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R. Graciously hear us O Lord
V. Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world
R. Have mercy on us

Let us pray:

O Glorious St. Thomas More, Patron of Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, your life of prayer and penance and your zeal for justice, integrity and firm principle in public and family life led you to the path of martyrdom and sainthood. Intercede for our Statesmen, Politicians, Judges and Lawyers, that they may be courageous and effective in their defense and promotion of the sanctity of human life - the foundation of all other human rights. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

R. Amen.

You can find a comprehensive interview with Bishop Saltarelli at Ignatius Insight .


IgnatiusInsight.com: Last year, you wrote a statement on Catholics in public life. You said: "No one today would accept this statement from any public servant: ‘I am personally opposed to human slavery and racism but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena.’ Likewise, none of us should accept this statement from any public servant: ‘I am personally opposed to abortion but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena.’"

Bishop Saltarelli: We hear that so often. It’s such an excuse; to me it’s a cop out: "I’m personally opposed, but…" If someone would say I’m personally opposed to slavery but its okay, people would laugh at the ridiculousness of that statement. And yet we tolerate, don’t we–"I’m personally opposed to abortion, but…"? That "but" is translated into the destruction, the massacre, the holocaust of millions of innocent lives in our time.

[The Litany to St. Thomas More that Bishop Saltarelli composed for the conversion of pro-abortion "Catholic" politicians was first distributed to parishes last October 2004. The litany asks St. Thomas More for his intercession to make politicians "courageous and effective in their defense and promotion of the sanctity of human life."

IgnatiusInsight.com: If you send the Litany to your parishes, do the parishes automatically distribute it and talk about it?

Bishop Saltarelli: Oh yes, it is distributed. There is no doubt about that. Now, some will cast it aside, some will see (this is what we’re dealing with) it as a violation of Church and state, the fact we even dare pray for politicians. Because they get what they say is a hidden message. But, that’s okay; that doesn’t stop us. We’re still going to do it. We’re still going to ask our people to pray the Litany.

I think for too long we have been silent and our people have taken that silence as part of an acquiescence of the status quo. We are complicit in this. So we have to step forward and say, "No, this is not right–it is wrong, it is sinful"–and somebody at least has to say it. Not that I’m being the brave man. I have a magnificent team here with me and wonderful people committed to the cause of life and the Gospel of Life and we push forward together.

IgnatiusInsight.com: What advice would you give to Catholics trying to live a moral and happy life?

It is possible. And that’s not a cliché. The world tells us that we are crazy, ridiculous. The world–and not all the world–but some groups in the world tell us that we’re just fanciful people.

But we know–because of the glorious history that is ours–that in spite of crisis, the scandals, the persecutions, that the Army of Heroes (we call them saints) was there all the way. And the Lord continues. Even in the most critical of times, He sends these heroes in our midst, to announce the Good News, to proclaim the Good News.

We have a God who loves us and invites us to a special way of life and that way for us Catholics, is to follow in the footsteps of the Master who invites us to live a life that is destined to take us to the Father. You know, Jesus never promised there’d be no scandal; Jesus never promised there’d be no suffering; He never promised there’d be no persecutions–witness the two thousand years where there have been enough of those, all of them.

But He promised one thing: He promised that He’d be with us always. We hold onto that promise and we live that promise. Here in this Eucharistic year we experience that promise magnificently, in the Eucharist. And we don’t need a year to tell us about that, we have Jesus’ words that "I’ll be with you" and here it is, His own flesh and His own blood that remains with us and abides with us forever.

Archbishop Chaput's clear teaching

This week the Democratic Party convention is being held in Denver, Colorado, to confirm the candidacy of Barack Obama for the presidential election in the USA in November. Mr Obama holds extreme pro-abortion positions. He has chosen as his running mate Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, a self-described Catholic who goes to Mass on Sundays but who is also notoriously pro-abortion.

Some have seen it as an act of discourtesy to Archbishop Charles Chaput OFM Cap of Denver that he has not been invited to the Democrats’ convention, even to give an invocation. From my neutral stance I would consider it a blessing that he hasn’t. He and auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley on 25 August issued a very explicit statement on the website of the Archdiocese of Denver, ON THE SEPARATION OF SENSE AND STATE:

Archbishop Chaput is a gracious man as this extract from the message in which he refers to another Mass-going Democrat ‘Catholic’, shows:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a gifted public servant of strong convictions and many professional skills. Regrettably, knowledge of Catholic history and teaching does not seem to be one of them.

Interviewed on Meet the Press August 24, Speaker Pelosi was asked when human life begins. She said the following:

"I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition . . . St. Augustine said at three months. We don't know. The point is, is that it shouldn't have an impact on the woman's right to choose."

Since Speaker Pelosi has, in her words, studied the issue "for a long time," she must know very well one of the premier works on the subject, Jesuit John Connery's Abortion: The Development of the Roman Catholic Perspective (Loyola, 1977). Here's how Connery concludes his study:

"The Christian tradition from the earliest days reveals a firm antiabortion attitude . . . The condemnation of abortion did not depend on and was not limited in any way by theories regarding the time of fetal animation. Even during the many centuries when Church penal and penitential practice was based on the theory of delayed animation, the condemnation of abortion was never affected by it. Whatever one would want to hold about the time of animation, or when the fetus became a human being in the strict sense of the term, abortion from the time of conception was considered wrong, and the time of animation was never looked on as a moral dividing line between permissible and impermissible abortion."

The Archbishop then quotes a martyr of World War II killed by the Nazis:
Or to put it in the blunter words of the great Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

"Destruction of the embryo in the mother's womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed on this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder."

Some comments on blogs seem to think that Archbishop Chaput speaks out of both sides of his mouth because he has elsewhere written about the dilemma that sometimes faces voters when all the candidates on offer support evil. He tackles, with some irony, ‘Catholics for Obama’ who have quoted the Archbishop in support of their cause, but who have left out part of what he said. I don’t think that Archbishop Chaput is being in anyway devious but I do find the idea of an ordained friar campaigning for a candidate, as the then Father Chaput did decades ago, rather strange.

Why do I mention this now? Earlier this spring a group called "Roman Catholics for Obama '08" quoted my own published words in the following way:

"So can a Catholic in good conscience vote for a pro-choice candidate? The answer is: I can't, and I won't. But I do know some serious Catholics -- people whom I admire -- who may. I think their reasoning is mistaken, but at least they sincerely struggle with the abortion issue, and it causes them real pain. And most important: They don't keep quiet about it; they don't give up; they keep lobbying their party and their representatives to change their pro-abortion views and protect the unborn. Catholics can vote for pro-choice candidates if they vote for them despite -- not because of – their pro-choice views."

What's interesting about this quotation - which is accurate but incomplete - is the wording that was left out. The very next sentences in the article of mine they selected, which Roman Catholics for Obama neglected to quote, run as follows:

"But [Catholics who support 'pro-choice' candidates] also need a compelling proportionate reason to justify it. What is a 'proportionate' reason when it comes to the abortion issue? It's the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life - which we most certainly will. If we're confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed."

On their website, Roman Catholics for Obama stress that:

"After faithful thought and prayer, we have arrived at the conclusion that Senator Obama is the candidate whose views are most compatible with the Catholic outlook, and we will vote for him because of that -- and because of his other outstanding qualities -- despite our disagreements with him in specific areas."

I'm familiar with this reasoning. It sounds a lot like me 30 years ago. And 30 years later we still have about a million abortions a year. Maybe Roman Catholics for Obama will do a better job at influencing their candidate. It could happen. And I sincerely hope it does, since Planned Parenthood of the Chicago area, as recently as February 2008, noted that Senator Barack Obama "has a 100 percent pro-choice voting record both in the U.S. Senate and the Illinois Senate."

Changing the views of "pro-choice" candidates takes a lot more than verbal gymnastics, good alibis and pious talk about "personal opposition" to killing unborn children. I'm sure Roman Catholics for Obama know that, and I wish them good luck. They'll need it.

St John Vianney Theological Seminary, Denver


The current issue of The Catholic Herald (England) carries two articles that highlight the moral dilemma for many voters. One is by a former diplomat:

Obama may be the lesser evil for Catholic voters

Ex-diplomat John Pedler says that American Catholics face an agonising decision this November
22 August 2008:

America's Catholic voters may have tipped the balance ensuring George W Bush's election to the presidency in both 2000 and 2004. Of course, without the support of any one of several other groups of voters, both those Bush campaigns could have failed. Nevertheless it remains true that Catholic votes could possibly determine the outcome this November.

A news story in the same issue by Simon Caldwell begins this way:

David Cameron (leader of the Conservative Party and of the opposition) has made a highly personal defence of the controversial practice of aborting disabled babies up to birth.

The Tory leader insisted it would be wrong to prevent a mother terminating a pregnancy because her baby was handicapped.

He said he would "not want to change" existing laws that permit abortions after the 24-week limit if tests show the baby is disabled.

The Tory Party leader said his views have been shaped by becoming a father to a disabled child himself - six-year-old Ivan, who was born with cerebral palsy and suffers from severe epilepsy, needing 24-hour care

None of the main parties in Britain have a pro-life policy, though all of the main parties have elected members who are strongly pro-life. The tradition in the British Parliament is that when what are considered ‘conscience issues’ are voted on the party whips are withdrawn, so that each member may vote freely. However, the current Labour government is trying to restrict this on certain matters.

But voters may still be faced with the dilemma of having to choose between a group of pro-abortion candidates, with no alternative. What do you do? I was in Britain from 2000 to 2002 and a registered voter there (Irish citizens have that right). I enjoyed a double ‘luxury’ during the election of 2001. The sitting Member of Parliament (MP) in my constituency had a strong pro-life voting record. Her two main opponents were pro-abortion. I couldn’t find the position of the fourth candidate, representing a minor party. But the seat was also a safe one for the MP’s party. There was no danger of her losing. Her pro-life position made no difference one way or the other to the majority of voters, I would think. My individual vote made little difference either, in one sense. So I could safely vote for the pro-life candidate. When my friends asked me which party I had voted for I simply said I had voted for ‘so-and-so’. I had voted for her, not for her party. But her pro-life voting record was decisive for me. I emailed another candidate asking her position on this matter, without revealing my own. she graciously replied, guessing my position but stating her own pro-abortion position. I thanked her for replying.

I have a close friend, an American priest, who remembers his grandmother dandling him on her knee when he was a toddler and saying to him ‘You are a Democrat’. He grew up with that conviction. But in the last few elections he has voted Republican because of the Democrats’ dogmatic pro-abortion stand, though there are Democrats for Life.

One positive thing about the US election is that abortion is seen as a major issue because it involves basic morality. Americans also see the importance of appointments to the Supreme Court. There’s no doubt in my mind that the court’s Roe v Wade decision in 1973 was a perverse one in the deepest sense of that word.

22 August 2008

Mary, Queen of Creation

Photo taken in Fiji by Fr Gary Walker, editor, The Far East, the publication of the Columbans in Australia and New Zealand.

Today the Church observes the memorial of the Queenship of Mary. The Mass used is that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of All Creation: In 1954 the feast of the Queenship of Mary was instituted by Pius XII, to be celebrated on 31 May. In 1969 Paul VI, promulgating the new General Roman Calendar, appropriately transferred the feast to 22 August, the octave of the Assumption. The royal dignity of our Lady is part of the mystery of her full glorification and perfect conformity with her Son, the King of all the ages. In the words of the Second Vatican Council, "the Immaculate Virgin.... when she had completed her earthly life, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven and exalted as the queen of all creation, so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords (see Revelation 19:16) and victor over sin and death" (LG, no. 59).

Source: Excerpts from the introductory commentary to the Mass, Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Volume 1, Sacramentary, Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1992, p. 218.

On 6 August, during his recent vacation in northern Italy Pope Benedict met with the clergy and seminarians in the cathedral of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, in the seminary of which he stayed, for a Q&A session. One of the questions, and Pope Benedict’s response, can be linked to today’s celebration. I’ll highlight parts of the question and of the answer.

Fr Karl Golser: Holy Father, my name is Karl Golser, I am a professor of moral theology here in Bressanone and also director of the Institute for Justice, Peace and the Preservation of the Creation; I am also a canon. I am pleased to recall the period in which I was able to work with you at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. As you know, the Catholic Church has deeply forged the history and culture of our Country. Today, however, we sometimes have the feeling that, as Church, we have somewhat retired to the sacristy. The declarations of the Papal Magisterium on the important social issues do not find the right response in parishes and ecclesial communities. Here in Alto Adige, for example, the authorities and many associations forcefully call attention to environmental problems and in particular to climate change. The principal arguments are the melting of glaciers, landslides in the mountains, the problems of the cost of energy, traffic, and the pollution of the atmosphere. There are many initiatives for safeguarding the environment. However, in the average awareness of our Christians, all this has very little to do with faith. What can we do to increase the sense of responsibility for Creation in the life of our Christian communities? What can we do in order to view Creation and Redemption as more closely united? How can we live a Christian lifestyle in an exemplary way that will endure? And how can we combine this with a quality of life that is attractive for all the people of our earth?

Pope Benedict XVI:

Thank you very much, dear Prof. Golser: you would certainly be far more able than I to answer these questions but I shall try just the same to say something. You have thus touched on the theme of Creation and Redemption and I think that this indissoluble bond should be given new prominence. In recent decades the doctrine of Creation had almost disappeared from theology, it was almost imperceptible. We are now aware of the damage that this has caused. The Redeemer is the Creator and if we do not proclaim God in his full grandeur - as Creator and as Redeemer - we also diminish the value of the Redemption. Indeed, if God has no role in Creation, if he is relegated merely to a historical context, how can he truly understand the whole of our life? How will he be able to bring salvation to man in his entirety and to the world in its totality? This is why, for me, the renewal of the doctrine of Creation and a new understanding of the inseparability of Creation and Redemption are of supreme importance. We must recognize anew: he is the Creator Spiritus, the Reason that exists in the beginning, from which all things are born and of which our own reason is but a spark. And it is he, the Creator himself, who did and can enter into history and operate in it precisely because he is the God of the whole and not only of a part. If we recognize this it will obviously follow that the Redemption, being Christian, and simply Christian faith, also means responsibility always and everywhere with regard to Creation. Twenty-three years ago Christians were accused - I do not know if this accusation is still held - of being the ones truly responsible for the destruction of Creation because the words contained in Genesis - "subdue the earth" - were said to have led to that arrogance with regard to creation whose consequences we are reaping today.

I think we must learn again to understand this accusation in all its falsity: as long as the earth was seen as God's creation, the task of "subduing" it was never intended as an order to enslave it but rather as the task of being guardians of creation and developing its gifts; of actively collaborating in God's work ourselves, in the evolution that he ordered in the world so that the gifts of Creation might be appreciated rather than trampled upon and destroyed.

If we observe what came into being around monasteries, how in those places small paradises, oases of creation were and continue to be born, it becomes evident that these were not only words. Rather, wherever the Creator's Word was properly understood, wherever life was lived with the redeeming Creator, people strove to save creation and not to destroy it. Chapter 8 of the Letter to the Romans also fits into this context. It says that the whole of Creation has been groaning in travail because of the bondage to which it has been subjected, awaiting the revelation of God's sons: it will feel liberated when creatures, men and women who are children of God, treat it according to God's perspective. I believe that we can establish exactly this as a reality today. Creation is groaning - we perceive it, we almost hear it - and awaits human beings who will preserve it in accordance with God. The brutal consumption of Creation begins where God is not, where matter is henceforth only material for us, where we ourselves are the ultimate demand, where the whole is merely our property and we consume it for ourselves alone. And the wasting of creation begins when we no longer recognize any need superior to our own, but see only ourselves. It begins when there is no longer any concept of life beyond death, where in this life we must grab hold of everything and possess life as intensely as possible, where we must possess all that is possible to possess.

I think, therefore, that true and effective initiatives to prevent the waste and destruction of Creation can be implemented and developed, understood and lived only where creation is considered as beginning with God; where life is considered as beginning with God and has greater dimensions - in responsibility before God - and one day will be given to us by God in fullness and never taken away from us: in giving life we receive it.

Thus, I believe we must strive with all the means we have to present faith in public, especially where a sensitivity for it already exists. And I think that the sensation that the world may be slipping away - because it is we ourselves who are chasing it away - and feeling oppressed by the problems of Creation, afford us a suitable opportunity in which our faith can speak publicly and make itself felt as a propositional initiative. Indeed, it is not merely a question of discovering technologies that prevent the damage, even though it is important to find alternative sources of energy, among other things. Yet, none of this will suffice unless we ourselves find a new way of living, a discipline of making sacrifices, a discipline of the recognition of others to whom creation belongs as much as it belongs to us who may more easily make use of it; a discipline of responsibility with regard to the future of others and to our own future, because it is a responsibility in the eyes of the One who is our Judge and as such is also Redeemer but, truly, also our Judge.

Consequently, I think in any case that the two dimensions - Creation and Redemption, earthly life and eternal life, responsibility for the Creation and responsibility for others and for the future - should be juxtaposed. I also think it is our task to intervene clearly and with determination on public opinion. To be heard, we must at the same time demonstrate by our own example, by our own way of life, that we are speaking of a message in which we ourselves believe and according to which it is possible to live. And let us ask the Lord to help us all to live out the faith and the responsibility of faith in such a way that our lifestyle becomes a testimony; and then to speak in such a way that our works may credibly convey faith as an orientation in our time.


Pope Benedict has spoken a number of times about the importance of creation. In the homily of his inaugural Mass on 24 April 2005 he said: The pastor must be inspired by Christ’s holy zeal: for him it is not a matter of indifference that so many people are living in the desert. And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God’s darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth’s treasures no longer serve to build God’s garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction. The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.

In other words, there's a fundamental connection between our Christian faith and God's creation. If we violate what God has created we are unfaithful Christians. We have something fundamental to say to the world on the whole question of respect for creation. We cannot leave the initiative to 'tree-huggers' - I know that's a stereotype that is not all together fair, but there are such people - nor, more dangerously, to Green politicians who support the murder of unborn children - there are some such on the European Continent, though it's far from being a 'dogma' of Greens, as far as I'm aware.

21 August 2008

25th Death Anniversary of Ninoy Aquino

25 years ago today, a Sunday, just after his plane landed at Manila International Airport, some soldiers escorted Benigno S. Aquino Jr, known to everyone as 'Ninoy', off the plane through a special exit. A minute or so later he was dead on the tarmac, allegedly shot by Rolly Galman, a known 'hit-man', who himself was shot by soldiers. The black joke that went around at the time was that Ninoy found Rolly waiting for him outside St Peter's office. In other words, nobody believed that Galman had killed Ninoy.

The official name of the military here is the Armed forces of the Philippines (AFP). In effect at that time it was the ARM or 'Armed Forces of Marcos'. But I am still inclined to believe that Ferdinand Marcos, still dictator at the time but quite ill, had nothing to do with the assassination. But assassination it was by people afraid that Aquino might succeed Marcos.

I happened to be in Manila the day of Ninoy Aquino's funeral. I think it was the biggest gathering ever of people in the Philippines until then, all along the route. It was my first time to experience applause as a coffin went by. But I felt it was totally appropriate. It was an expression of prayer for the repose of Ninoy's soul, of gratitude for his sacrificing his life - he certainly knew he would be in danger if he came home from the USA - and of defiance for the Marcos regime, of which the murder of Ninoy was the beginning of the end.

One of the worst features of the Marcos dictatorship - he was a legitimate president until his second term ran out in 1973, the year after he declared Martial Law - was the censorship of the media. That was the time of 'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland and people here often asked me about the situation there. The fact is that every single fatal incident in Northern Ireland was reported in the Philippine newspapers, not as big news but reported, nevertheless. However, most of the far greater violence in the Philippines itself was never reported in the local media. Our main source of reliable news was Radio Australia. Because there were so many parishes at the time in areas of conflict run by Columbans, we knew that its reports were accurate. The BBC World Service was also another reliable source of major news. During the fall of Marcos in February 1976 I followed the events through the World Service and through a local station in Cebu, where I was based at the time.

The censorship was still in force at the time of Ninoy's burial. The papers showed only close-ups of the funeral crowds, so that the huge numbers couldn't be seen. The day after the funeral one paper had a banner headline: MAN KILLED BY LIGHTNING AT LUNETA. This wasn't untrue. The Luneta is the park in the centre of Manila. The poor man in question was watching the funeral procession from the branch of a tree, rather like Zacchaeus, when he was struck by lightning.

Manila International Airport is now named 'Ninoy Aquino International Airport' or 'NAIA', pronounced 'NIGHa', for short.

Not long before he died, Ninoy Aquino said, 'The Filipino is worth dying for'. All the evidence is that during years of imprisonment, when he was sentenced to death, and during exile in the USA, Ninoy's Catholic faith was deepened. It is certainly the driving force in the life of his widow Corazon, known to everyone as 'Cory', who defeated Marcos in the 1986 election and who is now struggling with cancer. Please remember her in your prayers.

May Ninoy Aquino rest in peace.

20 August 2008

Ronnie Drew, Blossom from the Seychelles and 'The Joy'

Ronnie Drew died in Dublin last Saturday, a few weeks short of 74. He was a folk singer with a unique voice that for me could only be compared to those of Louis Armstrong and Jimmy Durante, not that of your conventional vocalist. (Listening to an interview with Ronnie while writing this I’ve discovered that he was a great fan of Jimmy Durante.)

In a song written in his honour, The Ballad of Ronnie Drew, Bono of U2 describes it perfectly: Here's to the Ronnie, the voice we adore; / Like coals from a coal bucket scraping the floor.

Ronnie was one of the founding members of The Dubliners 1962.

Early in 2002 I was based in England and went on an overland pilgrimage to Lourdes. Most of the pilgrims were Filipinos living or working in Britain. But one very colourful, older woman with the name ‘Blossom’ was from the Seychelles. When she heard I was from Dublin she asked me if I knew where Mountjoy Prison was. I told her I passed ‘The Joy’, as it’s known to Dubliners, almost every day on my bike to and from school. Blossom was one of those persons who can make even a sad story sound funny. She told me that way back in the 1960s she went on holiday to Dublin. One night she went to a Dubliners’ ‘gig’, drank more than she should have, got involved in some kind of troublesome behaviour and ended up in ‘The Joy’. It probably wasn’t the prison itself but the Garda (police) station next door.

Somehow, The Dubliners heard about Blossom’s plight and bailed her out. So instead of recalling her time in Dublin with embarrassment she remembered it as a place where she had experienced the kindness of The Dubliners who didn’t even know her.

I wasn’t at all surprised when I heard Blossom’s story. Listening to and reading tributes to Ronnie, two words come through: ‘kindness’ and ‘gentleman’.

On 13 and 20 January this year John Bowman featured Ronnie Drew on his Bowman Sunday Morning which features archive material. I emailed the story of Blossom to John Bowman and hope that it reached Ronnie.

Here's Ronnie singing Pete St John's Dublin in the Rare Old Times. The video has photos of Dublin taken maybe 50 or 60 years ago. The awful poverty that many Dubliners experienced then is now a thing of the past, thank God.

May Ronnie Drew rest in peace.

16 August 2008

'Above all things . . . preserve the Catholic, apostolic faith . . .'

St Stephen of Hungary, c.969 - 15 August 1038.

Today the Church honours St Stephen of Hungary, Szent István in Hungarian, though in the Philippines we celebrate San Roque ( previous post). Read about him here and here.

The Second Reading from the Office of Readings is an extract from a letter of the saint to his son Imre. Here are some quotes.

My dear son, if you would grace the kingly crown, I advise and counsel you above all things to preserve the Catholic, apostolic faith with such care that you may be an example to all the subjects given you by God, and all the clergy can say that you are truly a Christian. But if you fail to do this you may be certain that you cannot be called either a Christina or a son of the Church.

I wonder what he would think of 'Catholic' politicians who cling on to power at all costs, 'Catholic' politicians who promote abortion, with or without the fig leaf of 'I'm personally opposed . . .' I'm sure too that he would add 'or a daughter' to 'or a son' for those who profess not to know the difference between the inclusive and exclusive senses of certain words.

For this reason there is all the greater need for more prudent and evident watchfulness so that the great gift bestowed by the divine mercy on us, unworthy as we are, may not be destroyed and brought to nothing through your apathy, indolence and neglect.

Dear son, the joy of my heart,hope of generations yet to come, I pray you, nay, I command you, at all times, in all things, strengthened by your sense of duty, to be gracious, not only to your fmaily and kinsmen, to princes, noblemen, the rich, your neighbours, your countrymen, but also to strangers and to everyone who approaches you.

St Stephen clearly had a strong sense of everything being gift from God, something I'm becoming more and more conscious of, not only for the individual but for the community and for future generations. Pope Benedict asked the young people at WYD in Sydney what they'd pass on to the next generation. He has also spoken frequently about our need to respect creation itself as a gift from God, to be cared for so that we can hand on life to future generations.

Be patient with everyone, not only with the powerful, but also with the weak and feeble.

He would be very counter-cultural, as we say these days, by his final admonition to Prince Imre: Fly from all temptation to lust as you would from the stench of death.

The reading concludes: These are the virtues which crown a king. Unless he has them, no man is fit to rule here on earth or attain to the kingdom of heaven.

At present we have one 'Catholic' Robert Mugabe, who has brought his country, Zimbabwe, to its knees in an effort to cling on to power when he should be preparing to meet his Maker. Here in the Philippines President Gloria M. Arroyo parades her Catholic piety but under her corruption has become worse than even under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, with no sense of shame whatever. There are signs, say many responsible commentators, that she is trying to cling on to power beyond 2010 when her term ends. We'll see.

St Stephen, King of Hungary and now its patron saint, lived 1000 years ago but we can learn from him - and pray to him for our rulers.

'San Roque has his dog but I have my cat'.

Today, 16 August, is a busy day for many priests in the Philippines, as it is the feast of San Roque or St Roch (Latin: Rochus; Catalan: Roc; Italian: Rocco; French: Roch; Spanish and Portuguese: Roque; German: Rochus). He was reputedly born around 1295 in Montpellier, France and died there, according to tradition, on 16 August 1327. Here in the Philippines he’s usually known by his Spanish name, San Roque, though liturgical books in English here call him ‘St Rock’. But nobody actually calls him that. He's also described in the Missal here as 'Healer'. Many parishes and communities have him as their patron.

You can read more about him here and here .

San Roque is kept quite busy in heaven as he’s the patron saint of dogs and those who love them and also of bachelors, surgeons, tile makers, falsely accused people, invalids and diseased cattle. He’s also invoked against epidemics, knee and skin problems, the plague and pestilence.

Images of San Roque usually show him with a wound above his knee, from the plague, and a dog carrying bread in its mouth. The legend is that when the saint was very ill from the plague in a cave or in a forest, the dog used to bring him bread every day. The owner happened to live in a nearby castle and followed the dog one day. When he found Roque he brought him home and nursed him back to health.

In the Philippines there is always a novena before the feast of the parish or community patron. Sometimes there’s a novena of Masses. On one occasion when I celebrated one of these Masses during the novena for today's saint I was quietly amused by the fact that a black and white cat sat quietly at the altar all through the liturgy. Before giving the final blessing I couldn’t resist saying ‘San Roque has his dog but I have my cat!’

It’s not at all uncommon to see dogs or cats in church here and they rarely cause any disturbance. In one parish where I worked a family dog attended Mass quietly every day with the couple who owned it.

San Roque is unknown in Ireland. If my late Dad had known about him I'm sure he would have had a special devotion to him as he loved animals and was known to his workmates on building/construction sites as 'St Francis', as he fed stray dogs and cats and even robins.

08 August 2008

Probably no posts for a week or so

The image on the wall of the Cotta is believed to be miraculous and has been the object of pilgrimage to the City of Ozamiz. (The feast of Our Lady of the Triumph of the Holy Cross is celebrated in Ozamiz City on 16 July but is separate from the feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel on the same day. So I don't think that the caption above from the city's website is quite accurate.

I'm leaving tomorrow for Cebu on my wayto Ozamiz City where I'll be giving a short retreat to Columban lay missionaries. I won't be back in Bacolod till 16 August, God willing, and probably won't publish any posts in the meantime.

Death of a dear friend of the Deaf

Please pray for the soul of Mrs Salvacion Valderrama Tinsay of Bacolod City who died peacefully early this morning at her home. She turned 76 on 3 April.

For more than twenty years Tita Salving, as she was widely known, devoted her life to the Deaf. She had worked with the late Columban Father Joseph Coyle who died on 18 December 1991. After his death she not only continued his work with the Deaf but expanded it.

Tita Salving will be buried on Monday 11 August after Mass at 8am in the Carmelite Monastery in Bacolod where her sister, Sister Kathleen, is one of the out-sisters.

You may read more about Salving here.

I had a special post on Salving for her 76th birthday on 3 April. That was the last time I had a real conversation with her. She was well enough to come down for a celebratory breakfast with her family and some close friends. I gave her the Sacrament of the Sick on 31 July. She woke up during the celebration and at the end spoke a few words to some of her family and to me. for quite some time she and her family knew that she was slowly dying but they were all very much at peace with this, trusting in God's loving mercy.

Salving was a latter-day Lydia:

Setting sail therefore from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Ne-apolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the leading city of the district of Macedonia, and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days; and on the sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul. And when she was baptized, with her household, she besought us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us (Act 16:11-15).

Many, including myself, who got involved with the Deaf and many Deaf people here in Bacolod and in other places could say of Salving as St Luke says of Lydia, 'She prevailed upon us'. Thanks be to God for that. May she rest in peace.

06 August 2008

'A Joy That Dementia Could Not Crush'

I had two recent posts on Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, here and here. My friend Frances Molloy, who founded the Pastoral Care Project, asked me in an email if there was any reference to the spiritual.

Since then I’ve come across a beautiful article on http://www.mercatornet.com/ that does just that, A Joy that Dementia Could Not Crush by Colleen Carroll Campbell of St Louis, Missouri, USA.

The article begins this way:

The frail and elderly have an inherent dignity no disease or disability can erase.

When Ronald Reagan died in 2004 after a decade-long battle with Alzheimer's, pundits across America repeated the conventional wisdom about dementia. The former president was only a "shell" and "shadow" of himself in his later years, they said, and his physical passing was a mere formality, the symbolic loss of a man who had vanished long ago.

Those comments always bothered me, but I never fully understood why until two weeks ago, when I lost my father, Thomas Patrick Carroll Sr, to the same disease.

It ends this way:

A few days before he died, I found Dad sitting in his wheelchair, looking unusually alert. His blue eyes brimmed with tears when he spotted me and his arms opened wide. He smiled and said, simply, "Joy!" It was the last word I recall my father speaking to me, a fitting farewell from a man who lived joy with his every breath, to his very last.

Colleen Carroll Campbell is an author, television and radio host and St. Louis-based fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Her website is http://www.colleen-campbell.com/ .

This is an article about a man filled with faith, hope and love right to the end, a man who was clearly a gentleman of the old school, with a loving respect for others, especially religious sisters:

Even in his last years, after his condition forced my mother to move him to a nursing home, Dad provoked smiles with courtly bows and tips of an imaginary hat to the elderly nuns who stared at him from their wheelchairs. "Great to see you," he'd say, as he sauntered the halls. "You're the best."

Led into a room full of dementia patients, he would find his way to the corner where the most distressed one among them was muttering incoherently. Plopping down next to her, he would whisper, "We're all in God's hands" and stroke her arm until she grew quiet and calm. "I like to take care of people," he would tell me, when he could remember what he had just done.

What a delightful portrait of a person! I remember the Irish-American father of a friend of mine from the Bronx who spent his final days in a nursing home where most of the people were priests and sisters. The old man thought he was in heaven!

Each of us has a dignity and when we recognise that in those who need our assistance we will find ourselves blessed through them. Thomas Patrick Carroll Sr was clearly a blessing, not only to his own family, but to all who knew him, most especially those who were in the nursing home with him.

05 August 2008

New Bishop Inspired by Columbans


Yesterday Fr Gerardo A. Alminaza of the Diocese of Bacolod, Philippines, was ordained bishop in San Sebastian Cathedral there. Today he will be installed as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Jaro in St Elizabeth Metropolitan Cathedral there. Bacolod is a suffragan diocese of Jaro, which is located in Iloilo City, an hour to the west by fast sea-craft. The main consecrating bishop was Papal Nuncio Edward Joseph Adams, with Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo of Jaro, current president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), and Bishop Vicente M. Navarra of Bacolod as principal co-consecrators.

The evening before the episcopal ordination the nuncio blessed Bacolod City’s new Government Center before a dinner for bishops, priests and others hosted by Mayor Evelio R. Leonardia and the city government, a typically Filipino touch in a country where officially there is separation between Church and State.

The new bishop is a ‘product’ of the Columbans, having grown up in San Jose, Sipalay City, which is now part of the Diocese of Kabankalan, separated from Bacolod in 1987, and consisting of what was the main territory in the southern part of the province of Negros Occidental entrusted to the Columbans in 1950. Bishop Alminaza’s parish priest during his high school years in Cabarrus Catholic College, San Jose, was Fr Patrick Hurley, one of the Columban pioneers in Negros and still, at the age of 84, serving in the Chaplaincy of Our Lady of Peace, Biscom Sugar Central, Binalbagan. The late Fr Augustine Rowe was the priest in San Jose when Bishop Gerry was ordained in 1986. The new priest’s only parish assignment was in Kabankalan for a year or so after his ordination working there with Columbans. He has spent the rest of his priesthood in formation work and studying. He was on the staff of the major seminary in Jaro for some years and so is no stranger to his new diocese, where he will be based at the cathedral.

In his thanksgiving remarks in San Sebastian Cathedral before giving his first blessing as bishop to the people, Monsignor Alminaza singled out the Columbans because of the enormous influence they have had on his life. He also acknowledged the presence of the Columbans at the ceremony: Pat O’Donoghue, Regional Director, Terence Bennett, Brian Gore and myself.

Gerardo Alminaza was born on 4 August 1959, the centennial of the death of St John Vianney and was ordained priest on 29 April 1986, nine days before the bicentennial of the birth of the saint who is patron of diocesan clergy, and ordained bishop on his own 49th birthday. It used to be very common for parents in the Philippines to name a child after the saint celebrated on the birthday. However, Felix and Antonia Alimane chose ‘Gerard’, after St Gerard Majella CSsR, the patron of expectant mothers to whom they had prayed that God would give them a child. The future bishop, born after eight years of marriage, was their only child.

Antonia died about five years ago but Felix, now 79, was present in his wheelchair and it was very touching how his son spoke so lovingly of his ‘Tatay’ who has been staying at Sacred Heart Seminary, Bacolod, where Bishop Gerry has been rector for the last three years. Felix will now live in Iloilo, near his son.

Bishop Alminaza also spoke of his involvement with Focolare. Indeed, his episcopal motto, Sicut Christus Vivit, inspired by 1 John 2:6, was given him some years ago as a personal motto by Chiara Lubich, who founded the Focolare movement and who died earlier this year.

In his last year as rector of Sacred Heart Seminary Monsignor Alminaza was one of the driving forces behind the production of Ribok Gikan sa Tagipusoon, based on parts of the late Fr Niall O’Brien’s Revolution From the Heart. Most of the actors in the play, written in Hiligaynon (Ilonggo) by Jovy Miroy, were students at the seminary. The play was shown in a number of places, including the Diocese of Kabankalan. The ‘Negros Nine’ had been falsely accused of the murder of Mayor Pablo Sola of Kabankalan, a friend of Father Niall, on 10 March 1982.

In the early years of his priesthood, Bishop Alminaza was inspired by the involvement with the Deaf of Columban Father Joe Coyle who died in 1991. He learned Sign Language and frequently celebrated Mass in Sign Language both in Bacolod and in Iloilo. He invited interpreters to his ordination Mass so that the Deaf present could fully participate. One of his first Masses in Jaro will be with the Deaf community.

Another typically Filipino touch, at the end of the ordination Mass, was the singing of ‘Happy Birthday’ for the new bishop.

San Sebastian Cathedral, Bacolod City

02 August 2008

Singing priests from Ireland

Fathers Eugene O’Hagan (48), his brother Martin O’Hagan (45) and David Delargy (44), parish priests in the Diocese of Down and Connor, Ireland, recently signed a £1,000,000 recording contract with Sony BMG. Their CD will be out later in the year.

As they are busy parish priests it’s not easy for them to coordinate their diaries so that they can record. You can listen to them singing Schubert’s Ave Maria here . You can find their website here. There’s a video of them at the Vatican here with links to others.

H/T to songjane of Royworld Fan .