29 August 2009

Death of St John the Baptist as told by a child in Dublin.

St John the Baptist, El Greco, c.1600

Back in the 1960s a teacher in an elementary school in a very poor part of Dublin recorded the children telling Bilbe and other faith stories in their own words. They spoke in their own Dublin dialect of English and their very accents tell Irish people that they are poor.

A few years ago the old reel-to-reel tapes of Miss Cunningham, the teacher who had died since, were found and put together as a very successful CD and tape under the title Give Up Yer Aul' Sins, a very Dublin way of saying 'Repent'.

More recently Brown Bag Films made an animated version of these stories, using the original recordings of the children. You can find the story of the death of St John the Baptist, which the Church commemorates today, here.

My parish priest at home in Dublin a few years ago sadly remarked that children there today probably wouldn't know any of these stories.

Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him.

She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias’ own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore many things to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.”

She went out and said to her mother,“What shall I ask for?” She replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”

The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Salome with the head of St John the Baptist, Carlo Dolci 1665-70

28 August 2009

Philippine 'Diocese brings back Latin Mass'

Christmas Day 2007. Correction: This Mass was celebrated in Lord of Divine Mercy Parish, Diocese of Cubao, not in Jesus, Lord of Divine Mercy Parish, Diocese of Novaliches as I posted originally. (H/T Pro Deo et Patria for photos and correction).

CBCP News, run by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, carries a story today about the Traditional Latin Mass, no properly called the Extraordinary Form (EF) of the Mass, being celebrated regularly in the Diocese of Parañaque, which consists of three cities in the Metro Manila area and was carved out of the Archdiocese in 2002.

When Pope Benedict's motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, came out in 2007 there wasn't much discussion about it in the Philippines, although some celebrations were reported in the media. The Society of St Pius X has houses in at least two places, Quezon City, Metro Manila, and Iloilo City. On Monday of last week when I went to Iloilo for an ordination I met two SSPX priests as I was getting on the boat for Iloilo, a Frenchman and a Filipino. They were wearing white soutanes with a blue sash. I only exchanged greetings with them.

The CBCP News headline speaks of bringing back the 'Latin Mass'. Quite a few people, even priests older than me - I was ordained in 1967 - refer to what is now called Mass in the Extraordinary Form, or 'TLM' (Tridentine Latin Mass), as many call it. They are unaware that Latin is still the official liturgical language of the Roman Rite. However, hardly anyone I know here has ever been at a Mass of any kind in Latin since the radical changes were introduced. I have celebrated Mass - Novus Ordo - publicly in Latin only twice, in 1981 in a Carmelite Monastery in Iceland, where the nuns were all Dutch, most of them elderly (they've been replaced since by Polish Carmelites), and in a retirement home for Daughters of Charity near Munich in 1988. On the rare occasions when I celebrate Mass alone I sometimes do so in Latin.

In 1990 I attended a TLM, approved by the archbishop, in the church in Dublin where my parents were married. Many in the congregation were young and I was struck by the prayerfulness of those there. For me it was like being at a reconstruction of something from the past in a museum.

However, I wouldn't see it that way now, even though I haven't been at a TLM since. But I hope that the ocasion will arise when I will be able to celebrate an Mass in the Extraordinary Form. When I was ordained we had an 'interim' form, basically the TLM with some vernacular, especially the readings. The Roman Canon could be said aloud but Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin, where I'm from, decreed that it was to be said quietly, 'for the sake of uniformity', as I recall.

In the larger cities in the Philippines and in most religious houses and Catholic schools English rather than the mother-tongue has replaced Latin. This troubles me at times but it's a complicated issue.

Pro Deo et Patria gives a directory of the TLM in the Philippines, which shows that it is celebrated in a growing number of cities. But I have rarely heard anyone speak about it. One friend of mine in Mindanao was quite upset when some Greek and Latin chants were introduced at one Sunday Mass in his cathedral.

Diocese brings back Latin Mass

MANILA, August 27, 2009—The use of Latin Mass is actively being done in the Diocese of Paranaque with a go signal given by its bishop.

The Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) celebrations in southern Metro Manila are currently hosted by the National Shrine of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Villamor Air Base.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass continues to be a Missa Cantata, celebrated at 9:30AM every Sunday at the crypt chapel of the Columbarium.

The Traditional Latin Mass Ministry of the Diocese of Parañaque which celebrates the TLM has adopted the name Societas Liturgiae Sacrae Sancti Gregorii.

The Ministry is composed of the priest-celebrants trained at St. Jerome Emiliani and Sta. Susana Parish (SJESSP), the TLM altar servers of SJESSP, and the Van De Steen Choir.

The Societas LSSG continues to be supported by SJESSP parishioner benefactor, George Balagtas, and its activities coordinated by Marilou Cortes.

Societas LSSG continues to undertake its TLM activities under the directives set by Paranaque Bishop Jesse Mercado and guidelines approved by Fr Grato Germanetto, CRS.
The first celebration of the traditional Mass in the diocese was held on June 29, 2008 on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, at the Church of St. Jerome Emiliani and Sta. Susana Parish in Muntinlupa City.

It will be recalled that in July 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued Motu Proprio an Apostolic Letter entitled “Summorum Pontificum” regarding the celebration of the Roman Rite according to the Missal of 1962 and gave guidelines on how to proceed with the so-called Latin Mass. (CBCPNews)

27 August 2009

A desperately sad overseas worker story

A desperately sad overseas worker story

Áras an Uachtaráin, the presidential residence, Phoenix Park, Dublin

The Irish Independent reports the story of Eugenia Bratis, 50, only 4'10" tall, who was found brutally murdered in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, very near where I grew up, some weeks ago. For many days the Irish police had no idea who she was, had no leads as to who had stabbed her. They then did something that I don't recall happening before in Ireland: they released a photo of the face of the dead woman, hoping that someone would recognise her.

It turned out that Eugenia was from Romania and had been living in Dublin for about a year, but as a beggar and living rough - sleeping on the streets much of the time. She often begged on O'Connell Bridge, right in the heart of Ireland's capital. Many would have passed her by. There are many such women in Ireland now. After she had been identified it was discovered that she had two teenaged children back home in Timisoara, Romania, and she had been sending home whatever money she managed to get so that they could go to school.

I've used the term 'overseas worker' because a major reason for thousands of Filipinos going overseas to work is to put their children, brothers and sisters and relatives, through school. Poor Eugenia went to Ireland from Romania for the same reason.

O'Connell Bridge, Dublin

We here in the Philippines tend to see the Western world as affluent and for the majority it is, even in these days of recession. But there are still countless people whom the affluence passes by.

Beggar, probably from Romania, on O'Connell Bridge

Here in the Philippines we can relate to Eugenia's efforts to do the best for her children. We can hardly imagine the sadness in her life adn in that of her two children. Please remember them in your prayers.

Timisoara, Romania

Was Saint Monica Irish?

St Monica, Luis Tristán de Escamilla 1616

I posted the following a year ago:

The second reading in the Office of Readings for the feast of St Monica (332-387) 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. Many’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.

A variation of St Monica’s request is on the memorial card of my own mother, Mary who, like the saint, died at the age of 55: ‘All I ask of you is that you will remember me at Mass and Holy Communion’.

Death of St Monica, Benozzo Gozzoli 1464-65

Tradition Day by Day carries this reading from the Confessions of St Augustine for today:

Remember, Monica, my mother

May Monica, my mother, rest in peace with her husband, before whom and after whom she was given in marriage to no man. She dutifully served him, bringing forth fruit to you with much patience, that she might also win him to you. Inspire, O Lord my God, inspire your servants my brethren, your children my master, whom I serve with my voice, my heart, and my writings, that as many of them as read these words may remember at your altar your handmaid, Monica, together with Patricius, formerly her husband, by whose flesh you brought me into this life, how I know not. May they with a pious affection remember them who were my parents in this transitory light, my brethren under you, our Father in our Catholic mother, and my fellow citizens in the eternal Jerusalem, for which your pilgrim people here below continually sigh from their setting out until their return, so that my mother's last request of me may be more abundantly granted by her through the prayers of many, occasioned by my confessions, rather than through my own prayers.

I was quite astonished some years ago reading an article in a scholarly Catholic magazine published in the USA lamenting that so many Catholic parents weren’t choosing truly Christian names for their children anymore. One example given was ‘Austin’. Clearly, the author was unaware that this is a common variation of ‘Augustine’, used especially in Ireland and in Britain. Indeed, the Augustinian Friars are often referred to in England as ‘The Austin Friars’.

When I was in primary school one of our juvenile jokes was: ‘Who is the patron saint of car manufacturers? St Monica, because she had a Baby Austin’. The ‘Baby Austin’ was a small family car produced very successfully in England between 1922 and 1939. At least we knew who St Monica and St Augustine were. I’m not sure about young people in Ireland today.

26 August 2009

Late President Kim a model for Catholics and Koreans: Korean cardinal

SEOUL (UCAN) -- Thomas More Kim Dae-jung will be remembered as a model Christian, Cardinal Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk of Seoul said during the former South Korean president's funeral Mass at Myeongdong Cathedral.

Cardinal Cheong presiding at the funeral Mass

"I thank God for giving such a person to Korea," the cardinal said in his homily during the Aug. 22 Mass, held a day before the state funeral. "At the same time, I feel sad at the thought that we may not see a leader like him again."

Speaking to a congregation of about 2,300 people, the cardinal praised the first Korean Nobel laureate, who won the Peace Prize in 2000 for his efforts to reach out to communist North Korea.

"He was a political leader who defined an epoch in Korean history and was an elder for all Koreans," Cardinal Cheong remarked, describing Kim as a champion of human rights, democratization and peace on the Korean peninsula.

"He practiced his faith in his daily life," the Church leader continued. "He regularly attended Sunday Mass even during his busy presidency ... (and prayed) for peace and the reunification of Korea."

Cardinal Cheong urged Koreans to follow Kim's example and heal divisions in society.

Kim, South Korea's first Catholic president, died from heart failure on Aug. 18 at the age of 85. His successor, Roh Moo-hyun, was a baptized Catholic but was not known to practice the faith while in office.

"President Kim was not only a leader for Koreans but also for Catholics in his public expressions of his faith," agreed Anthonia So Kyong-ae, who attended the funeral Mass. "I was happy when he was became Korea's first Catholic president. I hope he rests in peace in the grace of God."

Family members of the late President Kim at the funeral Mass

Kim's state funeral was held at the plaza in front the National Assembly. About 20,000 people came to bid him a final farewell. He was buried later that day in Seoul National Cemetery.

Kim was baptized in 1956 and often spoke about his faith publicly. During his presidential term from 1998 to 2003, he kept close ties with the apostolic nunciature to Korea and the Holy See.

In March 2000, during the Jubilee of the Year 2000 celebrations, he became the first Korean head of state to visit the Vatican. There he invited Pope John Paul II to visit South Korea to promote peace on the peninsula. In 1989, while an opposition party leader, he also had an audience with Pope John Paul, one of the world leaders whose appeals led to Kim's release from detention in 1982 after a military court sentenced him to death two years earlier.

Pope Benedict XVI sent a condolence message following Kim's death to President Lee Myung-bak through Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

"Pope Benedict XVI commends the late President's soul to the mercy and love of Almighty God, and upon all the Korean people who mourn his passing, he cordially invokes the divine blessing of peace and strength," Cardinal Bertone wrote.

24 August 2009

First ordination for bishop, 49th for parish

Last Monday, 17 August, I attended the ordination of Fr Lazaro N. Ervite OSA by Bishop Gerardo A. Alminaza, auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Jaro, at the Extension Campus Chapel of the University of San Agustin, Sambag, Jaro, Iloilo City. Father Roy, as he is known, spent five years as a Columban seminarian but realized that God was calling him to be an Augustinian friar.

This was the first ordination to the priesthood by Bishop Alminaza he became a bishop on his 49th birthday, the 149th anniversary of the death of St John Vianney, 4 August last year. and the 49th of a priest from the parish of Igbaras, Iloilo, a town of less than 30,000. Its patron is St Rita of Cascia, and Father Roy’s ordination took place on the feast of another Augustinian, St Clare of Montefalco.

Father Ervite is assigned to Colegio San Agustin – Bacolod (CSA-B) as Director for Human Source Development.

Thanks to Elvira 'Babes' Paz for the ordination photos.

22 August 2009

SVD and Servite Jubilees in the Philippines

SVD and Servite Jubilees in the Philippines

Seven SVD deacons, plus one other, ordained at San Isidro, Abra, on 27 June by Bishop Leopoldo C. Jaucian SVD of Bangued, Abra.

Tomb of Fr Juan Scheiermann SVD

The photos are from Felmar's Missionary Journey, the blog of Fr Felmar C. Fiel SVD, who has written for Misyon.

Father Scheiermann was one of two SVD priests to arrive in the Philippines on 15 August 1909 and a week later went with Bishop James Carroll of Nueva Segovia to Bangued. Father Scheiermann died from typhoid fever less than five months later on 10 January 1910.

Today Archbishop Edward Adams, Papal Nuncio to the Philippines, was the main celebrant at a Mass in Bangued to commemorate the centennial of the arrival of the first two SVD priests.

CBCPNEWS reports that Superior General Fr Antonio Pernia SVD, the first Filipino to head the congregation, will be the main celebrant at the culminating Mass of the Centennial Year at the first mission station of the SVDs in San Isidro, Abra, where Our Lady of the PIllar is the parish patron.

You can read more about the history of the SVDs in the Philippines in Hearts on Fire, 'The Home of the SVD-PHN'.

There are now three provinces of the SVDs in the Philippines and many Filipino priests and brothers on overseas mission.


The Servites, whose full name in Latin is Ordo Fratrum Servorum Beatae Virginis Mariae, the Order of the Servant Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary, are celebrating the Silver Jubilee of their arrival in the Philippines today in Tunasan, Muntinlupa City. They were founded in Florence, Italy, in 1233 by seven prosperous merchants who renounced their wealth and went to live at the top of a mountain in a life of prayer. It would be as if seven well-known businessmen from the financial heart of Makati City were to go to the mountains of Zambales today and do something similar.

St Peregrine (San Peregrino), 1265-1345, an Italian and a Servite friar, 'was regarded as a firebrand in his day' and took part in anti-papal demonstrations. He is the patron of those with cancer. Another patron of persons with cancer is St Ezekiel Moreno OAR, whose feast we celebrated on 19 August. Born in Spain, he was ordained priest in the Philippines and served in Mindoro, which later became an SVD mission, and then was appointed Bishop of Pasto, Colombia. In 1873 St Ezekiel spent some time in Talisay (now Talisay City) just north of Bacolod City, getting treatment. The Recoletos still run the parish there.

May God continue to bless the great missionary work of the SVDs and the Servites in the Philippines and elsewhere and may our Blessed Mother protect them all.

20 August 2009

Pope meets young Sri Lankan quadruple amputee

A heart-warming story in today's Zenit bulletin tells of Pope Benedict's meeting with Rajiv Janine, an 18-year-old Sri Lankan who lost his four limbs after a railway accident.

Rajiv asked the Holy Father's blessing for his brother who is to be ordained priest shortly and for one of his sisters who is a religious in the Philippines.

May Rajiv bring hope to many.

19 August 2009

Thomas More Kim Dae-jung RIP

6 January 1924 - 18 August 2009

Yesterday Korea lost a great Catholic leader, the second this year. Stephen Cardinal Kim Sou-Hwan died on 16 February and former president Kim Dae-jung died in hospital in Seoul. The Korea Times carries a report here and The Korea Herald here.

The Catholic news agency, Zenit, notes that L’Osservatore Romano highlights the fact that it was his Catholic faith that was ‘the secret of his spirit’. Kim became a Catholic in 1957 and took the name ‘Thomas More’ at his baptism. The great English politician martyr is the patron saint of statesmen, politicians and lawyers.

Earlier this year documents from the National Archives of Korea showed how Pope John Paul II had saved the life of the great Korean statesman.

The recent death of Cory Aquino here in the Philippines and now that of Thomas More Kim Dae-jung, show how people respond to integrity in political leaders, even as they have questions about their political legacy. Both of these presidents lived their political lives out of their faith. We desperately need leaders of integrity and vision like them.

President Kim, in office from 1998 to 2003, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000.

His life paralleled in many ways those of the late Ninoy and Cory Aquino and he faced death many times, and endured imprisonment and exile.

Former President Kim Dae-jung and his wife Lee Hee-ho with their grandchildren at a palace in Seoul in 1992. [The Korea Herald]

The Korea Herald editorial concludes with these words:

In many ways, Kim was a man ahead of his time. He was well read - he spent most of his time in jail immersed in reading - had had an acuity that saw ahead into the future. Although he was already 74 years old when he assumed the presidency, he was well versed in the current thoughts of the times and had the foresight to invest in the information and telecommunications sector, making the country an IT powerhouse.

He was also an internationalist, whose concerns about human rights led him to speak out against the dictatorship in Burma and repression in East Timor.

In his lifetime, Kim had his share of followers and critics. However, his legacy as a democracy fighter and a champion of human rights should always be remembered.

Here is the editorial in The Korea Times:

Loss of Our Leader

Former President Kim Dae-jung Leaves Great Legacy BehindThe whole nation is gripped by sorrow and grief over the death of former President Kim Dae-jung. Kim died of pneumonia and related complications at a Seoul hospital on Tuesday at the age of 85. His death is the loss of South Korea's greatest politicians who dedicated his life to democracy and human rights. It is all the more heartrending to think that the country is unlikely to have such a wonderful man in its modern history again.

Kim lived a turbulent life due to his opposition to dictatorial rule from the 1970s-80s. He started his career as a politician in the early 1960s after he determined to fight against the incompetent and corrupt government of Syngman Rhee. His ordeal began with his challenges against former President Park Chung-hee who seized power through a military coup in 1961. Kim was subject to persecution by the Park regime, which imposed iron-fisted rule in the 1970s because he was one of most outspoken critics of the dictator.

Kim's greatness lies in his perseverance and uncompromising struggle against the authoritarian regime. He was even kidnapped by agents of the nation's intelligence service from a Tokyo hotel in August 1973. The abduction was an aborted plot by the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA) to get rid of the most influential opposition leader to defy the dictatorship. He might have been killed if there had not been intervention by the United States and Japan. He also came to bask in the international spotlight because of the incident and his struggle for democracy.

His most tumultuous moment came in 1980 when he was sentenced to death on treason charges in relation to his alleged involvement in the popular uprising in Gwangju, near his hometown Mokpo in South Jeolla Province. Of course, the death penalty was based on trumped-up charges in a ploy by Gen. Chun Doo-hwan to take power after the assassination of Park by his spy chief in October 1979.

It is a pain to imagine Kim's suffering persecution and frustration, brought on by past brutal and totalitarian regimes. But Kim never gave up his hope for democracy, human rights and other universal values. His life-long struggle paid off in 1997 when he was elected president. His predecessor Kim Young-sam became the nation's first civilian president in three decades, but Kim achieved the first power transfer from a governing party to an opposition party.

During his five-year presidency starting in 1998, Kim brought a lot of changes to the nation. He helped South Korea overcome the Asian financial crisis quickly. One of his most striking achievements was his visit to Pyongyang to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in June 2000. The meeting was the first inter-Korean summit and greatly contributed to reconciliation and peace on the Korean Peninsula. It was carried under his trademark Sunshine Policy of active engagement with the North.

President Kim became the first South Korean to win the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his unwavering efforts for national reconciliation and peace as well as his life-long dedication to democracy. He has left an indelible legacy not only on Korea but also the world. We owe him too much and he will live in our hearts forever. It is our obligation to promote his legacy and make his dream for national unification and true democracy come true. We pray that he may rest in peace.

May the noble soul of Thomas More Kim Dae-jung indeed rest in peace.

16 August 2009

Three generations of same Dublin family born within minutes of each other

The McGuinness Family, Dublin
Yesterday's Irish Independent tells the heartwarming, and possibly unique, story of Mrs Eileen McGuinness (85) of Dublin becoming within thirty minutes a grandmother for the 69th time, a great-grandmother for the 58th time and a great-great-grandmother for the first time. The three boys were born in the same hospital and nobody was aware of these remarkable coincidences until the babies were safely delivered.

Mrs McGuinness, now widowed and a mother of 16, 'has begun planning for birthdays already and a triple christening'.

But reflecting the reality of contemporary Ireland, the story mentions Michael, 'Eileen's husband of 50 years' who died in 1996, while reporting that two of the three new mothers were 'girlfriends' and the third the 'partner' of the fathers.

Not unrelatedly, the Irish-American Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, recently spoke of four challenges facing the Church in the USA. CNA reports:

The archbishop then broke down Jesus’ words into four practical challenges the Church currently faces in preaching the Gospel to all people, the first being the instability of marriage and family.

“That’s where we have the real vocation crisis,” he remarked, noting that “only 50% of our Catholic young people are getting married.”

“We have a vocation crisis to life-long, life-giving, loving, faithful marriage. If we take care of that one, we’ll have all the priests and nuns we need for the church,” Dolan said.

Why has marriage ceased to be important for so many Catholics in such a short space of time? And what does the sacrament of baptism mean to parents who don't believe in the sacrament of matrimony?

But thank God that these three infant boys will have a very different family experience from that of a growing number of children today especially in the West and in China, who have no siblings, no uncles and no aunts.

Incidentally, Ireland is one of the safest places in the world to be a mother with only ten maternal deaths per 100,000 births, according to the 1996 UNICEF figures. The figure for the Philippines is 280. The worst figure of all is that for Sierra Leone, 1,400.

In 1992, while on a chaplaincy programme in a hospital in Minneapolis, I met a patient who was a great-great-grandmother who remembered one of her own great-great-grandmothers who had been born in Norway in the 1700s. What a marvellous blessing to be a living link between nine generations and four centuries! (I'm presuming that many of her descendants are still very much alive).

May God bless the extended McGuinness Family and may our Blessed Mother and her husband St Joseph protect them always.

15 August 2009

Marian website in Holy Land

The Visitation (detail) Tintoretto, c. 1549

Just today I learned of a Marian website in the Holy Land, Mary of Nazareth, Her mystery, her museum, her site. H/T to Catholic Culture.

It has a link to a beautifully sung hymn in Romanian, Prea Sfanta Maica si Fecioara, which Google translates as 'Most Holy Mother and Virgin'. There is a video to watch as you listen to a young woman with a truly heavenly voice singing a capella. Romanian is a romance language, ie, one that developed from a dialect of Latin, as did Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French and Catalan, among others.

Here is the site's daily email for today, the Solemnity of the Assumption:

August 15 - Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin into Heaven

Prayer for the Assumption of the Virgin Mary

Mary, Queen assumed into Heaven, I rejoice that after years of heroic martyrdom on earth, you have at last been taken to the throne prepared for you in Heaven by the Holy Trinity.

Lift my heart with you in the glory of your Assumption above the dreadful touch of sin and impurity. Teach me how small earth becomes when viewed from Heaven. Make me realize that death is the triumphant gate through which I shall pass to your Son and that someday my body shall rejoin my soul in the unending bliss of Heaven.

From this earth, over which I tread as a pilgrim, I look to you for help. When my hour of death has come, lead me safely to the presence of Jesus to enjoy the vision of my God for all eternity together with you.


Saint Francis de Sales.

There is also a link to El Magnificat, sung in Spanish. It appears in today's gospel.

RSV Catholic Edition version:

And Mary said,

"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.

For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm,
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
he has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever."

Spanish version:

Cántico de María. ALEGRÍA DEL ALMA EN EL SEÑOR Lc 1, 46-55

Proclama mi alma la grandeza del Señor,
se alegra mi espíritu en Dios, mi salvador;
porque ha mirado la humillación de su esclava.

Desde ahora me felicitarán todas las generaciones,
porque el Poderoso ha hecho obras grandes por mí:
su nombre es santo,
y su misericordia llega a sus fieles
de generación en generación.

El hace proezas con su brazo:
dispersa a los soberbios de corazón,
derriba del trono a los poderosos
y enaltece a los humildes,
a los hambrientos los colma de bienes
y a los ricos los despide vacíos.

Auxilia a Israel, su siervo,
acordándose de su misericordia
-como lo había prometido a nuestros padres-
en favor de Abraham y su descendencia por siempre.

A 'feastless' feast of the Assumption in Canada

The Assumption of the Virgin, El Greco, 1577

I think it was in 1997, during a visit to Canada, I stayed a night with friends who lived in a parish of the Assumption. I wanted to celebrate Mass on the feast of the Assumption and presumed there would be something special at the church. I was shocked to discover that there wasn't even a Mass scheduled on this great feast, which in the universal calendar of the Church is a holyday of obligation, though not here in the Philippines or in Canada. We went to see the priest who, I learned, had spent some years in the Philippines, though he belonged to his own Canadian diocese. He agreed to celebrate Mass with me on the 15th.

But what a shame: only two priests behind closed doors celebrating Mass in the Church of the Assumption on the Solemnity of the Assumption, a symbol of how highly secularised Canada has become.

The Assumption is still a holyday of obligation in Ireland where it is known in Irish Gaelic as Lá Fhéile Mhuire Mhóir, the Great Feast of Mary. I rarely went to Mass in our parish church in Dublin on that day because we were usually away on vacation. The first two weeks of August were the traditional holidays for construction workers. My father, a carpenter, spent all his working life on building sites, most of them as a general foreman. He was a first-class carpenter and an even better foreman, one who led by quiet example. I have memories of packed churches in holiday resorts on 15 August back in the 1950s when the Catholic faith was still strong in Ireland.

14 August 2009

Media priest and martyr

Today is the feast of a remarkable media-man whose martyrdom is even more remarkable, St Maximilian Kolbe OFMConv, born in Poland in 1894 and who died on this date in Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp in Poland.

An account of his martyrdom:

One day, a man in Father Kolbe's block had escaped. All of the men from thatblock were brought out into the hot sun and made to stand all day with no foodor drink. At the end of the day, the man that had escaped had not yet beenfound.

CommandantFritsch, the guard who was in charge of this group, told the men that ten woulddie in place of the the one that had escaped. The guard called out the names.One man, Polish Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek, begged to be spared because,worried about his family on the outside who would not survive without him whenhe finally got out.

Father Kolbe silently stepped forward and stood before Commandant Fritsch.

The commandant asked, "What does this Polish pig want?"

Father Kolbe pointed to the polish sergeant, saying, "I am a Catholic priestfrom Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife andchildren."

The commandant stood silent for a moment, then allowed the sergeant to takehis place among the other men while Father Kolbe took his place. He was thensent to the starvation chamber. The secretary and interpreter for this bunkerwas so impressed by Father Kolbe's heroic actions that he kept an exact recordof his last days, more detailed than the job required.

Eachday the guards would remove the bodies of those who had died. The sounds ofscreaming and crying were not heard from the starvation bunker. Instead, thesounds of Father Kolbe leading the Rosary and singing hymns to the Immaculatawith the other prisoners in the bunker could be heard. While the guards wereaway, the secretary would go into the bunker to speak with and console theprisoners. When Father Kolbe could no longer speak from his hunger and lack ofenergy, he would whisper his prayers.

After two weeks, the cell had to be cleared out for more prisoners. Only fourprisoners were left, Father Kolbe was one of them. They injected a lethal doseof cabolic acid into each prisoner. Father Kolbe, the last prisoner left to bekilled, raised his arm to the guard. On August 14, 1941, the eve of the feast ofthe Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven, Father Kolbe was martyred. The next day, his body was cremated.

The saint was also a pioneer in the use of the mass media, expecially the press and radio, the latter then in its infancy. From the same website, St. Max, priest, martyr, saint:

Father Kolbe planned to start a printing house where information could be massproduced and sent to millions of people. However, he had only half of thenecessary funds. He trusted the Immaculata to help, praying that she wouldsupply them with the needed funds to complete the work and print theirpublications. During his prayer before a statue of the Blessed Mother, henoticed an envelope. On the envelope, it said, "For you, Immaculata." Inside,the exact amount needed to complete the project.

Father Kolbe and the other priests developed a monthly magazine with acirculation of over 1 million, and a daily newspaper with a circulation of230,000, as well as countless catechetical and devotional tracts. The friarsused the latest printing and administrative technologies to print and distributetheir publications.

Father Kolbe also started a radio station and planned to build a motionpicture studio. All of this was used to teach and spread the Catholic faith and to teach the whole world about the Church.

Saint Maximilian, who founded publishing houses in both Poland and Japan, where he worked for some years in the 1930s, is the patron saint of media communications. No doubt, he would be using the internet in the service of the Gospel and of Mary Immaculate if he were alive today.
There is a national shrine to the saint in Marytown, Illinois, USA.

11 August 2009

Should 'commentators' at Mass get the death penalty?

Though I sometimes have a quick temper, most people find me reasonably gentle. Since childhood I’ve been strongly opposed to the use of the death penalty. However, I’m sometimes tempted to make an exception – for ‘commentators’ at Mass. I don’t know if other countries are as plagued with them as we are here in the Philippines. Before I go any further, I have to say that some of my best friends are and have been ‘commentators’.

During the funeral Mass of the late President Cory Aquino in Manila Cathedral I could hear a commentator – they usually seem to be women – telling people when to sit and when to stand. The vast majority of those present were adults and Catholics, many of them holding some of the highest positions in the land. One prominent Protestant, closely associated with Cory, was there, former President Fidel Ramos, who frequently attends Mass on such occasions and who, as president, was a most gracious host to Pope John Paul II in January 1995 when World Youth Day was held in Manila.

Commentators are normally kind and committed Catholics but, without being aware of it, they show disrespect to people by treating them as if they were pre-schoolers. We have had the new Mass for 40 years now, for goodness sake. I have often enough been upset by officious commentators who, before the priest can say ‘Let us proclaim the mystery of faith’, tell people to stand. (Here in the Philippines we stand after the Consecration. I would much prefer if everyone remained kneeling until the end of the Eucharistic Prayer.) I find that particularly ill-mannered, though ‘commentators’ are never intentionally so.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) clearly defines the role of the commentator at Mass (105, b): The commentator, who provides the faithful, when appropriate, with brief explanations and commentaries with the purpose of introducing them to the celebration and preparing them to understand it better. The commentator's remarks must be meticulously prepared and clear though brief. In performing this function the commentator stands in an appropriate place facing the faithful, but not at the ambo.

No mention of telling people when to sit and stand nor is the presence of a commentator a requirement.

I’m not in charge of a parish and sometimes find myself celebrating Mass in a church or chapel where I am a visitor and have to live with things that really irritate me. One frequent introduction by commentators – again well-intentioned – is ‘Let us stand to welcome our celebrant Father Sean Coyle’. We don’t assemble to welcome the priest but to worship God by celebrating the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

I often hear them say, or worse still, hear the reader say ‘Let us stand to honour the Gospel’. Again, well meant and pious but not a part of the Mass and not the role of either the commentator or reader to say.

Photos taken in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, 19 July 2008, when Pope Benedict consecrated the new altar and celebrated Mass with the bishops of Australia with seminarians and novices participating.

06 August 2009

Saint Cory Aquino?

Listening to and watching Father Catalino Arevalo SJ giving the homily at the funeral Mass of Cory Aquino yesterday I realized that he was speaking about a person whom he really knew, as he had been her spiritual adviser and that of the Aquino family for many years. It was clear that he saw her as a person who followed Jesus Christ closely and willingly, especially in her suffering.
Yet he never referred to her as a saint. Sometimes homilies at funerals become eulogies that paint individuals as saintly when everyone knows that they weren't. Father Arevalo wasn't 'canonizing' Cory but showing us how she had tried to live the Christian life in her private life and, especially, in her public life, how she saw herself as one called to truly serve the people of the Philippines. If I recall, he spoke of her 'vocation' to be a public servant. He was really reminding all of us what we are called to be.

There is so much cynicism about politicians, much of it deserved, and there is a stench of corruption in the Philippines today that is even worse than it was during the Marcos years. Mrs Aquino brought a rare integrity to public life.

Father Arevalo recalled a meeting between Cory and the late Cardinal Stephen Kim of Seoul, Korea, a revered figure who died earlier this year and who is featured in the current Misyon:

Fr. Arevalo recalled the meeting between President Aquino and South Korea’s
Stephen Cardinal Kim and Manila Archbishop Jaime L. Cardinal Sin which lasted for 45 minutes.

“When we on our way back, Cardinal Kim said ‘I know why the Lord trusted her
with power at this most difficult time because she is pure of heart,” Fr.
Arevalo said quoting the Korean prelate.

He said Cardinal Kim said “He has no desire for power even now she
reluctantly took it on.”

“She truly moves me by the purity of her spirit. God has given a great gift
to your people,” Fr. Arevalo quoted Korean Cardinal Kim. (
Melo M. Acuna).

In today's Philippine Daily Inquirer Ma. Ceres P. Doyo writes her Human Face column under the title 'Sainthood for Cory'. She put into words some of my own thoughts as I listened to Father Arevalo. She mentions one former president - of Tanzania, not the Philippines - whose cause for canonization is being pushed by the bishops of his country, Julius Nyerere. Like Cory, he left behind a mixed political legacy but his simplicity and integrity were very clear.

There are other 20th century politicians whose cause for beatification has been introduced, Alcide De Gasperi of Italy and Robert Schuman of France who, along with Konrad Adenauer of Germany established the European Economic Community of six nations which has grown into the 25-nation European Union. Schuman had a very personal connection with three of the original six members: he was born a German citizen in Luxwmoburg and alter became prime minister of France. he greatlyadmired St Columban. After World War II they never wanted to see war again in Europe. Each was driven by his Catholic faith, as Cory and Julius Nyerere were. Indeed there were others.

St Thomas More, the English martyr, is the patron saint of politicians, statesmen and lawyers.

This is not really the time to be asking whether or not Cory Aquino should ever be formally recognised as a saint. The Church very wisely asks us to wait at least five years. But there is no doubt whatever that Cory Aquino's illness and death have brought to our attention a true person of faith, a person who lived her faith in Jesus Christ both in her private life and in her public life and who endured great suffering in both.

Every Filipino and everyone living in the Philippines with eyes to see and ears to hear can adapt and make Cardinal Kim's words their own: 'She truly moved me by the purity of her spirit. God has given a great gift to our people'.

Transfiguration death anniversaries

At the grave of Corporal Laurence Dowd, Royal Irish Regiment
Killed in action, Ypres/Ieper, Belgium, 6 August 1917

Larry Dowd was the brother of my maternal grandmother, from near Tara, County Meath, Ireland. He was 37 when he died. I located his grave in September 2001, when this photo was taken, the first relative to visit it.

Hiroshima, Japan, after the dropping of the first atmoic bomb, 6 August 1945

Hiroshima had a population of about 225,000 before the bombing. It is estimated that 66,000 died and 69,000 were injured. Many of the latter subsequently died from radiation.

Peace Park, Nagasaki, where the second atomic bomb was dropped on 9 August 1945

Nagasaki had 195,000 people before the bombing of whom an estimated 39,000 died and 25,000 were injured.

Pope Paul VI, died 6 August 1978

Pope Paul was the first pope to visit the Philippines, in November 1970, and took a very personal interest in the development of the Church in Mindanao.
May all of these rest in peace.

04 August 2009

Homily at funeral of Columban Father Willie Spicer

Columban Father Willie Spicer, 1949-2009
A faithful missionary priest in Japan and Ireland

Today is the feast of St John Vianney, the patron of priests who died exactly 150 years ago. Recently we began the Year for Priests that Pope Benedict declared in his honour, a year when we are all called to pray for our priests and when priests themselves are called to be saints.

A week ago Father Willie Spicer, a Columban who died suddenly at the age of 59, was buried. I didn’t know him very well as he was in his first year in the seminary when I was in my last. He spent many years in Japan after his ordination in 1974 and I met him for the first time in decades two years ago when I was at home. At the time of his death he was the coordinator of our mission awareness programme in Ireland, a demanding job that involved visiting different parishes almost every weekend and the schools in those parishes on weekdays.

Fr Michael Scully, who gave the homily in Father Willie’s home town of Westport, County Mayo, was ordained almost 20 years before Father Willie. His homily highlights for me a number of precious and sacred things in the life of a priest: his vocation, friendship between priests and the mission of a priest to bring the hope of the resurrection into the lives of people. I

have often found that a funeral is a time when persons are very open to the word of God. Japan is a country where there are very few Catholics, fewer than one in 200 of the population, and where the conversion of an individual to the Catholic faith is a great cause for rejoicing. A funeral Mass which Father Willie celebrated was a moment of faith for a Japanese artist who had never heard of the resurrection.

Another Columban priest in Japan, Fr Joe Broderick, ordained two years after me, whom I hadn’t met for many years, told me when we finally did that he still used in funeral homilies words he heard me speak at my mother’s funeral in 1970. I can’t recall what I said and didn’t even recall that Father Joe had been there. We never know how the word of God will reverberate and how something that one person cannot recall becomes central to the life of another.

When I first read Father Scully’s homily I was moved to tears and felt so grateful to God for having called me to be a priest.

May Father Willie and all our deceased Columbans, and the priests who have influenced are lives who have now gone ahead, rest in peace and enjoy this Year of Priests in the eternity of heaven with St John Vianney.

I have highlighted some parts of the homily.

Homily at Willie Spicer’s funeral Mass – July 28 2009 at Westport Church

Fr Michael Scully

We are gathered here today to do homage to the memory of Father Willie Spicer whose sudden death has come as a shock to us all. And I take this opportunity to express my sincere sympathy to all Willie’s family – to his brothers Jim and Aidan and their families and his younger brother Brian – as well as to all his relatives and friends, and to all of you who have come far and near to be here. I want to also express my deepest sympathy to Dick Healy and his family. The Healy family were close friends of Willie, and his passing must have been especially poignant for them on what was to be a happy occasion of celebration. Willie was in Limerick to attend Dick Healy’s 70th birthday.

We are all here, each of us with our personal thoughts and memories. Depending on how close we were to Willie, and how well we knew him, our thoughts and feelings at the present moment probably cover a wide spectrum of memories and emotions. Willie’s brother Aidan shared a very special memory with me this morning at breakfast. He told me that Willie once told him that Cloonagh was the place where Willie ‘got his vocation’ – where he got his call to mission. This memory is so precious to Aidan that he took some of his children out there this morning after a visit to the family grave at Aghavale Cemetery. [Aidan told me that Cloonagh is situated between Aghavale Cemetery and Croagh Patrick].

I will not be so foolish as to try to determine what the thoughts and feelings of others may be. I can only speak for myself.

I have lost a friend – a close friend - a trusted friend – a friend to whom I would entrust my life unconditionally. Last Friday evening when I heard that Willie Spicer had died suddenly, I experienced a deep feeling of personal loss. It is hard to imagine life without him. Not that we met frequently in recent times – after all, he was in Ireland and I was in Japan until recently – but even at that distance we both knew that in time of need, one was there for the other.

On hearing of his death last Friday, the thought came to me, if I were asked to preach the homily at Willie’s Funeral Mass, what would I say? What would be appropriate on this sad occasion? While mulling over this for a while – I let my thoughts wander back over the years, especially over the last eight or nine years that Willie was in Japan.

Over that period of eight or nine years Willie and I enjoyed a game of golf together on a regular basis even though we lived quite far apart. Willie was pastor at the Church in Chigasaki City in the Diocese of Yokohama; I was assigned to a Church in the Archdiocese of Tokyo about 80 miles away from where Willie lived. Sometimes before our game of golf I would stay overnight at Willie’s house.

On one of those occasions I noticed a painting which I had not seen before on the wall of his living-room. So, I asked him where he got the painting. ‘There is a story behind that’ was his answer. I would like to tell that story as Willie told it too me. These are his words: ‘About a year ago I did a funeral Mass here in Chigasaki Church. And, as usual, during the homily I emphasized that death was not the end of everything; and then went on to talk of Christian hope in the resurrection of the dead’. At this point, Willie paused and turned towards me: ‘I think it is meaningless’ he said, ‘to preach a homily at a wake or funeral Mass if we don’t make some mention of the resurrection of Christ and our own hope in the resurrection. Isn’t that what our Christian faith is all about? It’s because of that faith that we are on mission!’

Those words of Willie were for my benefit, but, needless to say, I was in complete agreement with what he said. However, Willie’s story did not end there. ‘You know’, he said ‘after that funeral Mass an elderly man approached me and said to me “Today was the first time I ever heard a talk like the talk you gave at the Mass. Until now, I had never heard of the resurrection of the dead – and somehow, it makes a lot of sense to me. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to hear that homily. If I had a chance I’d like to study the Catholic faith. Do you know if there’s a Catholic Church close to where I live?” and Willie continued, ‘That was about a year ago – something that I did not know at that time was that that man was an artist who lived about a hundred miles away. That painting came from him to me as an expression of thanks – thanks for my homily at the funeral Mass, but also as an expression of profound gratitude for the fact that he was studying the Catholic faith, and in hoping to be baptized in the not too distant future in a church close to where he lives’.

I have told this story because I believe that if Willie Spicer had a chance to speak to us today, he would say to us: ‘It’s all right to feel sad and to grieve on this occasion. I would feel the same way if I were in your place. But, don’t be carried away by sadness and grief. Today’s sadness and grief cannot compare with the joy and the happiness and the glory that will be ours if we but believe that the God who loves us, loves us so much that He gave His only Son for us’.

In this Mass as we move on to the Liturgy of the Eucharist – that’s the Liturgy of Thanksgiving, let us thank God for the gift that Willie Spicer was to each one of us, and for the many graces and blessings God has given to so many people through Willie’s dedication to the various missions entrusted to him.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis, may his faithful soul be at the right hand of God.

50th birthday of a 'St John Vianney' bishop

St John Baptist Mary Vianney, 1786-1859

Congratulations to Bishop Gerardo A. Alminaza, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Jaro, Philippines, who turns 50 today and who also celebrates the first anniversary of his consecration as a bishop in Bacolod Cathedral. Bishop Gerry, as he is known to his many friends, feels especially graced by God in that he was born on the 100th anniversary of the death of St John Baptist Mary Vianney, the patron saint of priests in whose honour Pope Benedict has declared a Year of Priests.

The bishop grew up in a Columban parish in Negros Occidental and has always been a great friend of the Columbans.

We featured Bishop Alminaza in the November-December 2008 issue of Misyon.

Ad multos annos, may you have many more years, Bishop Gerry!

Cathedral of San Sebastian, Bacolod City, Philippines

02 August 2009

Cory Aquino, RIP

Maria Corazon 'Cory' Cojuangco Aquino
25 January 1933 – 1 August 2009

President Aquino of the Republic of the Philippines

25 February 1986 - 30 June 1982

With the late Bishop Antonio Y. Fortich of Bacolod

Cory Aquino was a woman who lived her Catholic faith with integrity as a wife, widow, mother, president and citizen. Our eternal flame, our Cory, as the Philippine Daily Inquirer describes her in today's editorial, brought truth and decency back into public life in the Philippines. Sadly, those qualities have largely disappeared again.

As we say in Irish, Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam uasal, 'May her noble soul be at the right hand of God'.