30 June 2013

Did Pope Francis 'snub' concert? Is classical music only for 'princes'?


Journalists have been speculating that Pope Francis ‘snubbed’ the concert that took place in the Paul VI Auditorium in the Vatican on 22 June. (See post on MISYON here). The concert was one of the events for the Year of Faith and organized a long time ago.
Corriere dell Sera, published in Milan and one of the most influential newspapers in Italy, considered the action of Pope Francis as ‘a show of force’, showing that he wants things done simply.
The Reuters reporter Philip Pullella seems to imply that attending concerts of classical music isn’t being ‘close to the people’ and that it shows ‘the mentality of a prince’.
I’m not so sure. In his message conveying his regrets Pope Francis thanked all involved in the concert and noted that such music brings ‘an elevation of the soul’. (The message is available only in Italian on the Vatican website.)
The main work played was Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, one of the greatest artistic expressions of the human spirit and the first symphony with a choir as well as an orchestra, singing Friedrich Schiller’s Ode to Joy: in the last movement. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 this was featured in a celebratory concert in that city.
Back in 1968 I was practice-teaching in a public high school in New York State while studying for a degree in music education. I found it almost impossible to get rowdy first year students listen to anything. But when I was able to outshout them and convey to them that Beethoven never heard his Ninth Symphony because he had become totally deaf by the time he composed it they became quiet and listened in awe to the Ode to Joy.
And the suggestion that classical music has nothing to do with the poor – and this seems to be the Reuters’ reporter’s interpretation of the non-appearance of Pope Francis at the concert, - is utter nonsense.


El Sistema  is an extraordinary program begun in Venezuela by José Antonio Abreu involving hundreds of thousands of young people, around 70 per cent from backgrounds of deprivation. It has been introduced in other countries, including Scotland, where I am at present. A young girl in the trailer above is less concerned about being shot in the leg than about missing her rehearsal. Many of those who have come through El Sistema are now professional musicians.



One of them, though not from a deprived background, is Gustavo Dudamel, now one of the top conductors in the world and still very involved with El Sistema. A few years ago he conducted the concert above in Paul VI Auditorium on the occasion of Pope Benedict's birthday.


The LandFill Harmonic Orchestra of Cateura, Paraguay, shares a similar vision to that of El Sistema, but goes a step further: the members use instruments recycled from trash.
Someone said that when the angels are on duty they play the music of Bach and that when relaxing the music of Mozart.
El Sistema and the LandFill Harmonic Orchestra show that children and young people can be angels too as they play Bach, Mozart or Bernstein. The members of the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra in the video below are products of El Sistema. They got a great reception at the Proms in London six years ago. Leonard Bernstein's Mambo was an encore number.



No, classical and symphonic music isn’t only for princes!

And I think we should take Pope Francis at his word that something urgent and unforeseen had cropped up preventing him from being present. But someone perhaps should have removed the white chair.

29 June 2013

'I will follow you wherever you go.' Sunday Reflections, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C



The Disrobing of Christ (El Espolio) 
El Greco, 1577-79 [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA) 

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)
     
Gospel Luke 9:51-62 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

When the days drew near for him to be received up, Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him; but the people would not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?" But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village. As they were going along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head." To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." But he said to him, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."



Columban Fr Rufus Halley (1944 - 28 August 2001) with friends in Mindanao

Jesus speaks clearly to us in Sunday's gospel about the cost of following him. Christians are still prepared to give up their very lives to follow Jesus. One example is Fr Franҫois Mourad, a Catholic priest, murdered in Syria last Sunday, as Vatican Radio reports.

One who paid the same price, on 28 August 2001 in the Philippines, was a very close friend and Columban confrere, Fr Rufus Halley, from County Waterford in Ireland. He entered the Columbans one year after me. Father Rufus came from a relatively wealthy family but lived very simply and chose to spend the last twenty years of his life in a predominantly Muslim area in Mindanao, an area where for centuries there has been distrust, and sometimes open hostility, between Christians and Muslims.

Many of us tend to react as James and John did in a 'them and us' situation. Not Father Rufus. He chose the path of dialogue, learning two new Philippine languages in order to do that - he was fluent in Tagalog, the language spoken in central Luzon where he had worked for many years - Maranao, the language of most of the Muslims in Lanao del Sur where he was based, and Cebuano, the language of most of the Christian minority there.

He was ambushed and shot dead while riding back to his parish in Malabang from the neighbouring parish of Balabagan. He had been at a meeting of Christian and Muslim leaders. Though the killers happened to be Muslims, both Christians and Muslims mourned him.

Here is an article written by a great friend of Father Rufus, who was known to many as 'Father Popong', Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, Archbishop Emeritus of Manila, published in Misyon in August-September 2006. I've made some minor changes in the text.

A young Bishop Rosales, seated, second from left, with Fr Bernard Jagueneau of the Little Brothers of Jesus. Far left, another close friend of Father Rufus


PARENG RUFUS

By Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales

The author, after ten years as Archbishop of Lipa, his native diocese, was appointed Archbishop of Manila by Pope John Paul II on 15 September 2003 and created cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI on 24 March 2006.

I first met Father Rufus Halley in the mid-1970s when I was appointed auxiliary bishop in Manila with responsibility for Rizal Province, the area that became the Diocese of Antipolo in 1983. The Columbans had been working in parishes there since before the War. Father Rufus was in Jalajala at the time. Father Feliciano Manalili, a diocesan priest, introduced me to him. Father Manalili is now a Trappist monk in Mepkin Abbey, South Carolina, USA, where he is prior.

New friend

At first I knew Father Rufus in a formal way, as one of the parish priests under my jurisdiction. But I gradually began to know this man with an open personality and a wonderful sense of humor as a person. On one occasion he invited me to a barrio in his parish that was 45 minutes by boat from the centro. He had forewarned me that this would be a different kind of pastoral visit. We set off in the afternoon. The house where we stayed was on a duck farm and some of the birds were waddling around the house. There was no electricity. After dinner we walked around the village. I saw the people at their usual occupations that included drinking and gambling games such as bingo. Father Rufus introduced me as ‘my friend from Manila,’ which wasn’t untrue, as we were in the Archdiocese of Manila.

Back at the house we chatted for a long time and prayed together. We decided we’d celebrate Mass the next day back at the centro. We slept on the floor. As we were leaving next morning people came to see us off and it was only then that their parish priest told them that I was the area bishop. Though there was some embarrassment, especially among those who were members of Church organizations, there was a lot of laughter at the realization that the bishop had met them as they really were.

Tagalog-speaking Irishman

By this time Father Rufus and I were close friends and I called him ‘Pareng Rufus’ and he called me ‘Pareng Dency.’ I felt free to drop in on him any time and to go through the back door of his convento (presbytery/rectory)Sometimes I wouldn’t find him in the office or upstairs and would then realize that, despite his red hair and blue eyes, I had passed him in the kitchen, where he was chatting with the staff. (His baptismal name was Michael but his parents always called him ‘Rufus’ because of his red hair). What threw me was that I’d hear only pure Tagalog while walking through the kitchen. My Irish friend spoke the language perfectly.

Another trademark of Father Rufus was his bakya (wooden clogs). I learned from the late Father Patrick Ronan, then parish priest in Morong, that Father Rufus came from a privileged background. That was a revelation to me, as I had always been struck by the simplicity I saw in his life. Father Ronan, another Irish missionary with a great sense of humor and known to his fellow Columbans as ‘Pops’, had spent time in jail in China after the Communist takeover in 1949.
Around 1980 Father Rufus felt called by God to leave the security of living in an overwhelmingly Catholic community to work in the new Prelature of Marawi, which includes all of Lanao del Sur and part of Lanao del Norte, where 95 percent of the people are Muslims. He was very aware of the long history of tension and occasional outright conflict between Christians and Muslims. He also became fluent in two other languages, Maranao, spoken by the Muslims in the area, and Cebuano, spoken by the Christians.

Bishop Rosales when Auxiliary Bishop of Manila

His kind of dialogue

I too moved to Mindanao, becoming Coadjutor Bishop of Malaybalay in 1982 and succeeding Bishop Francisco Claver SJ in 1984. On one occasion, after spending about a week on retreat in the Benedictine Monastery of the Transfiguration in Malaybalay, Pareng Rufus came to spend a night at my place. He spoke of a ‘brother Muslim’ whom he loved very much and told me that he had been hired to work in a store in the market in Malabang, Lanao del Sur. ‘Why?’ I asked him. ‘This is my kind of dialogue,’ he told me. He was pushing Christian-Muslim dialogue to the limit. When the late Bishop Bienvenido Tudtud, first bishop of the then Prelature of Iligan, which covered the two Lanao provinces, told Pope Paul VI of the conflict there and of his vision of a ‘dialogue of life’ between the two communities, the Pope encouraged him to the extent of dividing the prelature and transferring him to Marawi. Bishop Tudtud died tragically in a plane crash in 1987.


Father Rufus

Male-dominated Maranaos

My friend Rufus wanted not only to know the faith and culture of Muslims but to ‘befriend the culture of our brother Muslims.’ More than that, he wanted to understand the culture of the Maranaos. This involved trying to understand aspects of that culture that went against his own warm nature and that didn’t seem to be in harmony with the Gospel. For example, he noticed that among Maranao men it wasn’t seen as proper to show any public signs of softness, even if a child of theirs was hurt. He noticed how stiff Maranao men are in their dances which many Filipinos are familiar with. Men sometimes carry a kris as a sign of power. He was well aware that many men, Christian and Muslim, carry a gun for the same reason, and not only in Lanao. He asked himself if there were any areas of tenderness in the macho culture of the Maranaos and stressed the importance of trying to find ways in which the Gospel could enter into dialogue with that culture.

Pareng Rufus was really educating me that night.


Who inspired him



I knew of the intensity with which Father Rufus lived his own Christian faith, how he began each day with an hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, the centrality of the Mass in his life. A big influence on him was the life of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, 1858-1916, beatified last November. This Frenchman was also from a privileged background. Unlike Pareng Rufus, he lost his Catholic faith and became a notorious playboy before re-discovering it, partly through the example of Muslims living in North Africa. He spent many years as a priest living among the poorest Muslims in a remote corner of the Sahara, pioneering Christian-Muslim dialogue by discovering himself as the Little Brother of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and as the Little Brother of the Muslims who came knocking at his hermitage door.

Hermitage of Blessed Charles de Foucauld

Death of a peacemaker

On 1 December 1916 Charles de Foucauld died at the hands of a young gunman outside his hermitage and on 28 September 2001 Pareng Rufus died at the hands of gunmen who ambushed him as he was riding on his motorcycle from a meeting of Muslim and Christian leaders in Balabagan to his parish in Malabang. The local people, both Christian and Muslim, mourned for him deeply. The grief of the Muslims was all the greater because the men who murdered my Pareng Rufus happened to be Muslims. This great missionary priest brought both communities together in their shared grief for a man of God, a true follower of Jesus Christ.

Father Rufus


Entrance Antiphon Psalm 46 (47):2

All people, clap your hands.
Cry to God with shouts of joy!

Antiphona ad Introitum (Ps 46 (47):2 [Latin]

Omnes gentes, plaudite manibus,
iubilate Deo in voce exsultationis.

The video above is a setting of the Entrance Antiphon in Latin by contemporary Croatian composer Branko Stark. It is sung by The Thai Youth Choir. In Thailand the vast majority of people are Buddhists. The setting also includes verses 3, 6 and 7 of the psalm:

Quoniam Dominus Altissimus (excelsus), terribilis,
rex magnus super omnem terram.


Ascendit Deus in iubilo,
et Dominus in voce tubae.
Psallite Deo, psallite;
psallite regi nostro, psallite.


For the LORD, the Most High, is terrible, 
a great king over all the earth.
God has gone up with a shout, 
the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises! 
Sing praises to our King, sing praises! (RSV Catholic Edition)

Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy) 36. 1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.

Vatican II, while it introduced the use of the mother tongue, did not banish Latin from the Mass and other liturgies!

21 June 2013

'But who do you say that I am?' Sunday Reflections, 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C


St Peter Preaching, Masolino da Panicale, 1426-27 [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)                                  

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)
     
Gospel Luke 9:18-24 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

Now it happened that as Jesus was praying alone the disciples were with him; and he asked them, "Who do the people say that I am?" And they answered, "John the Baptist; but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen." And he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" And Peter answered, "The Christ of God."
                                        
But he charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, "The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." And he said to all, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. 


St Thomas More, Hans Holbein the Younger, 1527 [Web Gallery of Art]

On 12 June Taoiseach (Prime Minister ) of the Republic of Ireland stated in the Dáil (parliament) in the context of legislation that the government is trying to push through that would allow abortion in certain situations, I am proud to stand here as a public representative, as a Taoiseach who happens to be a Catholic but not a Catholic Taoiseach. A Taoiseach for all of the people – that's my job.

A number of columnists and writers of letters to the editor in Ireland have been praising Mr Kenny for this and contrasting it with words spoken by Labour TD (Member of Parliament) Brendan Corish  in the Dáil in 1953, I am an Irishman second, I am a Catholic first, and I accept without qualification in all respects the teaching of the hierarchy and the church to which I belong. This statement has been frequently, incorrectly attributed to a previous Taoiseach of the same Fine Gael party as Mr Kenny, John A. Costello. However, Mr Costello, as Taoiseach, said in 1951, I, as a Catholic,obey my Church authorities and will continue to do so, in spite of The Irish Times or anything else . . . 

Today's second reading, Galatians 3:26-29) is very relevant to all of this, and not only in Ireland. St Paul says to us: In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christs, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise (RSV-CE).

Though the Second Reading on Sundays in Ordinary Time isn't linked thematically with the Gospel, as the First Reading is, St Paul's words tie in with the question Jesus put to the Apostles and puts to us now: But who do you say that I am?

Who is at the centre of my life? Pope Benedict frequently reminded us that our faith is above all in a Person, Jesus Christ, God who became Man. And Pope Francis, in his homily on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christ) said, So let us ask ourselves this evening, in adoring Christ who is really present in the Eucharist: do I let myself be transformed by him? Do I let the Lord who gives himself to me, guide me to going out ever more from my little enclosure, in order to give, to share, to love him and others?

St Paul's words challenge us to ask ourselves, 'What is my deepest identity?' We have many levels of identity, each of which has its own importance. I remember my first All-Ireland Football Final in Croke Park, Dublin, in September 1955. Dublin were playing against Kerry. I was there, aged 12 and standing on an orange-box, with my father, John, like myself a true 'Dub', and a neighbour and friend just a few doors up the street, Denis Stritch, who died only a few months ago, God rest his soul. Denis was from Kerry. During the game, the result of which was disappointing for me and my Dad, we identified with Dublin and Kerry, rivals but not enemies.

But if Denis and my Dad had ever visited me in the Philippines they would have identified themselves as Irish. However, if they had attended Mass in Bacolod City they would have identified themselves as Catholic Christians, as would everyone else present. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek . . .

This is our most basic identity.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, St Paul tells us in Philippians 2:5. When Jesus puts his question to the Apostles, But who do you say that I am? Peter answers clearly. The Christ of God.

Whether I am a janitor or a journalist, a priest or a politician, I am called by my baptism to live out of my identity as a son or daughter of the Father, a brother or sister of Jesus, in the service of all my brothers and sisters. Pope Francis concluded his Corpus Christi homily with these words, Brothers and sisters, following, communion, sharing. Let us pray that participation in the Eucharist may always be an incentive: to follow the Lord every day, to be instruments of communion and to share what we are with him and with our neighbour. Our life will then be truly fruitful. Amen.

In most situations there is no conflict whatever between my various levels of identity. My being a Catholic Christian is not in conflict with my being an Irishman. But if I take my baptism seriously I can never leave 'the mind of Christ' at home or outside. In most areas of life Christians may legitimately disagree on issues while living their baptismal faith with all their hearts. Sometimes I have to yield on matters that I may not be happy with but that aren't fundamental. Politicians, for example have to do this all the time, as do the rest of us on many occasions. But when it comes to matters of life and death I cannot, as a Christian, put the Gospel aside, as if 'the mind of Christ' was a T-shirt I wore now and again.  

St Thomas More (1478 - 1535), patron saint of statesmen, politicians and lawyers, whose feast day is this weekend, 22 June, gave his life because he put his identity as a Catholic Christian before anything else. Just before his execution he said, I die his Majesty's good servant, but God's first. He recognised his erstwhile friend King Henry VIII as King of England but not as head of the Church.

That was Sir Thomas's response to St Paul's words this Sunday, for you are all one in Christ Jesus, to the question of Jesus, But who do YOU say that I am?

How do I answer that question?

15 June 2013

'Your sins are forgiven you.' Sunday Reflections, 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C



Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)                                  

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

Gospel Luke 7:36 – 8:3 [Shorter form, Lk 7:36 – 50] (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house, and took his place at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. 

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner." And Jesus answering said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." And he answered, "What is it, Teacher?" "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more." And he said to him, "You have judged rightly."  

Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." And he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this, who even forgives sins?"  And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

[Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.] 


Luke 7:36 - 8:3 (New American Bible)

When I was parish priest of Lianga, Surigao del Sur, on the east coast of Mindanao for eleven months in 1993-94, there was no telephone in the town. The mayor's big promise was, 'By next year we will have a telephone'. It would be in the town hall. However, modern technology has since flourished and now almost everyone in Lianga has a mobile phone and some have access at home to the internet.

The only way of contacting the world outside of Lianga was by telegram. And outside of the larger cities in the country the telegram was essential, right up to the 1990s. Apart from being the only to convey personal news, telegrams were also a way of sending greetings. Among these were expressions of sympathy when someone died.

When Columban Fr James Moynihan, a New Zealander, died in 1992 in Cagayan de Oro City someone went to a telegraph office there to send a message of sympathy to the Columbans. The clerk taking the message was a young man with long hair. When he saw Father Jim's name he asked the customer, 'Is that the priest who was always hearing confessions in the Cathedral?' 'Yes.' 'Where is he being waked?' 'At the Cathedral'.

As soon as the transaction was finished the clerk left the office and went on his motorbike to the Cathedral to pay his respects to Father Jim. Clearly he had been one of his penitents. Father Jim, like other Columbans, 'semi-retired' after many years in parish work, spent many hours in the confessional almost every day in St Augustine's Cathedral, Cagayan de Oro City. And they always had penitents, some of them from other parts of the Philippines. In the Redemptorist churches in the Philippines there are lines of penitents, especially on Wednesdays, when the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help is held.

Confession, Giuseppe Maria Crespi, 1712 [Web Gallery of Art]

Today's gospel is a beautiful expression of the sacrament of confession, which we also know as the sacrament of penance, of reconciliation. The woman was known to everyone as a sinner but she saw in Jesus someone she could trust, someone who wouldn't use her or humiliate here. In a previous Sunday Reflections I've written about the former prostitute from the Philippines who spoke at the funeral Mass of King Baudouin of the Belgians in 1984. The King had been concerned about the lives of such women and had visited a brothel in Antwerp to sit with them and hear their stories. 'He was the only man who ever listened to us', the young woman said.

Pope Francis laments not being able to listen to confessions outside the Vatican. But on his first visit to one of the parishes in his new Diocese of Rome he heard some confessions before Mass. Recently the Pope said this about confessionHumility and kindness are the framework of a Christian life. Oftentimes we think that going to confession is like going to the dry cleaners to get out a stain, but it isn’t. It’s an encounter with Jesus who waits for us to forgive us and offer salvation.

Clearly, the woman in the gospel wasn't 'going to the dry cleaners' but went to Jesus whom she knew was waiting for her to forgive her and offer her salvation.

He is waiting for each of us to forgive us and offer salvation.

Statue of St John of Nepomuk, Prague (1345 - 1393) [Wikipedia]

St John is considered the first martyr of the seal of confession. He was thrown into the River Vlatva (Moldau) at the behest of King Wenceslaus because he wouldn't divulge what the Queen had confessed.


14 June 2013

Principled pro-life stand by Irish legislator


Vigil for Life, Dublin, 8 June 2013

Today's Issue of The Irish Times carries two stories about Peadar Tóibín, a Sinn Féin TD (Teachta Dála, Member of Parliament), Tóibín censured on abortion vote, and Sinn Féin TD faces party discipline if he votes against abortion Bill. Deputy Tóibín [TDs are referred to as 'Deputy'] announced last night that he would vote against  the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill when it comes before the Dáil [Parliament]. This misnamed bill would legalise abortion for the first time in the Republic of Ireland, which has one of the best records in the world in terms of safety for pregnant women and their children before, during and after birth.

Part of the second Irish Times report reads [emphases and comments added]:

He continued by saying he would vote against the Bill, because it would introduce for the first time in law a therapy for suicidal ideation that included the ending of another human life.
It would also mean for the first time that a therapy for suicidal ideation in Ireland would have no basis in science. [At a hearing held in Ireland's Senate earlier this year medical experts, including psychiatrists, were unanimous on this.]
On the contrary the evidence states that abortion often does damage the health of the mother, can lead to suicide and of course is completely destructive of the life of the child.”

‘Cusp of viability’
“I am also seriously concerned that this legislation allows for abortion up until birth and that this legislation allows for a healthy unborn child on the cusp of viability to be brought to term with the likely probability that the child would be disabled by the State and possibly be institutionalised for life. [Deputy Tóibín is pointing out two horrific consequences of this bill.]
“It is an impossible ask for me to vote for legislation that will lead to another person’s death. TDs are responsible for their actions . . . I believe that if a TD votes for abortion that TD is in part responsible for abortions that happen under that legislation. I do not believe that it is possible to claim to be pro life and legislate for abortion,” he said. [What a clear statement about the responsibility of a legislator and of the consequences of decisions that we make.]
The leaders of the two government parties, Fine Gael and Labour, and the Sinn Féin, have stated that their members must vote for the Bill or lose the party whip. A deputy who loses his party's whip is expelled from the parliamentary party, though not from the party itself, a kind of 'excommunication'. The other opposition party, Fianna Fáil, is allowing its members to vote according to their consciences, because many TDs and Senators had made it clear that they couldn't in conscience vote for the Bill.
I have never been a supporter of Sinn Féin nor indeed did I know anything about Deputy Tóibín until now. But this morning I sent him an email thanking him for his stand. His official email address is peadar.toibin@oir.ie. I'm sure that he would appreciate a 'thank you' note from others. And his stand may give courage to members of the government parties who are under tremendous pressure from their leaders to toe the line and to vote to bring the Republic of Ireland into the Neo-Dark Ages.

NB The email address above for Deputy Tóibín is the one I found on the Sinn Féin website. I've since found the following on the website of the Oireachtas (the umbrella name for the Irish legislature): peadar.toibin@oireachtas.ie. Though my earlier email to Deputy Tóibín didn't bounce back, I re-sent it to the second address. Probably both are correct.
Another video of last Saturday's Vigil for Life in Dublin




13 June 2013

Celebrations for St Columba (Colum Cille) in Oban and Iona

St Columba's Cathedral, Oban, Scotland
The website of the Diocese of Argyll & the Isles gives some information about the cathedral with a photo giving a better idea of its beautiful location.


Last Sunday, 9 June, was the Solemnity of St Columba (Colum Cille) in the Diocese of Argyll & the Isles, in western Scotland. He is patron saint of the diocese and of the cathedral. This Irish saint, an older contemporary of that other great missionary with a similar name, St Columban or Columbanus, came to Iona, a tiny island in the Inner Hebrides, 1,450 years ago. Both saints left Ireland by boat, each with twelve companions. 

St Columba was born on 7 December 521 and died on 9 June 597 while St Columbanus was born c. 540 or 543 and died on 23 November 615.

A special Mass was celebrated in St Columba's Cathedral, Oban, at 5pm, with Bishop Joseph Toal of the Diocese of Argyll & the Isles the main celebrant. Archbishop Antonio Mennini, Papal Nuncio to Great Britain, was among the bishops present, as was Bishop Michael Smith of Meath, Ireland, where Kells is located. The Book of Kells was probably begun in Iona and taken to the Abbey of Kells, which St Columba had founded c. 554.

Along with Bishop Smith were the parish priest of Kells, Fr John Byrne, and four members of the town council, from four different parties. The Meath contingent presented the Diocese of Argyll & the Isles with a copy of the Book of Kells.

Present at the Mass were the leaders of other Christian communities in the area.

The bishops and concelebrating priests, who included most of the priests of the diocese and some from other dioceses along with some Cistercian monks from Nunraw Abbey and Benedictine monks from Pluscarden Abbey, were led in procession from the place where we vested to the entrance of the Cathedral by a piper. This is something very Scottish and quite moving.

A German, Jürgen Rech , playing the Scottish bagpipes

Interior of Iona Abbey Church


The following morning, Monday, 200 of us set off for the Isle of Iona, an island with a land area of only 877 hectares, on a pilgrimage to the place where St Columba founded his most famous monastery. We took the ferry from Oban to Craignure on the Isle of Mull and then travelled by bus to Fionnphort on the west coast of the island. The last leg of the journey was a ten-minute trip by boat to Iona.

Iona Abbey with Mull in the background

It was about a ten-minute walk to the Abbey where we gathered for Mass. The principal celebrant was the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Mennini. As in the Cathedral the day before, the responsorial psalm was sung in Gaelic by a choir of secondary school girls from the Outer Hebrides, where Gaelic is still the main language. And, also as in the Cathedral, the gospel was proclaimed first in English by a deacon and then in Gaelic by a priest.

Many Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre were present in their uniforms.

After Mass the bishops and priests had a light lunch together while the others, who had brought packed lunches, gathered in various places in the grounds of the Abbey for a picnic. The weather was most cooperative.

Many of us later dropped by Cnoc a' Chalmain, the Catholic House of Prayer, where I made a retreat in 2002 and where I'll be from 16 to 21 July before leaving the Diocese of Argyll & the Isles. 'Cnoc a 'Chalmain' means 'The Hill of the Dove', a reference to St Columba, as 'Colum' or 'Colm' are the Irish Gaelic for 'dove' and 'Calum' the Scottish Gaelic.

As always happens on a pilgrimage, many of us made new friends. One pilgrim I spent much time with had cycled from Glasgow to Oban, a distance of about 150 kms.

It was refreshing to see so many wearing religious habits, not only during Mass in the Abbey but on the whole trip. These included Benedictine monks from Pluscarden, one of them, the former abbot, now Bishop Hugh Gilbert OSB of Aberdeen, the diocese where the monastery is located. One of the young monks was a Ghanaian. There were three Cistercian monks from Nunraw, including Abbot Mark Caira and one who had spent 50 years in Cameroon, two Redemptorists, one of them a young Tanzanian, and two Carmelite nuns who had been in the monastery in Oban before it was closed down in 2002.

So there was a good missionary dimension to our piogrimage, fitting for the celebration of a saint sometimes called 'The Apostle to the Picts', the Picts being a people who lived mainly in northern and eastern Scotland.