29 July 2016

'Set your minds on things that are above.' Sunday Reflections, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Fr Jacques Hamel
(3o November 1930 - 26 July 2016)

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory (Colossians 3: 2-4. Second Reading.)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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


Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’  Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’  But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’  So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”


Some martyred priests of our time

Fr Jacques Hamel, Archdiocese of Rouen, France
30 November 1930 - 27 July 2016


Fr Ragheed Ganni 20 January 1972 - 3 June 2007 and Archbishop Mar Paulos Faraj Rahho 20 November 1942 - February or March 2008
Both of the Chaldean Catholic Archeparch of Mosul, Iraq

Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko, Archdiocese of Warsaw, Poland
14 September 1947 - 19 October 1984

15 August 1917 - 24 March 1980

Fr Vernon Francis Douglas, Columban, New Zealand / Philippines
22 May 1910 - 27 July 1943

13 January 1891 - 23 November 1927

This is what the priesthood is about
This is what the Mass is about
This is what the Catholic Church is about

Kyrie eleison
Christe eleison
Kyrie eleison

[Thanks to Fr Ray Blake of the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton in England who posted the photo from Aleteia above with the caption beneath on his blog.]

Both Blessed Óscar Romero and Fr Jacques Hamel were murdered while celebrating Mass. Fr Ragheed Ganni was murdered just after celebrating Mass

Church of Saint-Étienne (St Stephen's) 

Father Jacques, born on the feast of St Andrew, Apostle and Martyr, was martyred in his parish church, named after St Stephen the First Christian Martyr, on the day after the feast of his patron St James, Apostle and Martyr. (Jacques is the French form of James).

The three readings today remind us of what is essential. 

Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! (First Reading).

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.(Second Reading).

But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’  So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” (Gospel).


This Mass was celebrated in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, Australia, on Wednesday 27 July.

In his homily below Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP of Sydney refers to the many killings by terrorists in recent weeks in different parts of the world - and most victims were Muslims. He refers to Fr Jacques's friendship with Muslims. He also reminds us of the response of leaders of the Islamic faith in France to the killing of Fr Hamel.

‘A church is a place of peace and love, and when he is saying Mass the priest stands in the place of eternal Love, who is Jesus Christ Himself. So this attack is an attack on a particular priest, his congregation, his community, his country; but it also an attack on all priests, all congregations, all communities, all countries because its aim is to undermine people's sense of security everywhere, freedom of religion everywhere, and our love of peace.


We need to be always prepared for a sudden death, not matter in what way it may come. And we need to prepare for that by frequent confession, as Pope Francis has reminded us so many times, especially in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. It is believed that Fr Francis Douglas was scourged by Japanese soldiers while tied to one of the pillars in St James' church, Paete, Laguna, because he would not break the seal of confession.

Blessed Óscar Romero:

How easy it is to denounce structural injustice, institutionalized violence, social sin! And it is true, this sin is everywhere, but where are the roots of this social sin? In the heart of every human being. Present-day society is a sort of anonymous world in which no one is willing to admit guilt, and everyone is responsible. We are all sinners, and we have all contributed to this massive crime and violence in our country. Salvation begins with the human person, with human dignity, with saving every person from sin. 

Source: The Violence of Love




Without Sunday, without the Eucharist the Christians in Iraq cannot survive . . . Christ challenges evil with his infinite love, he keeps us united and through the Eucharist he gifts us life, which the terrorists are trying to take away. 


Fr Aidan Tory CP, an Irish Passionist now working in France, speaks from first-hand experience of violence while he served in Belfast, Northern Ireland.


21 July 2016

'Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy,' WYD Krakow 2016. Sunday Reflections, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Man Praying, Van Gogh, April 1883, The Hague
Private Collection [Web Gallery of Art]


Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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


Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
    Your kingdom come.
     Give us each day our daily bread.
     And forgive us our sins,

        for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
    And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’  And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’  I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish?  Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Responsorial Psalm (NAB Lectionary)


Fr Patrick Ronan, from County Kilkenny in Ireland, was one of four Columbans jailed in China in 1952 by the Communist authorities for 'subversive activities'. Another Columban, Fr Aedan McGrath, spent nearly three years in solitary confinement in China between 1950 and 1953 because of his involvement in the Legion of Mary. All five were expelled in 1953.



Fr Ronan, known to his fellow Columbans as 'Pops', and his three companions, Frs Owen O'Kane, John Casey and Patrick Reilly, were called Four Felons in a book published in 1958 that told their story. They were in the same prison but in separate cells and were often interrogated in the middle of the night, never knowing when they might be called out.

Unlike his three companions, Father 'Pops' always managed to sleep soundly, no matter how often he was awakened for an interrogation. When the four were eventually released and told to leave the People's Republic he learned why when they arrived in Hong Kong. The woman who had been principal when he was in kindergarten had been praying every day of his captivity for one specific intention: that he would sleep soundly.


Like the wonderful bargaining prayer of Abraham on behalf of his people in the First Reading today that woman's prayer was very down to earth and, like Abraham, she saw God as being down to earth too. Her prayer was also very focused, as was that of Abraham. And, like Abraham, our father in faith, she had a deep faith-filled hope that God would answer her prayer.


The 'Four Felons' have all gone to their reward now. I was blessed to have known two of them here in the Philippines, Fr Ronan and Fr Reilly. I happened to be in Ireland when Father 'Pops' died there in 1991 and his great friend and fellow 'felon' Fr Patrick Reilly told us a story at the funeral Mass that reminded us of the power of the very specific prayer of Fr Ronan's former teacher, though from a somewhat humorous angle. The four travelled home by boat from Hong Kong. The other three often had difficulty trying to waken Fr Ronan in the morning and suggested that he contact his friend in Ireland and ask her to stop praying for him!


I am often deeply touched by friends in the Philippines who ask me to pray for some particular intention, very often for a family member who is sick. When that person gets better they make a point of thanking me for my prayers. There's an reminder in this that, like Abraham, I'm called to pray for the people I serve.


And Pope Francis on the evening he first spoke to use as Pope reminded us of the importance of our prayers for him.


I truly believe that it is impossible for God to refuse to listen to prayer that is in harmony with his will. So many of us older people these days have family members and friends who seem to have fallen away from the Church and, in many instances, from the faith itself. There are two things we can do: live as followers of Jesus as intensely as possible and pray that their faith will be renewed.

St John Paul II singing the Our Father in Latin

Old Woman Praying, Matthias Stom, 1640s
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York [Web Gallery of Art]

Antiphona ad introitum   Communion Antiphon Matthew 5:7-8
[Alternative Communion Antiphon with New Testament text] 

Beati misericordes, quoniam ipsi misericordiam consequentur.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Beati mundo corde, quoniam ipsi Deum videbunt.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.



The first verse of the alternative Communion Antiphon is the theme for WYD 2016 Krakow: Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the Merciful is the title of the theme song for the event. The official English version, with audio only, is here. Below is another version, produced in California.


I rather like the version below produced by the Aizawl Diocese Catholic Youth. The diocese is in India, has a population of 4,600,000 or so and maybe 40,000 Catholics. The Mizo people live in north-western India, western Myanmar and eastern Bangladesh. They are nearly all Christians, though only a minority are Catholics.


It doesn't really matter what language the song is sung in as long as we keep this in mind and heart: Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.


'God, merciful Father,
in your Son, Jesus Christ, you have revealed your love
and poured it out upon us in the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, 
We entrust to you today the destiny of the world and of every man and woman.' 
We entrust to you in a special way 
young people of every language, people and nation:
guide and protect them as they walk the complex paths of the world today
and give them the grace to reap abundant fruits 
from their experience of the Krakow World Youth Day.
Heavenly Father, 
grant that we may bear witness to your mercy.
Teach us how to convey the faith to those in doubt,
hope to those who are discouraged,
love to those who feel indifferent, 
forgiveness to those who have done wrong.



18 July 2016

Columban Fr Edward Quinn RIP

Fr Edward Quinn
(25 June 1928 - 12 July 2016)

After a brief illness, Fr Edward Quinn ('55) died peacefully at the Bellevue Medical Center in Nebraska on the evening of 12 July.

Fr Ed Quinn was born on 25 June 25 in Minneapolis, MN, USA.  His parents were Edward I. Quinn and Mary Frances Graham.



In his early elementary school years he attended public schools in Iowa. From the sixth through eighth grades he studied at Our Lady of Lourdes School, Omaha, NE, 1939-42. His high school years were spent at Creighton Prep 1942-46, Omaha, NE. For college he studied at Creighton University, Omaha, NE, 1946-50 where he received a Bachelor of Science in Biology. He was a gifted athlete who played on the basketball and track teams at Creighton Prep and Creighton University.

St John's Church, Creighton University [Wikipedia]

He studied for the priesthood at the Columban seminaries at St Columbans, NE, Bristol, RI, and at Milton, MA. Father Ed was ordained to the priesthood on 17 December 1955 in the Milton seminary chapel.


Fr Quinn in Korea, c. 1960
'This article, circa 1960, is about my uncle caring for those in leper colonies in South Korea. He lived in Korea until 1972. He then worked in Fiji until he returned to Omaha about a decade ago. He did much good for humanity in his 88 years.' [From Facebook of Fr Quinn's nephew, also Edward Quinn.]

He served in Korea from 1956 to 1968 doing parish work.

Later in 1968 Father Ed was assigned to the USA for vocation work in Chicago. While there he started the Korean Catholic Center.

Fr Quinn in Fiji

In 1973 he was assigned to Fiji where he did parish work for ten years. While he mainly served in Fijian-speaking parishes, Father Ed also spoke Hindi which he used in Indian-Fijian parishes. While Regional Director in Fiji 1983-87 he periodically visited and spent several months in Vanuatu, where the Columban Region of Fiji had a mission at that time. From 1987 onwards he  served variously in formation, vocations, hospital chaplaincy and parish work before starting the Lay Missionary program in Fiji. 


Father Ed with Korean Columban Lay Missionaries Yean Sin, Bok Ja and Yean Han in Fiji, 1994
Yean Sin died of hepatitis in Fiji on 4 November 1994.

In addition, he was Regional Bursar from 1987 to 1991 and House Bursar/Manager from 1990 to 2007. He was periodically elected as a Regional Councilor throughout his years in Fiji.

From 2007 to the present, he was assigned to St Columbans, Omaha, NE. While he was still able to drive, he chose to be a chauffeur for many Columbans on trips to and from the local airport. He had a low key, unassuming way about him with a wry sense of humor. He is sorely missed.


Crucifix, St Columbans, Nebraska

Obituary by Fr Tim Mulroy, Columban Regional Director, USA.


Christ JyotiAshram - Christ the Light Ashram
Near Nadi, in western Viti Levu

The only time I met Fr Ed Quinn was two or three weeks after Easter 1990 when I paid my only visit to Fiji. The late Fr Martin Dobey met me at Nadi International Airport and took me to the Ashram above where the Columbans were on retreat. They greeted me with the traditional yaqona (kava) ceremony. I spent two nights there, as far as I can recall, and then travelled with Father Ed in his vehicle to Suva, a journey of about two hours. Fr Mulroy's description of him above: He had a low key, unassuming way about him with wry sense of humor, is how I remember him. As a fellow Columban missionary priest I was inspired by his quiet, joyful presence. 

Coral reef below the Ashram

An abiding memory I have of my stay in the Ashram is the sound of the waves breaking on the coral reef in the photo above, a sound that brought a sense of peace.

May Father Ed rest in the eternal life-filled peace that Jesus has promised to those who follow him and do the will of the Father.

15 July 2016

'There is need of only one thing.' Sunday Reflections, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout, 1656
The Hermitage, St Petersburg, Russia [Web Gallery of Art]
[First Reading, Genesis 18:1-10a]


Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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


Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;  there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh [Web Gallery of Art]

Perhaps the poorest man I've met in my life was Billy Smith. Despite his name, he was a Filipino, though as far as we Columban priests knew his father was an American. He was known to all the Columbans in northern Mindanao where in the 1970s we had many parishes, now staffed by Filipino diocesan priests. Billy would do his rounds of the parishes over a period of months and in each would get some food, some clothing, a little money and a place to sleep. He was tall and thin and in his latter years was going blind. He had a number of illnesses. He carried a sturdy staff. Sometimes children would make fun of him and even throw stones at him.

One afternoon more than 35 years ago in a place where I had been parish priest for a couple of months, the last Columban to serve in that role, but was in charge of a spiritual pastoral formation year for seminarians from five dioceses, I heard the 'clump, clump, clump' of heavy boots coming up the stairs to the living quarters. It was Billy. At the time I had a visitor, a young friend named Patricia who was in Grade 5. She never knew her father as he had died when she was an infant. She 'adopted' me as a father and called me 'Tatay' (Dad) and often dropped by after class before heading home. (She is now a widowed grandmother and still calls me 'Tatay'.) The family lived in a small house built on stilts that looked as if it might fall over at any minute. Her mother managed to make a living. 

When Patricia saw Billy she immediately went over to him, took him by the hand, sat him down at the table and brought him something to eat and drink. I doubt if Billy had ever received such service in his life. My young friend was unaware that I was taking all of this in.

Patricia had little in life and Billy had even less. But the young girl showed respect, kindness and hospitality to this man of the roads. She did this spontaneously, from the heart. When I told her about this incident years later she couldn't remember it.

The story in the First Reading of Abraham's welcome to the three strangers and the story of the welcome Martha and Mary to Jesus in the Gospel show us how blessed we may be by hospitality. Abraham didn't know that the strangers were visitors from God, who blessed him and Sarah, childless and well beyond the normal age for having children, with a son, Isaac, within the year. It is through Isaac that we can refer to 'Abraham, our father in faith' in Eucharistic Prayer I (The Roman Canon).

God blessed Billy through the hospitality of Patricia, a child, and he gave me a lifelong blessing through that incident.

Very often what a visitor looks forward to is something to eat and drink. And in the Scriptures when it gives us stories of hospitality such as in the First Reading, there is more than enough. Vincenzo Campi's painting below emphasises the extent of Martha's hospitality and the amount of work that faces her. We can understand her frustration with her sister Mary. The painting also shows us something of the generosity of God.

However, there are times when the hospitality needed is simply someone to listen. From what we read about Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus in the gospels of St Luke and St John it would seem that Jesus felt very much at home with them and quite possibly had many meals with them. But on this occasion he simply wants the ear of Mary and Martha. Mary senses this. 

There is need of only one thing, Jesus tells Martha. That, basically, is to know what God wants from us at a particular time and then to do that. In the last chapter of St John's Gospel Jesus is telling us the same thing in his conversation with St Peter when he asks him three times 'Do you love me?' When Peter says 'Yes' on each occasion Jesus tells him, 'feed my lambs, feed my sheep'. But the basic question is Do you love me?

There is need of only one thing.

Galleria Estense, Modena, Italy [Web Gallery of Art]


Responsorial Psalm
NAB Lectionary (Philippines, USA)

Oak of Mamre [Wikipedia]
[First Reading, Genesis 18:1-10a]