31 December 2016

Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. New Year's Day. World Day of Peace. Sunday Reflections

Altar of Our Lady, Church of St Nicholas, Überlingen, Germany, Jörg Zurn [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

The shepherds went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
The Adoration of the Name of Jesus, El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

At the moment I am re-reading Finola Kennedy's Frank Duff: A Life Story published by Burns and Oates in 2011. Frank Duff founded the Legion of Mary on 7 September 1921, though for a very long time he did not consider himself the founder. The biographer relates how a friend in the Vincent de Paul Society in Dublin, Vincent Kelly, introduced him to St Louis Marie de Montfort's Treatise on the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, usually referred to as True Devotion or True Devotion to Mary. Though Frank Duff was almost repelled initially by this book - it seemed to him 'to border on the absurd' -  he read it five or six times, encouraged by another friend in the Vincent de Paul Society, Tom Fallon. 

After 'the final forced reading' Frank Duff recalled, Without any process of thought leading up to it, something which I could but regard as a Divine favour was granted to me. It was the sudden realisation that the Book was true.

Fifty years later in a letter to Vincent Kelly he wrote, It was definitely that book which threw my life into the Marian channels which it has ever since followed.

Elsewhere Frank Duff wrote, Somewhere in 1919 some of us had encountered St Louis Marie de Montfort's book on True Devotion to Mary. It depicted Our Lady in a devastatingly different dimension to what we were accustomed. The catechism had never shown us anything even remotely like that. De Montfort exhibited her sharply as the Mother of the Christian life, absolutely indispensable, concerned in every grace. The vastness of the role which he attributed to her and the very vehemence of the way in which he describe it gave the initial impression of gross exaggeration. Nevertheless he gripped the mind and forced one to read and enquire. At some stage in this process the conviction was gained that the book was justified and that the common presentation of Our Lady was not.

The seriousness of this was like an electric shock. for virtually it meant that we were leaving Mary out.

Then the biographer notes that the catechism taught that it was 'lawful' to be devout to the Blessed Virgin. In relation to this statement, Duff later made the acid comment: 'In other words it was not a sin, a ludicrous description which would almost amount to placing it in the same category as backing horses or moderate drinking'.

Luke Paints the Icon of the Mother of God Hodegetria, Unknown Russian icon painter [Web Gallery of Art]

The Council of Ephesus in 431 gave the Greek title Theotokos to Mary, meaning 'Mother of God' or 'God-bearer'. Her Son Jesus is both God and Man. This teaching is part of the heritage of all Christians as the Council took place more than 600 years before the East-West Schism and 1,100 years before the Protestant Reformation.

The Collect of the Mass, also used in the Liturgy of the Hours, states clearly what Mary's role is.

O God, who through the fruitful virginity of Blessed Mary bestowed on the human race 
the grace of eternal salvation, 
grant, we pray, 
that we may experience the intercession of her, 
through whom we were found worthy 
to receive the author of life, 
our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

This prayer is directed to God the Father. It refers to our Lord Jesus Christ as the author of life. God the Father gave us the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ, the Word [who] became flesh and lived among us, through Mary. It is her mission, given by the Father, to bring his Son to us and to bring us to his Son who is Mary's Son too. Perfectly attuned to the will of the Father she cannot possibly do anything else. In the icon above St Luke is shown depicting Mary, the Mother of God, presenting her Son, God who became Man, to us.

St John of the Cross captures the meaning of this Sunday's celebration in his poem Del Verbo Divino - Concerning the Divine Word.

Del Verbo Divino
San Juan de la Cruz

Del Verbo divino
la Virgen preñada
viene de camino :
¡ si les dais posada !

Concerning the Divine Word
St John of the Cross

With the divinest Word, the Virgin
Made pregnant, down the road
Comes walking, if you'll grant her
A room in your abode 

Translation by Roy Campbell

Queen of Peace, EDSA Shrine, Metro Manila [Wikipedia]

World Day of Peace
Today is the Church's 50th World Day of Peace. Here is the conclusion of the message of Pope Francis for this day.
As is traditional, I am signing this Message on 8 December, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary is the Queen of Peace. At the birth of her Son, the angels gave glory to God and wished peace on earth to men and women of good will (cf. Luke 2:14). Let us pray for her guidance.

'All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers'. In 2017, may we dedicate ourselves prayerfully and actively to banishing violence from our hearts, words and deeds, and to becoming nonviolent people and to building nonviolent communities that care for our common home. 'Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace'.

29 December 2016

Columban Fr Fintan Murtagh RIP

Fr Fintan Murtagh
(12 February 1940 - 23 December 2016)

Fr Fintan J. Murtagh was born at Moyvore, County Westmeath, Ireland, on 12 February 1940.  He was educated at Moyvore National School and at St Finian’s College, Mullingar, County Westmeath. 

Entrance to St Finian's College, Mullingar [Wikipedia]
Father Fintan was one of many Columbans who had their secondary education in this school, which is owned by the Diocese of Meath.

He came to St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, Navan, County Meath, in September 1957 and was ordained priest there, on 22 December 1963 and died on 23 December 2016.

St Columban's, Dalgan Park

Appointed to the Philippines, and to the Diocese of Iba, which covers the province of Zambales, he served initially in San Marcelino, and Botolan. He spent longer periods in San Antonio, before returning again to Botolan and later to Candelaria and to Olongapo City.

San Antonio Town Plaza [Wikipedia]

In 1972 Father Fintan became aware that he was suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. With his sunny temperament, he did not allow his condition to determine what he could or could not do, and he actually continued to play golf long after others would have given up. From 1985, he began to develop a systematic approach to parishioners of Candelaria with disabilities.

Father Fintan with friend

The result was Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) for People with Disabilities and Families. By 2010 this organization was serving in thirteen parishes of the Diocese of Iba. In all, it was serving 1,037 members in a broad variety of programmes for persons with disabilities. It is serving those with cerebral palsy, stroke victims, those with Parkinson’s Disease, spinal cord injuries, and epilepsy.

With friends in Zambales

It also helps persons with learning disabilities such as those with Down Syndrome. There are programmes too for the profoundly deaf, the blind and the partially blind, and a variety of other disabling conditions.

Friends of Father Fintan

You can read articles by Father Fintan about his his work here, here and here.

As he coped with his own disability, Father Fintan gave courage and hope to so many other families in the Philippines and elsewhere. When he could no longer cope he came home to Ireland, but a mechanized wheelchair, and a special vehicle enabled him to be part of everything that was going on until he suffered a major stroke earlier this year.

Father Fintan will be remembered as a man of humour, hope and indomitable courage, a witness to all of us on how to cope  with life’s difficulties.

He was buried in St Columban’s Cemetery on 27 December.

Solas na bhFlaitheas air! The light of Heaven upon him!

St Columban's Cemetery, Dalgan Park

The students in Dalgan Park produced My Fair Lady for St Columban's Day, 23 November 1962. If my memory serves me right, Father Fintan was one of 'Eliza Doolittle's' Cockney companions in this number.

28 December 2016

'Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by those children who are not allowed to be born . . .' Pope Francis

The Massacre of the Innocents, Pieter Bruegel the Elder 

28 December, Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs

Let us allow the Child in the manger to challenge us, but let us also be challenged by all those children in today’s world who are lying not in a crib, caressed with affection by their mothers and fathers, but in squalid 'mangers that devour dignity'. Children who hide underground to escape bombardment, on the pavements of large cities, in the hold of a boat overladen with immigrants… Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by those children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one relieves their hunger, by those who hold in their hands not toys, but weapons. (Pope Francis, Homily, 24 December 2016). [Emphasis added]

TORONTO, December 23, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Pro-life prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner will be in jail for Christmas following her arrest December 12 while attempting to save unborn children and their mothers from the violence of abortion.
Wagner, 42, was arrested at the Bloor West Village Women’s Clinic and charged with breach of probation and mischief.
A devout Catholic, Wagner does not agree to bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion facilities, so remains in custody until her trial and conviction.
Sister Immolatia of the Fraternity of the Poor of Jesus Christ, a fraternity founded fifteen years ago in Portugal and which ministers to the homeless and those in prison, witnessed Wagner’s arrest.
“My response to expressions of distress about her arrest is that the radical, subversive love that Mary is living, the personal sacrifice and hardship, are necessary,” Sister Immolatia wrote in a reflection on the day’s events.
Read the full report here.

Adoration of the Shepherds, Caravaggio [Web Gallery of Art]

May we too be challenged and called by Jesus. Let us approach him with trust, starting from all those things that make us feel marginalized, from our limitations and our sins. Let us be touched by the tenderness that saves. Let us draw close to God who draws close to us. Let us pause to gaze upon the crib, and relive in our imagination the birth of Jesus: light and peace, dire poverty and rejection. With the shepherds, let us enter into the real Christmas, bringing to Jesus all that we are, our alienation, our unhealed wounds, our sins. Then, in Jesus, we will enjoy the taste of the true spirit of Christmas: the beauty of being loved by God. With Mary and Joseph, let us pause before the manger, before Jesus who is born as bread for my life. Contemplating his humble and infinite love, let us simply tell him: Thank you. Thank you because you have done all this for me. (Pope Francis, Homily, 24 December 2016). [Emphasis added]

Read more about Mary Wagner and another courageous Canadian pro-life activist, Linda Gibbons, who has also spent much time in jail, here.

23 December 2016

Columban Fr Maurice Foley RIP

Fr Maurice Vincent Foley
(2 February 1933 - 18 December 2016)

Castlefinn [Wikipedia]

Fr Maurice Foley was born at Castlefinn, County Donegal, Ireland on 2 February 1933. He was educated at Dunbeacon National School, Ballydehob, County Cork, Belvedere College Preparatory School and Belvedere College, Dublin, St Patrick’s College, Armagh, and University College Dublin. He entered St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, Navan, in 1952 and was ordained priest there on 21 December 1958.

Wonju [Wikipedia]

Appointed to Korea in 1959, Father Maurice was assigned to Ulchin and Chunchon after language studies. After the division of the Diocese of Chunchon, he was assigned to the new Diocese of Wonju  and to the new parish of Tokgae. He ministered there for most of the remainder of his years in Korea during the difficult period of the military dictatorship.

Huancavalica [Wikipedia]

By 1977, it was clear to him that the Church in Korea was growing rapidly and producing enough priests to cater to its own needs. He asked the Superior General to be assigned to Peru; as he wrote himself ‘I saw space for my missionary zeal in the land of the Incas’. After language studies his initial assignment was to Huancavalica, working at high altitude in the Sierra, until he was advised that working at sea-level would be easier on his health.

Cathedral, Huancavalica [Wikipedia]

Assignments in the Lima area included the parishes of Santíssimo Redentor, Santa María de la Reconciliación and Nuestra Señora de la Paz. In all these areas he enjoyed a happy and successful ministry. He could come across at times as rather abrupt, and could be impetuous, especially when the poor were being treated unjustly. However nobody could doubt his goodness and kindness, and the love that he lavished on the people was repaid with interest.

High Altar, Cathedral, Lima [Wikipedia]

In 2012 his health had begun to deteriorate and he returned to Ireland. For a short period he had enough energy to ride his beloved bicycle but in recent months his illness confined him to his room. There he loved to welcome visitors.  Father Maurice was blessed with a childlike simplicity, a generous heart and a quality of being so genuine that his sincerity could not be doubted. We will miss his truly unique presence.

Father Maurice was buried in St Columban's Cemetery, Dalgan Park, on 21 December, the 58th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

May he rest in peace.

Crucifix, St Columban's Cemetery, Dalgan Park

Silent Night / Sumaq Tuta
Sung in Quechua, the mother-tongue of the majority of people in Huancavalica, where Father Maurice first worked in Peru.

21 December 2016

Embassy of Pakistan in Rome celebrates Christmas

Columban Fr Robert McCulloch at Embassy of Pakistan, Rome

Fr McCulloch, an Australian, is Procurator General of the Columbans in Rome. He spent the early years of his priesthood in Mindanao, Philippines, and later spent 34 years in Pakistan, being one of the pioneering group of Columbans to go there in 1979.

Ambassador Nadeem Riyyaz of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to Italy again hosted the annual Christmas celebration on December 14 at the embassy chancery in Rome. The celebration was attended by Pakistani seminarians, sisters and priests studying in Rome as well as members of the general councils of religious congregations who have foundations in Pakistan.

Members of the diplomatic corps including the ambassador of Italy to the Holy See, chancery staff and Pakistanis working at FAO and other international organizations based in Rome were also present. The celebration including singing of Christmas carols in Urdu, Punjabi, Italian and English.

Fr Robert McCulloch, Procurator-General of the Missionary Society of St Columban, thanked Ambassador Riyyaz for hosting the Christmas celebration and extended greetings both for Christmas and for the Muslim feast of Eid-e-Milad-ul- Nabi which had been celebrated several days earlier. Fr McCulloch noted that this was the fifth celebration of Christmas at the Pakistan embassy which had been begun by Ambassador Tehmina Janjua, currently the Pakistan ambassador to the UN in Geneva. Both ambassadors received their education at Catholic schools in Pakistan, Ambassador Janjua from Jesus and Mary convent schools and Ambassador Riyyaz from the Patrician Brothers at St Anthony’s High School in Lahore.

Fr McCulloch thanked Ambassador Riyyaz for his outstanding gesture of friendship which manifests the commitment both of the Pakistan Embassy in Italy and of the Government of Pakistan to work towards religious harmony. 

A Christmas Song from Pakistan 

20 December 2016

'But for a dream, born in a herdsman's shed, And for the secret Scripture of the poor.' Sunday Reflections, Christmas Day

Adoration of the Shepherds
Jacopo Bassano [Web Gallery of Art]
What has come into being  in him was life, and the life was the light of all people (John 1:4).

The Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord has four different Mass formularies, each with its own prayer and readings. Any of the four fulfills our obligation to attend Mass. These are:

Vigil Mass, celebrated 'either before or after First Vespers (Evening Prayer) of the Nativity'; that means starting between 5pm and 7pm.
Mass During the Night, known before as 'Midnight Mass'. In many parts of the world it does begin at midnight but here in the Philippines since the 1980s it begins earlier, usually at 8:30pm or 9pm.
Mass at Dawn.
Mass During the Day.

When you click on 'Readings' below from the New American Bible you will find links to the readings for each of the four Masses. The readings from the Jerusalem Bible for the four Masses are all on one page.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being  in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.  (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.”’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.  The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

John 1:1-4
This is the Sign Language I am familiar with in the Philippines.

The Census at Bethlehem (detail) 
Pieter Bruegel the Elder [Web Gallery of Art]

This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.

By U.A. Fanthorpe

This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future's
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.

This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.

This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.

And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.

Adoration of the ShepherdsMurillo [Web Gallery of Art]

And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.

Gradual 1 for San Michele a Murano
Don Silvestro Dei Gherarducci [WebGallery of Art]

But for a dream, born in a herdsman's shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor.

In wiser days, my darling rosebud, blown
To beauty proud as was your Mother’s prime.
In that desired, delayed, incredible time,
You’ll ask why I abandoned you, my own,
And the dear heart that was your baby throne,
To die with death. And oh! they’ll give you rhyme
And reason: some will call the thing sublime,
And some decry it in a knowing tone.
So here, while the mad guns curse overhead,
And tired men sigh with mud for couch and floor,
Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
Died not for flag, nor King, nor Emperor,
But for a dream, born in a herdsman's shed,
And for the secret Scripture of the poor.

Tom Kettle wrote To My Daughter Betty, The Gift of God just four days before he was killed during an assault on the village of Ginchy, France, on 9 September 1916.

The Secret Scripture of the Poor was the title given to a collection of writings by Columban Fr John Henaghan published posthumously in 1951. He was killed by the Japanese during the Battle of Manila in February 1945.

Mary's Boy Child
Written by Jester Hairston in 1956. The lyrics are in a Caribbean dialect of English.