22 June 2017

'Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.' Sunday Reflections, 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]
First Reading, Jeremiah 20:10-13

Gospel Matthew 10:26-33 (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)

Jesus said to the Twelve:
 ‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.
‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
I think it was during the summer of 1968, a few months after my ordination, that my parents and I visited the motherhouse of the Columban Sisters in Magheramore, County Wicklow, on the east coast of Ireland. We were deeply struck by the extraordinary gentle warmth of Sister Joan Sawyer from Country Antrim, Northern Ireland, who showed us around. 
In December 1983 when I was giving a retreat to Columban Sisters in their convent in San Juan, Metro Manila, we got the shocking news of her violent death in Lima, Peru.
Sister Joan with friends in Peru
Joan Sawyer was a Columban Sister who was shot dead in Lima, Peru, in December 1983. She used to go to the Lurigancho Prison in Lima three or four days a week to visit the prisoners there. The prison held over 5,000 men. Conditions were bad. Out of 5,000 prisoners only 1,000 were sentenced. The rest were pending sentence or perhaps innocent. Joan used try to bring them some relief - medicines for some, a kind word for others, news about how she was progressing with their legal papers in the ministry for Justice, etc. 
The large majority of prisoners came, in her own words, 'from the poor sectors of Lima where they never had enough to eat, didn't finish school and couldn't find decent work'. On the morning of 14 December 1983 a group of prisoners decided that at all costs they were going to escape. They took as hostages Joan Sawyer, three Marist Sisters and social workers. After all-day negotiations with the prison authorities it was agreed that the prisoners and their hostages would be allowed leave the prison in the evening in an ambulance, the most inconspicuous mode of travel for getting out unnoticed. 
They were no sooner outside the prison gate than waiting police riddled the ambulance with bullets from all sides. Four bullets struck Joan, one through the back of the neck, two through her leg and one through her finger. When removed from the ambulance she was dead. Joan Sawyer was born in Donegore, County Antrim, in 1932. She entered the Columban Sisters in 1949 having previously worked as a secretary in Belfast. Subsequently she took her BA degree in Mundelein College, Chicago. She went to Peru in 1977 and was 51 years old at the time of her death. [Source].


Hilary Cross, Sr Joan's niece, visited Lima for the 30th anniversary of the death of her Aunty Joan. In an article in the English newspaper The Guardian she tells of the two great sacrifices made her grandfather, George Sawyer, Sister Joan's father. George was a Protestant who married a Catholic, Brigid Deegan, in the 1920s in the newly independent Irish Free State, now the Republic of Ireland. They had a mixed marriage in the 1920s, and it was hard to find their place in a free state that wasn't really so free. So they moved north; my grandfather, George, the eldest son, losing his family farm for love of a sweet girl, Brigid, from 'the other side'. They settled in Donegore, near Antrim, where George's love of the land led him to labour on another man's farm.
The article continues: Joan was the youngest of seven. Although all were much loved, it was said that 'wee Joan' held a special place in her father's heart. Gentle, slight, spirited and with a deep faith, she left at the age of 17 to join a convent in the remote west of Ireland. That day George retreated to the land, unable to say goodbye. A man of great faith himself, he must have struggled to reconcile whose sacrifice this was, his love of a Catholic girl had lost him more than just his farm.
Hilary Cross at her Aunty Joan's grave
The Story of Sister Joan Sawyer on the website of her native parish in Northern Ireland quotes from a letter written by a prisoner named Julio in Lurigancho Prison: Minutes before Sister Juanita [as she was known in Peru] was taken hostage I was speaking to her when she came with a packet sent in with her by my mother. I can still see her eyes which reached to eternity. Her love, pure and gentle, which reflected her great love for people. Her spirit of kindness and sacrifice towards us prisoners will be my most precious memory.
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
You may read more about Sister Joan on the website of the Columban Sisters here, here, here and here. The website is also the source of the photos above.
Columban Sisters carrying Sister Joan's coffin [Source]

13 June 2017

'I am the living bread that came down from heaven.' Sunday Reflections, Corpus Christi, Year A

Main Altar, Monastery of Miraflores, Burgos, Spain
Gil de Siloe [Web Gallery of Art]

For Readings and Reflections for Corpus Christi, Year A,  click on the following: 


For places that celebrate Corpus Christi on Thursday, 15 June, you will find the readings for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, here.

St Norbert in Adoration, Martin Pepijn [Web Gallery of Art]

01 June 2017

'God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.' Sunday Reflections, Trinity Sunday, Year A

The Trinity. El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

For Readings and Reflections for Trinity Sunday  click on the following: 


Benedictus sit Deus, Mozart

Antiphona ad introitum 
Entrance Antiphon

Benedictus sit Deus Pater,
Blest be God the Father,
Unigenitusque Dei Filius,
and the Only Begotten Son of God,
Sanctus quoque Spiritus,
and also the Holy Spirit,
quia fecit nobiscum misericordian suam.
for he has shown us is merciful love.


'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' Sunday Reflections, Pentecost, Year A


Pentecost, Sir Anthony van Dyck [Web Gallery of Art]

For the readings of the Vigil Mass of Pentecost and of the Mass during the day,  and for Reflections on Pentecost click on the following: 




Antiphona ad introitum
Alternative Entrance Antiphon [Rom 5: 5; Cf 8:11]


Cáritas Dei diffúsa est in córdibus nostris 
per inhabitántem Spíritum ejus in nobis. Allelúia, allelúia

The love of God has been poured into our hearts
through the Spirit of God dwelling within us, alleluia, alleluia.

Vs. Benedic, ánima mea, Dómino: et ómnia, quæ intra me sunt, nómini sancto ejus

Vs. Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. 

Vs. Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto. 
Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in saécula sæculórum. Amen

Vs. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Cáritas Dei diffúsa est in córdibus nostris 
per inhabitántem Spíritum ejus in nobis. Allelúia, allelúia

The love of God has been poured into our hearts
through the Spirit of God dwelling within us, alleluia, alleluia.

The text in bold is sung or said in the Ordinary Form of the Mass, though the rest may also be sung or said. The full text is sung or said in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

24 May 2017

'The Lord goes up with shouts of joy.' Sunday Reflections, The Ascension


The Ascension, Andrea della Robbia [Web Gallery of Art]

For Readings for the Ascension and the Seventh Sunday of Easter and for Reflections on the Ascension click on the following: 



Three White Cottages in Saintes-Maries, van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

A work of art is the fruit of the creative capacity of the human being who stands in wonder before the visible reality, and who seeks to discover the depths of its meaning and to communicate it through the language of forms, colors and sounds. Art has the capacity to express and to make visible man’s need to go beyond what he sees; it manifests his thirst and his search for the infinite. In fact, it is like a door opened to the infinite — to a beauty and a truth that goes beyond the everyday. And a work of art can open the eyes of the mind and heart, carrying them higher. (Pope Benedict XVI).

09 May 2017

'Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.' Sunday Reflections, Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A



St PhilipGiuseppe Mazzuoli [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings and Reflections: 

Canonisations in Fatima

Lucia Santos, left, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto [Wikipedia]

On Saturday 13 May Pope Francis will canonise Blessed Francisco Marto (1908 - 1919) and his sister Jacinta (1910 - 1920) in Fátima, Portugal, on the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of the Blessed Mother there to the three children.

A good friend of mine who is a priest and a Scripture scholar once pointed out to me that in all the places where the Church has affirmed that our Blessed Mother truly appeared it was to poor people. We can see this in such places as Guadalupe (1531) in Mexico, La Salette (1846) and Lourdes (1858) in France, Beauraing (1932-33) and Banneux (1933) in Belgium, Fátima (1917) in Portugal and Knock (1879) in Ireland. I have been blessed by having taken part in pilgrimages to all of these except La Salette and Guadalupe.

You may find this article of interest: The surprising connection between Our Lady of Fatima and Islam.


Ave de Fátima
Sung in Portuguese by the Choir of the Shrine in Fátima

Beatification in Dublin of Blessed John Sullivan SJ

Blessed John Sullivan SJ 
[Facebook. Portrait by Seán O’Sullivan]

Also on 13 May, for the first time in history, a beatification will take place in Ireland, that of Fr John Sullivan SJ (1861 - 1933), by  Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The ceremony will be held in St Francis Xavier Church, Gardiner Street, Dublin, a church that is closely associated also with the Venerable Matt Talbot (1856 - 1925). These two men grew up within walking distance of each other, but in totally different circumstances, John Sullivan in prosperity and Matt Talbot in poverty. God called both of them to sanctity, as indeed he calls each of us through our baptism. They responded to this call.

St Francis Xavier Church, Gardiner St, Dublin [Wikipedia]

For some reason, Dubliners rarely refer to their churches by their patronal name but rather by the street name. Had this ceremony been held in Dublin 50 or 60 years ago it would not have taken place in this or in any other church but in an open, public space. It will be interesting to see how the Irish media will cover the event.

Please pray this weekend for a renewal  of the Catholic Christian faith in Ireland where to a large extent in recent decades it has been rejected or marginalised as a purely private matter, and despised by some.