21 July 2017

' . . . but gather the wheat into my barn.' Sunday Reflections, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Sheaves of Wheat, Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

For Readings and Reflections for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A,  click on the following: 


The HarvestÉmile Bernard [Web Gallery of Art]


When our weeping’s over, He will bid us welcome,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.


An old Protestant hymn from the USA, Bringing in the Sheaves, performed in Cape Town (Kapstadt), South Africa. The hymn is based on Psalm 126 [125]:6.

They go out, they go out, full of tears,
 carrying seed for the sowing; 
they come back, they come back, full of song, 
carrying their sheaves.


14 July 2017

'. . . and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold . . .' Sunday Reflections, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Sower (November 1888, Arles)
Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

Listen! A sower went out to sow . . .


For Readings and Reflections for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A,  click on the following: 


Green Wheat Fields, Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

Other seeds fell on good soil . . . 

Wheatfield with Reaper at Sunrise, Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

. . . and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen! (Matthew 13:1-9)


11 July 2017

Two significant Dominican ordinations in Ireland and Australia


Last Saturday, 8 July, Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia OP, Assistant Secretary at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican, ordained Fr Philip Mulryne OP to the priesthood in St Saviour's Church in the heart of Dublin.

Archbishop Di Noia and Fr Philip [Irish Dominicans' website]

The new priest has an unusual, though not unique, background in that he is a former professional footballer, having played for Manchester United and a number of other British soccer clubs between 1997 and 2009, and for Northern Ireland 27 times during that period.

Father Philip entered St Malachy's Seminary in his native Belfast in 2009 to study philosophy in preparation for becoming a priest in the Diocese of Down and Connor, which includes that city. But while studying theology in Rome he felt a call to the Dominican Order and joined their novitiate in Cork in 2012.


Brother Robert Krishna OP [Source]

On Saturday 15 July Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP will ordain his fellow Dominican, Brother Robert Krishna, to the priesthood. Brother Robert's story is a little more unusual than that of his newly-ordained confrere. He is from India and his journey led him from Hinduism to atheism to agnosticism to Anglicanism in Australia and, finally to Catholicism. 

The Catholic Weekly report [my emphases added] says:

Around this time, Br Robert encountered some Catholics at Sydney University.
One thing which impressed him was the fact that there were many young Catholics who were happy in living what the Church teaches.
“I was converted through their example and conversations, rather than through their arguments” he said.
Of the latter, one which sticks out was the exasperated comment of the chaplaincy convenor at the time, Robert Haddad: “You’re never going to get all the answers to all your objections, and at some stage, you need to make a leap of faith.”
It was a throwaway line, but it contains a truth which bothered Br Robert until it ended up convincing him. He was received into the Church in 2003 and confirmed a year later by then-Bishop Anthony Fisher OP, who had just been ordained a Bishop. Robert Haddad was his confirmation sponsor.
God always speaks to us through those happy in living what the Church teaches. And so often God speaks to us through a throwaway line. I remember one such line by Brother Finn, a Christian Brother, in religion class one day when I was in secondary school. Only the best fellows join the Columbans, he said. He had no idea that I was considering becoming a Columban priest. He was referring to former students of his who had taken that step. His throwaway line encouraged me.
St Saviour's Church, Dominick St, Dublin [Wikimedia]

The seed of my own vocation to the priesthood was perhaps sown in this church, where Fr Mulryne was ordained last Saturday. My father loved the solemnity of the High Mass and often took me to one on days such as Easter Monday and Whit (Pentecost) Monday, sometimes to the Dominican church in Dominick Street and sometimes to the Capuchin church in Church Street (St Mary of the Angels). Dubliners usually refer to their churches by the name of the street that they are on rather than on the patronal name. As a child I did not particularly appreciate the High Mass.
Whenever my mother took us 'into town' - the city centre - we usually went by Church Street and would drop in to say a prayer. Occasionally she would take the longer walk and go by Dominick Street where we would also drop in and say a prayer. I remember when I was six or seven being attracted by the white habit of the Dominican friars I saw. Looking back I know that the seed of my vocation was being sown there, though I wasn't aware of it. However when at 13 and 14 I began to seriously think of the priesthood I never considered the Dominicans. But I am grateful to God for the part that they, and my parents, played in my own faith and vocation journey.
A year ago Archbishop Robert Rivas OP of the Diocese of Castries in the Caribbean ordained eight Dominican priests in St Saviour's Church.
Fr Gerard Dunne OP, the vocation director of the Dominicans for many years, gives some ideas on why the Order is attracting men leading successful professional lives in an article by Doreen Carvajal published in The New York Times in 2013, For Friars, Finding Renewal by Sticking to Tradition.
'Sticking to Tradition' did not preclude the Irish Dominicans from being ahead of almost every other order and congregation in Ireland in evangelising 'this digital continent', as Pope Benedict called the internet. May God continue to bless them and, through them, the Church, especially in Ireland and in Australia.
St Dominic Adoring the Crucifixion
Fra Angelico OP [Web Gallery of Art]

07 July 2017

01 July 2017

'Peregrinari pro Christo' - 'To be an exile/pilgrim for Christ'. Sunday Reflections, 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The Calling of St Matthew (detail), Caravaggio [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 said to his Apostles:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.’


Post-World War II Japan [Source]

Whoever loves father or mother . . . son or daughter more than me . . . and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

These words of Jesus in today's Gospel speak to the hearts of missionaries who leave their homelands and who give up the right to have their own families. Up to maybe a hundred years or so ago it was not uncommon for missionaries, and emigrants, never to return home. When I entered the Columban seminary in Ireland in 1961 our priests came home only after seven years. And they travelled by ship across the Atlantic and Pacific. We were, and are, inspired by our patron saint, St Columban, whose motto was Peregrinari pro Christo, 'To be an exile/pilgrim for Christ'.

Times have changed and long-distance travel by plane has replaced journeys on ocean liners and freighters and is much cheaper. People fly across the Atlantic for weekends. And people are living much longer, which has led to many missionaries spending their latter days in the country of their birth. For some, this is a second experience of going into exile.

My Columban confrere Fr Eamonn Horgan went to Japan as a young priest in 1954 and came back to Ireland for good in 2013. He writes about these two experiences in his article Two Sorrows.

Fr Eamonn Horgan with Japanese friends

Father Eamonn writes: The months since my ordination the previous December (1953) had been pleasantly spent finishing my seminary course and visiting friends and relatives. My mission destination was to be Japan, where, God willing, I would spend the rest of my active life as a Columban missionary.  

But then: The year since ordination had slipped by without much concern on my part about facing the ordeal of leaving kin, friends and country. Exile was something I had only read about, but here I was about to embark on my own. I’m afraid that during those final months before leaving, the missionary spirit in me had noticeably faded. Any tint of glamour attached to a missionary career suddenly grew dim. I had heard many tales of missionaries who, through accident, sickness or even martyrdom, had never come home. Would I someday find myself joining that brave company?

However, his experience in Japan gradually lifted his spirits: Little by little the clouds of melancholy began to lift. It has been said that Japanese have difficulty understanding foreigners. My experience of them belies that opinion. On so many occasions I have found the Japanese understanding my peculiarities and idiosyncrasies better than I understood them myself. Their loyalty was inspiring and the virtues they displayed at every turn would match or surpass those of many ‘official’ Christians.

A farewell party

Father Eamonn gradually found that he had a new homeland: Time and again, when overseas folk came to visit me, local friends or mere acquaintances insisted that I bring them to their homes. The welcome was ever genuine, the hospitality lavish. Over the years as Japan ‘grew on me’, I learned to appreciate more and more how kind the Lord had been to me, in bringing me to so charming a land and so loving a people. Almost imperceptibly I found myself feeling more and more at home among them. They seemed to reciprocate the feeling.

Minimata Railway Station [Wikipedia]

But then came the second sorrow, 'exile' once again: Forward to April 2013: the scene, a train station in Minamata City, South Japan. A group of 40 or so Japanese, men and women, baptised and non-baptised, bidding farewell to their pastor as he departs for retirement to the land of his birth. As the train pulls out, copious tears, theirs and mine, flow freely.

This scene is similar to that in Acts 20:36-37When he had finished speaking, he knelt down with them all and prayed. There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him.

Another farewell

The pain, though mixed with joy, continues: The heartbreak of separation still persists, not just on my side but on theirs too I think. Frequent letters and emails, genuinely nostalgic, continue to arrive here. January 1, 2016 brought two members of an English conversation group of mine [Father Eamonn used to teach English to adults] who had sacrificed their Japan New Year festivities, the biggest of the year, to fly all the way here to visit their departed friend.

Irish airmail stamp, 1948-9 [Wikipedia]

Richard King's set of four Irish airmail stamps published in 1948-9 feature the Angel Victor over four sacred sites bringing the 'Voice of Ireland' to St Patrick asking him to come among the Irish once again as an exile, this time freely as a missionary unlike his first six years in Ireland when he was kidnapped and brought there as a slave. The great saint let go of all the pain of his first exile and embraced the pain of his second at the call of Jesus in order to bring the Gospel to the Irish people.

Crypt of St Columban, Bobbio, Italy [Wikipedia]

St Columban for many years begged his abbot in Bangor, Ireland, to allow him to go into exile to the European continent. His abbot finally relented and twelve other monks, including St Gall went with the great missionary. St Columban was driven out of a number of places by various authorities who did not like the demands of the Gospel. But he brought a renewal of the Catholic Christian faith to much of western Europe because he had embraced the grace of the call to be an exile/pilgrim for Christ.

Father Eamonn followed the example of the patron saint of the Missionary Society of St Columban in embracing his first exile from Ireland in going to Japan and his second 59 years later when leaving Japan in order to return to the land of his birth.

Please pray for all overseas missionaries and for the millions of people who have been forced from their home places by war or by economic necessity. We missionaries have been able to make a choice and accept or reject God's invitation. For far too many refugees there has been no choice.


Kim Jung-hae, Roberta, a Korean, served in Japan as a Columban lay missionary.

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]