‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ Sunday Reflections, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

 
The Canaanite Woman, 
Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry [Wikipedia]
 
 
For Readings and Reflections for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A,  click on the following: 
 
 
Sunday Reflections for this Sunday three years ago links the situation of the Canaanite woman in the gospel with the situation of Christians in war-torn Iraq and Syria. The video above features the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, after it was liberated from ISIS last October.
The vast majority of Catholics in Iraq and Syria belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church and Syrian Catholic Church. There are more than twenty Eastern Catholic Churches, though the vast majority of Catholics worldwide are Roman (or Latin) Catholics. All are equally Catholic and all are in full communion with Rome. Archbishop Mouche (also spelled Moshe), belongs to the Syrian Catholic Church.
May we continue to pray for the Church in Iraq and Syria with the persistent faith of the Canaanite woman in today’s gospel.
I invite all to pray that Iraq may find peace, unity, and prosperity in reconciliation and in harmony among its different ethnic and religious components. (Pope Francis, 29 March 2017).

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‘This is the struggle of our life – to let Christ rule.’ Sunday Reflections, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Salvation of Peter, Andrea da Firenze [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 Matthew 14:22-33 (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’

Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

Fr William Doyle SJ

3 March 1873 – 16 August 2017

Father William Doyle SJ, killed on 17 August 1917 in the Third Battle of Ypres, Belgium, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele, wrote this commentary on today’s Gospel.

About the fourth watch of the night he cometh to them

Christ did not show himself until the fourth watch of the night. How often is this same history repeated in our own case! There is no encouragement, no comfort. We are wearied waiting. There is no sign of approaching help. Why not give up! Surely we never bargained for this. We never believed things would come to such a pass! Oh, the anguish of these moments, when in the midst of struggle, depression and loneliness Christ withholds his sensible presence. 

Christ delays to come. But he is watching all the time; he would only test us. Let him not be disappointed. This is a moment of tremendous grace. If we are stout of heart and bear our trial manfully, we will emerge from the crucible with well-nigh herculean strength. These are moments that disentangle us from many of the trappings that weaken and weigh us down. After they have passed, invariably we find our vision clearer and our appreciation of the value of things truer.

Walking upon the sea

Thus does he come to us also walking upon the sea with these words upon his lips. ‘Have a good heart, fear not. It is I.’ And we whisper to ourselves, ‘It is the Lord.’ Yes, then we understand. Then everything goes easy and we wonder that we should ever have doubted. Then we are ashamed of our wavering. What a beautiful tribute to Christ our trust would have been. So we determine next time we will understand. We decide that when next the tide of our life runs high, when our heart-boat is lashed by a rugged sea, we will understand that Christ is near, watching us and we fight fearlessly and cheerfully. Thus, little by little, troubles and crosses will serve to clamp the trust in Christ that will steady our hearts and like St Peter will will cry out: ‘Lord if it be thou, bid me come to thee across the waters.’ O the joy of our hearts as the master says ‘Come.’ And we go. We really walk upon the sea. We do wonders until some tremendous sorrow-wave dashes up between us and Christ, and for a moment we lose heart and cry out ‘Lord save me’.

Immediately he spoke with them

Immediately – that word is full of love – stretching forth his hand he takes hold of me. And when He has come into my heart-boat the wind ceased. But it is only after Christ has been given full control of our heart-boat that the winds cease. This is the struggle of our life – to let Christ rule.

So long as he must come over the waters to us there will be many a lonely struggle. But when through great generosity on our part we have emptied our lives of everything likely to raise a tempest in the heart, then Christ will sit at the helm and the waves may toss, the winds may roll and blow about the boat. We are calm. We have no cause to fear. Christ sits at the helm and rules.

The reflection above was taken from pages 182-184 of To Raise the Fallen, compiled and edited by Patrick Kenny and published by Veritas. The book launching took place on 10 August at Hodges Figgis, Dublin.

Soldiers Burying their Dead, Bissen [Web Gallery of Art]

Fr Doyle fulfilled one of his duties – and also one of the corporal works of mercy – by burying the dead. His own body was never recovered.

What Happened at the Battle of Passchendaele?

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As the current stand-off between North Korea and the USA continues let us pray for a peaceful resolution to the situation.

O God, who show a father’s care for all, 

grant, in your mercy, 

that the members of the human race, 

to whom you have given a single origin, 

may form in peace a single family 

and always be united by a fraternal spirit. 

Through 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.

 

Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice (The Roman Missal).

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‘I was able for once to offer the Holy Sacrifice on my knees.’ Sunday Reflections, The Transfiguration, Year A

Transfiguration of Christ, Paolo Veronese [Web Gallery of Art]

As the Feast of the Transfiguration is a feast of the Lord  it is celebrated today instead of the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Matthew 17:1-9 (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’

Father Willie Doyle SJ, in a letter, writes about the Mass he celebrated on Monday 6 August 1917 in the trenches during the Third Battle of Ypres, Belgium, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele.

For once getting out of bed was an easy, in fact, delightful task, for I was stiff and sore from my night’s rest. My first task was to look round and see what were the possibilities for Mass. As all the dug-outs were occupied if not destroyed or flooded, I was delighted to discover a tiny ammunition store which I speedily converted into a chapel, building an altar with the boxes. The fact that it barely held myself did not signify as I had no server and had to be both priest and acolyte, and in a way I was not sorry I could not stand up, as I was able for once to offer the Holy Sacrifice on my knees.

It is strange that out here a desire I have long cherished should be gratified, viz. : to be able to celebrate alone, taking as much time as I wished without inconveniencing anyone. I read long ago in the Acts of the Martyrs of a captive priest, chained to the floor of the Coliseum, offering up the Mass on the altar of his own bare breast, but apart from that, Mass that morning must have been a strange one in the eyes of God’s angels, and I trust not unacceptable to Him

British trench, Battle of the Somme, 1916

One keeping watch while the others sleep [Wikipedia]

It is clear that Fr Doyle, an Irish Jesuit who had volunteered to serve as a chaplain in the British army during the Great War (1914-1918) and who was assigned to Irish regiments – the whole of Ireland was then part of the United Kingdom – had a profound sense of the presence of God as he celebrated Mass in the tiniest of spaces in a trench unfit for human habitation. He had a deep sense of being graced by God with a deep inner silence despite the noise of shells being fired by both the German and British armies. It was, in a sense, a Transfiguration moment for him.

Peter, James and John got a brief glimpse of the divinity of Jesus Christ when he took them up the mountain. It was a grace for the present and for the future. This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him! It was a grace from God the Father that gave them the courage to preach the Gospel after Pentecost and, for Peter and James, to lay down their lives for the it.

Stretcher bearers, Passchendaele, August 1917 [Wikipedia]

Fr Willie Doyle was more than familiar with scenes such as that in the photo above. He spent much of his days and nights trying to reach wounded and dying soldiers, sometimes including Germans, in order to anoint and give them absolution, to speak a last word of comfort, to assure them that God was not absent from the hell that the First World War was. More than three million soldiers died and more than eight million were wounded in the fighting on the Western Front, of which the Battle of Passchendaele was part, between 1914 and 1918.

One of those who died was my great-uncle, Corporal Lawrence Dowd, an older half-brother of my maternal grandmother, Annie Dowd Collins. He was killed on the day that Father Doyle celebrated Mass in his trench and that he wrote about above, the feast of the Transfiguration, and in the same area. So this Sunday is the 100th anniversary of his death. I do not know if Uncle Larry and Father Willie ever met but my uncle must have known who this heroic priest was as he was known and loved by all the Irish soldiers, Catholic and Protestant, fighting in Flanders.

Fr William Doyle SJ (3 March 1874 – 16 August 1917)

Fr Doyle was killed ten days after my great-uncle. To Raise the Fallen, compiled and edited by Patrick Kenny  and very recently published by Veritas, describes what happened: The precise details surrounding Fr Doyle’s death are unclear. But at some time in the late afternoon of 16 August 1917, a group of soldiers led by Lieutenants Marlow and Green got into trouble beyond the front line, and Fr Doyle ran to assist them. It seems that Fr Doyle and the two officers were about to take shelter when they were hit by a German shell and killed. His body was never recovered.

Mass in an Austrian military hospital, 1916 [Wikipedia]

Sir Percival Philips, a war correspondent, wrote in the Daily Express(London) in August 1917: The Orangemen (members of a Protestant organisation, mainly in what is now Northern Ireland) will not forget a certain Roman Catholic chaplain who lies in  a soldier’s grave in that sinister plain beyond Ypres. He went forward and back over the battle field with bullets whining about him, seeking out the dying and kneeling in the mud beside them to give them absolution, walking with death with a smile on his face, watched by his men with reverence and a kind of awe until a shell burst near him and he was killed. His familiar figure was seen and welcomed by hundreds of Irishmen who lay in that bloody place. Each time he came back across the field he was begged to remain in comparative safety. Smilingly he shook his head and went again into the storm. He had been with his boys at Ginchy and through other times of stress, and he would not desert them in their agony. They remember him as a saint – they speak his name with tears. (To Raise the Fallen, page 187).

To the hundreds of Irishmen who lay in that bloody place – and to wounded and dying Germans he encountered – Fr Doyle’s presence was something of a ‘Transfiguration experience’. Through this brave Catholic priest they saw something of the divinity of a loving God, that loving God that he had experienced so many times in unexpected ways and places, the loving God whose presence he was so conscious of as he celebrated Mass on his knees in a muddy hole in a trench ten days before his death.

If we have eyes to see and ears to hear we can see flashes of God’s divinity in the actions of those around us, sometimes in the midst of tragedy, of evil, sometimes in the midst of very ordinary events of daily life, sometimes in the midst of joyful circumstances. May God open our eyes and ears to those flashes of his divinity.

At the grave of my Great-uncle Lawrence Dowd in Potijze Chateau Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium, September 2001. Uncle Larry, my maternal grandmother’s older half-brother, was killed on the Feast of the Transfiguration, 6 August 1917. I was the first relative to visit his grave, in September 2001.

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‘It is the Eucharist, the Christ who died and is risen, that gives us life.’ Sunday Reflections, 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Religious pendant showing Christ blessing, framed with rubies and pearls [Wikipedia]

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it (Matthew 13:45).

For Readings and Reflections for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A,  click on the following: 

Chaldean Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Sorrows, Baghdad, Iraq [Wikipedia]

In Sunday Reflections for this Sunday three years ago I highlighted the situation of Christians in Iraq and Syria and included a statement by Patriarch Louis Raphael I of the Chaldean Catholic Church dated 17 July 2014. Below is a video of the Patriarch reopening a Catholic Church in Tel Kaif (Tel Keppe), about 12 kms north of Mosul, in January of this year. This area is historically the centre of the Chaldean Catholic community in Iraq.

Please pray for all of the Christians of Iraq and Syria, all of them Arabs whose ancestors became Christians in the very early days of the Church.
Today we brought back part of our dignity.
A recent article about the situation of the Church in Mosul: Now that Mosul is liberated from ISIS, will Christians return?

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‘ . . . 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: 

Sixteenth  Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

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.

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‘. . . 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)

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‘You have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants.’ Sunday Reflections, 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

First Steps (after Millet), Van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

For Readings and Reflections for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A,  click on the following: 

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

A Beggar Boy with a Piece of Pie
Master of the Blue Jeans [Web Gallery of Art]

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‘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)

Gospel Matthew 10:37-42 (New Revised  Standard Version, Anglicised CatholicEdition) 

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.

 

 

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‘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]

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‘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: 

Corpus Christi, Year A

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]

 

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