‘Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain.’ Sunday Reflections, 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

The Sower, Vincent van Gogh

 June 1888, Arles, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo [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 13:1-23 (or 13:1-9)  (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach.  And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil.  But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  Let anyone with ears listen!”

[Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears,and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it. “Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”]


Harvest at La Crau (The Blue Cart)Vincent van Gogh

 June 1888, Arles. Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam [Web Gallery of Art]

In the spring of 1982 I made the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius at Loyola House, Guelph, Ontario, Canada. We spent 40 days there, a few days of preparation for the Thirty-Day Retreat proper and five days of reflection on the experience afterwards. One of the spiritual directors, though not my own, was an American Jesuit priest named George. He was probably in his 60s at the time. He had worked for some years in South America and he was a recovering alcoholic.

One evening I saw Father George come out of the Jesuit residence dressed very nattily, wearing a rather nice sports coat and hat, his pipe in one hand – and his rosary beads in the other. I said to myself, ‘That man has it all together!’

He gave unusual homilies, laced with a delightfully dry and ironic humour. One was simply about a tiny bird – I think it was a species of hummingbird – that migrates each year in both directiosn between Alaska and Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America, without stopping. All of us listening were filled with awe at God’s creation, at the power and endurance of one of God’s creatures, one that didn’t have the power of reasoning but that knew how to get from one end of the landmass of the Americas to the other and to know where to go.

The First Reading and its Responsorial Psalm along with the Gospel invite us to reflect on how God’s word takes root in our hearts. But they also invite us to reflect on God’s bounty as revealed in nature itself. Isaiah tells us in the First Reading that it is impossible for the rain and snow that God sends not to bear fruit: For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater.

Landscape near Auvers: Wheatfields, Vincent van Gogh

 July 1890, Auvers-sur-Oise. Neue Pinakothek, Munich [Web Gallery of Art]

Psalm 64 [65] echoes this: 
You crown the year with your bounty; 

 your wagon tracks overflow with richness.

The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
    the hills gird themselves with joy,
 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
    the valleys deck themselves with grain,
    they shout and sing together for joy.

Jesus takes something simple in nature as an example of how God’s word, God’s very life, takes root in our lives. But we can see God’s loving power, presence and bounty in the seed itself, without drawing any analogies or other meanings from it. Those of us who aren’t from a farming background can take for granted the food that lands on our table. All the nourishment that we find in a loaf of bread or in a bowl of rice is there already in the grains the farmer sows. The seed of a husband fertilized by the egg of his wife becomes a new human being containing already in its microscopic size all that will be evident when that person is born and grows to maturity
There is great emphasis today on the urgency of respecting nature and of not abusing it, in order to avoid possible disastrous consequences.

But the basic reason we should respect all of nature is that it is an expression of God’s infinite bounty ‘singing’ in its own way: the hills gird themselves with joy . . .

 Father George conveyed something of that to all of us on retreat in Guelph 32 years ago. Another Jesuit priest, Gerard Manley Hopkins, captured that in some of his poems, including Pied Beauty, published 29 years after his death and 41 years after he wrote it rather like the seed being buried in the ground in spring and bearing fruit at harvest-time.

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things —
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced — fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Wheat Field with a Lark,Vincent van Gogh

 Summer 1887, Paris. Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam [Web Gallery of Art]

Columban Fr Cornelius Campion RIP




Fr Cornelius Kieran Campion

(1925 – 2014)

Fr Cornelius (‘Con’) Campion, who died on 26 July, was born in Ballagh, Errill, County Laois, Ireland, on 26 July 1925. Educated at Errill National School and St Kieran’s College, Kilkenny, he came to St Columban’s, Dalgan Park  in September 1943 and was ordained priest on 21 December 1949.

Appointed to the Philippines in 1950, Father Con spent the next thirty-four years there, all of them on the southern island of Mindanao. He served as pastor in the parishes of Ozamis City, Clarin, Tangub City and Oroquieta City, all in the present Archdiocese of Ozamiz. His prodigius energy ensured that even the most distant villages were visited regularly, and that wherever the rights of the poor were threatened every effort was made to ensure that they were treated justly.

In 1984, he was appointed to mission promotion work, and from the Glasgow house, he visited most of the Catholic parishes in Scotland over the next four years. 

St Andrew’s Cathedral, Glasgow, Scotland

From 1989 to 1996 he faced a new challenge and became part of the Columban mission to Belize, Central America. This was followed by three years pastoral work in Jamaica, West Indies.

On celebrating his Golden Jubilee in 1999 he returned to a slower pace of life as a retiree in Dalgan Park. There he helped out in the editorial offices of the Far East, and was always available to do some shopping for those who were less mobile, or to bring a group out for a drive on a sunny afternoon.

Montego Bay, Jamaica, where the Columbans served.

Interested in every aspect of the life of the Society, he had firm convictions on most topics and gladly shared them with others. As his health failed in recent years, he was most appreciative of the level of care he and his companions received in the Dalgan Nursing Home. He read widely, had an extraordinary memory for details of every kind, and was totally involved in the affairs of the house until the end. He will be remembered as a kind and committed missionary, a man of courage and initiative, a warm-hearted and dedicated priest, a friend to all.

May he rest in peace. 

Mount Malindang, which overlooks the four parishes in the Archdiocese of Ozamiz where Fr Campion served.


Your editor succeeded Fr Campion as parish priest of Tangub City in December 1978, the last Columban to serve in that position. In February 1979 Fr Iluminado (‘Lumen’) Rojo became the first diocesan priest to be appointed parish priest there. Father Lumen died five days before Father Con, at the age of 64, and was parish priest of Clarin at the time of his death.

Fr Patrick Campion, a brother of Father Con, ordained a year ahead of him in 1948, was also a Columban and died suddenly in Dumalinao, Zamboanga del Sur, Diocese of Pagadian, on 15 March 1989.

Please remember these three priests in your prayers.

Photos of places from Wikipedia.

‘I thank you, Father . . . because you have . . . revealed [these things] to infants.’ Sunday Reflections, 14th Sunday in Ordina


Christ Blessing the ChildrenNicolaes Maes, 1652-53
National Gallery, London [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 11:25-30  (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada)

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

One night about forty years ago when I was chaplain in the college department of Immaculate Conception College (ICC) – now La Salle University – I was looking out of an upstairs window of the convento (presbytery/rectory). There were only two persons to be seen in the plaza in front of Immaculate Conception Cathedral. One was a young man, a beggar. The other was a gentle, simple-minded woman known to everyone, Goria, whose baptismal name I take to be Gregoria. Sometimes Goria would ask for money. However, she wasn’t a beggar and, as far as I know, spent most of her time with her family in nearby Tangub City. She would smile if you declined to give her money.

Sometimes Goria would wander into a classroom in ICC, as she would also do in St Michael’s High School in Tangub City. But she would never disturb anyone, never say anything while there. She’d simply doodle with chalk on the blackboard.


As I looked out the window I saw that Goria had a small plastic bag with two pieces ofpandesal, usually eaten at breakfast. She went over to the beggar and gave him one of them. 
I have been blessed on a number of occasions to have seen acts of utterly pure generosity, of utterly pure love. And those who have shown me such pure love have usually been children or persons like Goria. In the Irish language we speak of someone like her as ‘duine le Dia’, ‘a person with God’. And they have been totally unaware of the impact of their actions, sometimes not even aware that these have been noticed.
I inquired about Goria the other day and was happy to learn that she still walks among us, though she is far from being young.
Lala feeding Jordan, L’Arche Punla Community, Cainta, Rizal, Philippines
Goria, Lala and Jordan are all daoine le Dia, ‘persons with God’. That doesn’t only mean that they have a special place in God’s heart, which they have, but that they are, in a very real sense, ‘God-bearers’. They carry God with them.
That is why Pope Francis writes in Evangelii Gaudium No 198 [emphases added]: This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor. They have much to teach us. Not only do they share in the sensus fidei, but in their difficulties they know the suffering Christ. We need to let ourselves be evangelized by them. The new evangelization is an invitation to acknowledge the saving power at work in their lives andto put them at the centre of the Church’s pilgrim wayWe are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them.
To repeat what Jesus tells us in the Gospel today: I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
Entrance Antiphon  Antiphona ad introitum (Cf Ps 47 [48]:10-11)

Suscepimus, Deus, misericordiam tuam in medio templi tui. 
Your merciful love, O God, we have received in the midst of your temple.
Secundum nomen tuum, Deus, ita et laus tua in fines terrae, 
Your praise, O God, like your name, reaches the ends of the earth,
justitiam plena est dextera tua.
your right had is filled with saving justice.

[(Ps. 47: 2Magnus Dominus, et laudabilis nimis: in civitate Dei nostri; in monte sancto ejus. 
Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in his holy mountain.
v. Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancti sicut erat in principio et nunc, et semper, et saecula saeculorum. Amen. Repeat Suscepimus . . .

v. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Repeat Your merciful love . . .]

The video contains the full Entrance Antiphon as sung or said in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.
This video ties in with today’s gospel – and with the ongoing World Cup. Notice the colours of the young man’s shirt, keeping in mind where Pope Francis is from. And check the name and number on the back of the shirt!


THE HUMAN TRAFFICKING THAT IS SLAVERY. Fr Shay Cullen’s Reflections, 26 June 2014



by Fr Shay Cullen

It is a cruel and hideous crime to capture and enslave an innocent human for any reason whatsoever. But to make money and indulge greed and avarice in forcing the poor and vulnerable through force and intimidation, threats and debts, to work for little or no payment, then that is slavery. To buy or use products made with such labor is morally wrong. The people who recruit the poor, the hungry and jobless, many of them children, are the human traffickers. There are more than twenty million people throughout the world who are captive, victims of traffickers and slavers according to the 2014 US State Department – Trafficking in Persons Reportout this June. This shows how widespread the crime is.

A mother from Nepal who went to India hoping to rescue her teenaged daughter from a brothel there.

It is not an evil trade confined to the poorest of Asian, South American and African countries but it is common in developed nations too. In Europe and the United States millions are trapped in bonded labor by debts, threats and intimidation. They work on farms, in factories and brothels. Many are trafficked into European Union countries from Eastern Europe and are easily lured with the promises of good, high-paying jobs but are thrown into brothels as sex slaves.

Marker in Manila in honor of ‘Comfort Women’ sex slaes of the Japanese Imperial Army, World War II.

The huge mega-brothels conveniently situated near European international airports have hundreds of young girls trapped as prostitutes. Prostitution has been legalized in most European countries. While this protects EU women who have freely chosen to be sex workers from harassment and abuse and gives them rights, the EU gives little or no protection, medical help, or human rights guarantees to undocumented illegal migrants. That’s the status of the victims of human trafficking. Their passports and identity documents are taken from them by the traffickers who can then control and intimidate and threaten them.

This scenario goes on all over the world. In the Philippines, it is much the same. Trafficking in persons is so rampant; corruption is widespread so the suspects seldom get arrested or convicted due to incompetent or corrupt prosecutors and judges and police. While most of the judiciary can be said to be fairly just and honest, not all prosecute or convict, because of bribery. Despite the brave face of government claiming to have an increase in convictions, it is dismal. That is why the Philippines is still on the 2nd level of notoriety of the US Trafficking in Persons report. The sex industry depends on traffickers to supply the young girls. We need to curb demand, and end the sex industry. Do the right thing, protect the victims and give them a life of dignity.

Joseph sold into slavery by his brothersKároly Ferenczy, 1900

Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest [Web Gallery of Art]

Human traffickers are wealthy people and they are a big source of income for corrupt officials so it pays to let them go free. Then they will keep on paying to stay free and be able to sexually abuse and exploit more children with impunity.

The Philippines in on the second level of notoriety of the Trafficking in Persons annual report this 2014, just above the more notorious modern slavery nations. It is an index prepared and maintained by the US Department of State. For all its faults over the past years, the US government under the Obama administration has declared a strong, no compromise policy against traffickers and slavers and those who enable and permit them to exploit and abuse the weak and the vulnerable.

With President Obama in the White House that was built by slaves, he, being the first black President of the United States, and his wife Michelle, a descendant of slaves, it is no wonder that they would be strongly promoting the end to trafficking of persons and modern slavery.

Philippine local officials issue licenses and operating permits to sex bars and ‘girly’ clubs. This is where thousands of young Filipinos, many of them underage minors who are victims of trafficking and sexual slavery, are bought and sold. It’s the ‘meat market’ of minors. That’s why the country is on the second, worst level of the TIP report. It is accused of condoning such heinous crimes by its inaction, pitiful arrest record and almost non-conviction rate and allegedly corrupt judicial system. True or not as that may be, and I am not to judge, nevertheless, I have experienced apathy-riddled courts where the only swift decision is when the judge orders a coffee and donut.

Jan Ruff O’Herne, forced into being a ‘comfort woman’ in Indonesia by the Japanese Imperial Army

What is significant in US policy is that anti-trafficking is now being integrated into the United States’ diplomatic and development work and more importantly, the US policy is to insist on the rule of law in
protecting the victims and bringing the abusers and exploiters to justice. From this point, advocates are urging the US to develop an immigration rule whereby the US will be listing corrupt police, prosecutors and judges and barring them and their relatives from entering the United States.

In his remarks launching the 2014 TIP report, John Kerry said the following, words worth reading: Wherever rule of law is weak, where corruption is most ingrained, and where populations can’t count on the protection of governments and of law enforcement, there you find zones of vulnerability to trafficking. But wherever rule of law is strong, where individuals are willing to speak out and governments willing to listen, we find zones of protection against trafficking.

shaycullen@preda.org, www.preda.org

Fr Shay Cullen’s columns are published in The Manila Times,
in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and online

Photos from various articles in Wikipedia.