‘For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?’ Sunday Reflections, 22nd Sunday in Ordinary

The Crucifixion of St PeterCaravaggio, 1600-01

 Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Populo, Rome [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 16:21-27 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition: Canada)  

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? 

“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.”


A Man for All Seasons is a movie made in 1966, written by Robert Bolt and based on his stage play with the same title. It is based on the life of St Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England during the time of King Henry VIII. His position would be similar to that of Prime Minister today. More refuses to  sign a letter asking Pope Clement VII to annul the marriage of the King to Catherine of Aragon who had not borne him a son. Eventually More is found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death.

During his trial Sir Thomas More discovers that Richard Rich, who had given perjured testimony against him, had been made Secretary of Wales as a reward for this. The laws of England were about to be extended to Wales, a country of 20,779 square kilometres in the southwest of the island of Britain which also includes England and Scotland. More says to Rich, Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world – but for Wales? [2:12 – 2:21 in the video above].

On Sundays in Ordinary Time the First Reading and the Gospel are linked thematically whereas the Second Reading is from on the Letters of St Paul read over the course of a number of Sundays. But this Sunday it is closely related to the other two readings in that it reminds us that as followers of Jesus we are called to be living sacrifices:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2).

The Prophet Jeremiah discovers the cost of doing God’s will: I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me . . . For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long (Jeremiah 20:7,8).

St Peter cannot abide the thought of any such thing happening to Jesus: God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you. He receives an extraordinary rebuke from Jesus: Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.

Pope Francis

Canonizations of Sts John XXIII and John Paul II, 27 April 2014 [Wikipedia]

Pope Francis on his recent visit to Korea touched on some of these things. I quoted from his homilies and addresses there last Sunday and would like to do the same this Sunday. In hisaddress to the delegates at Asian Youth Day on 15 August he said [emphasis added]: 

This great gathering of Asian young people also allows us to see something of what the Church herself is meant to be in God’s eternal plan. Together with young people everywhere, you want to help build a world where we all live together in peace and friendship, overcoming barriers, healing divisions, rejecting violence and prejudice. And this is exactly what God wants for us. The Church is meant to be a seed of unity for the whole human family. In Christ, all nations and peoples are called to a unity which does not destroy diversity but acknowledges, reconciles and enriches it.

How distant the spirit of the world seems from that magnificent vision and plan! How often the seeds of goodness and hope which we try to sow seem to be choked by weeds of selfishness, hostility and injustice, not only all around us, but also in our own hearts. We are troubled by the growing gap in our societies between rich and poor. We see signs of an idolatry of wealth, power and pleasure which come at a high cost to human lives. Closer to home, so many of our own friends and contemporaries, even in the midst of immense material prosperity, are suffering from spiritual poverty, loneliness and quiet despair. God seems to be removed from the picture. It is almost as though a spiritual desert is beginning to spread throughout our world. It affects the young too, robbing them of hope and even, in all too many cases, of life itself.

Yet this is the world into which you are called to go forth and bear witness to the Gospel of hope, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the promise of his Kingdom.

Pope Francis is expressing, from a different angle, what Jesus is rebuking Peter about: the basic values by which we live, seeing everything through the eyes of Christ or seeing them through the eyes of others.

6th Asian Youth Day (AYD2014)


In his homily at the closing Mass of AYD2014 Pope Francis once again put before the young people of Asia, and before all of us, the values of the Gospel – and the choices that this may demand:

 Returning to the theme of this Day, let us reflect on a second word: ‘Youth’. You and your friends are filled with the optimism, energy and good will which are so characteristic of this period of life. Let Christ turn your natural optimism into Christian hope, your energy into moral virtue, your good will into genuine self-sacrificing love! This is the path you are called to take. This is the path to overcoming all that threatens hope, virtue and love in your lives and in your culture. In this way your youth will be a gift to Jesus and to the world.

As young Christians, whether you are workers or students, whether you have already begun a career or have answered the call to marriage, religious life or the priesthood, you are not only a part of the future of the Church; you are also a necessary and beloved part of the Church’s presentYou are Church’s present! Keep close to one another, draw ever closer to God, and with your bishops and priests spend these years in building a holier, more missionary and humble Church, a holier, more missionary and humble Church, a Church which loves and worships God by seeking to serve the poor, the lonely, the infirm and the marginalized.

I was delighted to see Pope Francis reminding the young people that, while they are part of the future of the Church, they are also a necessary and beloved part of the Church’s present. When I was young I used to get irritated at adults telling us that we were ‘the future’ of the Church / the nation / whatever, which we were, but forgetting that we were also part of the present. And among the canonized and beatified martyrs of Korea we find children, adolescents, young adults, middle-aged and older persons, all ready to take up their cross and follow me, just as St Thomas More had done some centuries earlier on the other side of the world and as St Peter did on a cross hung upside-down.

 In A Man for All Seasons St Thomas More is shown to be a man of great inner peace and joy, the latter not something superficial but something deep in his soul. Pope Francis speaks of this to the young delegates:

Finally, the third part of this Day’s theme – ‘Wake up!’– This word speaks of a responsibility which the Lord gives you. It is the duty to be vigilant, not to allow the pressures, the temptations and the sins of ourselves or others to dull our sensitivity to the beauty of holiness, to the joy of the Gospel . . . Dear young people of Asia, it is my hope that, in union with Christ and the Church, you will take up this path, which will surely bring you much joy

Pope Benedict XVI [Wikipedia]

Those final words of Pope Francis above echo the beautiful challenge of Pope Benedict to the young in the closing part of his homily at his inaugural Mass on 24 April 2005:

At this point, my mind goes back to 22 October 1978, when Pope John Paul II began his ministry here in Saint Peter’s Square. His words on that occasion constantly echo in my ears: Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ!’ The Pope was addressing the mighty, the powerful of this world, who feared that Christ might take away something of their power if they were to let him in, if they were to allow the faith to be free. Yes, he would certainly have taken something away from them: the dominion of corruption, the manipulation of law and the freedom to do as they pleased. But he would not have taken away anything that pertains to human freedom or dignity, or to the building of a just society
The Pope was also speaking to everyone, especially the young. Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us?Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? And once again the Pope said: No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation
And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen.
The Martyrs of Korea, St Thomas More and St Peter all discovered when they chose to lay down their lives for Jesus Christ and for the Gospel the truth of the words of Pope Benedict, He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything, words that echo those of Jesus himself as he speaks to us in today’s Gospel, For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.


The song Koinonia, a Greek word meaning ‘Communion’, was written for the Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis to the Republic of Korea by K-Pop singer Noh Young-Shim and produced by Won Dong-Yeon for the Archdiocese of Seoul. The singer here is Sumi Jo, an internationally renowned soprano from Korea who sang before the Beatification Mass and also at Communion time during the Mass.
Let us continue to pray for Christians in Iraq and Syria who have been driven from their homes. These are descendants of people who became Christians in the time of the Apostles. they have been driven from their homelands.
Dear brothers and sisters,
The news from Iraq leaves us incredulous and alarmed: thousands of people, many Christians among them, are being driven from their homes in a brutal way; children are dying of thirst and hunger while fleeing; women abducted; people massacred; every type of violence; destruction everywhere; destruction of houses, of religious, historic and cultural heritage. Yet all of this grievously offends God and grievously offends humanity. Hatred is not borne in the name of God! War is not waged in the name of God! All of us, thinking about this situation, about these people, let us be silent now and pray.
After pausing to pray, he continued:
I thank those who, with courage, are taking aid to these brothers and sisters, and I hope that an effective political solution, both at the international and local levels, can put an end to these crimes and restore law. The better to ensure to those dear peoples of my closeness I have appointed as my Personal Envoy to Iraq Cardinal Fernando Filoni, who will leave Rome tomorrow.

Columban Superior interviewed on Korean TV on significance of visit of Pope Francis



A few days before Pope Francis arrived in Korea on his recent Apostolic Journey, 13-18 August, on the occasion of the 6th Asian Youth Day, the Regional Director of the Columbans in Korea, Fr Donal O’Keeffe, was interviewed on Korea Today, an English-language current affairs program on South Korea’s Arirang TV.


6th Asian Youth Day (AYD2014)

 13-17 August 2014, Republic of Korea

Fr O’Keeffe speculated, in the context of the beatification of 124 Korean martyrs on 16 August, that the Pope would emphasise the heritage that the Korean church of today had received from the witness of the martys, and to show similar witness, even if it would not involve having to lay down their lives.

As it turned out, Pope Francis put great emphasis on this. (Emphases added below.)

  • In his address to the Bishops of Korea on 14 August he called on them to be guardians of memory and guardians of hope. Being guardians of memory means more than remembering and treasuring the graces of the past; it also means drawing from them the spiritual resources to confront with vision and determination the hopes, the promise and the challenges of the future
  • In his homily on the Solemnity of the Assumption the Pope said: As Korean Catholics, heirs to a noble tradition, you are called to cherish this legacy and transmit it to future generations. This will demand of everyone a renewed conversion to the word of God and a passionate concern for the poor, the needy and the vulnerable in our midst.
  • In speaking to the delegates to Asian Youth Day on 15 August the Holy Father said to them: Just as the Lord made his glory shine forth in the heroic witness of the martyrs, so too he wants to make his glory shine in your lives, and through you, to light up the life of this vast continent
  • The Bishop of Rome continued the same theme in his homily at the Beatification Mass on 16 August: The victory of the martyrs, their witness to the power of God’s love, continues to bear fruit today in Korea, in the Church which received growth from their sacrifice
  • 16 August was a very busy day for Pope Francis, who spoke to leaders of  the Apostolate of the LaityThe Church in Korea, as we all know, is heir to the faith of generations of lay persons who persevered in the love of Christ Jesus and the communion of the Church despite the scarcity of priests and the threat of severe persecution. Blessed Paul Yun Ji-chung and the martyrs beatified today represent an impressive chapter of this history. They bore witness to the faith not only by their sufferings and death, but by their lives of loving solidarity with one another in Christian communities marked by exemplary charity. This precious legacy lives on in your own works of faith, charity and service
  • Faith as a gift, as a heritage received from earlier generations and therefore to be handed on by us to future generations, was spoken of by Pope Francis
    in his homily at the closing Mass of Asian Youth Day on 17 August: The martyrs of Korea – and innumerable others throughout Asia – handed over their bodies to their persecutors; to us they have handed on a perennial witness that the light of Christ’s truth dispels all darkness, and the love of Christ is gloriously triumphant. With the certainty of his victory over death, and our participation in it, we can face the challenge of Christian discipleship today, in our own circumstances and time. Further on the Pope reminds the young delegates from all over Asia that they are part of the Church in the present: As young Christians, whether you are workers or students, whether you have already begun a career or have answered the call to marriage, religious life or the priesthood, you are not only a part of the future of the Church; you are also a necessary and beloved part of the Church’s present! 

The Vatican website, www.vatican.va, has a link to all of the Pope’s homilies and addresses here.

‘Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.’ Sunday Reflections, 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

St PeterEl Greco, 1610-13

 Monasterio de San Lorenzo, El Escorial, Spain [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 16:13-20 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter,and on this rock  I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Pope Francis in Korea, 13-18 August 2014 [Wikipedia]

In his homily on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, 29 June 2013, Pope Francis said: I would like to offer three thoughts on the Petrine ministry, guided by the word ‘confirm’.  What has the Bishop of Rome been called to confirm? By ‘Petrine ministry’ the Pope was speaking of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome, of the Pope, the successor of St Peter. He said that the Pope is called to confirm in faithto confirm in love and to confirm in unity. Here is what he said about confirming in faith.

The Gospel speaks of the confession of Peter: ‘You are Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Mt16:16), a confession which does not come from him but from our Father in heaven.  Because of this confession, Jesus replies: ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church’ (v. 18).  The role, the ecclesial service of Peter, is founded upon his confession of faith in Jesus, the Son of the living God, made possible by a grace granted from on high.  In the second part of today’s Gospel we see the peril of thinking in worldly terms.  When Jesus speaks of his death and resurrection, of the path of God which does not correspond to the human path of power, flesh and blood re-emerge in Peter: ‘He took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him . . . This must never happen to you’ (16:22).  Jesus’ response is harsh: ‘Get behind me, Satan!  You are a hindrance to me’ (v. 23).  Whenever we let our thoughts, our feelings or the logic of human power prevail, and we do not let ourselves be taught and guided by faith, by God, we become stumbling blocks.  Faith in Christ is the light of our life as Christians and as ministers in the Church!

Apostolic Journey on the Occasion of 6th Asian Youth Day (AYD2014)

 13-17 August 2014, Republic of Korea

On his recent Apostolic Journey to the Republic of Korea Pope Francis through his words and actions carried out his ministry of confirming in faith, as well as in love and in unity, not only the people of Korea, not only the delegates to the 6th Asian Youth Day, but all of us.

At the Mass in the World Cup Stadium in Daejeon – the Diocese of Daejeon hosted AYD2014 –  on the Solemnity of the Assumption the Bishop of Rome said [emphasis added]: 

Today, in venerating Mary, Queen of Heaven, we also turn to her as Mother of the Church in Korea. We ask her to help us to be faithful to the royal freedom we received on the day of our Baptism, to guide our efforts to transform the world in accordance with God’s plan, and to enable the Church in this country to be ever more fully a leaven of his Kingdom in the midst of Korean society. May the Christians of this nation be a generous force for spiritual renewal at every level of society. May they combat the allure of a materialism that stifles authentic spiritual and cultural values and the spirit of unbridled competition which generates selfishness and strife. May they also reject inhumane economic models which create new forms of poverty and marginalize workers, and the culture of death which devalues the image of God, the God of life, and violates the dignity of every man, woman and child.

As Korean Catholics, heirs to a noble tradition, you are called to cherish this legacy and transmit it to future generations. This will demand of everyone a renewed conversion to the word of God and a passionate concern for the poor, the needy and the vulnerable in our midst.

The same day at the Shrine of Solmoe, known as ‘The Birthplace of Catholicism in Korea’, Pope Francis met with the delegates to AYD2014 and once again spoke of the importance of baptism along with the two other sacraments of initiation into the faith, Confirmation and the Eucharist:

Dear young friends, in this generation the Lord is counting on you! He is counting on you!He entered your hearts on the day of your Baptism; he gave you his Spirit on the day of your Confirmation; and he strengthens you constantly by his presence in the Eucharist, so that you can be his witnesses before the world. Are you ready to say ‘yes’? [Yes!] Are you ready? [Yes!] Thank you! Are you tired? [No!] Really? [Yes!]

Beatification Mass


On Saturday 18 August Pope Francis beatified Paul Yun Ji-chung and 135 martyr companions at the Gwanghwamun Gate, Seoul. In his homily he emphasised the gift of faith that we are called to pass on, no matter what the cost:

The victory of the martyrs, their witness to the power of God’s love, continues to bear fruit today in Korea, in the Church which received growth from their sacrifice. Our celebration of Blessed Paul and Companions provides us with the opportunity to return to the first moments, the infancy as it were, of the Church in Korea. It invites you, the Catholics of Korea, to remember the great things which God has wrought in this land and to treasure the legacy of faith and charity entrusted to you by your forebears.

The Holy Father linked the sacrifice of these martyrs of Korea with the situation in today’s world and what our Christian faith demands of us:

The example of the martyrs also teaches us the importance of charity in the life of faith. It was the purity of their witness to Christ, expressed in an acceptance of the equal dignity of all the baptized, which led them to a form of fraternal life that challenged the rigid social structures of their day. It was their refusal to separate the twin commandment of love of God and love of neighbor which impelled them to such great solicitude for the needs of the brethrenTheir example has much to say to us who live in societies where, alongside immense wealth, dire poverty is silently growing; where the cry of the poor is seldom heeded; and where Christ continues to call out to us, asking us to love and serve him by tending to our brothers and sisters in need.

Pope Francis spoke of the joy of being a Christian, one of his basic themes since becoming Pope:

If we follow the lead of the martyrs and take the Lord at his word, then we will understand the sublime freedom and joy with which they went to their death . . . The legacy of the martyrs can inspire all men and women of good will to work in harmony for a more just, free and reconciled society, thus contributing to peace and the protection of authentically human values in this country and in our world

In his address to leaders of the apostolate of the laity the Pope spoke once again of faith as a gift, as a legacy handed down to us:

The Church in Korea, as we all know, is heir to the faith of generations of lay persons who persevered in the love of Christ Jesus and the communion of the Church despite the scarcity of priests and the threat of severe persecution . . . This precious legacy lives on in your own works of faith, charity and service. Today, as ever, the Church needs credible lay witnesses to the saving truth of the Gospel, its power to purify and transform human hearts, and its fruitfulness for building up the human family in unity, justice and peace. We know there is but one mission of the Church of God, and that every baptized Christian has a vital part in this mission. Your gifts as lay men and women are manifold and your apostolates varied, yet all that you do is meant to advance the Church’s mission by ensuring that the temporal order is permeated and perfected by Christ’s Spirit and ordered to the coming of his Kingdom.

The faith was introduced to Korea by Korean laymen who were part of a delegation to Beijing and who discovered the faith there.
The inspiring words of Pope Francis were meant not only to confirm Korean Catholics in their faith but all of us. Faith is the most precious gift that God has given us but one that can be lost by individuals and by whole areas of the world. North Africa is one example, where the Christian faith disappeared everywhere except in Egypt and Ethiopia after the rise of Islam. Western Europe is another example, where the Christian faith has been rapidly disappearing in recent decades, as it has to a lesser degree in North America.Two generations ago Quebec in Canada had a flourishing Church that was sending missionaries to many parts of the world, including the Philippines, but where it is now pretty much on the margins.

The words of Jesus to Peter show us clearly that our faith is a gift: Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.

May we thank God each day for the gift of our faith and ask for the grace for ourselves and for Pope Francis to live it as the Korean martyrs did, with the sublime freedom and joy with which they went to their death.

In the words with which Pope Francis concluded his homily at the beatification of the 124 martyrs: 

May the prayers of all the Korean martyrs, in union with those of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, obtain for us the grace of perseverance in faith and in every good work, holiness and purity of heart, and apostolic zeal in bearing witness to Jesus in this beloved country, throughout Asia, and to the ends of the earth. Amen.


The following petition was added to the Prayer of the Faithful at the Pope’s Mass for Reconciliation in Myeong-dong Cathedral, Seoul, on 18 August before he flew back to Rome:

Prayer for Cardinal Filoni for Iraq:

For Cardinal Fernando Filoni, who cannot be with us because he was sent by the Pope to the suffering people of Iraq in order to assist our persecuted and dispossessed brothers and sisters, and all the religious minorities who are afflicted in that country. May the Lord be close to him in his mission.

May we continue to pray for all who are being persecuted in Iraq and Syria, especially those who are suffering because they are Christians.

A report on Arirang TV, Korea, a few days before the beatifications.


Antiphona ad introitum   Entrance Antiphon  Cf Ps 85[86]:1-3

Inclina, Domine, aurem tuam ad me, et exaudi me.

 Turn your earl, O Lord, and answer me;

 Salvum fac servum tuum, Deus meus, sperantem in te.

 save the servant who trusts in you, my God.

 Miserere mihi, Domine, quoniam ad te clamavi tota die.

 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I cry to you all the day long.

Laetifica animam servi tui, quia ad te, Domine, animam meam levavi.

Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, Lord, I lift my soul.
Inclina, Domine, aurem tuam ad me, et exaudi me.

Turn your earl, O Lord, and answer me;Salvum fac servum tuum, Deus meus, sperantem in te.

save the servant who trusts in you, my God.Miserere mihi, Domine, quoniam ad te clamavi tota die.

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I cry to you all the day long.

[The text above in bold print is sung or said in the Ordinary Form of the Mass; in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass the whole text above is sung or said.]

‘What are you willing to die for?’ Fr Shay Cullen’s Reflections, 18 August 2014

What Are You Willing to Die For?’
by Fr Shay Cullen

Pope Francis in Korea, August 2014 [Wikipedia]

What are you willing to die for? was the very challenging question that Pope Francis presented to the thousands of Catholics from Korea and other Asian countries gathered for the beatification of 124 martyrs in Seoul, Korea on 16 August. And it is also challenging for all of us who claim to be Catholics and Christians. His message was clear in calling on the youth and people to reject a life of selfish gratification based on gross materialism and living for wealth alone and instead to strive for equality and  protect the poor and their human rights.

The Pope visited a Catholic home for the elderly and embraced some of them showing compassion and love. In Korea, as in many wealthy nations, there are serious pockets of neglect of the elderly. Although the Republic of Korea (South Korea) is one of the wealthiest nations in the world half of the old folk live in poverty. Instead of cherishing and respecting them all with a life of  dignity and sufficiency like western materialistic societies many of the senior citizens are marginalized and rejected as people of little value.

Many are locked away in retirement homes and some tied to beds and chairs and given  tranquilizer drugs that leave them in a state of semi-conscious stupor that accelerates dementia. New legislation in Belgium and Switzerland and the Netherlands allows them to be helped to kill themselves by ‘assisted suicide’.  Where will this trend end? Soon the practice could be for nasty relatives and government care-givers to bully and persuade them to kill themselves and not go on being a financial and medical burden to the rest of us. This is an attitude arising from loveless, selfish materialism.

The Pope reminded us that the early Catholics of Korea sacrificed themselves for their needy bothers and sisters, They knew the price of discipleship  . . . and were willing to make great sacrifices. The Pope pointed out that their love and courage  and rejection of the strict unbending and unequal social structure of their day is an inspiration for people alive today. Their belief in Jesus of Nazareth and his teaching of a Kingdom of love, equality and social justice led to their execution. The rich can’t stand talk of equality.

MV Sewol [Wikipedia]

Pope Francis’s compassion for the bereaved families of the hundreds of school children who drowned when the MV Sewol sank on 16 April this year showed through also when he and the organizers of the Mass of Beatification did not allow the authorities to drive away the protestors, one on hunger strike, demanding the truth about the sinking of the ferry. The Pope had met them in private and now embraced them in public. Bishop Peter Kang U-il of Jeju stated that to forcibly move people crying for justice in order to celebrate Mass simply could not happen – if it did the Mass would have no meaning.

When Pope Francis comes to visit the Philippines in January he will find many martyrs, including priests and pastors, human rights workers, who gave their lives  for the poor and exploited and who were executed by death squads run by military and local government officials.

St Andrew
Kim Taegŏn

First Korean priest, one of 103 Martyrs of Korea canonized by Pope St John Paul II in Soeul, May 1984. [Wikipedia]

One of the worst suspected and accused military generals, the darling of the previous government of President Gloria Arroyo who herself is in detention for plunder awaiting tria,l is retired Army Maj Gen Jovito Palparan Jr. He was arrested recently after more than two years on the run from the charges of allegedly running death squads wherever he was assigned around the Philippines and allegedly left a trail of blood of assassinated civilians who dared to criticize the government. Known as ‘The Butcher’ for these alleged crimes, he will be put on trial for the disappearance and suspected murder of two student activists.
Like the Korean martyrs we should be ready to give up some comforts of oureasy life and defend abused children and those poor people exploited by the rich one percent  that owns 70 percent of the Philippines. We need the spiritual commitment and belief in what is right and good and to be ready to put aside selfish desires and greed to help others in great need.

This is the heart of the Pope’s message. When Francis comes to the Philippines I hope he will not be feted and manipulated by glory-seeking rich elites and publicity-seeking politicos. He will, we hope, visit the poor and victims of abuse and survivors of last November’s Supertyphoon Haiyan/Yolanda. He will see little reconstruction of homes, schools and public services. Political corruption is still rife and raging wherever there is money to be stolen. His message will be equally challenging for sure and we will do well to heed it and act in solidarity with those in great need wherever they may be.

shaycullen@preda.org, www.preda.org

Solidarity for Philippine Fair Trade. Fr Shay Cullen’s Reflections, 15 August 2014

Solidarity for Philippine Fair Trade

by Fr Shay Cullen

Raw sugar production in the Philippines [Wikipedia]

Fairness and justice is what the poor and the oppressed need from those elected to protect and serve them.When the people are in greatest need and government officials turn away then the people have been betrayed, abandoned and left without help. This is what I experience every day in our struggle to get justice for the victims of human trafficking child sexual abuse. But there is little justice. The rich and powerful can buy their way out of their crimes. It happens also to the farmers and the urban poor that their oppressors kill with impunity.

That is what is happening to the Panay Fair Trade group in Panay island in the  central Philippines. Some members of the Panay Fair Trade Farmers’ Cooperative have been harassed, brutalized and their leaders assassinated. One day last March  Romy was with his mother-in-law at the public market when a motorcycle with two men drew close to him and opened fire, shooting him in the head. His mother-in-law went into shock and the killers escaped on the motorbike .They were only fifty meters from a police station. Romy Capalla, died on the spot. He paid the ultimate price for his solidarity with the poor. The same day fifteen kilometers away the small sugar mill of the farmers’ cooperative was mysteriously burnt to the ground by unknown arsonists. But the Philippine government has turned a blind eye to it all.

Trucks delivering sugarcane [Wikipedia]

The eyes of the world are not closed. A solidarity group of international observers for the Fair Trade movement from Europe and around the world will travel to Panay Island this August month in a demonstration of solidarity and support and also to speak out to the authorities to end the killing of the farmers and the leaders and respect human rights. The solidarity delegates will visit politicians, church leaders and speak with concerned groups to raise the awareness of the violations to human rights and the harm and great injustice done to the farmers.

The delegates from Europe, who include members of DWP and GEPA, Germany, and members of CTM Altromercatofrom Italy, together with thousands of Fair Trade supporters will join with the Philippine Fair Trade organizations such as Preda Fair Trade, CCAP and others to protest the violation of the human rights of the farmers and their families.

There are killer death squads assassinating farmers and one squad killed their leader Romy Capalla.

These are independent farmers growing sugar cane on the own land or as rightful tenants  and not part of the big sugar growing plantations. They have successfully broken away from the control of rich sugar barons who set a low payment for the sugar cane and a high price to mill it.

Cut sugarcane [Wikipedia]

This economic control causes the farmers to remain mired in cruel poverty and their children can’t go on to a better life. The farmers’ leaders and organizers are a dedicated group of human rights advocates and Fair Traders who are trying to bring a new and better life to the thousands of small farmers who are exploited in the sugar industry of Panay Island.

Fair Trade organizations in Europe buy Muscovado Sugar from the Panay farmers at a fair price and the farmers have prospered and have been able to raise funds to build their own sugar grinding and processing mill. They also sell Muscovado sugar locally to the supermarkets and make a good living, free from the dominating barons who feel threatened as more and more farmers want to join the association and mill their sugar at the association’s mill at a lower cost. They then earn more and prosper too. This is strong competition and the murderous attack on the members and Romy Capalla and the burning of the mill is believed to be the work of a few of these sugar barons. Romy will be remembered and celebrated as a staunch defender
of human rights.

Brown sugar examples: Muscovado (top), dark brown (left), light brown (right) [Wikipedia]

His brother is the retired Arrchbishop of Davao, Ferdinand R. Capalla. Romy was instrumental in setting up the project and his group had great success in organizing the  farmers into this Panay Fair Trade sugar-producing cooperative  where the small farmers held onto the land and planted their own sugar cane. They harvested and milled the sugar cane themselves in that small sugar mill that produced the Muscovado that is healthy and exported to stores around the world. They also have local sales.

Throughout the Philippines the plantation owners and the super-rich families form the ruling elite and they own or control 70% of the economy, manufacturing and agriculture in the Philippines. A few of the rich sugar planters apparently see the independence of the farmers having the own mill as a threat and a dangerous precedent for others . They want to control the entire sugar harvest and fix prices. But the strong organization begun by Romy Capalla resisted that and began the Fair Trade alternative.

All help and assistance is needed to support the Philippine Human rights defenders and Fair Traders. The greed of a few has destroyed the lives of the many. As always, they who do the most good are rejected, condemned and made to appear bad. It is the story of the Gospel , it is the hardship of trying to do justice ,changing the world for the better and doing what is right. We must never lose heart and take our stand.

shaycullen@preda.org. www.preda.org

Email: shaycullen@preda.org,
Information Officer: emmanueldrewery@preda.org


Columban Fr Cathal Coulter RIP


Fr Cathal Coulter


Fr Cathal (‘Charlie’) Coulter died on 8 August 2014. He was born 9 July 1931 at Saul, Downpatrick, County Down, Northern Ireland. Educated at S. Patrick’s Saul, St Columbanus, Belfast, and St Malachy’s College, Belfast, he came St Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan, County Meath, in 1948. He was ordained priest 21 December 1954.


Statue of St Patrick, Saul, County Down [Wikipedia]

His first appointment was to post-graduate studies at Fordham University, New York, followed by further studies at Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada. Then for three years he served as an Observer for Caritas International at the United Nations, New York. He was assigned to vocations work from West Chester, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,  in 1960 and became Director of Promotion in the US Region in 1967. This involved a move to Omaha, Nebraska. He served two terms as Director of the US Region from 1977 to 1983. He was responsible for setting up low-cost housing for the elderly on surplus Columban property in Bellevue, Omaha. 

One of many videos produced by the Columbans in the USA


After some months study of Spanish in Bolivia and Chile, he returned to San Francisco for Mission Education, Justice and Vocation work. In 1990, he was reassigned to Omaha where he and his team were responsible for the production of an excellent series of films and videos. He learned the technical side of this art as he went along, but there was no denying his creativity and his skill as a writer.


In 1992 Father Cathal was elected with Bill and Mary Anne Boylan as the Leadership Team for Worldwide Marriage Encounter (WWME) in the USA. He loved to work with married couples and was dedicated to this pastoral outreach for many years. His gift for this work was recognised when, in 1995, he and the same couple were elected as the International Coordinating Team for Marriage Encounter in 81 countries.


Fr Cathal with Bill and Mary Anne Boylan of WWME [Photo: WWME-Phils]


In 1995 he was appointed to Ireland where he and the late Fr P.J. Kelly set up a trust fund for the support of the Columban Nursing Home in Dalgan. He became editor of Columban Intercom in 1997 and published many stimulating articles in the magazine.

Father Cathal developed his many gifts over lifetime of service in a broad variety of tasks. Ever pleasant and with wide interests, he was always good company. He suffered greatly in recent years as his health deteriorated but showed great patience to the end. May he rest in peace.

St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, where Father Cathal spent his first seven years as a Columban and his latter years.

Though he was ordained on 21 December 1954 Father Cathal would have been celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of his ordination on 15 August, the date when Columbans in Ireland come together each year to honour our jubilarians.

I look back in gratitude to God for the many blessings on the journey and for the many good people who were part of my life . . . The Society [of St Columban] has been very tolerant and generous to me. I doubt if I would ever find the same anywhere else.’

– Fr Cathal Coulter


ll Never Find Another You, written for The Seekers by Tom Springfield in the 1960s, was adopted as the Theme Song of Worldwide Marriage Encounter. Father Cathal would have sung this many times with his friends in WWME.

‘Cathal’, pronounced ‘KAhal’, is an old Irish name often used as an equivalent for ‘Charles’. In the USA Father Cathal was known to his friends as ‘Father Charlie’.


The cemetery at St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, where Father Cathal was buried on 11 August.