‘And they knelt down and paid him homage.’ Sunday Reflections. The Epiphany

The Adoration of the MagiVelázquez, 1619

Museo del Prado, Madrid [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings for the Solemnity of the Epiphany

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

The readings above are used both at the Vigil Mass and at the Mass during the Day. Each Mass has its own set of prayers and antiphons.

In countries where the Epiphany is observed as a Holyday of Obligation on 6 January, eg, Ireland, the Mass of the Second Sunday after the Nativity is celebrated. The same readings are used in Years A, B, C:

Readings (Jerusalem Bible)

Alleluia and Gospel for the Epiphany

Alleluia, alleluia!

Vidimus stellam eius in Oriente,

We have seen his star in the East,

et venimus cum muneribus adorare Dominum.

and have come with gifts to adore the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia!

The same text (cf. Matthew 2:2), without ‘Alleluia, alleluia,’ is used as the Communion Antiphon at the Mass during the Day.

Gospel Matthew 2:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada)

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,  asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”  When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.  Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Adoration of the Magi (detail), Filippino Lipi, 1496

Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence [Web Gallery of Art]

While based in Britain from 2000 till 2002 I was able to spend Christmas with my brother and his family in Dublin, a short flight from England, in 2000 and 2001. During the holiday in 2001 I saw a documentary on RTÉ, Ireland’s national broadcasting service, about Filipino nurses in Ireland. These began to arrive in 2000, initially at the invitation of the Irish government to work in government hospitals. Very quickly there was an ‘invasion’ of Filipino nurses and carers, now to be found in hospitals and nursing homes in every part of the country.

One of the nurses interviewed told how many Filipinos, knowing that the Irish celebrate Christmas on the 25th, unlike the Philippines where the culmination of the feast is on the night of the 24th, offered to work on Christmas Day so that their Irish companions could be with their families. This also helped to dull the pain of being away from their own families.

I was moved to tears at the testimony of one nurse, from Mindanao as I recall, speaking about her job and her first Christmas in Ireland in 2000. She spoke very highly of her employers, of her working conditions and of her accommodation, which she compared with that of the Holy Family on the first Christmas night. She spoke of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in this situation as if they were members of her own family, as in a very deep sense they are, or we of their family.

Here was a young woman from the East powerfully proclaiming, without being aware of it, that the Word became flesh and lived among us. The fact that she wasn’t aware of it, that she was speaking about her ‘next door neighbours’, made her proclamation of faith all the more powerful. She would have known many in her own place, and very likely knew from her own experience, something of what Joseph and Mary went through in Bethlehem. Her faith in the Word who became flesh and lived among us wasn’t something in her head but part of her very being.
For much of the last century thousands of Catholic priests, religious Sisters and Brothers left Europe and North America to preach and live the Gospel in the nations of Africa, Asia and South America. Some of the countries and regions from which they left, eg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, Quebec, have to a great extent lost or even rejected the Catholic Christian faith. The Jewish people had, in faith, awaited the coming of the Messiah for many centuries. But when He came it was uneducated shepherds who first recognised him and later Simeon and Anna, two devout and elderly Jews who spent lengthy periods in prayer in the Temple.

Today’s feast highlights wise men from the east, not ‘believers’ in the Jewish sense, led by God’s special grace to Bethlehem to bring gifts in response to that grace, explaining, We . . . have come to pay him homage.They reveal to us that God calls people from every part of the world to do the same and to bring others with them.

Will nurses from the Philippines and from Kerala in India, migrants from Korea and Vietnam, from the east, bring the gift of faith in Jesus Christ once again to the many people in Western Europe and North America who no longer know him in any real sense? Will they by the lives they lead as working immigrants gently invite those in the West who have lost the precious gift of our Catholic Christian faith to once again come to pay him homage?

An arrangement by John Rutter of the old carol

Mary, the Holy Mother of God. New Year’s Day. World Day of Peace

The Virgin Mary, El Greco, 1594-1604
Museo del Prado, Madrid [Web Gallery of Art]

The Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, is a holy day of obligation on the universal calendar of the Church. However in some countries the bishops have decided not to observe it as such. But I know for sure that in the Philippines and in the USA it is observed as a holy day of obligation.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Luke 2:16-21 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

The shepherds went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

The Adoration of the Name of Jesus, El Greco, 1578-80

National Gallery, London [Web Gallery of Art]

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

World Day of Peace

Today is the Church’s 49th World Day of Peace. Here is the conclusion of the message of Pope Francis for this day.

I would like to make a threefold appeal to the leaders of nations: to refrain from drawing other peoples into conflicts or wars which destroy not only their material, cultural and social legacy, but also – and in the long term – their moral and spiritual integrity; to forgive or manage in a sustainable way the international debt of the poorer nations; and to adopt policies of cooperation which, instead of bowing before the dictatorship of certain ideologies, will respect the values of local populations and, in any case, not prove detrimental to the fundamental and inalienable right to life of the unborn.

I entrust these reflections, together with my best wishes for the New Year, to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother, who cares for the needs of our human family, that she may obtain from her Son Jesus, the Prince of Peace, the granting of our prayers and the blessing of our daily efforts for a fraternal and united world.

The Virgin and Child with St Martina and St Agnes (detail)             

El Greco, 1597-99, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC [Web Gallery of Art]

As he has done many times before, Pope Francis stresses the fundamental and inalienable right to life of the unborn.

I have used the video above a number of times. It’s message is not only the powerful words of the Beatitudes given us by Jesus but the dignity of those who proclaim them here. Some say, in all sincerity, that if it is known before birth that a child has a disability, especially a mental one, better that that child not be born. They are really saying that the persons in this video, whose names appear at the end, were not worthy of being born, or would have been spared a life of suffering had they been aborted. Pope Francis is speaking to those who see things in this way.

Miggy and Gee-Gee with Mikko and Mica, 2009

I have close friends whose first child, a son, was born with severe mental and physical disabilities, due to something that went wrong during his birth. Mikko lived for seven years. There is no way that his parents, Miggy and Gee-Gee, or his younger sister Mica regret his birth.  His parents loved him to bits from the moment of his birth, indeed from the moment they knew their first child was on his way. And Mica loved her older brother to bits in the same way.

How often persons who are pro-life in word and in deed are taunted or dismissed as caring only for the lives of the unborn! Miggy and Gee-Gee took care of Mikko, with professional help, 24/7. That included many days in the ICU over the years of his life, including one Christmas. There are countless others caring with all their hearts for those in need.

The words of Pope Francis are a message of hope to the many who lovingly care for persons with special needs at whatever stage of life and he is telling them that they are truly peacemakers. He is also quietly challenging those who see things differently.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us

Fr Shay Cullen’s REFLECTIONS. The Astounding Child from Nazareth

Madonna of the Magnificat, Sandro Botticelli, 1480-81

Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence [Web Gallery of Art]

The Astounding Child from Nazareth

For millions of Filipinos, Christmas is a celebration of the family. They come together from around the world, they delight in the togetherness and sharing of respect. They honor the aged, they bless the children, they feed the hungry. They fill the churches with light, song and festival and bring the children to be baptized and they have joyful celebrations.  They recall the story of that astounding child who became the greatest person to influence the history of mankind for the good.

Christmas is a time to celebrate the greatest values of human kind brought to us thousands of years ago by the Child from Nazareth. He survived the poverty and the dangers and grew up at the knee of his mother and the workbench of his father and was taught the Song of Mary, that most challenging of songs.

He learned well from his parents who had suffered poverty, rejection and who fled the massacre of the children by Herod and they crossed the border into Egypt as impoverished refugees. They knew the merciless anger of the fanatical tyrant king Herod and seen the intolerable injustice of his regime.

The child heard the stories and listened when his mother sang that song where the mighty power of love would scatter the proud elite and rubbish all their evil plots and plans, where the mighty elite would be put down from their positions of power and the poor would be lifted up.

The teenage youth from Nazareth learned how such love can change the world and fill the hungry with good things and how in justice the selfish rich are sent away empty to reflect, repent and ask forgiveness for their greed, arrogance and abuse. He grew to be that powerful personality who was and is a hero of the oppressed and became  a threat to their rulers. He was a great teacher, a servant leader and the example of self-sacrificing love where no greater love can be found but in giving one’s life for others. It was a loving message of compassion and care, helping and sacrifice.

But justice, equality and compassion for the poor, the refugees and the homeless had no place in the society into which he was born. The culture and religion of his time had become fanatical and cruel- stoning the women, crucifying the dissidents, beheading the reformers. He taught justice, compassion, mercy, and love of neighbor. It was a world where such great powerful values were salvation for the huddled masses ground underfoot by the religious intolerance and oppression and the military might that claimed to be always right.

Rebellion and wars were common in a world where foreign military occupation, oppression and exploitation of the poor by the rich, the control of the many by the few, the silencing of protest and opposition with the sword was the way of life.  In that violent culture, Jesus of Nazareth was a indeed a savior.

The poor and disposed realized the truth that they were not the dung, vomit and a curse on the earth as the rulers told them they were. The prophet from Nazareth told them that was untrue; that they are the children of eternal goodness and love that they are worthy of the dignity inherent in every person. He said they are called to a life of dignity, have inalienable human rights and equality and have a right to a happy prosperous life. Blessed are the poor for they have the right to inherit the earth, he said.

The knowledge of this powerful truth if lived out would awaken them and give them the courage to transform their society. This truth would set them free. The Child from Nazareth set out to change the world, to turn it on its head to cause a non-violent peaceful spiritual revolution with social justice. Before he could make it a reality he was arrested, jailed, tortured, and given the death penalty. The barbarism of the intolerant religious fanatics and Roman cruelty ended his mission and scattered his followers. Today it seems the powerful truth and dream of a just society where equality and love of neighbor reigns does not escape the barbarism of modern conflict and corporate greed.

That great truth revealed by the Man from Nazareth would only be realized when his followers had shunned all exploitation, violence, and abuse and organized a community to live out the extraordinary values together. They would be helping each other as one family and making those values real. What emerged was a powerful social and spiritual movement based on personal dignity and social justice that was capable of redeeming humanity, changing society from being a cruel and brutal regime to one of compassion, forgiveness mercy and love of neighbor following the example of the Good Samaritan.

It was this force that came into the world at the first Christmas, had its roots in the Song of Mary, and had the possibility of saving suffering humanity from the garbage heap of rich man’s dominance. But sadly it seems to have failed, or has it?  When he was born so was this dream but can it ever be a reality in the modern world or remain a dream, an unattainable reality? It is up to each one of us to work together to make that dream come true.




Preda Children

‘Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.’ Sunday Reflections. The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Renante and Christine Alejo-Uy with Kiefer Thomas, their first born in 2007. At the time Renante and Christine were active members of Couples for Christ in Bacolod City, Philippines

The cover of Misyon, now MISYONonline.com, the magazine of the Columbans in the Philippines, November-December 2007.

Renante and Christine, 2015, with Kiefer Thomas now 8 and Ysabella Alexis 1. The couple are still involved with Couples for Christ but now in Thailand.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Luke 2:41-52 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

Now every year the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.  After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

Christ Among the Doctors, Leonaert Bramer, 1640-45

Private Collection [Web Gallery of Art]

Today is the Feast of The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. On 19 March the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Today’s gospel refers to Joseph and Mary as the parents of Jesus. Mary says reproachfully to her Son, Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety. To the puzzlement of both Mary and Joseph, Jesus replies, Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?

St Matthew shows clearly the role of St Joseph in the life of Jesus: An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).

Joseph’s first responsibility was to be the husband of Mary and, as such, was to name her Son, thereby becoming his legal father. In some paintings of the Nativity St Joseph is a background figure, or partly hidden in the dark, but clearly protective of Jesus and Mary, and in an attitude of worship towards the Infant.

The Nativity, El Greco, 1603-05

Hospital de la Carridad, Illescas, Spain [Web Gallery of Art]

But in depictions of the Flight into Egypt, of which there are many, we often find St Joseph leading the way, as in this woodcarving.

The Flight into Egypt, Unknown Flemish Master, c. 1515

Riksmusesum, Amsterdam [Web Gallery of Art]

The Greek-born Doménikos Theotokópoulos, (1541 – 7 April 1614) who settled in Toledo, Spain, as a young man where he became known as ‘El Greco’, ‘The Greek’, captures the role of St Joseph as a protective parent.

St Joseph and the Christ Child, El Greco, c.1600

Museo de Santa Cruz, Toledo, Spain [Web Gallery of Art]

As a child I saw my parents as my father and mother. Now I remember them not only as that but as a married couple. And sometimes I think that the Church over-emphasises the importance of the family at the expense of marriage, which is the foundation of the family. St Joseph’s primary responsibility was to be the husband of Mary and, as such, to be the one known as the father of Jesus, even though Mary’s Son wasn’t his.

And in today’s gospel Mary painfully discovers that, in a sense, he isn’t hers either, as he says, Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? At the beginning of his adolescence Jesus was, in his humanity, coming in touch with his heavenly Father’s will. The mystery of Jesus being both God and Man is something we cannot fathom. St Paul says that Jesus though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped (Philippians 2:6).

But this incident shows us that Mary and Joseph as parents suffered the same pain that every parent of an adolescent goes through. They were learning that they did not ‘own’ Jesus, that they would have to let him go at some stage.

I recall some incidents involving my father. One was when I was no more that three, possibly only two. Like St Joseph, he was a carpenter and made a little saddle that he put on the crossbar of his bicycle, on which he went to work every morning. I recall him taking me for a ‘spin’, probably on a Saturday afternoon, in the area where we lived at the time, I sitting joyfully on the little wooden saddle he had made. It’s like a photo in my mind that captures a moment of delight between father and son.

Then when I was around ten he taught me how to ride a bicycle. I borrowed that of a cousin a little older than me. Dad held the back of the saddle tightly so that I wouldn’t lose balance and stayed with me patiently. Then at a certain point I realised that he wasn’t holding it anymore and that I was moving forward without falling. He knew when to let go.

[Source: Coloring-pictures.net]

He taught me how to swim around that same time, with the same approach. He gave me a sense of security – but didn’t cling on when I didn’t need that kind of security anymore.

My parents taught me what trust was by trusting me. In Ireland the symbol of adulthood was – and maybe still is, I don’t know – the key to the house. I was given the key when I was only 13. None of my friends had that privilege. Even on one occasion three years later when I came home very late on my bicycle from a dance and they were waiting at the door sick with worry – nobody on our street had a telephone and mobile phones probably weren’t even in the imaginations of science-fiction writers – all I got was a well-deserved scolding. They still trusted me to use my key responsibly.

I saw too that on occasions when there might be a combination of heat and coldness in their relationship for a few days, they still took care of each other. After attending a very early Mass Dad would come home, prepare my mother’s breakfast and bring it to her in bed before heading off for work. And when he came home in the evening his dinner would be always ready. I remember his amusement on the only occasion in their married life when my mother didn’t have it ready. She had been delayed by something unexpected and was really embarrassed. Dad just laughed.

In Worldwide Marriage Encounter one of the things we emphasise is that Love is a Decision. It’s not a feeling, though feelings are related to it, of course. I saw that in my parents’ lives and I also saw that they made important decisions together. One example was when I was 13. My father was asked to take on a job for six months in a town in the south of Ireland. This meant that he would be able to come home only one weekend per month. I know that my parents discussed this thoroughly and also spoke to us, their two sons, about it, before deciding that Dad should take on the job.

This cartoon, which I found on a friend’s Facebook, captures in a humorous way what Love is a Decision means. (I think that the cartoon has been been to many places in cyberspace.)

As I look back now, I see clearly that my parents were husband and wife first, and father and mother second. That did not mean that they saw parenthood as being of lesser importance but that they saw it as being a consequence of being married. I think they had their priorities right.

The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that marriage is the root of the family. Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21).

The liturgical Season of Christmas continues until the Feast of The Baptism of the Lord on Sunday 10 January. The Huron Carol was written by St Jean de Brébeuf SJ in 1623 and set to a French folk tune. Jesse Edgar Middleton translated it into English in 1926. St Jean, a Frenchman, was martyred in Canada on 16 March 1649.

Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled
That mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim and wondering hunters heard the hymn,
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark the tender babe was found;
A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round
But as the hunter braves drew nigh the angel song rang loud and high
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free, O seed of Manitou
The holy Child of earth and heaven is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant boy who brings you beauty peace and joy.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

St Jean de Brébeuf, Martyrs’ Shrine, Midland, Ontario, Canada [Wikipedia]

Canada celebrates Christmas in the depths of winter but Australia celebrates it in high summer. Just now I came across this delightful Australian carol, The Three Drovers, composed in 1948 by John Wheeler and William G. James. These drovers would be the Australian counterparts of the shepherds who went to the stable in Bethlehem on the first Christmas night.

Across the plains one Christmas night
Three drovers riding blithe and gay,
Looked up and saw a starry light
More radiant than the Milky Way;
And on their hearts such wonder fell,
They sang with joy. ‘Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!’

The air was dry with summer heat,
And smoke was on the yellow moon;
But from the heavens, faint and sweet,
Came floating down a wond’rous turn;
And as they heard, they sang full well
Those drovers three. ‘Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!’

The black swans flew across the sky,
The wild dog called across the plain,
The starry lustre blazed on high,
Still echoed on the heavenly strain;
And still they sang, ‘Noel! Noel!’
Those drovers three. ‘Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel! Noel!’

Columban Fr John Vincent Gallagher RIP

Fr John Vincent Gallagher

(24 December 1923 – 18 December 2015)

Fr John Vincent Gallagher, known to his fellow Columbans as ‘John V’, died peacefully on 18 December 2015 in St Columban’s Nursing Home, Dalgan Park, Navan, Ireland.  Born on 24 December 1923, in Glasgow, Scotland, but raised in Dún Lúiche (Dunlewey), Gaoth Dobhair (Gweedore), County Donegal, Ireland.

St Andrew’s Catholic Cathedral, Glasgow [Wikipedia]

He was educated in Dunlewey National School, Meenaclady National School, and St Eunan’s College, Letterkenny. He went to St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, in 1944 and was ordained there on 21 December 1950.

Poison Glen, near Dunlewey [Wikipedia]

Assigned to the Philippines, he had a series of appointments in his first three years to Silang, Cavite, Lingayen and Olongapo, and this was followed by a four-year stint as assistant in Malate Church, Manila. In 1960 he was appointed to Student Catholic Action in the Archdiocese of Manila. His capacity for relating with young people, his sense of humour and his dedication meant that he was very successful in this ministry where he spent the next eleven years. He then spent four years as Chaplain at Makati Medical Centre where he was deeply appreciated by both patients and staff.

Nuestra Señora de Remedios, Our Lady of Remedies
Malate Church, Manila [Wikipedia]

This was followed by a period as Director of the Student Pastorate in Baguio City; at the same time he proved a generous host as he took charge of the Columban Vacation House in that city.

Baguio City [Wikipedia]

After Baguio, it was back to the lowlands again, with years spent first in Morong and later in Jalajala, Rizal, before being assigned once more to Malate, Manila.

In 1990, he was appointed to the Mission Promotion Team in Ireland. His abiding interest in people, his extraordinary memory for names and his gift for relating to young schoolchildren, made him a very valuable asset to the team. He returned once more to the Philippines in 1995 and spent his last three years there in pastoral work. When he returned to Ireland in 1998, he was available for all sorts of tasks, including radio interviews, in Irish and English, on all news events to do with the Philippines.

Father John V.  was a dedicated missionary, a fascinating companion and  a unique character. People who met him once never forgot him. He will be sadly missed by all of us. He was buried on 21 December from the chapel in St Columban’s where he had been ordained priest exactly 65 years before.

May he rest in peace. Ar dheis  go raibh a anam uasal – May his noble soul be on the right hand of God.

The obituary, slightly edited here, was written by Fr Cyril Lovett.

Fr Patrick Raleigh, Regional Director of the Columbans in Ireland, mentioned in an email that the lunch after the burial was followed by a sing-song mostly of songs dealing with Donegal. The song above, The Green Fields of Gweedore, is sung by Clannad, the members of which are from the place. The opening line refers to the townland where Father John V grew up: Down past Dunlewey’s bonnie lakes.

Gleanntáin Ghlas’ Ghaoth Dobhair, ‘The  Green Glens of Gweedore’, is sung by Altan, the lead singer of which, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, is also a native of this beautiful place. She sings in Irish (Gaelic), Father John V’s native tongue, the ancestral language of most Irish people. The readings at the funeral Mass and the traditional decade of the Rosary at the graveside were in Irish.

Both songs are songs of exile about the singer’s native place and both videos show scenes around Gweedore.

Christmas – ‘Christ’s Mass’. ‘And the Word became flesh and lived among us.’

Adoration of the Shepherds, Caravaggio, 1609

Museo Regionale, Messina, Italy [Web Gallery of Art]

The Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord has four different Mass formularies, each with its own prayer and readings. Any of the four fulfills our obligation to attend Mass. These are:

Vigil Mass, celebrated ‘either before or after First Vespers (Evening Prayer) of the Nativity’; that means starting between 5pm and 7pm.

Mass During the Night, known before as ‘Midnight Mass’. In many parts of the world it does begin at midnight but here in the Philippines since the 1980s it begins earlier, usually at 8:30pm or 9pm.

Mass at Dawn.

Mass During the Day.

When you click on ‘Readings’ below from the New American Bible you will find links to the readings for each of the four Masses. The readings from the Jerusalem Bible for the four Masses are all on one page.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel (Mass During theDay) John 1:1-18 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.”’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

Adeste fideles læti triumphantes,

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant!

Venite, venite in Bethlehem.

O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.

Natum videte Regem angelorum:

Come and behold him born the King of Angels:

Venite adoremus, venite adoremus, venite adoremus Dominum.

O come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

What Christmas is All About

From A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles M. Schultz

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.(Luke 2:8-14, KJV).

Adoration of the Shepherds, Murillo, 1646-50

The Hermitage, St Petersburg [Web Gallery of Art]

Oíche Chiúin / Silent Night / Stille Nacht

Christmas Concerto, Arcangelo Corelli (1653 – 1713)
Freiburg Baroque Orchestra

Fr Shay Cullen’s REFLECTIONS. The Injustice That Causes Poverty

Rest on the Flight into Egypt, Gerard Davi, 1500

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC [Web Gallery of Art]

The Injustice That Causes Poverty

by Fr Shay Cullen

Christmas is here already and we have to think what it means. It’s much more than Santa Claus and consumerism. It’s about compassion, love for the poor and seeking justice in an unjust world. Jesus was sent to help change it. We must carry on this mission. We have to understand what that challenge is.

The world economic trade system is constantly depriving the poor of land and livelihood, fairness is excluded and corruption and exploitation take over the world. This evil system of unjust trade policies and practices is growing and has caused great damage to families. No less than Pope Francis himself condemned this unfettered liberal runaway economic system that causes such social and economic injustice. He, quoting a fourth century bishop and making the fat cat capitalists cringe, called it the “dung of the devil.”

In the Philippines, it is said that 140 politically-powerful families control the Congress and consequently, the lives of 100 million Filipinos. Jose is representative of the many poor Filipinos who suffer from deprivation because of this unjust power system.

There was a great moment during the visit of Pope Francis to Bolivia when he spoke out and supported the rights of farmers and peasants. It was in the city of Santa Cruz where participants of the second world meeting of popular movements gathered. This is an international group of organizations, mostly victims of oppression, as well as globalization and multinational corporations.

Millions of poor are living outside the normal economy. They are mostly people on the peripheries of society, landless and disposed people. Poor and unemployed, they are the voiceless. But Pope Francis gave them a voice heard around the world. He told the leaders that he stood with them in the demands for justice and social & economic inclusion. This is his mission of lifting up the downtrodden and sending the rich away empty-handed as we read in the gospel song Magnificat.

“Let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change,” Francis, referring to the unjust globalization of the economic system that “has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature,” told the cheering crowds.

Full article on Preda website here.

Freedom Song
By Róisín Seoighe

I have no recollection of feeling any affection around here.
No one comes to sympathize or listen to my weeping cries, around here.
I feel so scared all they do is stand and stare..,staring at me.
There are too many people here I wish I could disappear,
I can’t breathe.

Could I please have some freedom?
It’s not like I don’t deserve to feel the sun
Locked up like an animal treated like a criminal.
My life has just begun,
Could I please have some freedom?
I’m put into a cage with no way to escape, all I want is to be free,
I dream of a foreign land where children have freedom in their hands,
Unlike me,
Excitement on Christmas day,and I’m crying my sorrows away,
Aching to be free
How can they just ignore me sleeping, and this cold floor beneath me

Tríd PREDA, tabhair saoirse
Do na gasúir atá sánaithe go fóill,
Ó mo chroí, an tAthair Shay.

Beidh muid ag fáil níos fearr ó céim go céim.
Tabhair misneach do na gasúir bocht,
Bímid ag cuimhneamh ortha anocht.

(English translation)

Though Preda, give freedom

to the children who are still trapped.
From my heart, Father Shay.

We’ll be getting there step by step.
Give courage to the poor children,
Let us be thinking of them tonight.


You can read the story of this song, inspired by the awful conditions of so many children in jails in the Philippines, written in English and Irish and sung by an Irish high school student, on the Preda website here.

‘The child in my womb leaped for joy.’ Sunday Reflections, 4th Sunday of Advent, Year C

Master of the Hours of Maréchal de Boucicaut

Book of Hours of Maréchal de Boucicaut, 1405-08 

Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris [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 Luke 1:39-45 (New Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition, Canada) 

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

The Visitation, El Greco, 1610-13 

Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC [Web Gallery of Art]

About eight years ago I celebrated Mass on the Feast of the Visitation in a home for girls where most come from a background of abuse. One girl of 16, whom I’ll call ‘Gloria’, was pregnant. She was from another part of the Philippines and had been working in a restaurant and said that one of her co-workers was responsible. I wasn’t quite sure to what extent the cause of the pregnancy had been consensual or whether the young man had taken advantage of the young woman. Perhaps there was an element of both.

Gloria was very angry and would not accept the baby she was carrying who was by this time around six months, as I recall. I invited her at the end of the Mass to come forward for a blessing for herself and her child. She agreed. I placed my hand gently on her stomach, as Elizabeth is about to do in the painting on parchment from the Book of Hours at the top and as both she and Mary do in the painting below, while I prayed.

The Visitation, Rogier van der Weyden, c.1445 

Museum der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig [Web Gallery of Art]

Gloria told me afterwards that she could feel the baby moving as I blessed them both – and she had a smile on her face. She was able to go home to her own place some time later where she gave birth.

The French miniaturist of the Book of Hours of Maréchal de Boucicaut and Rogier van der Weyden both capture the sacredness of the lives of the unborn Jesus and John the Baptist. El Greco captures the swirl of a dance of life, the flowing blue robes suggesting the joy of the two pregnant mothers, Mary and Elizabeth.
Today’s gospel has particular relevance in the context of ongoing public debates in a number of countries about abortion, including Ireland and the USA.


One of a number of ministries to both women and men who have been directly affected by abortion is Rachel’s Vineyard. I have connections with Rachel’s Vineyard, Ireland, which has brought its healing retreat to such places as the Faroe Islands, South Korea and Lebanon.

Del Verbo Divino

San Juan de la Cruz

Del Verbo divino

la Virgen preñada

viene de camino:

¡ si les dais posada !



Concerning the Divine Word

St John of the Cross

With the divinest Word, the Virgin

Made pregnant, down the road

Comes walking, if you’ll grant her

A room in your abode.

Translation by Roy Campbell

Posada is a Spanish word meaning ‘lodging’ or ‘accommodation’. In some Spanish-speaking countries, especially Mexico, Las Posadas is a nine-day preparation for Christmas.

Columban Fr Eamonn F. Byrne RIP

Fr Eamonn F. Byrne

(23 July 1929 – 12 December 2015)

Fr Eamonn Byrne died in St Columban’s Nursing Home, Dalgan Park, Navan, Ireland, on 12 December 2015.  Born in Crumlin, Dublin on 23 July 1929, he was educated at Rialto National School and Synge St Christian Brothers’ School, Dublin, and entered the Columban seminary in Dalgan Park in 1947. He was ordained priest there on 21 December 1953.

Synge Street CBS logo [Wikipedia]

Appointed to the Philippines in 1954, he was assigned to St Isidore the Farmer Parish, Labrador, Pangasinan, for three years.

St Isidore the Farmer Church, Labrador [Wikipedia]

From 1957 to 1964 he was Chaplain at University of the East, Manila, and later at Far Eastern University, Manila. He spent periods as Director of Student Catholic Action in Manila, and many years later, in retirement, he published a history of that dynamic movement under the title, Columbans in Student Catholic Action, Philippines 1937-2007.

Logo of Student Catholic Action Philippines [Wikipedia]

From 1974 till 1977 Fr Byrne worked to develop the Columban apostolate to the Filipino community in the USA. Then, it was back to Pangasinan, to the parishes of Lingayen, Naguelguel, Labrador and Sual until 1988 when he was assigned to the Columban Formation Program for college students in Cebu City for a brief period. Subsequently he served for six years as Director of Vocations in Luzon, and a further six years on Mission Awareness in that area. His last appointment in the Philippines was to Our Lady of Remedies Parish, Malate, Manila, where he served from 2000 to 2007, when he returned to the Retirement Home at St Columbanʼs, Navan.

Epiphany of the Lord Co-Cathedral, Lingayen [Wikipedia]

A man of great charm and good humour, he was a popular pastor and worked very well with young people. As long as his health permitted, he was an enthusiastic member of the retired Columbans in Dalgan, ever willing to lend his support and encouragement to any new initiative.

May he rest in peace.

St Columban’s Cemetery, Dalgan Park

Obituary by Fr Cyril Lovett

Grafton Street, Dublin [Wikipedia]

‘Grafton Street’s a wonderland . . .’

Fr Patrick Raleigh, Regional Director of the Columbans in Ireland, wrote in an email: Fr Eugene Ryan, a classmate, recited the Prayers at the Cemetery. After lunch in the College there was an impromptu sing-song and very fittingly some of the songs were Dublin songs.

Very likely one of those songs was The Dublin Saunter, written by Dubliner Leo Maguire for another Dubliner, Noel Purcell, who sings it here. Noel (1900 – 1985) was an internationally-known film, TV and stage actor and, like Father Eamonn, was educated at Synge Street CBS.

St Stephen’s Green, Dublin [Wikipedia]

‘And a stroll in Stephen’s Green’

‘Rejoice in the Lord always.’ Sunday Reflections, 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year C

St John the Baptist Preaching 

Baciccio, c.1690, Musée du Louvre, Paris [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 Luke 3:10-18 (New Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition, Canada) 

And the crowds asked John, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord (Phil 4:4, 7; Authorized [King James[ Version).

I came across the setting above by George Rathbone of the first and last verses of today’s Second Reading while preparing this week’sSunday Reflections. It emphasises a basic theme of Advent: Joy. And today the Church focuses on that. We call the Third Sunday of Advent ‘Gaudete Sunday’ from the Latin opening word of the Entrance Antiphon, ‘Gaudete in Domino semper,’ ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’.

The First Reading begins with the same theme: Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! (Zephaniah 3:14).

Ligaya‘ is the Tagalog word for ‘joy’ and is a common enough name for girls in the Philippines. It is the name used for the girl at the heart of the story below, though not her real name, which was a particularly beautiful one. St Joseph is one of the central figures in the gospels read at Mass as we approach Christmas and is highlighted in the gospel for Thursday, 17 December, Matthew 1:1-17, and in the gospel for Friday, 18 December, Matthew 1:16-24. It was through St Joseph, the Husband of Mary, that Jesus was born of the line of David, as God had promised. And by naming Jesus, as the angel asked him to do, St Joseph became the legal father of Jesus.

This story is in the current issue of MISYONonline.com and has appeared there before. It is a story that shows the joy that only God can give, a joy that usually comes from within a very painful situation, a situation that may well be the result of a great sin.


By Columba Chang Eun-Yeal

Columba Chang, 2012

We first published this article in the November-December 2003 issue of MISYON. It is a story that can be told and re-told over and over again. The author, a Columban Lay Missionary from Korea who was assigned to the Philippines for many years, is now based in Myanmar.

There may be as many as seven million Filipino overseas workers spread all over the world. [This figure is probably higher now, 2015.] They greatly help our country’s economy by the money they send home. However sometimes we seem to take them for granted, thinking that they have an easy life abroad. Read Aling Maria’s story below and find out the dangers our OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) face and the abuses they experience. We thank ‘Mang Pepe’ for his help in writing this article in which we’ve changed the names.

‘Mang’ and ‘Aling’ are Tagalog honorifics for a man and woman, respectively, older than oneself. ‘Tatay’ is the equivalent of ‘Papa’ and ‘Daddy’.

I met Mang Pepe and his daughter Ligaya through my work with Caritas Manila. I visit the family regularly. They live in a poor part of the city and Mang Pepe makes a living by doing odd jobs. My work takes me to families affected by HIV/AIDS. I knew Mang Pepe’s story before he shared it with the congregation at the Saturday evening Mass in Baclaran Church on 7 December 2002 at the end of a celebration organized by Caritas Manila for World AIDS Day.

Baclaran Church [Wikipedia]

A Greener Pasture

Mang Pepe and his wife Aling Maria were having difficulties putting their five children through school. This sometimes led to arguments. Eventually Aling Maria decided to work in the Middle East. She felt happy when accepted as a nursing aide with a two-year contract in the UAE. She prepared her documents. She and Pepe sold their house and lot for her fare and placement fee. She flew out on 5 February 1989, full of hope for her family’s future financial stability.

Aling Maria soon discovered that her contract as a nursing aid was terminated just a few months after she arrived, without any hope of renewal. But she didn’t want to go back to the Philippines with an empty pocket. She decided to take the ‘TNT’ route. She managed to find a series of jobs as a saleslady, cashier and office worker.

Columba Chang, left, with friend in Manila

Hope turns into a nightmare

As an illegal worker, she was often subjected to different abuses like underpayment, long hours of working without a day off and so on. But the worst thing was when one of Aling Maria’s employers took advantage of her and made her pregnant. When she came home to the Philippines in October 1993 Mang Pepe and the family were very shocked to learn that Aling Maria carried a child in her womb. She hadn’t mentioned anything about this before. However, despite this they still welcomed her and the child with joy . . . but deep in their hearts there was a shadow of sadness, fear and uncertainty.

After a few days the tabloids reported that three Filipino overseas workers had been sent home because of being infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS – and that one of them was Aling Maria. These stories, and the rumors they spawned, continued for a month. Some relatives, neighbors and friends rejected Aling Maria. The children of Mang Pepe and Aling Maria were torn apart. Some wanted to quit school and leave the area. The family suffered greatly because of the stigma.

Interior of Baclaran Church [Wikipedia]

Confirmed HIV

Aling Maria and Mang Pepe went to the Department of Health (DOH) for a series of blood tests. The tests confirmed what Aling Maria knew already, that she and her ‘little mercy child,’ as Mang Pepe called his wife’s daughter had HIV. The doctor gave them counseling and advice and information about HIV/AIDS.

Ligaya is born

Aling Maria decided not to stay in the hospital and continued to work as a pension plan insurance agent. In time she gave birth to a baby girl whom they named Ligaya. Gradually, however, Mang Pepe saw his dear wife turning into a picture of misery as she suffered from constant headaches and flu. Aling Maria was hoping for a miracle that would ease her agony. It was not to be. The HIV developed into full-blown AIDS. Her appetite disappeared until she couldn’t eat anymore. Mang Pepe and the children saw Aling Maria slowly dying. He prepared the family to accept her death as the will of God. She died on 15 December 1997, aged 46.

Like everyone else in Baclaran Church, I was deeply touched by Mang Pepe’s story, even though he had told it to me many times. I was touched by the great love of this simple man who accepted as his own a daughter who was the fruit of the brutal violation of his wife. Mang Pepe is ‘Tatay’ to Ligaya. Her schoolmates sometimes tease her because her features clearly show her Middle Eastern origins. But her Tatay stands by her, as do her brothers and sisters.

Rest During the Flight into Egypt 

Francesco Mancini, Pinacoteca, Vatican City [Web Gallery of Art]

Proud to be her Tatay

Tatay Pepe is proud of Ligaya’s singing ability and smiled as she sang at the celebration in Baclaran. Ligaya is very proud of her Tatay and knows the depth of his love as a father. She has very uncertain health and is often in the hospital. The shadow of AIDS hangs over her.

St Joseph named Jesus, the Son of Mary, and thereby became his legal father. He loved Mary, his wife, and raised Jesus as his own son. Mang Pepe has gone through the agony of knowing that his wife was violated overseas, after dishonest employers had taken advantage of her in other ways. When she brought home a child who was not his, he made her his own. This latter-day St Joseph in Manila has given much joy to his daughter Ligaya as she has given much joy to him and others, like myself, who have come to know and love her.


‘Ligaya’ died in the latter part of 2004. Your editor was in Baclaran Church that day at the invitation of Columba and came to know ‘Ligaya’ as a friend. Shortly before she died he had the privilege of talking to her on Columba’s cellphone. She was a delightful child. The light of heaven upon her.

Columban Missionaries, Banmaw, Myanmar, 2011
L to R: 
Sr Ashwena Apao (Philippines), Arlenne Villahermosa (Philippines), Sr Mary Dillon (Ireland) and Columba Chang (Korea)

Antiphona ad introitum Entrance Antiphon Phil 4:4-5



Gaudéte in Dómino semper:íterum díco, gaudéte:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.

Dóminus prope est.

The Lord is near.


Ps 84 [85]:2 Modéstia véstra nóta sit ómnibus homínibus:

Let your forbearance be known to all men.

Nihil sollíciti sítis:

Do not be anxious over anything;

sed in ómni oratione

but in all manner of prayer,

petitiónes véstrae innotéscant apud Déum. 

let your requests be made known unto God.

Benedixísti, Dómine, térram túam:

Lord, you have blessed your land;

avertísti captivitátem Jácob.

you have put an end to Jacob’s captivity.

Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculórum. Amen.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.


Gaudéte in Dómino semper:íterum díco, gaudéte:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.

Dóminus prope est.

The Lord is near.


The text in bold is used in Masses in the Ordinary Form. The longer version is used in Masses in the Extraordinary Form but may be used in the Ordinary Form.