A Primer for Philippine Politics. Fr Shay Cullen’s Reflections, 28 April 2016

A Primer for Philippine Politics
Fr Shay Cullen

It is election time and some say nothing ever changes in the Philippines. The candidates change but the social inequality remains. Candidates for the presidency this time range from two representing the rich elite, the daughter of a deceased movie star and a foul-mouthed mayor vowing to kill all suspected criminals and a senator who is fronting for the family of the former dictator.

The frustration of the educated middle class is the absence of a visionary leader of integrity with a genuine love of the poor, immense popularity and with a reform agenda to bring equality and justice. The election is not about agenda or policy platforms, it’s about popular controllable personalities, pliable puppets able to dance and sing or who are bombastic and crude. They must be controversial and media magnetic.

They must be submit to the interests of their financiers and accept that they have “debts of honor” to pay when and if they win the presidency. They are under the control of the media manipulators and the masters of the puppet show, and what a bewildering spectacle it is. They have to play to the gallery and capitulate to the interests of super rich.

The ruling oligarchy would never allow the rise of an independent candidate with a pro-poor agenda and a popular following. Besides, no financial bloc would fund a candidate like that. There is no political messiah on the far horizon.

Continue on Preda website here.

‘We will come to them and make our home with them.’ Sunday Reflections, 6th Sunday of Easter, Year C

The Trinity, El Greco, 1577

Museo del Prado, Madrid [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 John 14:23-29 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.

“I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate,  the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe.

Responsorial Psalm

New American Bible Lectionary (Philippines, USA)

Bishop Bienvenido Tudtud of Marawi

(1931 – 1987)

The late Bishop Bienvenido ‘Benny’ S. Tudtud of Marawi, Philippines, visited my Dad (below) in Dublin some time in the early 1980s. As it happened, Dad was about to leave for the wedding of a cousin of mine but he was able to entertain his unexpected guest for a while. Later on he told my brother, ‘The bishop made me feel at home’. My brother laughed and said to him, ‘You were the one supposed to make him feel at home!’ But my Dad was always himself no matter whose company he was in and so was Bishop Tudtud, whose Christian name is the Spanish for ‘Welcome’. They were both to die suddenly in 1987, Bishop Tudtod in a plane crash in the Philippines on 26 June and Dad at home on 11 August from a heart attack. He had been at Mass that morning, as he had been every day of his adult life. The photo below was taken the week before his death.

My father hadn’t expected Bishop Tudtud. But he made him feel welcome. The bishop felt free to just turn up because I had worked with him and had asked him to drop by my Dad if he had time. I have found over the years that there are friends’ homes to which I need no invitation. These are friends with whom I truly feel at home and who feel at home with me.

Sometimes we feel fully at home with someone whom we have just met. Sometimes that being at ease with each other comes after being together many times, maybe through working together.

In the gospel of this Sunday’s Mass Jesus makes the extraordinary statement, Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

The Father and Jesus are not only coming for a visit but to make their home with us. And the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Counselor/Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will come and will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

Fr Anselm Moynihan OP, an Irish Dominican friar who died in 1998, wrote a short book in 1948 about the Blessed Trinity living in our hearts, The Presence of God. Here is an extract: Awareness of God, whether it come to us thus by a dazzling rending of the heavens or through the gentle whisper of his voice in our conscience, is at the beginning and end of our spiritual life, at the beginning and end of all religion.  It is the root of what is truly the most radical division of mankind, one to which Holy Scripture constantly reverts, that between the ‘wise’ who keep God before their eyes and the ‘fools’ who ignore him.  The first awakening of the soul to God’s reality brings with it that fear of the Lord which is the ‘beginning of wisdom’; the end of life should bring with it the ‘wisdom of the perfect,’ the fruit of charity, whereby a man will experience God’s living presence within himself and be filled with longing for that full awareness of God which is the vision of his face in heaven.

Supper at EmmausCaravaggio, 1606

Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan [Web Gallery of Art]

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus invited Jesus to join them and they pressed him to have supper with them at the inn, as it was getting dark. It was through their welcoming him that they discovered who their unknown companion was, the Risen Lord. And in the intimacy of the breaking of the bread when they recognized him and he disappeared from their sight, they felt his presence even more strongly, even more intimately. He was now dwelling in their hearts, just as he dwells in ours, with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Communion Antiphon John 14:15-16

Composed by Thomas Tallis (1505 – 1585)

English text used by Tallis: If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth. (John 14:15-17a, King James Version).

Text in the Roman Missal: If you love me, keep my commandments, says the Lord, and I will ask the Father and he will send you another Paraclete, to abide with you for ever, alleluia.

The Jubilee of Mercy and Shakespeare

The Church is currently observing the Jubilee of Mercy. 23 April this year was the 400th death anniversary of William Shakespeare, who was baptized on 26 April 1564.

Portia’s speech from The Merchant of Venice, which I studied in school in Ireland almost 60 years ago, is very much in tune with the Jubilee.

Fair Trade must oppose sex-slavery. Fr Shay Cullen’s Reflections, 22 April 2016

Fair Trade must oppose sex-slavery

by Fr Shay Cullen

When I first began a small project to give poor people a skilled training and work with respect, dignity, fair wages and good working conditions. In 1975 it was not called Preda Fair Trade. It was and is, normal ethical practice to give work with dignity, a fair wage and good working conditions, which everyone is supposed to do. But many don’t. It was a practical way to alleviate the misery and degrading life of the throwaway people and youth of Olongapo City.

What is how Preda Development Fair Trade began in 1975 when children and youth were being jailed, and executed as criminals in the city during the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos. The youth were shot by a death squad for protesting the injustice or were suspected to be drug users.

I began a shelter for them, hired teachers and expert weavers and made a vocational training center in craft and wicker furniture making. When the youth graduated they had work with dignity.

The girls had no work they were recruited lured or forced by trickery and debt bondage into the sex bars and brothels. It is unworthy of the dignity and status, rights of children and women.

Full post here.

Fr Shay Cullen with indigenous farmers, Zambales, Philippines

Read: Preda organic mango launched at Stuttgart exhibition.

‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ Sunday Reflections, 5th Sunday of Easter, Year C

Father (later Bishop) Edward Galvin  

Co-founder of the Columbans (1882-1956)

Photo taken in China between 1912 and early 1916

Fr John Blowick

Co-founder of the Columbans (1888-1972)

Photo taken around 1913, the year of his ordination

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel John 13:31-33a, 34-35 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer.

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Frs Owen McPolin, John Blowick, Edward Galvin 
China 1920

On the evening of 29 January 1918 an extraordinary event took place in Dalgan Park, Shrule, a remote village on the borders of County Mayo and County Galway in the west of Ireland. At the time Ireland was part of the United Kingdom, which was engaged in the Great War. Thousands of Irishmen were fighting in the trenches in France and Belgium. Many, including my great-uncle Corporal Lawrence Dowd, never came home. There was a movement for independence in Ireland that led to the outbreak of guerrilla warfare in Ireland later in 1918. There was widespread poverty in the country, particularly acute in the cities.

Despite all of that, on 10 October 1916 the Irish bishops gave permission to two young diocesan priests, Fr Edward J. Galvin and Fr John Blowick to have a national collection so that they could open a seminary that would prepare young Irish priests to go to China. The effort was called the Maynooth Mission to China, because Maynooth, west of Dublin, is where St Patrick’s National Seminary is, where Fr Galvin had been ordained in 1909 and Fr Blowick in 1913.

The seminary opened that late winter’s evening with 19 students and seven priests. Many of the students were at different stages of their formation in Maynooth but transferred. The seven priests belonged to different dioceses but threw in their lot with this new venture which, on 29 June 1918, would become the Society of St Columban.

This Sunday’s gospel was part of what the new group reflected on as they gathered in the makeshift chapel in Dalgan Park, the name of the ‘Big House’ and the land on which it was built. Among the seven priests was Fr John Heneghan, a priest from the Archdiocese of Tuam, as was Fr Blowick, and a classmate of Fr Galvin. Fr Heneghan never imagined that despite his desire to be a missionary in China he would spend many years in Ireland itself teaching the seminarians and editing the Columban magazine The Far East. But his dream was to take him to the Philippines in 1931 and to torture and death at the hands of Japanese soldiers during the Battle of Manila in February 1945, when 100,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed and most of the old city destroyed.

Fr John Blowick emphasised the centrality of the words of Jesus in this Sunday’s gospel, I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. The second sentence there was written into the Constitutions of the Society, drawn up the following year.

To this particular Columban these words of Jesus from the Gospel of St John are the greatest legacy of Fr John Blowick to the many men from different countries who have shared his dream and that of Bishop Galvin to this day. 

And not only men, but women too, as Columban Sisters and as Columban Lay Missionaries

The Society of St Columban was born in the middle of the First World War because of the vision of two young men who saw beyond that awful reality and who took Jesus at his word. Down the years Columbans have lived through wars, in remote areas where their lives and the lives of the people they served were often in danger. Some have been kidnapped and not all of those survived. Among those who did was Fr Michael Sinnott, kidnapped in the southern Philippines in October 2009 when he was 79 and released safely a month later on 12 November.

Fr Michael Sinnott in Manila on the day of his release.

With his sisters, Mrs Aine Kenny, left, and Mrs Kathleen O’Neill, right, at Dublin Airport, 3 December 2009

Father John Blowick’s insistence on the words of Jesus in this Sunday’s gospel becoming part of the very fibre of the being of Columbans sustained Fr John Heneghan, Fr Patrick Kelly, Fr John Lalor and Fr Peter Fallon, as Japanese soldiers took them away from Malate Church, Manila, on 10 February 1945, and their companion Fr John Lalor who was working in a makeshift hospital nearby who with others was killed there by a bomb three days later. 

Frs Lalor, Kelly, Francis Vernon Douglas, Fallon, Monaghan and Heneghan

Fr Douglas died, most probably on 27 July 1943,  after being tortured  by the Japanese in Paete, Laguna.

The words By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another are not only the hallmark of Columbans but of countless other groups, of countless families. They are meant to be the hallmark of every Christian.

First group of Columban priests [Names]

Fr John Blowick accompanied the first group of Columbans to China in 1920 but didn’t stay there as he was needed in Ireland as Superior General and as a teacher in the seminary. 

Earthquake in Ecuador, 16 April 2017

In Memory of Sister Clare

Sr Clare Crockett, from Derry, Northern Ireland, died in the 7.8 earthquake that hit Ecuador last Saturday, 16 April at 7pm local time. She was 33. The death toll as I write this on 21 April is at least 570. Five postulants – young women preparing to be religious sisters – died along with Sister Clare. The video above is from the website of the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother Congregation to which Sister Clare belonged.

The young Clare Crockett was no angel. Her own words: I liked to party a lot. My weekends, since I was 16-17, consisted in getting drunk with my friends. I wasted all my money on alcohol and cigarettes.’

Before the age of 18 when she pledged to a life of servitude, Sister Clare has aspirations to be an actress. She joined an agency, presented television shows and even had a small part in a movie.

A self-confessed party animal she signed up for what she thought was a free trip to Spain only for her to later realise it was for a pilgrimage during Holy Week. It was during this trip that she realised the Grace of God and realised she had to change her ways. [Belfast Telegraph]

I thank God for the patience that He has had with me, and still has!!!! I do not ask Him why He has chosen me, I just accept it. I depend totally on Him and Our Blessed Mother and I ask them to give me the grace to be whatever they want me to be. [Sister Clare, quoted in Belfast Telegraph]

The Five postulants who died

[Source of photos]

When I entered as a sister in the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother I did so to dedicate my life to God and I knew that by entering into a religious community I was putting my life totally in his hands. And therefore I had to be open to whatever the Lord asked of me. So when I was told that I was going to go to Ecuador to do missionary work, then I put my life in God’s hands and I totally accepted it. [Sister Clare, video 2:07 – 2:32]

Our life is completely safe in the hands of Jesus and the Father, Who are one, one love, one mercy, revealed once and for all in the sacrifice of the Cross. To save the lost sheep that is all of us, the Pastor became Lamb and let Himself be sacrificed to take upon Himself, and take away, the sin of the world. [Pope Francis, 17 April 2016]

Pope Francis arriving in Ecuador on 5 July 2015

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

The Daily Crime Against Humanity. Fr Shay Cullen’s Reflections, 14 April 2016

The Daily Crime Against Humanity

by Fr Shay Cullen

Father Shay at Preda Home for Girls

I drove from Olongapo City to Subic town recently and pointed to the journalist the row of shuttered, dilapidated and closed-down sex bars that lined the road at Calapandayan, Subic. It is evidence of the success of an anti-trafficking operation conducted by the Preda Foundation social workers with the help of the Philippine National Police and an agent of the US Homeland Security where as many as 15 young girls were rescued from the horrible life of forced prostitution.

Some younger minors, so traumatized after being trapped and abused for over a year in this kind of sex slavery, were in need of therapy, support compassion and friendship and hope for a better life. They came to Preda Home for Girls and have made a recovery and are empowered to testify.

Others had been newly recruited for jobs as food servers in the hotels at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone but were forced into prostitution in a sex hotel. They were freed and were brought to homes in a town south of Manila by government social workers. They were later intimidated by the sex mafia and were too scared to testify. The bar operators walked free except one US national who is on trial.

That is the common course for the victims. They are poor, helpless and need strong support, witness protection and encouragement to find justice but sadly the government agencies do not provide these services effectively.

Full post here.

‘My sheep hear my voice.’ Sunday Reflections, 4th Sunday of Easter, Year C

The Good Shepherd, Marten van Cleve

Private Collection [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 John 10:27-30 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

Jesus said:

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

‘My sheep hear my voice’

I know nothing about tending sheep and until I looked at the video above never quite understood the reality of the words of Jesus in today’s gospel:  ‘My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me’.

An extraordinary example of the power of words is a story involving Fr Willie Doyle SJ, the army chaplain who was killed in 1917 in Belgium during the Great War. Some years before the War he was giving a retreat to a community of nuns in Ireland. He got a telegram on the last day from his Provincial Superior telling him to get back to Dublin immediately so that he could catch the boat for England that night. When Fr Doyle got to Dublin the Provincial showed him a telegram he had received from the governor of a prison in England: Please send Fr William Doyle SJ to D ___ Prison. Woman to be executed tomorrow asks to see him. The message was a mystery to both priests but Fr Doyle left for England immediately.

When he got to the prison at 5am the Governor told Fr Doyle that Fanny Cranbush wanted to talk to him. She was a prostitute who had got involved in a murder and was to pay the penalty. When she first arrived in jail she said she didn’t need any minister of religion. But a few days before the execution she told the Governor that she wanted to see a particular priest. She didn’t know his name or where he lived. All she could say was that a couple of years before this he had been in the town where the prison was giving some kind of ‘mission’.

The good Governor asked local priests who this might be and this led to the two telegrams.

Fr William Doyle SJ 

(1873 – 1917)

Fanny herself, who welcomed Father Doyle with joy, reminded him that one night, during the mission, he had come across her on the street as he was heading back to where he was staying and she was looking for customers. He spoke to her kindly and said, My child, aren’t you out very late? Won’t you go home? Don’t hurt Jesus. He loves you. He also gave her a book.

She did go home, gave up her ‘trade’ for a while but hunger drove her back to it and to worse.  In prison, as her execution approached, the words Don’t hurt Jesus. He loves you came back to her. When Fr Doyle arrived Fanny asked him to tell her more about Jesus. Won’t you set me on the road that leads to him? she asked.

Fr Doyle baptized her and was then able to arrange to celebrate Mass with her, her first and last, and he accompanied Fanny to the scaffold.

You can read the full story here on pages 16 to 19 under the title Snatched From the Brink.

The story of Fanny finding her loving Saviour through the kind words of a stranger is to me a great expression of God’s mercy, something that Pope Francis has spoken about many times. (I wonder if the Pope is familiar with the life and death of his saintly fellow Jesuit?) Fanny heard the voice of the Good Shepherd through the gentle words of Fr Doyle. His Provincial Superior and the Governor of the Prison were also ‘Good Shepherds’. Fanny realised that Jesus really did know her and she wanted to follow him. She went joyfully to her death knowing that she was to experience the truth of the words Jesus speaks to us today:  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. Through God’s loving mercy and Father Doyle’s great love for sinners she was ‘snatched’ by the hand of Jesus, not out of it.

And Jesus, the Risen Lord, speaks those same words to us in Mass and gives himself as the Bread of Life as he gave himself to Fanny when she made her First and Last Holy Communion before entering into the Eternal Communion that is heaven.

[Thanks to Remembering Fr William Doyle SJ.]

Sr Miriam Cousins SSC

Read about the ministry of Columban Sister Miriam Cousins to prostitutes in Korea in Not without you in the March 2016 issue of The Far East, the magazine of the Columbans in Australia and New Zealand.

Antiphona ad communionem  Communion Antiphon

Surréxit Pastor bonus, 

The Good Shepherd has risen, 

qui ánimam suam pósuit pro óvibus suis, 

who laid down his life for his sheep 

et pro grege suo mori dignátus est, alléluia.

and willingly died for his flock, alleluia.

Orlando di Lasso (c.1530 – 1594), who composed this Latin setting of the Communion Antiphon, was Flemish. Vox Angelorum is a Catholic choir from Jakarta, Indonesia, singing here in St Paul’s Within the Walls Episcopal Church, the first Protestant church built in Rome.

A Home for Refugees. Fr Shay Cullen’s Reflections, 8 April 2016

A Home for Refugees

by Fr Shay Cullen

Wounded civilians, Aleppo, Syria, 2012 [Wikipedia]

BERLIN, GERMANY. I met Alamid here in Germany and he told me he was a refugee from Syria. Their house was partly destroyed by the barrel bombs of Assad, the tyrannical Syrian dictator who is being supported by Russian forces and warplanes. Alamid is one of the hundreds of non-combatant families bombed out and who lost all their possessions. They are surviving the bombs by hiding in building and basements . He was with his whole family including cousins and uncles.

His male cousin Jambal, 25 years old, volunteered to go out into the danger zone and get food and water but he was caught by the Isis or Dash killers. Alamid later learned that he was taken to a camp and forced to wear a suicide vest and blow himself up at an army checkpoint. Otherwise his entire family would be killed. This is a regular tactic used by the detested Isis.

The Isis fighters were grabbing any one they could catch in the ruins of the town where Alamid lives. They took away any women and girls they caught to another town and sold them into sex slavery to other fighters of the Isis. The young girls are commodities sold in exchange for money, guns or ammunition.

When Jamal did not return, Alamid and his family feared the worst and they hid for weeks surviving on the meager supplies that they had stored up. After the counterattack by rebel forces, the Isis withdrew and Alamid and his family survived.

Alamid told his story to the generous and kind Germany family that had given him a welcome in their house and he was given a room and was learning to speak and write German. He was treated like a member of their family. There are many thousands of German families doing just that. Communities are taking in refugees from this horrific war and without media attention or fanfare they share and protect them. This is largely unknown to the world.

This is going on all over Germany. It puts to shame those few who drive out the refugees. A German lady working with Caritas Germany told me, “The German people will prevail over the neo-Nazis.” An anti-refugee and anti-migrant party won a considerable number of seats in a recent regional election.

Alamid explained the terrible fears and suffering the people in Syria endure. Some other families feared they would be captured by Isis so they as a family had made a suicide pack. They had surrounded themselves with explosives ready to blow themselves up and die together rather than suffer rape and murder. The Isis fighters rape mothers and girls in front of their husbands, fathers or brothers and then they would be shot. For some families, mass suicide is the only solution.

A German woman, 90 years old, said during a parish meeting, “We were all refugees after the war, with nothing to eat and nowhere to go. Our houses were all destroyed. We know what it feels like to be like them.”

Full post here.

German internal refugees, February 1945 [Wikipedia]

‘Feed my lambs . . . feed my sheep.’ Sunday Reflections, 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year C

The Gospel of John (2003) Directed by Philip Saville

Narrator: Christopher Plummer

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel John 21:1-19  [or 21:1-14] (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.  Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.  That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.  Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.  Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

[When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”  He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.  Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”  (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”]

Apostle St Peter, El Greco, 1610-14

Museo de El Greco, Toledo, Spain [Web Gallery of Art]

I am using here the reflection I wrote three years ago for the same Sunday, with one or two minor changes. However, one line I wrote, near the end, doesn’t need to be changed, even though I was referring to events in 2013: Technically (the Korean War) has never ended and at this moment nobody is sure what North Korea is up to, its having raised tensions considerably in recent weeks.

When I turned 13 I wanted to be a pilot in the Irish Army Air Corps. With three or four classmates in O’Connell Schools, Dublin, run by the (Irish) Christian Brothers, now known in some places as ‘The Edmund Rice Brothers’, I was enthralled by the exploits of Biggles, a fictitious character created by Captain W. E. Johns. Biggles started his career in the Royal Flying Corps in World War I and was still flying, in the Royal Air Force, during World War II.

When I discovered that you needed some proficiency in physics my interest in being a pilot waned but my desire to be a military officer was still there. But ‘coming up from the rear’ was a desire to be a missionary priest. By the time I was 14 I knew that that was what I wanted to be.

Servant of God Fr Emil Kapaun

(20 April 1916 – 23 May 1951)

Around that time, or maybe when I was 15, I found a book in one of the branches of Dublin city’s public libraries about a man who had combined being a priest and an army officer, Father Emil Kapaun of the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, who served as a US army chaplain in World War II and in the Korean War (1950 – 53). When his unit retreated after being attacked by Chinese soldiers Father Kapaun stayed behind with the wounded, knowing he would be captured. I was truly inspired by the accounts of how he had helped so many soldiers, giving them hope, strengthening their faith, sharing his pipe with them, scrounging for food and medicines, ie, ‘stealing’ them. He was taking the words of Jesus to St Peter literally: Feed my lambs . . . feed my sheep. One of the veterans in the video above tells how Catholics, Protestants and Jews were all saying the rosary every night. 

At the beginning of the video we hear the voice of Father Kapaun himself speaking of the choice we must make ‘between being loyal to the true faith or of giving allegiance to something else’. His own choice led to his death in a North Korean prisoner of war camp, his last public act being a service at sunrise on 25 March 1951, Easter Sunday. One of those who carried him later to the camp ‘hospital’from which no ‘patient’ ever returned alive, recounts in the video how he was blessing his captors.

The first time I visited Korea, towards the end of September 1971 on my way to the Philippines, I was very conscious of Fr Kapaun when I celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Columban house in Seoul. On a visit there in 2015 I discovered that his name and the names of other US Army Catholic chaplains who died in the Korean War are on a plaque in our chapel. (Seven Columban priests who died in the War have been proposed for beatification as martyrs by the bishops of Korea).

On Thursday 11 April 2013, nine days before the 97th anniversary of his birth, Fr Kapaun was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the USA’s highest award for valour, President Obama giving the medal to the priest’s nephew at the White House.

In 1993 Fr Kapaun was declared a ‘Servant of God’, the first step towards possible canonization, and on 29 June 2008 the cause for his sainthood was officially opened. The Diocese of Wichita has a website dedicated to this.

The Crucifixion of St Peter, Caravaggio, 1600-01

Cerasi Chapel, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome [Web Gallery of Art]

In the gospel for this Sunday Jesus asks Peter three times, ‘Do you love me?’, adding ‘more than these’ the first time. When Peter professed his love each time Jesus told him to ‘feed my lambs’, ‘feed my sheep’. His tending the flock was not to be a ‘job’ but something done joyfully and wholeheartedly out of his relationship with Jesus. Yet it was to lead to the cross, just as Father Kapaun’s following of Jesus was to lead him to his death, which the Church may one day recognize as that of a martyr, like the death of St Martin I, who wasn’t directly killed but whose harsh treatment led to his death and whom the Church honours on 13 April.

Fr Emil Joseph Kapaun is an outstanding example of one who allowed Jesus to ask him, ‘Do you love me?’ and who answered ‘Yes’ with his very life, turning what was a man-made hell into a touch of heaven for the soldiers he was called to serve.

The Korean War began on 25 June 1950 and lasted till the ceasefire of 27 July 1953. Technically it has never ended and at this moment nobody is sure what North Korea is up to, its having raised tensions considerably in recent weeks. Perhaps we can invoke the intercession of Father Kapaun for peace in the land where he is buried. This prayer is from the website dedicated to the cause of his canonization.


Lord Jesus, in the midst of the folly of war,
your servant, Chaplain Emil Kapaun spent himself 
in total service to you on the battlefields and
in the prison camps of Korea, until his 
death at the hands of his captors.

We now ask you, Lord Jesus, if it be your will,
to make known to all the world the holiness 
of Chaplain Kapaun and the glory of his 
complete sacrifice for you by signs of 
miracles and peace.

In your name, Lord, we ask, for you are the 
source of peace, the strength of our 
service to others, and our final hope. 


All in the April Evening

Words by Katherine Tynan Hinkson, music by Sir Hugh S. Roberton, sung by the Glasgow Phoenix Choir

In temperate climes in the northern hemisphere Easter always occurs during spring. It is also lambing season for sheep. The symbolism in all of this is closely linked to the meaning of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

All In the April Evening 

All in the April evening,
April airs were abroad;
The sheep with their little lambs
Pass’d me by on the road.

The sheep with their little lambs
Pass’d me by on the road;
All in an April evening
I thought on the Lamb of God.

The lambs were weary, and crying
With a weak human cry;
I thought on the Lamb of God
Going meekly to die.

Up in the blue, blue mountains
Dewy pastures are sweet:
Rest for the little bodies,
Rest for the little feet.

But for the Lamb, the Lamb of God
Up on the hill-top green;
Only a cross of shame
Two stark crosses between.

All in the April evening,
April airs were abroad;
I saw the sheep with their lambs,
And thought on the Lamb of God.

Second Reading  Revelations 5:11-14

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,  singing with full voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughteredto receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honor and glory and blessing!”

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing,

“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb

be blessing and honor and glory and might

forever and ever!”

And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.



Fair Trade and German Generosity. Fr Shay Cullen’s Reflections, 31 March 2016

Fair Trade and German Generosity

by Fr Shay Cullen

Fr Cullen at the annual Fair Trade Exhibition in Stuttgart

Stuttgart, Germany. Here in Stuttgart the Annual Fair Trade Exhibition is underway and Philippine products are gaining a high profile with growing sales. This brings jobs and prosperity with fair payment to thousands of Filipinos. I have been invited as a guest speaker to the opening of the fair. It is holiday time in Germany and many thousands of visitors will come to this massive four-day exhibition to buy and promote Fair Trade and organic products.

These fairly-traded products are made in Germany and products imported from around the world like the Preda Fair Trade dried mangos and mango organic puree. The dedication of the Germans to buying Fair Trade products is a reflection of the German people’s devotion and commitment to fairness and justice, honesty and transparency. Their equal insistence on buying organic food is legendary.

I have the privilege of introducing to the Fair Trade world market the first organically certified Philippine mango puree to meet European Union standards. This was achieved in 2015 by the cooperation and work of the Aeta indigenous people of Zambales and Bataan with the agriculturists of Preda Fair Trade. The project is officially named Profairtrade Development Enterprise.

Full post here.

Columban Fr Terence Twohig RIP

Fr Terence (Traolach) Twohig

(16 April 1938 – 30 March 2016)

Fr Terence P. F. Twohig, known as ‘Terry’, was born in Donnycarney, Dublin on 16 April 1938. 

Our Lady of Consolation Church, Donnycarney [Website]

He was educated at St Patrickʼs National School, Drumcondra, Coláiste Mhuire, Parnel Square, and Mount St Josephʼs College, Roscrea. He entered the Columban seminary, St Columban’s, College, Dalgan Park, Ireland, in September 1956 and was ordained priest on 21 December 1962.

St Columban, Mount St Joseph’s, Roscrea

Stained glass window by Harry Clarke (1931)

Appointed to the Philippines in 1963, he was assigned to Mindanao. He served in Dumalinao, Kapatagan and Kolambugan, before being assigned to Ireland for three years on promotion work. 

Lake Lanaw from Marawi City [Wikipedia]

On his return to Mindanao he served in Kolambugan, Kiwalan and Iligan City. He then spent the next ten years in parishes in the Prelature of Marawi, where around 95 per cent of the people are Muslims, in Marawi City, Malabang and Karomatan (now Sultan Naga Dimaporo). For part of that time he lived in a Muslim village in order to learn the Maranao language, spoken by the majority of Muslims in the two Lanao provinces, and become closer to the people. This was a difficult time for Father Terry.

A Muslim friend later wrote to him, Father we really miss you back here. You have been a wonderful man to us, better than any good Muslim has been. We really needed help, and the help unexpectedly came from you who have been accused by our folk as an adversary . . . I want you to know that there are Muslims, pure Muslims, who appreciate your work. Should I have the opportunity I would work, and be proud of working, side by side with you, to  bring justice and peace to both our peoples.

In 1990, Father Terry spent a sabbatical year in Birmingham, England, doing  Islamic Studies. On his return to the Philippines, he spent three years in Pagadian Diocese. 

On hearing of Fr Terry’s death, Sultan Maguid Maruhom, a Muslim friend in Pagadian, sent this message that was read at the end of the funeral Mass: I am very sad to know that Fr Terry Twohig passed away yesterday in Ireland. As I pray for his soul, I and my family also extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and to the Columban Fathers. Father Terry was a good man who spent long years of his life in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao, to serve our people with abundance of heart and help sow the seeds of peace in this part of the world. I am one of his Muslim friends whom he had much inspired to take the challenge in bridging understanding and building peace between people of different faiths. One thing that made him very close to my heart was that in my time of great trouble this good man always came to help and console me. He never abandoned me as a friend despite the risk. Though he may have left us for good, I am sure my memory of him will always stay. Indeed he was a friend I will never forget and he will inspire me forever.

St Joseph’s Church, Balcurris, Ballymun, Dublin

Assigned once again to Ireland, he spent ten happy years with the people of Ballymun. On 16 May 1998 while he was celebrating Mass for 60 children making their First Holy Communion a shooting incident took place in the church. In his homily at the funeral, Fr Donal Hogan noted: Of course Terry later visited the gunman in jail a number of times – ever the merciful one – indeed the Christ-like one

RTÉ report on shooting in St Joseph’s Church

An important part of Father Terry’s life was his involvement with the Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests, in Mindanao and later in Dublin, inspired by the spirituality of Blessed Charles de Foucauld.

Failing health forced Father Terry to the Dalgan Nursing Home in 2004. He was a gentle, good-humoured man, always interested in people. A very committed missionary, he made every effort to reach out to the Muslims of Mindanao, knowing that only the witness of true Christian charity would, and did indeed, make an impression on them. 

Father Terry died on 30 March 2016.May he rest in peace. Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me . . . (Psalm 23 [22]:6, Grail translation).

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal. May his noble soul be at the right hand of God.

St Columban’s Cemetery, Dalgan Park

Prayer of Abandonment
Blessed Charles de Foucauld


I abandon myself into your hands;

do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do, I thank you:

I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me,

and in all your creatures –

I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:

I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,

for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,

to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,

and with boundless confidence,

for you are my Father.


A Proud Dubliner

Like most Irish people, Father Terry had a strong attachment to his native county/city. No doubt this was part of the strong sense of rootedness that enabled him to reach out to Muslims in Mindanao. During his funeral Mass his battered Breviary and a Dublin shirt were brought up as symbols of his life.

Members of the Dublin Gaelic Football team [Dublin GAA]

At the end of the burial of a Catholic in Ireland a decade of the Rosary is prayed.  And after that at the burial of a Columban the Salve Regina is sung. At Father Terry’s funeral another song was added, Molly Malone (Cockles and Mussels), the theme song of Dubliners, especially those from the city. Father Terry probably never heard this recent version in Dutch, sung by Ancora, but I’m sure he would have enjoyed it.