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

The Sower, Vincent van Gogh

 June 1888, Arles, Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Matthew 13:1-23 (or 13:1-9)  (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Landscape near Auvers: Wheatfields, Vincent van Gogh

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

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

 your wagon tracks overflow with richness.

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

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

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

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

Pied Beauty

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

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

Wheat Field with a Lark,Vincent van Gogh

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



Columban Fr Cornelius Campion RIP




Fr Cornelius Kieran Campion

(1925 – 2014)

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

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

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

St Andrew’s Cathedral, Glasgow, Scotland

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

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

Montego Bay, Jamaica, where the Columbans served.

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

May he rest in peace. 

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


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

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

Please remember these three priests in your prayers.

Photos of places from Wikipedia.



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


Christ Blessing the ChildrenNicolaes Maes, 1652-53
National Gallery, London [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Matthew 11:25-30  (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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




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



by Fr Shay Cullen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph sold into slavery by his brothersKároly Ferenczy, 1900

Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest [Web Gallery of Art]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

shaycullen@preda.org, www.preda.org

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

Photos from various articles in Wikipedia.



FALSE FREEDOM AND INSATIABLE GREED. Fr Shay Cullen’s Reflections, 18 June 2014

Just before Philippine Independence Day last week (12 June) a group of newly enrolled children from a shelter excitedly set out on the first day to walk to school at Gala, Sacatihan, Pamatawan, Subic, Zambales. The road up the hill would give them an easy walk to freedom through education – the great liberator. But then, as they crested the hill, to their dismay the quagmire that had the children squelching their way through ankle-deep sticky mud, symbolic of the political corruption, waste and abuse that mires almost one-third of Filipinos in pitiless, grinding poverty from which there is no freedom.

Subic, Zambales, Philippines

Like thousands of others, the road is a fake or ghost project that had never been fully built. Even urgent requests to the governor to throw gravel from the exposed river bed on to the muddy road are so far unheeded. The children suffer and it became so bad in the past week that 26 children transferred to another school.

This mess and the plunder and looting of public funds at the highest level of the Congress as the headlines announce daily is just one, very small indicator of a greater harm done to the people by some depraved and greedy politicians. How many more fake and fraudulent infrastructure projects are there like the one in Gala, Subic? There is no freedom from greed, it seems.

Filipino soldiers near Manila, 1899

Besides these small, allegedly corruption-ridden projects, the extremely wealthy ruling elite in the Philippine Congress have allegedly plundered and looted billions of pesos from the treasury. Three prominent Senators have been charged, arrest warrants are imminent and many Congress people will join them in jail. Their ‘jails’ are posh, luxurious, tiled, well-appointed bungalows built for ranking officers.

They are incomparable to the stinking jail cells where hungry street children are incarcerated, abused, beaten and raped for taking a banana in the market. The indictments by the Aquino administration are a glimmer of hope that change is possible but with billions in bribes at hand, justice is likely to be thwarted and they will never answer for these alleged crimes. These funds came from the taxes imposed on the people especially the 17 to 20 percent VAT that were supposed to be used for rural development to alleviate poverty and build barangay roads to bring the children to school.

Japanese soldier in front of American poster, Philippines 1943

Independence Day was to celebrate the political freedom of a nation from colonial domination and exploitation. It’s a tortured history. First, the impoverished oppressed Filipinos struggled for liberation from the Spanish and almost succeeded. On the eve of independence, the USA declared war on the Spanish, landed troops in Manila in 1898 and took over, then sent home the defeated Spanish. The Filipinos fought back but after a few years of bitter war marked by atrocities, the American forces conquered them. They subdued and
tamed most of the Filipinos. Then the Japanese invaded and ousted the Americans in World War II. The people suffered greatly and the Japanese were eventually defeated and again the Filipinos struggled for independence from the United States of America and in 1946, they got it with strings attached. But was it real freedom?

They got political independence and a lot of unfair and exploitative trading arrangements and unequal treaties that enabled American corporations to exploit the country at will until the present. They were swamped with Americanization. So it was not true independence, a great dependency had been skillfully arranged. The democracy was a sham. In reality, the rich Spanish-Filipino families in close cooperation with the American corporations ruled without much opposition.

Independence from the USA, 4 July 1946

The vast majority of Filipinos remained bitterly poor peasants and isolated tribal people. Philippine natural resources were ruthlessly exploited, enabled by unequal treaties, the riches of the nation flowed across the Pacific to America. The people were exported also. Filipino overseas workers flowed to the pineapple plantations of Hawaii to work in slave-like conditions.

Little has changed. Eleven million Filipinos still go abroad to find economic freedom. The majority live with 25% unemployment and freedom from poverty for the majority of Filipinos is still a dream. The economic news may boast of 7% economic growth but that is only for the oligarchy who have 70 percent of the wealth in their pockets.

To quote from an editorial in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a national broadsheet, on 11 March 2013: ‘The increase in the wealth of the 40 richest families in the Philippines that made it to the 2012 Forbes list of the world’s billionaires accounted for 76 percent of the growth of the gross domestic product (GDP). It’s one of the biggest rich – poor gaps in the free world and’, Habito [former economic planning chief Cielito Habito] observed, ‘the highest in Asia’. That is what they call ‘independence’. [shaycullen@preda.org,

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



THE MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL. Fr Shay Cullen’s Reflections, 14 June 2014


By Fr Shay Cullen

Boy working in Gambia

June 12 is one day of the year set aside to remind us of the horribly painful truth that there are millions of children  around the world working in fields, factories, brick kilns, construction sites and sex clubs. The clothes we wear, if made in a poor developing nation, are likely to have been made with some form of child labor. The millions of single men on sex tours abuse working children to satisfy their perverted sexual fantasies; it’s a cruel world of exploitation of those declared to be the most important of all in God’s family and equal to Jesus of Nazareth. 

Preda Fair Trade organization has campaigned for years to free children from the worst forms of child labor like unpaid slaves in sex bars and clubs. They are in the most hazardous situations where they have to dress in bikinis, pole-dance, be groped, laughed at, molested and be exposed to life-threatening diseases and even physical assault. In many bars, they are sold to highest-paying sex tourist. 

Eight-year-old boy working on a train in India

Beth-Ann was given by her father to a distant relative when she was 12 and she was never sent to school. Instead, she was turned over to the mamasan of a sex hotel and
brought up there as a sex object for local and foreign men. When rescued at the age of 15 by Preda social workers, she had the mentality of a 9-year-old, illiterate and unable to relate to adults, having been a sex object for most of her life. There are thousands like her in many countries.

She is slowly recovering and trying to live a normal life outside of the sex bar and bravely learning to read and write and finding a new set of behaviors and values. There are thousands like her who are still slaves, working in sex bars with the connivance and licensing approval of local government officials who benefit from the sex industry themselves and frequently are hotel or bar owners. 

Young girl in Morocco

Child labor is, in most situations, the evidence of extreme poverty and exploitation of the poor and the marginalized people. The children are offered jobs as domestic helpers in the city, a down-payment is made to the parents in a remote village and the children are carried off to the sex bar or brothel. Another destructive form of so called sex-work for young teenagers is making pornography. Their images are sold live on the internet for pedophiles to view them. This is a billion dollar business and the children are the work force.

How is it that until 1989, child labor was generally accepted as necessary, desirable even, and it many years for the Convention on the Rights of the Child to be written and passed. I was a delegate to the drafting conference in Helsinki. Then Convention No 182 on the worst forms of child labor was written and passed by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and passed as international law by the United Nations in 1999.  I marched through Geneva to lobby the ILO to pass Convention 182. It bans the worst forms of child labor. However, it is still being violated around the world. Millions of children are unschooled and work in every kind of labor situation to help their families survive.

Girls making bricks in Nepal

How is it that children have been held in work bondage for thousands of years and forced to work and be sexually abused. What has been forgotten are the extraordinary statements and acts of Jesus of Nazareth in regard to children. When asked who is the most important in the Kingdom of God, Jesus placed a child in front of them and said a child is the most important of all. He gave them the inalienable right and place of greatest importance in God’s family.

The Little Children Being Brought to Jesus, Rembrandt, 1647-49

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam [Web Gallery of Art]

‘The most important in the Kingdom is this child’, he told his followers. ‘To accept one of them is to accept me’, he said. What an extraordinary declaration made at a time when children were considered the property of parents and as non-persons with no rights and only part of the work force. The Church did not oppose it or declare it as intrinsically wrong or have a dogma about it, despite the practice of child labor being a direct contradiction of the Gospel values and of Jesus himself.

Children engaged in diamond mining in Sierra Leone

Children were number one in Christianity at the beginning, until the institutionalization of Christianity that is. It took secular society in 1989 and 1999 to recognize the inalienable rights of the child. Sadly, it was not the Church that advocated and established in international law these rights of the child. Instead, it has a nasty history of child abuse, a contradiction of the teachings of its founder. It is now that Pope Francis and enlightened church leaders and child rights advocates are vigorously undoing that past and trying to make amends for that most unjust and abusive past.

We were all children once and may have memories (or suppressed memories), of childhood hardships, drudgery, hard work and even abuse. We can be happy that we have survived and we can understand more easily the suffering and plight of the millions of children who continue to suffer abuse, illiteracy and life of hard labor. They may not survive.  This we can prevent and undo.

We must draw on the spirit of truth and empowerment and be prophetic, missionary, active in speaking out and defending children and promoting their rights. They are the most important in God’s kingdom, (Matthew 18:1-5Mark 9:33-37Luke 9:46-48) and have a place of honor that must never be taken away from them.

[shaycullen@preda.org, www.preda.org]

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

Photos taken from Wikipedia entry on Child Labour.



‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son . . .’ Sunday Reflections, Trinity Sunday, Year A

The Trinity with the Dead Christ

Lodovico Carracci, c.1590. Pinacoteca, Vatican [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 3:16-18  (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 

“Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

The Two Trinities

Murillo 1675-82. National Gallery, London [Web Gallery of Art]


A few years ago we in Worldwide Marriage Encounter here in Bacolod City held a family day. One of the last activities was for the pre-teens where the children were asked to share with everyone what they most loved about their parents. One boy of about ten said, ‘What I most love about my parents is that they are always together’.
In my closing remarks I picked up on this and reminded the couples that this youngster had expressed the heart of marriage: that the primary vocation of a married couple is to be husband and wife, not father and mother. The latter is a consequence of the first. When children know that for their parents nobody is more important than each other they will be drawn into that relationship.
Marriage is a reflection of the Trinity, which we celebrate today. The perfect love that the Father and Son have for one another has generated the Holy Spirit from all eternity and will continue to do so for all eternity. The love of husband and wife have for each other constantly generates love, the source of which is the Most Holy Trinity, and in most cases that love results in new life.
In his Wednesday audience on 2 April this year Pope Francis said: Marriage is the icon of God’s love for us. Indeed, God is communion too: the three Persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit live eternally in perfect unity. And this is precisely the mystery of Matrimony: God makes of the two spouses one single life. The Bible uses a powerful expression and says ‘one flesh’, so intimate is the union between man and woman in marriage. And this is precisely the mystery of marriage: the love of God which is reflected in the couple that decides to live together. Therefore a man leaves his home, the home of his parents, and goes to live with his wife and unites himself so strongly to her that the two become — the Bible says — one flesh.
Murillo’s painting, The Two Trinities, captures something of this. The unity between Mary and Joseph as wife and husband reflects the love of the Father and Son for each other. And while Joseph is not the Father of Jesus he is his legal father, according to Jewish law, as he named him: Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, 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 1:19-21). The love that Joseph and Mary had for each other as husband and wife generated the love that Jesus experienced in his humanity while growing up in Nazareth, just like the youngster at our family day in Bacolod.
More than that, St Joseph was a real father to Jesus, his ‘Dad’, ‘Papa’, ‘Tatay’, as Spouse of Mary, the primary title the Church gives to this great saint on his major feast day, 19 March, and now in all the Eucharistic Prayers.


Carlo Dolci, 1640-45. Galleria Palatina (Palazzo Pitti), Florence [Web Gallery of Art]

And we find a wonderful example of a father-figure in Moses in the First Reading when he pleads with God: “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance” (Exodus 34:9).
We know that more than once Moses castigated his people and he acknowledges that they can be hard to deal with: This is a stiff-necked people. But in the same breath he acknowledges himself as one of them: Pardon our iniquity and oursin, and take us for your inheritance. He is a real father, pleading on behalf of his family for God’s mercy while fully aware of their and his own shortcomings.

Carracci’s The Trinity with the Dead Christ shows us the Trinity in the context of the death of Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, who became Man and died for us on the Cross. This is a common theme in many paintings, the Suffering Trinity. Not only Jesus suffered. So did his Father and the Holy Spirit.

Return of the Prodigal Son (Detail)

Rembrandt, c.1669. The Hermitage, St Petersburg [Web Gallery of Art]

I know of no greater expression of the suffering of the Father than the face of the father in Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son. This doesn’t express the joy that we know was there but the suffering behind it. And in that parable Jesus was showing us the compassion, the ‘suffering with’, of the Father for each of us.
Carracci shows us the Father and the Holy Spirit to be as much involved in Calvary as Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, God who became Man, was. They suffered along with him, out of compassion for us.
This reality too is reflected in marriage as a couple gradually prepare their children to become independent while preparing themselves for the pain of letting their children go. To a lesser extent it is reflected in the lives of all who are responsible in some way for the education, formation and mentoring of others. A teacher may feel some sadness as the year ends and students move on but a few months later a new batch will be there. However, parents never cease to be parents and will always continue to share both the joys and sorrows of their adult children, who often enough are the cause of their parents’ inner suffering.

Likewise, the Persons of the Blessed Trinity never cease to be a loving God, a God who calls each of us to share in the intense and eternal Love that they are for all eternity. Every human relationship is meant to reflect that to some extent, most of all the relationship between husband and wife.

—God is my Father! If you meditate on it, you will never let go of this consoling consideration.
 —Jesus is my intimate Friend (another re-discovery) who loves me with all the divine madness of his Heart.
—The Holy Spirit is my Consoler, who guides my every step along the road.
Consider this often: you are God’s . . . and God is yours. (The Forge, No 2, St Josémaría Escrivá).

Firmly I believe and truly

Firmly I believe and truly
God is Three, and God is One;
and I next acknowledge duly
manhood taken by the Son.

And I trust and hope most fully
in that Manhood crucified;
and each thought and deed unruly
do to death, as he has died.

Simply to his grace and wholly
light and life and strength belong,
and I love supremely, solely,
him the holy, him the strong.

And I hold in veneration,
for the love of him alone,
holy Church as his creation,
and her teachings are his own.

And I take with joy whatever

Now besets me, pain or fear,

And with a strong will I sever

All the ties which bind me here.

Adoration aye be given,
with and through the angelic host,
to the God of earth and heaven,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Words by Blessed John Henry Newman. Tune: Shipston, arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The fourth and fifth stanzas above are not sung in the recording. You can read more about this hymn, which may be sung to a number of different tunes, here.


Antiphon ad introitum.  Entrance Antiphon

Benedictus sit Deus Pater, Blest be God the Father,

Unigenitusque Dei Filius,and the Only Begotten Son of God,

Sanctus quoque Spiritus, and also the Holy Spirit,

quia fecit nobiscum misericordiam suam. for he has shown us is merciful love.



Obituary of Serafina R. Vuda, Columban Lay Missionary

Serafina Ranadi Vuda
(24 August 1962 – 31 May 2014)

Born to Esira Vuda and Makarita Dicakau, Serafina was baptized by Columban Fr Arthur Tierney, in Navala, Ba. After elementary school, she attended Xavier College in Ba and St John’s College in Levuka, Ovalau. In 1984 she graduated from Corpus Christi Primary Teachers’ College in Suva and taught in Navala, St Theresa, Ba and Stella Maris, Suva, during the following 12 years.

Navala [Wikipedia]

During these years Serafina was an avid netball player, and traveled to Europe as a member of the Fiji National Netball Team.

In 1996 Serafina joined Columban Lay Mission and did her orientation program in Suva. After studying Spanish in Bolivia, her first mission assignment was to Chile (1997 – 2000). There she lived and worked among the indigenous Mapuche people, promoting the formation of lay leaders. After a vacation back home she was assigned to Peru where she spent the following nine years (2001 – 2010). There she was engaged in parish ministry, the formation of lay leaders, and the accompaniment of others in their discernment regarding a lay mission vocation. From 2008 to 2011 she served as the Coordinator of the Central Leadership Team of Columban Lay Mission, while from 2011 to 2014 she continued as a member of that Leadership Team.

During those years that she was in leadership positions, Serafina lived in Dublin, Suva and Los Angeles. While living in Dublin she joined outreach endeavors to migrants and homeless people. After arriving in Los Angeles 20 months ago, she began to learn to drive, and succeeded in obtaining her license a year ago. She had also initiated outreach to parishes in that city as well as to the South Pacifican community across California, particularly in the San Francisco area.

Two weeks ago Serafina was unexpectedly hospitalized in LA and found to be suffering from a number of serious ailments. Since then it seemed that she had only fleeting moments of consciousness. Columban priests in LA, fellow Fijian lay missionaries, Monika Lewatikana and Sainiana Tamatawale, as well as several friends visited her daily. Then, on Saturday evening, 31 May, just after having been commended by them to God, she returned to her Creator,and joined her parents and brothers, Villame and Petero, who had gone ahead of her.

At Holy Family Home for Girls, Bacolod City, Philippines, 2009


As she had lived in several countries and visited several others as a Columban lay missionary leader, Serafina’s passing is grieved by Columban Missionaries and the various peoples to whom she ministered.

Serafina’s death is also a cause of great sadness to her sister, Udite, her brother Paulo Ramasima, another brother, Sipriano Ranuko, and his wife Sisilia, her sister-in-law, Mere, as well as nephews, nieces and extended family.

Before Requiem Mass for Serafina, St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, Ireland

Messages of sympathy may be sent to: Mr Sipriano Ranuko, PO Box 1141, Ba, Fiji. Tel: + 679-667.8026

Please remember to pray for the eternal repose of Serafina, as well as consolation for her grieving family and friends.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace, Amen.

The above was issued by the US Region of the Columbans on 4 June. You may read more about Serafina and how she saw herself as a lay missionary here.




SHOUTING INTO THE SILENCE. Fr Shay Cullen’s Reflections, 4 June 2014


by Fr Shay Cullen


Street children, New York City, 1890 [Wikipedia]

One of most important things for a happy meaningful life is to have a goal, a positive purpose that does good for others and for ourselves. It can be helping in the community, volunteering in a Fair Trade shop, supporting a shelter for the homeless, or raising funds for a worthy cause.

Some people feel called to be involved with a campaign for peace and human rights and to make this a happier, more peaceful and forgiving world. Some set out to save the environment from destruction and degradation and to protect the planet and the people. Others are dedicated to protecting human rights and ending violence by non-violent means. That means doing all we can to bring about justice in the community.

That’s no easy task; there is so much injustice, inequality and unfairness that a situation can overwhelm us. That’s when we trust in the spirit of truth. When the powerful dominate the poor, it can be heartbreaking and depressing. In the Philippines, a mere 40 families account for 76 percent of the growth of the gross domestic product (GDP). Two such families had a combined wealth of $13.6 billion, equivalent to six percent of the Philippine economy. One percent of the population own or control 70 percent of the national wealth.

When we look at government figures, it shows that 25 million people struggle to survive in dire poverty and barely survive on about one US dollar ($1) a day. That is six percent of the Philippine population. Those in the next bracket are not much better off. This huge disparity in wealth is at the core of Philippine poverty and hardship. The ruling elite have arranged it all in their favor. So economic growth figures do not reflect any improvement in the lives of most Filipinos.

But with a strong belief that good can overcome evil, that truth can vanquish lies and deceit, that right can overcome wrong and that life can overcome death, many things are possible. That is the spirit of Pentecost, the power of the inner spirit of hope, compassion and integrity to change the world. This is the spirit that gives us the power to be prophetic. That means to have courage to speak out and denounce evil, wrongdoing, sexual exploitation of children and corruption. That spirit also gives hope and a belief that positive action can eventually bring about a more just society where people have enough for a life of dignity.

A modern prophetic voice that has inspired me over the years is that of Danny Smith who, with Lord David Alton, founded the Jubilee Campaign, a registered charity in the UK. Danny has been tirelessly working for human rights around the world since 1981 and almost single-handily campaigned with powerful effective results against many injustices.

His most successful campaigns saved children from the cruel abuse of sexual exploitation in the Philippines; he exposed and saved children left to die in cruel orphanages in China; he worked to release hundreds of children in prison in Brazil and Manila. In a powerful campaign in the UK, he exposed child sacrifices in Uganda (video below) and in the UK itself and got strong political action to stop it. He inspired and supported many more great causes. These great stories and many more are told in a inspiring new book Shouting into the Silence, published by Lion.

We need to read about people like Danny Smith and his wonderful wife Joan and their family and their life’s work. They are committed to uplifting the dignity of all people. The book also has an intriguing life history of Danny that is truly fascinating, a family journey spanning continents. He may be contacted at danny@jubileecampaign.co.uk

Of the many prophetic and spiritual figures with whom I have worked over the years, Danny has been one of the most dedicated and consistently effective in bringing about more justice and social change by political lobbying, media advocacy and public speaking and financially supporting the poor and needy people in the developing world. We need many more like Danny in this world; his book and story is inspiring.

However, the prophetic mission is fraught with difficulties and challenges. Enemies rise up filled with envy and jealousy and crush the good and the just. The book’s title Shouting into the Silence refers to the closed hearts and minds and ears of many people in power who do not want to listen to the message, or hear the cry of the people for justice. They are closed to the suffering of the oppressed who are being driven off their land by rich land grabbers.

Fr Rufus Halley and Fr Fausto Tentorio

There is a great silence that the prophetic voice tries to penetrate. Then there is the harsh opposition, the death threats, physical assaults and the assassination of the modern prophets. In the Philippines, the most recent has been Romeo Capalla, an advocate of justice for the farmers of Panay Island and a promoter of Fair Trade. Fr Fausto ‘Pops’ Tentorio PIME, an Italian missionary, was also gunned down for taking a stand for the rights of the indigenous people in Mindanao. Fr Rufus Halley, my classmate, an Irish missionary of the Columbans, brutally murdered for standing with the oppressed Muslim people in Mindanao and many more social workers and human rights advocates.

The mission for justice is the greatest challenge, the most prophetic and the most dangerous. We all need the spirit of truth to dwell within us to enable us to endure to the end and break through the great silence that ignores injustice and abuse and keeps the poor in bondage. This is what we can overcome with the spirit of hope and power to love others more than ourselves.

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

[shaycullen@preda.org, www.preda.org]



‘I am with you always . . .’ Sunday Reflections. The Ascension; 7th Sunday of Easter

The Ascension of Christ, Rembrandt, 1638

 Alte Pinakotech, Munich [Web Gallery of Art]


Solemnity of the Ascension

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

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

Gospel Matthew 28:16-20  (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

The readings above are used whether the Solemnity is celebrated on Ascension Thursday or on the following Sunday. They are used both at the Vigil Mass and at the Mass during the Day. The two Masses have a different set of prayers. Both fulfill the obligation of participating at Mass on a holyday of obligation, as Ascension Thursday is where the solemnity is observed on that day, and as every Sunday is.

The Seventh Sunday of Easter, where the Ascension is celebrated on Ascension Thursday

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA) 

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

Gospel John 17:1-11  (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

The Ascension

Bicycles in Buenos Aires [Wikipedia]

Early in the summer of 1953 when I was ten my father taught me how to ride a bicycle. In August of that year, when we were on holiday in Bray, south of Dublin, he taught me how to swim. I borrowed cry cousin Deirdre’s bike, a small blue one and practised on Halliday Square, Dublin,, just below our street. It had a long enclosed garden in the centre where some local people grew vegetables, as I recall, and in my young mind was a kind of racing circuit.

However, in order to do any racing I had to learn first to keep on the bike while moving. My father held on to the saddle while I moved forward, wobbling quite a bit for about ten metres before we’d start again. I’m not sure how many times we repeated this or over how many evenings. But a moment arrived when I realized that I was moving forward steadily and surely – and Dad wan’t holding on to the saddle. I was on my own. A great thrill – with an awareness that I could’t ‘unlearn’ how to ride. From that moment I could only move forward, in more senses than one. And before long I found myself racing around the circuit that was Halliday Square, sometimes against others, sometimes just ‘against myself’.

Seafront and Bray Head, Bray, Ireland [Wikipedia]

Dad’s approach to teaching me how to swim was similar. He held his hand under my chest, in fairly shallow water, off the stony beach in the photo above. I was trying to do the breaststroke. As with the bike, he showed great patience and I had absolute trust in him knowing that he wouldn’t let me sink, just as he hadn’t let me fall off the bicycle.

Once again there was the magic moment when I realized that Dad’s hand was no longer touching my chest – I was swimming on my own. And as with cycling, this is an ability that you cannot ‘unlearn’.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, Jesus tells the Apostles in the First Reading (Acts 1:8).

My experience with my father – and with my mother too who often said to me in my childhood years When you’re 21 you’ll be responsible for yourself, giving me a goal to reach – helps me understand something of the meaning of today’s feast. If my Dad had kept holding on to the saddle of my cousin’s bike I would never have learned to go on my own. If he had kept holding me while teaching me to swim I would have remained dependent on him.

If Jesus, the Risen Lord, had stayed with the Apostles they would have remained in Jerusalem and never have gone to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

For the next eight years after learning to ride a bike I cycled to school twice each day, unless it was raining, coming home for lunch, getting about an hour’s exercise in the process without calling it that. And in a very real way my Dad was always with me because he had enabled me to acquire a skill that in turn gave me a new freedom that brought with it new responsibilities and new possibilities. New possibilities and the responsibilities that go with them continue to arise in my life as a priest. 

And in the life of the Church, as in the life of each individual, new situations with their challenges are constantly arising. The one thing that we can be certain of as disciples of Jesus, carrying out the mission he has entrusted to the Church, whatever our particular part may be in that mission, is the truth of his final words before his Ascension, And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

He is with us always through his Holy spirit whose coming we will celebrate next Sunday

Ascension: Mass during the Day

 Antiphona ad Introitum  Entrance Antiphon Acts 1:11 

Viri Galilei, quid admiramini aspicientes in caelum?

 Men of Galilee, why gaze in wonder at the heavens?

Quemadmodum vidistis eum ascendentem in caelun, ita veniet, alleluia.

 This Jesus whom you saw ascending into heaven will return as you saw him go, alleluia.

Hymn for the Ascension by Georgi Popov

Sung in Vienna by the Bulgarian choir Hosanna